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Information about the undergraduate catalogue for English courses can be found in MyCourseGuide (NetID log-in required). Non-UW students can contact the Undergraduate Advisor for information about courses.
Upcoming Courses: Spring Semester 2014
We've highlighted some of our upcoming courses below for your reading pleasure. In addition, we've asked several of our faculty to film short videos discussing their course offerings for Spring Semester 2014, so be sure to click through to hear them talk about their course's themes, reading lists, and inspirations.
English 177 / Ramzi Fawaz
There's No Place Like Oz: Fantasy and Enchantment in Modern America
The 20th century is often understood as the era in which scientific rationalism, reason, and technology triumphed over age-old superstitions and enchanted ways of thinking. Yet modern American culture is filled with wizards, faeries, time travel, superheroes, enchanted forests, and any number of fantasy worlds. This course offers an introduction to literary and cultural studies by asking what role fantasy has played in shaping American literature and popular culture in the 20th century. Though long understood as juvenile entertainment, fantasy is arguably the most important element of American popular culture, offering the promise of boundless transformation, pleasure in the impossible, and utopian visions of a better world. Rather than a discrete genre, we will treat fantasy as a mode of communication or expression that runs through a variety of American popular forms, including high and commercial art, children's literature, comics, novels, and Hollywood film. We will ask what kinds of pleasures and desires fantasy activates, why certain kinds of fantasy (including magic, metamorphoses, time travel, ghosts and hauntings, alternate realities, and superhuman ability) came to make sense to people at specific historical moments, and how fantasy has been mobilized as a tool of social and political transformation. Some of our topics will include early animation and the rise of Walt Disney, comic book culture and the American superhero, the Hollywood musical, Atomic Age science fiction, psychedelia and the hippie counterculture in the 1960s, and modern special effects among others.
Jim Brown discusses his course, ENG 177, "Literature and Video-games."
English 324 / Anja Wanner
Do you like to puzzle linguistic pieces together? Does it ever occur to you that it's strange that we can say "The mirror broke," but not "The bread cut?" Did you ever wonder when to use "who" or "whom" or "that" in a relative clause? Then this might be the class for you (alas, it has a preprequisite: English 324, The Structure of English). In this class we will combine the analysis of sentences with an in-depth exploration of a particular theoretical framework, the "Principles & Parameters" (also: Government & Binding) approach to syntactic analysis, first introduced by Noam Chomsky in the 1980s. Chomsky's approach to syntactic theory is also known as "Generative Grammar." Both data and analysis will be more complex than in the "Structure of English" course. For instance, we will look at infinitives (He tried __ to leave), which lack a visible subject, but which are interpreted as sentences with agents nonetheless. Other constructions with invisible agents include imperatives (Wash your hands!), and passives (Mistakes were made). We will also look at complex constructions that involve the ordering of objects, for example the particle verb construction (I looked up the information/I looked the information up--what exactly happens with the participle?) and the double object construction (give a book to Mary/give Mary a book--do they mean exactly the same?). You will learn how to analyze these sentences, how to represent them as tree diagrams in an updated version of the X-bar format (yay for tree diagrams!), and to compare the generative with a more traditional approach to the analysis of syntax. The core assumption of generative grammar theory is that an infinite set of syntactically well-formed (grammatical) sentences can be produced (generated) on the basis of a finite set of principles, which are universal (valid in every language) and which may not be violated because they are an integral part of the human language faculty. You will learn to explain the ungrammaticality of sentences like [*Sally's brother doesn't like herself] or [*It was expected Harry to leave early] or [*What did she say when he had bought?] as violations of one of these three principles (the principles violated here are the "Binding Principle A," the "Case Filter," and the "Subjacency Condition"--principles that are a part of a speaker's grammar--yours too--but that you will not find listed in an ordinary grammar book). Occasionally, we will include data from corpus searches and we will relate the topics that we discuss to observations from first and second language acquisition. Tree diagrams will get fairly complex in this class, but what really matters is the ability to construct a syntactic argument: Why is a construction problematic? Why is one analysis better than another? What are problems that remain unsolved? This class is required for M.A. students in Applied English Linguistics, it is semi-required for the English Linguistics track in the major (you have to take this class or English 325, which is not offered this semester), and it counts as an elective towards an English Major. There will be weekly homework assignments (assigned on Thursdays, due Mondays), team presentations on a specific construction (such as relative clauses or resultatives), take-home midterm exam, and in-class final exam (open book); attendance is taken.
ENG 418 / Stephanie Elsky
Shakespeare and the Arts of Possession
In this course we will read Shakespeare's later plays, including problem comedies, tragedies, and romances. Shakespeare is often thought of as belonging to all of us, but how did Shakespeare himself imagine and dramatize notions of possession and belonging? In this class, we will focus on multiple understandings of these concepts in Shakespeare's plays, including, but not limited to, (1) the legal possession of property, whether in the form of an object, a kingdom, or an empire; (2) the vexed category of self-possession and its fatal loss; and finally (3) the possibility and impossibility of possessing one's artistic creations. To explore this last type of possession, we will spend some time with the First Folio (1623), the collection of Shakespeare's plays compiled and published seven years after his death. Finally, we will ask whether Shakespeare's works allow us to glimpse at and imagine alternatives to possession and ownership, including commonality, collaboration, and friendship, provoking us in turn to imagine our own contemporary understandings of these central modern categories.
Readings may include Measure for Measure, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, and The Tempest. Assignments will include two short papers, one of which will make use of Memorial Library's Special Collections; a longer final paper; and a take-home final exam.
Mark Vareschi discusses his class, ENG 459, "The Eighteenth-century Novel."
ENG 513 / Richard Begam
Backgrounds to Modernism
This course will chart the intersection between the broad cultural phenomenon we call modernity and the narrower literary and aesthetic phenomenon we call modernism. Drawing on work in philosophy, psychology, ethics, and aesthetics, we will examine how a number of the central texts of modernist literature grappled with a number of the defining issues of twentieth-century thought. Among the ideas we shall consider are the "transvaluation of all values" (the reassessment of altruism and morality), the critique of modern forms of social association (anomie and alienation), and the redefinition of truth and knowledge (perspectivism and constructivism).
ENG 654 / Christa Olson
Race and Sexuality in American Literature
There are four key words in the title of this class. Over the course of the semester, we will call all of them into question (what is race? sexuality? American? literature?). Most importantly, we will use our discussions of novels, pamphlets, speeches, and images to ask what happens when those key, contested terms interact with one another in fiction, in politics, and in daily life. Because this class focuses, as its description says, "on the nature of literature as advocacy," we will take a rhetorical approach to what we read and see. We will discuss how our texts intervene in American discussions about race and/or sexuality and analyze the strategies that authors use to make those interventions. Put another way, we will ask both "what do these texts (and authors) want?" and "how are they trying to get it?" Readings for the course will include Ida B. Wells's Southern Horrors, Mine Okubo's Citizen 13660, David Hwang's M. Butterfly, and Leslie Feinberg's Drag King Dreams. Your work for the semester (in addition to reading): two short (2-3 page) essays, a mid-term "inquiry" project digging more deeply into a subject from the class that catches your attention, and a final exam. Students who want an additional challenge, honors credit, or way to counterbalance test anxiety can choose to also work on a "discovery project," doing research in the University of Wisconsin Archives about the history of race and/or sexuality on campus.
Russ Castronovo discusses his class, ENG 626, "Rebels in American Literature."
ENG 619 / Jerome Tharaud