Fall 2015 Course Descriptions


Introductory Literature Courses

English 190-01. Introductory Topics in Literature - Jane Austen′s Novels. (F2i, F4)

In this course, students will read Austen’s six major novels as well as her ‘youthful writings’, including the hilarious parody of romantic sensibility, ‘Love and Friendship,’ written in her adolescence and several other of her early works. This course is open only to first-year and sophomore students. May not be repeated for credit.

MWF 10:00 am-10:50 am
Professor Jennifer Brady

English 224. Survey of African American Literature. (F2i, F4)

This course will survey the African American literary tradition from the 1600s to the present, with a particular focus on how the musings of African Americans capture, engage and critique the American narrative. Authors may include: Phillis Wheatley, W.E.B. Du Bois, Charles Chesnutt, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, et cetera. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor.

MWF 12:00 pm-12:50 pm
Professor Ernest Gibson
English 230. Shakespeare. (F2i, F4, Pre-1800 Literature)  

A close-learning seminar on Shakespeare’s works, with special attention to the problem of genre. We begin by closely reading and memorizing selected sonnets. We then examine representative Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies from across his career, concluding with the generically mixed Winter’s Tale. While we concentrate our efforts primarily on the texts of the plays, along the way we explore the greater context of Shakespeare, from the historical meanings of individual words to the continued influence of his works today, including contemporary performance practices. The course gives you extensive practice in critically exploring Shakespearean craft, and preparation for enjoying Shakespeare throughout your life. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor.

TR 08:00 am-09:15 am
Professor Scott Newstok
English 260. Survey of British Literature I. (F2i, F4, Pre-1800 Literature) 

This seminar chronologically surveys “English” Literature, from its Anglo-Saxon origins to its transatlantic reach in the 18th century American colonies. We will sample a wide range of authors and genres, always keeping in mind socio-cultural context as well as enduring forms that carry across historical eras. Brief weekly “imitations” of our authors will be required, as will critical reflections upon style. Students will be expected to attend the October 23, 2015 symposium on Comedy with visiting director Nick Hutchison and scholar of Shakespeare and gender Dr. Fiona Ritchie.

MWF 12:00 pm-12:50 pm
Professor Scott Newstok

English 265. Special Topics: Shakespeare and Classical Comedy. (F2i, F4, Pre-1800 Literature) 

Mocking authority figures, kissing your brother’s wife, whacking someone upside the head – what sounds like the latest episode of Saturday Night Live is actually part of a comedic tradition running all the way back through Shakespeare to the Roman and Greek theatre. This seminar surveys the history of staged humor, reading a play a week, ranging from Aristophanes’ ribald jokes and Plautus’ hijinks to the Elizabethan theatre’s clowning. We’ll also explore philosophical and historical reflections upon why we laugh. The seminar will include a month-long residency from British director Nick Hutchison, with whom we will workshop scenes from Comedy of Errors. Students will also be expected to attend visiting lectures on the idea of comedy. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor.


Section 01 TR 12:30 pm-01:45 pm
Professor Scott Newstok

English 265. Special Topics - What is Ethnic Literature? (F2i, F4)   

This course will study the emergence of the category of “ethnic literature” in the United States. Tracing the canon debates of the 1980s and 1990s and the creation of ethnic literature anthologies, we will examine the political and cultural contexts out of which Latino/a, Asian American, African American, and Native American texts were incorporated into the study of American Literature. We will analyze several exemplary early ethnic literary works, including Gloria Anzaldúa′s Borderlands/La Frontera and Maxine Hong Kingston′s The Woman Warrior, to consider the formal and political qualities that made them so compelling for ethnic literary study. We will investigate why literary canons matter—how they index not only questions of taste and value, but of power—and consider the stakes of including or excluding a given text from a canon. Finally, we will read 21st century works like Jhumpa Lahiri′s Unaccustomed Earth and Junot Díaz′s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, considering how contemporary writers formally and politically negotiate the canons of American literature and ethnic literature in light of the legacies of the 20th century. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor.


Section 02 MW 02:00 pm-03:15 pm
Professor Amanda Dykema

English 265. Special Topics - Seventeenth-Century British Comedy. (F2i, F4, Pre-1800 Literature)

This course will treat comedy from 1600-1700, including plays by Shakespeare, Jonson, Fletcher, Dryden, Etherege, and Congreve. We will consider aspects of production, acting, and staging as they changed from the Renaissance to the Restoration; the various kinds of comedy staged over the century; and the dramatic influence of the early modern playwrights on their successors. May be repeated with different topic. Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or the permission of the instructor.

Section 03 TR 09:30 am-10:45 am
Professor Jennifer Brady

English 285. Text and Context. (F2, 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 read Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig, likely the first novel published by an African American woman, which exposes the brutalities of northern indentured servitude. Next we’ll consider how the poetry of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson reflects the gendering of the national body before turning to Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, an icy meditation on primitive life and environmental determinism. We’ll then read Edith Wharton’s Summer, a gripping story of female isolation and paternalism, and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, a devastating critique of the American Dream. After that, we’ll tackle Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God, a tale of depravity and violence in rural Tennessee, and 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. 


