Spring 2015 Course Descriptions

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Introductory Literature Courses

English 190. Introductory Topics in Literature - Perilous Lives; Precarious Stories: Trauma and Mourning in 20th Century World Literature (F2i, F4)

This class will explore texts haunted by literal and figurative ghosts. These ghosts, these fragmentary and disruptive remnants of a traumatic history, will offer us a way to investigate concepts of mourning, memory, trauma, and narrative. We will also examine how these texts attempt to communicate the seemingly incommunicable experiences of extreme pain and suffering. For example, Toni Morrison’s Beloved explores how the traumatizing institution of slavery haunts its victims; while Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods examines how a family and a community remain haunted by unearthed tales of wartime atrocities. Other possible texts include Randall Keenan’s A Visitation of Spirits, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, and John Okada’s No No Boy. This class will also provide an introduction to trauma theory. We will read from a selection of trauma theories, namely those posed by Sigmund Freud, Cathy Caruth, Kali Tal, and Jeffrey Alexander. Writing assignments will include a series of interpretive essays that address these concepts in the context of literary analysis. Additional course requirements include regular and substantive participation and one formal presentation.

This course is open only to first-year and sophomore students. May not be repeated for credit.

Section 01 TR 12:30 pm-01:45 pm
Professor Jessica Maxwell


English 221. The Novel of Manners. (F2i, F4)  

This course studies the development of the novel of manners through the work of 3 writers most closely identified with the genre: Jane Austen, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. Novels will include Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, James’s Washington Square and The Aspern Papers, and Wharton’s The Custom of the Country and The Age of Innocence. We will read Wharton and James’s fiction in particular through the lens of Veblen’s classic socioeconomic study, The Theory of the Leisure Class. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor.

Section 01 MWF 09:00 am-09:50 am
Section 02 MWF 11:00 am-11:50 am
Professor Jennifer Brady


English 225: Southern Literature. (F2i, F4)  

In his introduction to William Faulkner’s Sanctuary, Allen Tate argues that Faulkner’s work was shaped by what Tate calls “the Southern myth,” which he outlines as follows: “The South, afflicted with the curse of slavery—a curse, like that of Original Sin, for which no single person is responsible—had to be destroyed, the good along with the evil. The old order, . . . .in which the good could not be salvaged from the bad, was replaced by a new order which was in many way worse than the old.” In this course, we will read a representative selection of Southen novels and stories in order to investigate how and by whom this “myth” was promulgated, and what it so horribly elides. We will begin with a pair of novels set on Southern plantations during and after the Civil War, one written from the perspective of the white plantation class and one from the perspective of an African American woman. From here we will move into a series of works from the major writers of the so-called “Southern literary Renaissance” of the 1930s and 40s, all of which are shaped and haunted by the legacy of slavery and the Civil War. Students will write a series of focused analytical paper culminating in a research paper that engages with secondary literary scholarship. Authors include Stark Young, Margaret Walker, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Robert Penn Warren, Walker Percy, and Ernest Gaines. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor.

Section 01 MWF 10:00 am-10:50 am
Section 02 MWF 11:00 am-11:50 am
Professor Marshall Boswell 


English 230: Shakespeare (F2i, F4)

This course provides a survey of literature produced in the British Isles from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century.  We will consider, among other things, the relationship between the consolidation of England as a nation and the emergence of a national literature in English.  Readings will include the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, poetry from the Arthurian tradition, and Chaucer′s Canterbury Tales.  We will also read works by Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, and others.   In addition to becoming familiar with some of the major works and movements in English literature, students will cultivate close reading skills and learn to recognize the features of literary form. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor. (pre - 1800 literature)

Section 01 MWF 08:00 am-08:50 am
Professor Scott Newstok


English 250: Twentieth-Century Modernist Poetry (F2i, F4)  

An introduction to English-language poetry written between 1900 and 1945, this course will explore the stylistic and aesthetic features of poetic modernism and related movements such as Imagism, the avant-garde, the Harlem Renaissance, and the New Criticism. Authors include Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, W.H. Auden, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Langston Hughes, among others. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor.

Section 01 TR 12:30 pm-01:45 pm
Section 02 TR 03:30 pm-04:45 pm
Professor Caki Wilkinson


English 262: Survey of American Literature. (F2, F4)  

Representative works primarily from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Specific content will vary with the instructor. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor.

