Fall 2014 Course Descriptions


Introductory Literature Courses

English 190. Introductory Topics in Literature - Borderlands: Contemporary American and Canadian Fiction. (F2, F4)

An introduction to contemporary American and Canadian fiction centered on the topic of trauma. Possible authors include: Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Russell Banks, Joyce Carol Oates, William Gass, among others. This course is open only to first-year and sophomore students. It is writing intense and counts toward the major in English.

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

English 219. Comparative Studies in Medieval Literature.
(F2i, F4, pre - 1800 literature)

This course offers an introduction to the cultural variety of the Western European Middle Ages through a series of paired medieval texts representing diverse genres and cultural traditions. We will begin by entering the realm of Arthurian romance as portrayed in Chrétien de Troyes’ Yvain and the Middle English Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Next, we will follow the adventures of dragon-slaying Germanic heroes in the Old Norse Saga of the Volsungs and the Middle High German Nibelungenlied. A third unit will involve the study of medieval collections of tales such as the Anglo-Norman Lais of Marie de France and the medieval Welsh Mabinogi. The various themes explored throughout the semester will be tied together in a final unit examining medieval lyric and song across the medieval world. All texts will be read in translation. In addition to its function as a comparative survey of medieval literature, English 219 is designed to develop and strengthen skills in reading, writing, and critical analysis. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor.

Section 01 MWF 10:00 am-10:50 am
Professor Lori Garner

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.

Section 01 MWF 12:00 pm-12:50 pm
Professor Ernest Gibson

English 260: Survey of British Literature I (F2i, F4, pre - 1800 literature)

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.

Section 01 MWF 09:00 am-09:50 am
Section 02 MWF 11:00 am-11:50 am
Professor Judith Haas

English 265:  Special Topics. "Essaying Education” (F2i, F4)

"Essaying Education” will survey the philosophy of education through the genre of the essay. To ′essay′ means to ′try,′ to′attempt.′ We will attend to the rhetoric and style of thinkers attempting to argue about how we learn and teach. Figures will be drawn from the classical era (Plato, Aristotle, Cicero), medieval Europe (Augustine, Aquinas), the humanist Renaissance (Petrarch, Montaigne, Bacon, Comenius), the Enlightenment (Locke, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft), Victorian England (Darwin, Marx, Newman), American pragmatism (Emerson, James, Addams, Dewey, Dubois), and more recent critiques (Jacotot, Freire, Arendt, Gatto, Ravitch, Sahlberg). We will also watch selected documentary films (e.g. To Be and To Have; At Berkeley). We will devote particular attention to the literary history of the essay, a form that is itself a mode of speculation. In kind, students will essay their own educational philosophy as part of a scholarly final research project. Topics will inevitably include pedagogy, ignorance, failure, knowledge, equity, and the artes liberales, or "crafts of freedom." Students will be expected to attend two Rhodes symposia on the liberal arts, one sponsored by the Project for the Study of Liberal Democracy (late September), and another sponsored by a grant from the Teagle Foundation (late October). Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor.

Section 01 TR 08:00 am-09:15 am
Professor Scott Newstok

English 265: Special Topics. "What is Ethnic Literature?"  (F2, 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 Woman Warrior, to consider the formal and political qualities that made them so attractive 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 TR 09:30 am-10:45 am
Professor Amanda Dykema

English 285. Text and Context. (F2, F4)

This course assists prospective majors and minors in acquiring the necessary tools for middle- and upper-division classes in English. Each seminar will focus on the necessary skills for reading literary texts, the development of critical argument, and the ability to situate the text in relation to significant contexts. Such contexts might include a text’s historical and cultural circumstances, or its situation within the wider history or discipline of literary studies. Not open to seniors. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor. Course required for prospective English majors.