Section 01 TR 08:00 am-09:15 am
Section 02 TR 09:30 am-10:45 am
Professor Jason Richards

English 290. How to Write: Academic Writing and the Pedagogies that Support It. (F2, F11) 

In this interdisciplinary course, we will explore the myriad ways that students learn to write and how they write to learn. The readings and guest lecturers will offer theoretical frames from a range of fields, including composition and rhetoric, cognitive psychology, literacy studies, and education. As we consider this range of approaches to writing, learning, and teaching, we will focus especially on collaborative methods, as collaborative learning occupies an important place in Rhodes writing courses as well as in the Writing Center. With this emphasis in mind, students in the course will move beyond the classroom and into a Memphis high school to collaborate on the establishment of a peer-led writing center. Because this course offers focused attention to writing, along with analytical writing assignments, as well as an integrative community experience, it fulfills two Foundation Requirements: F2i and F11. Not open to 1st year students. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or the permission of the instructor.

TR 11:00 am-12:15 pm
Professor Rebecca Finlayson


Advanced Literature Courses

English 320. Dante and The Divine Comedy. (Pre - 1800 Literature)

This course will focus on the work of Dante Alighieri, the fourteenth-century Italian poet who translated his vision of the Christian afterlife into his epic poem The Divine Comedy, and whose work has had a profound influence on English writers from Chaucer to T.S. Eliot. We will read a few of the works that Dante read—including parts of Virgil’s Aeneid and Augustine’s Confessions—and we will follow the thread of one of Dante’s preoccupations: the body and its relation to love, language, sin, and salvation. All readings and discussion will be in English. Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or permission from instructor.

MWF 11:00 am-11:50 am
Professor Judith Haas

English 325. Chaucer. (Pre - 1800 Literature)  

Through close and careful reading of Chaucer’s many and varied writings—all in the original Middle English—we will work to develop proficiency in and appreciation of the language written and spoken in fourteenth-century London. Unit One will be devoted to the study of selected Canterbury Tales; in Unit Two, we will read the long narrative romance, Troilus and Criseyde in its entirety; and Unit Three will treat representative works from Chaucer’s dream visions and short poetry. Throughout each of these units, we will examine the creative ways in which Chaucer combined tradition and innovation within his poetic compositions and explore Chaucer’s engagement with such issues as social class, philosophy, gender, and religion. To help fully contextualize Chaucer’s poetry, supplemental readings will include relevant works by Chaucer’s influences and contemporaries as well as recent scholarly interpretations of his writings. Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or permission from the instructor.

MWF 09:00 am-09:50 am
Professor Lori Garner

English 343. London Calling: Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature. (Pre - 1800 Literature)  

The city that rose from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1666 was only one part of the political, economic, and cultural capital that was eighteenth-century London. A magnet for people, products, and wealth, London dramatically increased in size and power over the course of the 1700s. This class will constitute a literary tour of its key locales: we will visit the stockjobbers of the Royal Exchange, the court and coffeehouses of Westminster, the hacks of Grub Street, the criminals of Newgate Prison, and the theaters of Drury Lane. We will also encounter a wide range of urban identities and social concerns, from authors and authorship to commerce and imperialism, gender and government to scandal and satire. Our course will examine the interrelation of these sites and subjects and the ways writers situated themselves within them as they represented and defined the complexities of London, its developing public sphere, and its relationship to changing conceptions of “Britishness.” Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or permission from instructor.

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

English 361. American Realism and Naturalism.

American Realism and Naturalism developed in part as a reaction against Romanticism brought on by post-Civil War disillusionment. However, there were other forces at work as well. Technological and scientific advancements, industrialism and urbanization, and a rapidly changing population of new immigrants, freed slaves and “new women” all led to an intellectual and aesthetic revolution that “came of age” in the writings of authors like Henry James, Kate Chopin and Charles Chesnutt. In this course, we will attempt to trace this intricate web of historical, cultural and aesthetic developments, considering how they grew out of the legacy of the Civil War but also how they propelled the nation toward modernity in the twentieth-century. Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or permission from instructor.

TR 02:00 pm-03:15 pm
Professor Leslie Petty

English 363/Theatre 365.  Topics in Twentieth-Century British Literature - Staging “The Troubles”: Politics and War in Twentieth-Century Irish Theater and Film. 

This course will explore selected theatrical and filmic treatments of the Irish “Troubles” of the past century. “The Troubles” has been used in Ireland for the past 125 years to denote the island’s political violence and attendant ethno-nationalist strife (in 1905, for example, Irish author James Joyce wrote of “the troubles in our native land”). Instances of this political strife include the struggle for Irish independence from British imperial rule (the failed rebellion of 1798, the Easter Rising of 1916, and the Anglo-Irish War of 1919-21, for example); the Irish Civil War (1922-23); and the fight for civil/equal rights in Northern Ireland (1968-1998). This course will consider both canonical and contemporary Irish plays, films, and songs that depict, anatomize, and critique “the troubles” and its myriad sociocultural ramifications. It will explore the extent to which ten plays (by Lady Augusta Gregory, W. B. Yeats, Sean O’Casey, Brian Friel, Martin McDonagh, Stuart Carolan, and Owen McCafferty) and five films (Michael Collins, Bloody Sunday, The Crying Game, Omagh, and Five Minutes of Heaven) engage in a dialogue with various political movements and events, with each other, and with key articulations of Irish (and Northern Irish) national identity. The course will incorporate major critical readings/debates. May be repeated with different topic. Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or permission from instructor.