Section 01 TR 12:30 pm-01:45 pm
Section 02 TR 02:00 pm-03:15 pm
Professor Leslie Petty


English 265. Special Topics - Literature and Science in the Age of Enlightenment. (F2, F4)  

"Nature and Nature′s laws lay hid in night: God said, Let Newton be! and all was Light." Alexander Pope, one of the premiere poets of the eighteenth century, intended this epitaph to grace the tomb of Sir Isaac Newton, one of history′s most celebrated natural philosophers. This course will examine the relationship of literature and science--two areas of knowledge production and intellectual exploration now commonly thought of as separate and in opposition--from the beginnings of the Scientific Revolution in the seventeenth century to the end of the British Enlightenment some two hundred years later. We will see how changes in “modern” scientific and literary practice informed, championed, resisted, and shaped each other. Readings will be drawn from the work of poets, playwrights, natural philosophers, essayists and satirists such as Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, René Descartes, Robert Hooke, John Milton, Thomas Shadwell, Margaret Cavendish, John Milton, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Lucy Hutchinson, Ephraim Chambers, and Erasmus Darwin. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor.

Section 01 TR 09:30 am-10:45 pm
Professor Seth Rudy


English 265. Special Topics - Asian American Literature. (F2, F4)  

This course offers an introduction to Asian American literature and theory, examining the cultural and theoretical productions that emerged in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries under the contested, provisional category of “Asian America.” We will trace how writers and literary works negotiate legacies of Orientalism, internment, labor exploitation, the model minority myth, and U.S. multiculturalism to narrate and theorize what it means to be an Asian American. Beginning with early works like John Okada’s No-No Boy and Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior, we will go on to investigate a variety of genres of Asian American fiction at the turn of the twenty-first century: historical fiction, realism, science fiction, and magical realism. Alongside this literature, we will read key theoretical texts on Asian American politics, literature, and culture, including Lisa Lowe’s Immigrant Acts and David Eng’s Feelings of Kinship. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor.

Section 02 TR 02:00 pm-03:15 pm
Section 03 TR 11:00 am-12:15 pm
Professor Amanda Dykema 


English 285. Text and Context. (F2i, F4)  

This course emphasizes the close reading of literary texts in relation to their cultural contexts. In order to expose students to a variety of texts/contexts, our readings will cover a wide range of American literature and literary genres. We’ll begin by analyzing how Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories as well as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables record the horrors of historical haunting, antebellum racial anxieties, and aristocratic decline. Then we’ll consider how the poetry of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson reflects the gendering of the new national body. Next we’ll read Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig, which exposes the brutalities of northern indentured servitude, and Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, an icy meditation on primitive life and environmental determinism. We’ll then turn to Edith Wharton’s Summer, a gripping tale of female isolation and paternalism, and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, a devastating critique of the American Dream. We’ll also read some stories by John Cheever about the pathologies of postwar suburbia as well as Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God, a tale of depravity and violence in rural Tennessee. After that, we’ll jump into Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City, a fast-paced portrait of decadence in 1980s New York. A few other texts will be sprinkled in along the way. Note: This course assists prospective majors and minors in acquiring the necessary tools for middle- and upper-division classes in English. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor. Not open to seniors.

Section 01 MWF 12:00 pm-12:50 pm
Section 02 MWF 01:00 pm-01:50 pm
Professor Jason Richards


Advanced Literature Courses

English 322. Renaissance Poetry and Prose. Dido’s Tears.

For over 2000 years, Dido′s lament upon Aeneas′ departure has inspired some of the most compelling verse in European literature. Ovid composed a poignant letter in Dido′s voice, and Augustine complained that Virgil led him astray by weeping for "dead Dido" (rather than his own sins!). Hamlet instructed the players to recite "Aeneas′ tale to Dido," about which Shakespeare′s peer, Christopher Marlowe, wrote an entire play. Dante, Chaucer, Spenser, and contemporary poets have all crafted their own versions of this seductive story. We will survey these fascinating retellings in preparation for the Opera Memphis production of Purcell′s "Dido and Aeneas" (April 16–18) and a lecture by John Guillory (April 23). Topics addressed will include literary form; adaptation across media; trans-cultural appropriation; exoticism and empire; and gender and ventriloquism. Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or permission from instructor. (pre - 1800 literature)

TR 08:00 am-09:15 am
Professor Scott Newstok


English 340. Restoration Drama.

This course explores English drama after the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660 up to 1710. Topics include: the reopening of the theaters; the introduction of the actress to the stage in lieu of the boy actors who played women’s roles in the Renaissance; royal sponsorship of the theater and the dissolute atmosphere of Charles II’s court; major comedies and heroic plays of the period; the rise of sentimental drama. Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or permission from the instructor. (pre - 1800 literature)

TR 09:30 am-10:45 am
Professor Jennifer Brady


English 350. Romantic Poetry and Prose. 