TR 11:00 am-12:15 pm
Professor Gordon Bigelow



Advanced Literature Courses

English 319. Old English Language, Literature, and Culture.
(pre - 1800 literature)

Frige mec frodum wordum…

In this class, we will learn to read the very earliest English literature in its original form, poetry and prose from an intriguing medieval culture that has exerted profound influence even in modern times. Old English was the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons from roughly 600-1100 AD, and the period’s stories of heroes, saints, monsters, and exiles have inspired such writers as J.R.R. Tolkien, Ezra Pound, and Seamus Heaney. Since most Modern English speakers must learn Old English as a foreign language, our work will involve intensive study of Old English grammar with the primary goal of translating a wide range of evocative texts. Course requirements include active class participation, daily language exercises, and three examinations as well as a series of short writing assignments culminating in a final research project. Our texts will include A Gentle Introduction to Old English (Broadview Press), Old English Reader (Broadview Press), and the Anglo-Saxon Literature Handbook (Blackwell). Fulfills pre-18th century requirement for majors. Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or permission from instructor.

TR 01:00 pm-01:50 pm
Professor Lori Garner

English 345. Eighteenth-Century British Fiction. (pre - 1800 literature)

What is a novel? The answer to this question depends on who and when you ask. The full titles of Eliza Haywood’s works classified many of them as novels, but in the first decades of the eighteenth century “novel” was used almost interchangeably with “romance.” Samuel Richardson denied that his novels were novels at all; so too did Daniel Defoe and Henry Fielding. In addition to discussing the historical, cultural, and political circumstances out of which “the novel” emerged, we will interrogate the form itself by examining its changing features and functions over the course of the eighteenth century. Authors may include Haywood, Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Reeve, and Austen. Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course (preferably ENGL 285) or permission from the instructor

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

English 360. American Romanticism

American Romanticism describes a period of literary and artistic expression spanning the decades leading up to the Civil War, a time defined by robust national expansion, intensifying sectional conflict, and howling cultural contradictions. Although newly liberated and founded on principles of democratic freedom, America prospered off the institution of slavery as well as the displacement and extermination of Indians. Although the nation grew more and more heterogeneous by the day, whites drew racial lines to protect their sense of homogeneity while enacting an aggressive Anglo-Saxon nationalism. Writing to Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1851, Herman Melville seemed to crystallize such contradictions through what he called “ruthless democracy.” That paradox will inform our course as we explore what is arguably the most remarkable period in American literary history, known for such authors as Emerson, Poe, Douglass, Hawthorne, Melville, Stowe, Apess, and others. Some specific questions we’ll consider over the semester are: What do the confidence of Transcendentalism and skepticism of the Gothic, rival literary modes that form the genetic basis of American Romanticism, say about the nation’s schizophrenic identity? How does the South, the nation’s internal other and embodiment of everything America defined itself against, serve to construct and deconstruct the nation’s dearest myths? Did America really develop a distinctive national literature at this time, or was it a more complex tapestry of transatlantic intertextuality? And how do literary representations of racial performance reflect how America was, in a real sense, acted into being? Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or permission from instructor.  

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

English 362. American Modernism

In this course we will read and analyze selected works of American fiction, poetry and drama published during the first half of the 20th Century (roughly 1890-1945).  We will begin with works that mark the transition from 19th century realism to modernism proper and continue with works that have come to define American modernism writ large.  In analyzing the selected works, we will pay attention not only to the unique particulars of each text but also to the work’s contribution to the modernist project and to the material conditions in which the work is grounded.  Probable authors include Eliot, Stevens, Wharton, Dos Passos, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Cather, Hurston, and O’Neill.
Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or permission from instructor.

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

English 380.  Topics in Literary Study - Masculinities and Literature

A study of ideas and ideals of masculinity, maleness and manhood as represented in literature in English and in a selection of films. The course analyses ways in which masculinities (including notions of female masculinity and male femininity) have historically been constructed, maintained and deconstructed in relationship to changing ideas and ideals of the feminine, race, class, sexuality and sexual orientation. The seminar makes use of cultural criticism, masculinity-, feminist-, gender- and queer theories to forge an understanding of challenges that face normative representations of gendered identity in contemporary literature and popular culture. Prerequisites: Any 200-level literature course or permission from instructor.

