Selected Course Descriptions

The English Department offers a wide variety of literature courses on range of exciting topics.  We welcome you into our curriculum, where you might enjoy some of the classes below.

Apocalypse in Film and Literature

Fr. David Leigh

Apocalypse in Film and Literature takes students on a journey to other galaxies and others' worlds.  You will meet strange beings, fight cosmic battles, view the end of time and the afterlife, and discover ultimate horizons and hopes.  The course's texts and films include H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds , Arthur Clark's 2001 , Walter Miller's Canticle for Leibowitz , Walker Percy's The Thanatos Syndrome , Doris Lessing's Memoirs of a Survivor , Terence Malick's Tree of Life , Cormac McCarthy's The Road , as well as Elysium, The Day After, and Enders Game.

American Women Writers

Dr. Christina Roberts

In this course, we consider the historical and personal contexts of numerous American women writers and discuss the role that literary criticism and contemporary feminist scholarship play in our interpretations. In the first half of the course, we discuss studies in early American women's writing. During the colonial period, women who were in the New World rarely expressed themselves through writing, with only a few notable exceptions, Anne Bradstreet and Mary Rowlandson, two Puritan women writers who had to negotiate their social positions carefully and cautiously.  Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, American women writers were rarely read or taken seriously, even though they offered unique perspectives on the colonies and emerging nation.  Even in the 19th and 20th centuries, American women writers have continued to deal with sexism in the literary marketplace, and there are still many hurtles that women writers must overcome.  For example, in her 1997, revised introduction to her 1963 publication of The Feminine Mystique , Betty Freidan insightfully writes, "sexual politics now feeds the politics of hate and the growing polarization of America" (xviii).  American women writers of today are shaping and molding contemporary feminisms, and we will explore these emerging feminisms through the works of Leslie Marmon Silko, Sandra Cisneros, and others.  

The History of the English Language

Dr. María Bullón-Fernández

  • Are you fascinated by language and by how English has changed over time?
  • Would you like to learn about linguistics?
  • Would you like to know why the plural of "dog" is "dogs," but the plural of "mouse" is "mice"?
  • Are you intrigued by the fact that Old English seems so different from Present Day English?
  • Do you get upset when you see a split infinitive? Or, do you get upset when someone gets upset about your split infinitives?
  • Do you wonder why American English sounds different in the South than it does in the West or in the Northeast and why people are often biased when they hear those differences?
  •  Are you wondering about the complex political, social, economic implications of the uses of English as a global language?

HEL (History of the English Language) traces the historical development of the English language from its origins to the present time. In order for students to understand this development fully, they are introduced to basic concepts in linguistics, such as phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. We also review briefly the basics of grammar at the beginning of the quarter. Our basic goal is to understand the development of English by studying both its internal history (changes in sounds, vocabulary, inflections, syntax) and its external history (political, social, and cultural factors that have influenced such development). A significant amount of memorization is involved in this class, but debate and critical thinking are also highly encouraged. We will discuss broad questions, such as the following: What is language? Why do languages evolve? What are the forces that influence their development? We also discuss specific questions-for instance, what are the particular factors that have contributed to language change at specific moments in the history of English? At the end of the course, we pay special attention to English in our contemporary world and discuss the question of English and globalization as well as some of the issues that are the subject of current and controversial debates in the United States, for instance, African American Vernacular, or the English Only movement. 

Medieval Marvels

Dr. Kate Koppelman

This class investigates various forms of the marvelous as they appeared throughout the Middle Ages. While we certainly deal with dragons, griffins, and lion-headed men, we also deal with marvelous encounters that are more intimate: the ways in which the category of the monstrous was used to define women as opposed to men; the miraculous visions and powers of saints; the interactions between the living and the dead in both "real life" and in dreams.

Modernist Time Machines

Dr. Charles M. Tung

How and why did twentieth-century culture explore the meanings and experiences of moving in time, and what visions of human life are the result?  How is the obsession with time in modernist art and literature related to the cultural fantasy of time travel and alternate history?  How are contemporary desires to go back in time, redeem history, or experiment with sequence indebted to modernist time culture?  To fashion an answer for yourself, you'll be part of an interdisciplinary discussion that will draw on cultural history, literary theory, and media studies.  The texts we'll explore together include:  H.G. Wells's novel The Time Machine , T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," Jorge Luis Borges's short stories "Funes the Memorious" and "The Garden of Forking Paths," selections of modernist art, Philip Dick's alternate-history novel The Man in the High Castle , Chris Marker's film La Jetee  and Terry Gilliam's remake Twelve Monkeys , Christopher Nolan's Memento , James Cameron's The Terminator , and selected short fiction from Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century