A relatively brief period that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and continued to develop throughout the early Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century, the Romantic era produced some of the perhaps best-known and most lionized figures of the British literary canon: Blake, Burke, Byron, Coleridge, Keats, Mary and Percy Shelley, Wollstonecraft and Wordsworth all published the greatest part of their works between the 1780s and 1830s. This course will approach the major poetry and prose of these and other important authors of the period through several critical and methodological frameworks that will place the literature of British Romanticism in the contexts of massive social and political change, startling advances in knowledge production and scientific inquiry, and challenging contemporary conceptualizations of the past, present, and future of British Literature itself. Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or permission from instructor.

TR 02:00 pm-03:15 pm
Professor Seth Rudy 


English 363. Topics in Twentieth-Century British Literature - Contemporary Irish Drama: Mirror up to a Nation.     

No nation in the English-speaking world has produced as many important dramatists, and as many influential plays, over the past century as Ireland. In the first half of the last century alone Dublin produced the likes of George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, J. M. Synge, Sean O’Casey, Brendan Behan, and Samuel Beckett. In recent decades Ireland has retained its preeminence as a theatre Mecca; such playwrights as Conor McPherson, Martin McDonagh, Marina Carr, John B. Keane and, in particular, Brian Friel have made waves on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. This course will survey Irish works for the stage between 1967 and the end of the millennium against the backdrop of Ireland’s inward-looking, mid-century socio-cultural paralysis and its subsequent "Celtic Tiger" boom; the political “troubles” in Northern Ireland and other legacies of British colonialism; the island’s continuing challenges of poverty, emigration/depopulation, alcoholism, and equal rights/opportunities for women; and the contested role of various social institutions--church, school, family, pub, and theater--in Irish life. We will explore the ways in which a number of colorful, poignant, darkly comic Irish plays of the late Twentieth Century engage in a dialogue with each other, with reigning theatrical conventions, and with key articulations of Irish national identity. Encounters with the plays will be supplemented with selected criticism and films. Cross-listed with Theater 365. May be repeated with different topic.

TR 12:30 pm-01:45 pm
Professor Brian Shaffer


English 375.  Topics in Postcolonial Literature - Reading Presents from Pasts. (F9)  

This course will explore contemporary English-language novels written by writers from countries like India, New Zealand, South Africa, the USA, Canada, Sri Lanka and Sudan. The course focuses on how these texts represent and engage the project we call colonialism. Theory readings will include work by writers from Australia, Palestine and the US. The class aims to enhance our grasp of (a) the impact of 500 years of European colonialism on world literature, and (b) how reading literature from postcolonial theoretical perspectives might enrich our understanding of and engagement with the world we live in. May be repeated with different topic. Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or permission from instructor.

TR 12:30 pm-01:45 pm
Professor Mark Behr


English 380. Topics in Literary Study - Women/Queer of Color Critique.  

This course examines two related strains of critical theory that have fundamentally shaped U.S. ethnic studies and contemporary literary studies: Women of Color Feminism and Queer of Color Critique. These theoretical analytics explore the intersections of race, gender, sexuality and class, allowing us to investigate how seemingly “proper” gender roles and “normal” sexualities also come to shape racial categories and structural inequalities. We will read anthologies by women of color feminists, notably Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa’s This Bridge Called My Back, alongside work by contemporary feminist and queer of color theorists like Sharon Holland, José Esteban Muñoz, and Roderick Ferguson. Together, these texts register the distance between minoritized cultural productions and national/capitalist ideals, activating forms of critique grounded in queered, gendered, and racialized embodiments and ensuing cultural productions. May be repeated with different topic. Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or the permission of the instructor.

Section 01 TR 02:00 pm-03:15 pm 
Professor Amanda Dykema

English 380. Topics in Literary Study - Queer Theory.

Queer Theory offers a series of tools to analyze suppositions about essential, stable or coherent sex/gender identities and categories. The course utilizes works of key theorists, novelists, short story writers and contemporary film makers to understand the field’s critical engagement with heteronormativity. Queer theoretical applications to textual analysis are discussed in terms of their meanings, uses and usefulness within our daily lives.

Required prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or the permission of the instructor. Recommended prerequisites: GSST 200.

Section 02 TR 03:30 pm-04:45 pm
Professor Mark Behr


English 385. Junior Research Seminar: Critical Theory and Methodology.   