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

English 385.  Junior Seminar: Critical Theory and Methodology.

This course examines selected developments in critical theory and their impact on the teaching and study of literature. Prerequisites: English 285 or permission from instructor. Majors only.

TR 02:00 pm-03:15 pm
Professor Jason Richards

English 485. Senior Research Seminar.

A focused exploration of special topics or critical problems in literary study culminating in the preparation of an independent research essay and a major oral presentation of the research. Topics chosen by the instructor will vary from section to section and may focus on major authors, distinct literary genres or movements, historical contexts, and/or significant themes. Topics will be published annually; rising seniors will select preferred topics. Enrollment by permission only.

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 01 TR 02:00 pm-03:15 pm
Professor Gordon Bigelow

TOPIC: Twentieth-Century Irish Drama

No nation in the English-speaking world has produced as many important dramatists, and as many influential plays, over the past century as Ireland.  Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, W. B. Yeats, John Millington Synge, James Joyce (yes, even he took a stab at play-writing), Sean O′Casey, Samuel Beckett (many see Waiting for Godot as the key drama of the last century), and Brendan Behan were all Dubliners who wrote for the stage in the first half of the twentieth century.  In recent decades Ireland has retained its preeminence as a Mecca for theatre; such playwrights as Brian Friel, John B. Keane, Tom Murphy, Thomas Kilroy, Marina Carr, Conor MacPherson, and Martin McDonagh have made waves on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.  This course will survey modern Ireland′s dramatic tradition against the backdrop of relevant political and cultural developments, from the establishment of Ireland′s national theatre early in the century, through Ireland′s reemergence as an autonomous nation and its bloody civil war in the teens and twenties, through its inward-looking, mid-century cultural paralysis, to its "Celtic Tiger" boom of the nineties.  We will explore the ways in which a number of "classic" and contemporary Irish plays engage in a dialogue with each other, with various theatrical conventions, and with key articulations of Irish national identity.  The course will culminate in a major research project and will incorporate scholarly criticism and, in some cases, film versions of the plays in question.              

Section 02 TR 12:30 pm-01:45 pm
Professor Brian Shaffer



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 permission from instructor.

TR 09:30 am-10:45 am
Professor Catherine 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. Students read and discuss well known short stories along with their own writing exercises and their own short stories written specifically for the class. Prerequisites: English 151 or permission from instructor.

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

English 300. Intermediate Poetry Workshop: Form

This intermediate workshop will help writing students to develop a greater sense of the use of received as well as individually-developed forms in poetry. In the pursuit of their own styles, participants will experiment with the idea of form. Through reading essays by other poets on free verse, syllabics, the villanelle, the sonnet, blank verse, blues poetry, as well as through readings of poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks, Muriel Rukeyser, Anne Sexton, Robert Creeley, Marianne Moore, Li Young Lee, Robert Hass, Anthony Hecht, Amy Clampitt, Robert Hayden, Yusef Komunyakaa, Henri Cole, Elizabeth Bishop, Rita Dove and others, students will broaden their own experience with poetry. Prerequisites: English 200 and permission from instructor.

TR 12:30 pm-01:45 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 permission from instructor.

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


Film Courses

English 202. Introduction to Cinema (F5)

Providing an overview of moving image practices, this course will use the academic discipline of film studies to explore the aesthetic, structural, cultural, historical, and theoretical framework of cinema.  Major topics include the language of film (narrative, cinematography, mise en scène, editing, sound), genre, authorship, ideology (race, gender, sexuality), global cinema, documentary, and avant-garde traditions. Prerequisites: FYWS 151 or permission from instructor. All students must attend a weekly film screening.

TR 12:30 pm-01:45 pm
T 07:00 pm-09:00 pm (Film Screening)
Professor Keith Corson


Special Courses

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.