TR 03:30 pm-04:45 pm
Professor Brian Shaffer

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.

MWF 01:00 pm-01:50 pm
Professor Rashna Richards

English 485. Senior Research Seminar.
Topic: Infinite Jest and American Fiction After Postmodernism

When it was first published in 1996, David Foster Wallace’s 1079 page novel Infinite Jest was instantly recognized by critics as “the next step in fiction” (Sven Birkerts), though few critics could articulate what that “next step” was, exactly. Set in the future and focusing on a mythical film that is so entertaining that watching it leads to catatonia, the novel takes on such disparate issues as drug addiction, film theory, Alcoholics Anonymous, Jamesian pragmatism, existentialism, terrorism, game theory, theoretical mathematics, and tennis—lots and lots of tennis. Nearly two decades later, Infnite Jest remains the signature text for writers of Wallace’s generation. As its influence continues to deepen and spread, so, too, do the contours of the post-postmodern novel begin to clarify. In this course, we will read Wallace’s gargantuan novel as well as a selection of contemporary novels written under Wallace’s influence in order to trace the trajectory from modernism to postmodernism and beyond. The course will culminate in a major research project. Enrollment by permission only.

Section 01 TR 09:30 am-10:45 am
Professor Marshall Boswell

English 485. Senior Research Seminar.
Topic: Studies in the Novel

A sustained consideration of the novel as a literary medium, with attention to several key concepts and problems, including realism, historicism, and postmodernism. In the first part of the term, we will study two significant works of fiction: Walter Scott’s Waverly (1814) and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004). Waverly’s popularity spawned many imitators and shaped the taste of the English reading public for a generation. It also created a new genre, the historical novel, and exerted significant impact on the evolution of the novel in broader terms. Mitchell’s recent book is in part a playful return to the concerns of the historical novel. But Mitchell’s book moves much more widely and comments in its own way on the novel as a medium of literary expression. While reading these texts, we will consult major critical statements on the novel as a genre, focusing on the issues most relevant to Mitchell and Scott (Watt, McKeon, Lukacs, Trumpener, Levine, Jameson, Genette, Sangari, Brennan, etc.). In the last part of the term, students will choose another novel from any period to research. Enrollment by permission only.

Section 02 MW 03:00 pm-04:15 pm
Professor Gordon Bigelow


Creative Writing Courses

English 200. Introduction to Poetry Writing: Form, Theory, Workshop.

A study of poetic form and theory, leading to a workshop in which students present their own poems for discussion. Students will learn to write basic narratives, as well as received forms such as villanelles, and to find forms suitable for their own work. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or the permission of the instructor.

TR 11:00 am-12:15 pm
Professor Caki Wilkinson  

English 201. Introduction to Fiction Writing: Form, Theory, Workshop.  

A study of narrative form and theory, leading to a workshop in which students present their own fiction for discussion. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or the permission of the instructor.


Section 01 MW 03:00 pm-04:15 pm
Professor (TBA)
Section 02 TR 02:00 pm-03:15 pm
Professor Caki Wilkinson

English 301. Intermediate Fiction Workshop .

Continued practice in the craft of fiction writing with an emphasis on elements of narrative form, including point of view, character development, plot, style, tone, and so on. Includes historical and formal study of narrative form. Prerequisites: English 201 and the permission of the instructor.

TR 12:30 pm-01:45 pm
Professor Marshall Boswell


Film Courses

English 202. Introduction to Cinema. (F5)

While the cinematograph was a product of scientific innovation, film quickly became the most popular and influential cultural medium of the twentieth century. Only a decade after its invention, cinema had spread to all parts of the globe, and the motion pictures became a way of telling our stories to ourselves while simultaneously transporting us away from our lives to what Maxim Gorky called "the Kingdom of Shadows." Since then, films have intrigued and frustrated, perplexed and inspired billions of viewers worldwide. The issues that preoccupied the earliest film critics continue to puzzle later generations: What is cinema? Is it an art? Is it a language? What do movies reveal about the underlying ideologies of the cultures that produce them? How do they address, exploit, and satisfy various audience desires? This course offers an introduction to film analysis. We will learn and practice close reading of films through an examination of various cinematic elements, such as mise en scène, cinematography, sound, lighting, editing, and so on. Using different interpretive approaches, we will also consider questions of film styles, genres, and industrial contexts as well as issues of ideology, race, gender, sexuality, and representation. By focusing on its formal and social contexts, we will develop an understanding of cinema as an art and an industry, an imaginary pleasure and a symbolic language. Overall, we will acquire critical tools to analyze cinema′s aesthetic and cultural significance. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor. All students must attend a weekly film screening.

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


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.

T 11:00 am-12:15 pm
Professor Rebecca Finlayson

495-496. Honors Tutorial.

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