Multiethnic Literatures of the United States

Dr. Christina Roberts

Literatures of the United States of America (a.k.a. American literature) express a multiplicity of perspectives, imagined realities, and lived experiences. Even before the existence of the nation, literatures of early America represented a diversity of ideas in relation to place, faith, identity, and culture. At the same time, the study of American literature risks erasing literary diversity by focusing on only well-known texts written by established and recognized authors. In this course, we debate this point and discuss how to engage in a multicultural and multiethnic examination of American literary history. We examine key texts that represent ethnic and multicultural views of the American experience. American literature is incredibly diverse, often challenging literary and social conventions, and literature in all of its forms invites controversy, requires rigorous intellectual debate, and has the power to change the course of human thought and behavior. The texts we study in this course invite our careful analysis, and we discuss the ethical and methodological foundations for our analyses.

Shakespeare Context and Theory

Dr. Allison Machlis Meyer

Through in-depth study of a few plays, such as Titus Andronicus, King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew , and Twelfth Night , this class will explore Shakespeare's work in the context of life in 16th and 17th century England and literary theory in 21st century America. We will attend to Shakespeare's demanding and rewarding language, discuss the conventions of two wild and strange dramatic modes, and examine how Shakespeare's plays reflect and participate in the dangerous social, political, and religious tensions of the Renaissance. In particular, we will examine how Shakespeare's tragedies mobilize revenge, imagine madness, and make different demands on men and women. We will consider how Shakespeare's comedies and romances imagine love, sexual desire, gender roles, and marriage, and investigate why such imaginings are inextricably bound up with political concerns.

This class will teach students to close read Shakespeare's language, critically analyze key issues raised in the plays, situate Shakespearean drama in its historical moment, and explore its relevance to our own. As a "context and theory" course, this class aims to teach disciplinary methods of inquiry, interpretation, and research. Through close reading, class discussion, and frequent writing about Shakespeare's work and an awareness of multiple perspectives and approaches to the study of Shakespeare, you will learn to situate your understanding of the course material and your written work within a conversation amongst scholars and your peers. In addition to developing knowledge of key representative plays and the history and culture of Shakespeare's age, you will learn how to construct written arguments that analyze a range of materials, including the language of Shakespeare's plays, contextual and historical materials from the Renaissance, film adaptations, and literary criticism of his work. 

Victorian Detectives

 Dr. Molly Clark Hillard 

Murderous monkeys, cursed diamonds, drug addiction, bigamy, wicked half-brothers and step-mothers, genocidal alien-ghosts, and satanic hellhounds: detective fiction, like the detective him/herself, is a product of the nineteenth century.  But its contours extend beyond the stereotype of the stately manor house, the tidy little crime, and the infallible, pipe-smoking investigator.  This course examines the history and evolution of the detective story.  But we will also examine the idea  of detection in nineteenth-century texts that are not usually associated with the detective genre (indeed, in texts produced before the founding of Scotland Yard).  Together we will investigate the premise that detection -solving puzzles, uncovering crimes, revealing secrets-allowed authors to express a variety of anxieties: of foreign immigration, of the stability of the middle class, of the might and right of the British empire, and of the rising voice and power of women and of the working classes.  We will also discover that detection supplied a potent metaphor for the vexed relationship between readers and writers.  

Victorian Monsters

Dr. Molly Clark Hillard

The Victorian period (1837-1901) was an age of booming industry, imperial expansion, scientific inquiry, and rising prosperity.  Simultaneously, it was a time of social unrest and change, enfranchisement, religious doubt, and probing moral and ethical "questions."  And into the midst of this rich and turbulent cultural field burst some of literature's greatest monster stories.  Grave robbery! Mad scientists! Horny Goblins! Insufficiently buried corpses! Necrophilia! Strangled girlfriends! Vampires!  Of course, these poems, stories, and novels make for gripping reading; but, like all cultural phantasmagoria, they also give us a vital picture of the context in which they were written.  Students can expect to investigate Victorian "monstrosity" in its many forms, to strive to understand the complex relationship between the staid and proper English self and the ravening, monstrous "other," and to recognize the ways in which those apparently distinct boundaries often became blurred.  England's fascination with and terror of a variety of "monsters" developed and increased over the century, shifting to include groups of people both outside and within Britain's geographic borders.  We shall probe what relationship these literary monsters had to such burning Victorian questions as foreign immigration, the primacy and stability of the middle class, the might and right of the British Empire, and the rising voice and power of women and of the working classes. 

Contact Us

Charles Tung, PhD

Shawn Bell
Administrative Assistant