by Laura Misch
Percy Bysshe Shelley once wrote, “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” Well, English majors, winter will soon be upon us, and registration for the spring semester has officially begun. The race is on to sign up for courses, and here’s hoping you get the schedule you want. But what exactly are you signing up for? I corresponded with each of our lovely professors and got the inside scoop on all of the upcoming, upper-division English courses. Here’s what I learned:
ENG 303 – American Literature I (Beginnings to 1900)
TR 2:30 Orr
Welcome to one of the new and improved English surveys! Dr. Orr says students should get ready “to learn about the elemental material that provides a bedrock for understanding American literature and American culture.” The reading list will feature lesser-known writings, such as Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative and the work of Paul Laurence Dunbar. However, there will also be plenty of familiar faces, including Wheatley, Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Dickinson, Whitman, Twain, James, Crane, Chestnutt, and Chopin.
When asked why he loves this course, Dr. Orr responded, “[I love] introducing students to the essential materials that explain who we are as Americans. I don’t think you can understand our culture (and maybe even yourself!) without studying the early material. And there’s sex, violence, and weirdness galore!”
(Pro-tip: To score brownie points with Dr. Orr, mention Moby-Dick and the amazing chapter in which Melville discusses the whiteness of the whale. He’ll jump for joy.)
ENG 311 – Advanced Writing
TR 12:55 McDonald | TR 2:30 McDonald | MW 2:40 Hannon
This course utilizes a workshop setting that gives students the opportunity to write in class and share their work within a supportive peer community. Students will find their voices while testing out different writing styles—ranging from narrative essays to flash non-fiction. Reading well-known essayists and other modern works also further supplements the course’s deep exploration into the writing process.
In ENG 311, Fr. Hannon says, “We explore the ways in which the tools of narrative often utilized in fiction can be used in the shaping and writing of true stories. We also examine how we, as writers, tap into our own experiences, thinking, and imagination in making sense of and drawing meaning from the world we live in.”
When asked what he likes about the course, Prof. McDonald says he “enjoy[s] talking about writing and seeing students develop over the semester.”
ENG 342 – Studies in Poetry
MWF 12:30 Swidzinski
While the course may be called “Studies in Poetry,” Dr. Swidzinski prefers to think of it as an “Introduction to Poetry and Poetics,” for students don’t have to be poetry experts in order to take the class. The reading extends from the Renaissance all the way to the 21st century with a diverse selection of Elizabethan sonnets, Romantic lyrics, modernist and post-modernist experiments, folk songs, rap, pop music, and even computer-generated poetry. Additionally, students will “be reading and thinking about the theories and mechanics of poetry, and how these have evolved over time and across history and cultures.”
Dr. Swidzinski is excited to teach this course because “every day we’ll ask the same fundamental question—‘What is poetry?’—and every day, depending on what we’re reading, we’ll discover wildly different answers.” He also points out, “Poems are short! Why spend hours slogging through a novel when you can get to the heart of things with a handful of well-chosen words?”
ENG 352 – Film and Literature
W 7:10 Larson
According to Dr. Larson, the course’s full title is “Film and Literature: Adaptation in the Age of the Image.” In a time when “the visual increasingly competes with the verbal,” this course explores the two mediums and the complex relationship between them. Students will examine how “varied genres of written work (screenplay, play, short story, graphic narrative, novel, nonfiction essay) might be translated to the screen.” The literary works include Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Satrapi’s Persepolis, and Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. And a few of the films are Citizen Kane, Memento, and Adaptation.
Dr. Larson hopes “students will come away from a course like this with a better appreciation for our era’s excitingly multiple platforms for storytelling.”
ENG 363 – Environmental Literature
W 4:10 Weiger
Students will dive headfirst into exploring the relationship between writing and the natural world. In ENG 363, Dr. Weiger says students look at how “reading and writing [are] important ways of participating in environmental debates” and how “our thinking about race, class, gender, and sexuality affect our understanding of environmental problems.” Reading begins with Gilbert White’s natural history letters and journals, followed by the writing of famous transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, and then shifts to environmental writing from the 20th and 21st century, with pieces by Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Michael Pollan, and Rebecca Solnit.
But, remember, you’re not a tree! (You’re just reading about them.) Dr. Weiger says, “This course involves a lot of reading and watching (we view some films), but it’s not a passive course. Students create presentations twice over the course of the semester, write their own natural history journals, and write their ways into a contemporary environmental debate. It’s a really interactive course!”
ENG 370 – Studies in Women Writers
MW 2:40 Brassard
Students will embrace their inner feminist as well as their inner anglophile, as ENG 370 focuses on female, British writers and uses Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own as a critical lens through which to read the works of other women. Other texts in this discussion-based course include Woolf’s Orlando, Lively’s Moon Tiger, Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Smith’s NW, Rhys’ Good Morning, Midnight, Mansfield’s short stories, and Ali Smith’s new book Autumn—arguably the first post-Brexit novel. Students will also examine the theories of feminist literary critics, like Adrienne Rich and Rita Felski.
Dr. Brassard shares, “I love teaching this course because it often introduces students to authors they have heard about but never read, and also because, as an elective option for the Gender & Women’s Studies Minor, it attracts non-English majors who bring different and welcomed perspectives and questions to a literature classroom.”
ENG 401 – Seminar in British Literature I
M 4:10 Hersh
If Geoffrey Chaucer doesn’t rock your world, he will by the end of this course. (Note: See Dr. Hersh’s office door.) This course focuses on just one text—The Canterbury Tales in its original Middle English. According to Dr. Hersh, “Chaucer tackles almost every issue imaginable (ok, maybe he doesn’t write about iPad use or Facebook) and we’ll be discussing issues such as gender, religion, politics, sexuality, economics, race, and take a self-reflexive look at the role of literature in the world.” While exploring a single text may seem boring, Dr. Hersh emphasizes that “each tale…is very different,” and he’s “deliciously ambiguous so it’s super fun analyzing his writing.” As a bonus, she adds, “If you like fart jokes, you will like The Canterbury Tales.”
As someone who has taken a version of this course, all I can say is I hope “whan that Aprille” final exam rolls around, your understanding of Middle English “hath perced to the roote” of your mind! (This excessively corny joke will make sense once you start the class.)
If you have yet to register for Spring 2018, here is a link to the online registration schedule.