What is literature? How do we interpret it? What is its relationship to reality? How does it represent the self and the world? This course will take on such fundamental questions from multiple, sometimes contradictory, theoretical perspectives. We will examine major developments in literary criticism and critical theory and explore how they can be used for literary analysis. This course is designed to prepare English majors for advanced research. ​ (Those studying abroad may take the course in the fall of senior year.) Prerequisites: English 285 or permission from instructor. Majors only.

TR 11:00 am-12:15 pm
Professor Rashna Richards


Creative Writing Courses

English 300. Intermediate Poetry Workshop: Form

This course builds on material from Introduction to Poetry Writing, with a particular  emphasis on poetic form: metrics as well as free verse; stanzaic patterns; and received forms such as the sonnet, sestina, and pantoum. We will consider both visual and aural aspects of form—the experience of reading a printed poem, and the experience of hearing it read aloud. Readings will include a range of English-language poetry, from Anglo-Saxon verse to contemporary lyrics, and students will compose poems in a variety of forms, experimenting with structure, shape, texture, rhythm, and sound. Prerequisites: English 200 and permission from instructor.

MW 02:00 pm-03:15 pm
Professor Catherine Wilkinson


English 401. Advanced Fiction Workshop. 

The capstone course for writing majors concentrating on fiction. Students will work to develop their own fiction while examining short fiction from all periods of the preceding century, thereby placing their own art within its historical context. The course will culminate in a substantial portfolio of fiction that may be a story sequence, a novella, or some other assemblage. Prerequisites: English 301.

W 06:00 pm-08:30 pm 
Professor Mark Behr


Film Courses

English 245. Special Topics in Film - Documentary Cinema (F5)

Drawing on a variety of analytical perspectives, this course provides a comprehensive introduction to documentary film and video. Unlike the various genres of fiction film (comedy, science fiction, thriller, horror, romance, and so on), documentaries address the world as it exists rather than a world created by the filmmaker. Still, documentaries are not mere records of reality. From questions of ethics, ideology, politics, and power to concerns over gender, race, sexuality, and representation, we will explore the nature of documentary films, focusing on production as well as reception, on formal strategies as well as aesthetic pleasures. While we will investigate the documentary form′s relation to reality, we will also try to destabilize the assumed boundaries between fact and fiction by considering such recent transformations as mockumentaries and self-reflexive docu-diaries. Overall, our goal will be to assess the ways in which non-fiction films reveal multiple, contingent truths rather than a unitary, unproblematic Truth. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor. All students must attend a weekly film screening. May be repeated with different topic.

Section 01 MWF 10:00 am-10:50 am, W 07:00 pm-09:30 pm
Section 02 MWF 11:00 am-11:50 am, W 07:00 pm-09:30 pm
Professor Rashna Richards


English 382. Film Theory (F5)

Introduction to the ideological and aesthetic forces that have shaped the development of world cinema, focusing on the theoretical work and masterpieces of Russian filmmakers. Theories to be studied are formalism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, auteurism, cultural studies, feminism, realism, and surrealism. Filmmakers include Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Dovzhenko, Shepit’ko, Tarkovsky, and Mikhalkov. All foreign films are subtitled; the course is taught in English. Requirements include mandatory attendance at film screenings, to occur outside of regularly scheduled class hours. Prerequisites: Any 200-level film class, Russian Studies class, or permission from instructor. 

MW 03:00 pm-04:15 pm, R 05:30 pm-08:00 pm
Professor Valeria Nollan


Special Courses

English 399. Tutorial for Honors Candidates.

Junior English majors wishing to read for honors are required to enroll in a preparatory tutorial in the spring semester. Although required for honors, enrollment in this course does not guarantee acceptance into the Honors Program.


English 460. Internship. (F11)

A supervised learning experience in the greater Memphis community in which students apply analytical and writing skills learned in the classroom to situations in business, journalism, not-for-profit organizations, and other professional arenas. The program of professional work will be devised by the student, the internship supervisor, and the faculty advisor for internships. All internships must be approved by the chairperson of the department. Additional course work will consist of journal entries, reading assignments, and a final reflective paper. (Pass/Fail credit only. English 460 does not satisfy an upper-level English course requirement for the major.)

Professor Marshall Boswell


465. Tutorial in One-to-One Writing Instruction.

Theoretical and applied study of one-to-one writing instruction.

Professor Rebecca Finlayson


495-496. Honors Tutorial.

Satisfies the Senior Paper requirement. For seniors only. Prerequisites: English 399.