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Fall 2014: course descriptions

We have listed the numbers and descriptions of many of the English courses for the Fall 2014 semester below.

In addition, 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.

English 155 (FIG): Classical Myth and Modern Literature (Harris)

At its core, history is a collection of ancient stories.  Everyone knows that history repeats itself. It’s no wonder, then, that ancient myths find their way into modern lives every day. “Classical Myth and Modern American Culture” is a FIG that explores ways that modern American culture interprets, adopts, and adapts classical myth in order to address contemporary social, aesthetic, and political concerns.  Each course in the FIG deals primarily with the classical worlds of Greece and Rome, but by tracing these adaptations and the transmission of stories from one culture time and place to another, you will also study other ancient civilizations from the Middle East, Africa, and Native America. The historical, archaeological, and literary approaches to the legacy of the classical world will take you out of the classroom, to the museum, the library, the laboratory, and the green spaces across campus –each with its own story to tell. And the language of Latin will also tell its story as well. The “dead” language, Latin, will never become more alive as it will when you are able to see all of its influence in the texts we study but also in other classes you pursue throughout your college career. Learning Latin is an opportunity and skill of a lifetime. This may be the only time you will be able to learn mythology while studying it. So, Carpe Diem! Travel through time and discover why our world is shaped the way it is today as you listen to what stories from other times and places have to tell us about who we are today—and do some story-telling of your own!

English 168 Introduction to Modern Literature: "Scripts, Stories, and Histories"  (Zimmerman)

We'll be studying works of literature that explore how individuals and cultural groups resist and embrace the "scripts" according to which their lives are expected to unfold. These scripts include the story lines and stereotypes promulgated by mass media and popular culture. They also include the ways our memories and identity are shaped by, and sometimes against, the versions of our lives constructed by government authorities and history books. The course texts ask: What role does pop culture play in shaping our sense of who we are and how we live our lives? What are the hazards and satisfactions of conforming our lives to the images and narratives generated by others? How do we transform the clutch of memory and history into a source of freedom and possibility? How do gender, race, nationality, and sexuality shape these possibilities? What role do literature and film play in helping us imagine alternative histories for ourselves?  This course is designed to help prepare you for the rigors of university writing and reading by developing your analytical writing skills and your critical reading skills. The course is also meant to be engaging and fun. Our hope is that you will enjoy reading the texts, seeing the movies, and also learning how to think critically and carefully about them and the questions they explore.

English 169: Literature and the Environment (Keller)

The environmental crises we currently face are consequences not just of population expansion, industrial development, or the consumption of fossil fuels, but perhaps more fundamentally of the ways in which people in the industrialized nations have thought about the natural environment and their relation to it. One way to get access to that thinking is through works of literature. This lecture/discussion course will explore how some major North American writers from the end of the 19th century through the beginning of the 21st century have represented nature or wilderness, humankind’s relation to the rest of the natural world, and human-induced environmental transformation. Course texts will allow us to consider the consequences of some common ways of thinking and, where those consequences seem damaging, invite us to consider possible alternatives.  The course will have three interconnected parts.  In the first, titled “Land Ethics” we will read works by writers who, while criticizing some familiar ways of thinking about (and enacting) the human relation to nature, propose some constructive alternatives.  In this unit, our texts will probably be Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, poems and essays by Wendell Berry, poems and essays by Gary Snyder, an essay by environmental historian William Cronon, and Ceremony, by the Native American novelist, Leslie Marmon Silko.  Likely texts for our second unit, “Human Relations to Non-Human Animals,” include Sarah Orne Jewett’s short story, “The White Heron,” William Faulkner’s difficult but fascinating novella, “The Bear,” Valerie Plumwood’s essay, “Being Prey” and Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats. Ozeki’s novel will provide a transition into our final unit, “Discourses of Toxicity,” in which we will read selections from Rachel Carson’s landmark work about pesticides, A Silent Spring, perhaps a long poem about a mining disaster involving silicosis by Muriel Rukeyser titled “Book of the Dead,” perhaps John D’Agata’s extended lyric essay about the storage of nuclear waste, About a Mountain, and Margaret Atwood’s “speculative fiction” about a near future of environmental apocalypse, Oryx and Crake.

English 175 (FIG): Frankenstein, Robocop, Google: Human Memory/Digital Memory (Vareschi)

Frankenstein, Robocop, Google” is a course about memory. This FIG will consider the relative frailty of human memory in comparison to the unforgetting nature of digital storage. Humans forget; computers do not. The course will begin by considering the relationship between memory and human identity. In many ways, we are who we are because we remember who we are day to day. However, human memory is fragile. We forget things; we misremember events. By contrast, any and all online activity leaves a trace that can be collected to form a version of the user. This version is not identical to the human user and yet is often a frighteningly accurate image of the user whose behaviors may be tracked and predicted. Importantly, this digital version of the user is produced by a form of memory (or more precisely a storage of information) that does not forget. You may not remember “liking” that photo on Facebook at 3 am, but Facebook does.  The course will draw its reading and viewing list from a variety of literary and non-literary sources. Our central texts will include: Frankenstein (1818), Robocop (1987 and 2014), and current debates around NSA surveillance, social media literacy, online persona, and online privacy.  Our primary project will be to develop a digital portfolio of work in collaboration with DesignLab.  The two other courses in this FIG, LIS 351: Intro to Digital Information and Phil 101: Intro to Philosophy, are well paired as we work to gain a greater understanding of the place of memory in human experience and a critical perspective on our place in 21st-century digital culture. This FIG is well suited for students interested in a certificate in Digital Studies and majors in English, Computer Science, Communications, Journalism, Law, and Philosophy.

English 177: Stories, Maps, Media: Designing the Wisconsin Experience (McKenzie)

This class explores the past, present, and future of Wisconsin through stories, maps, and media, teaching students digital communication skills in the areas of experience design, information design, and information architecture. Exploring your own stories and maps as well as public archives and databases, students learn analytic and synthetic methods for thinking and living in the 21st century while contributing to the future of the Wisconsin experience.

English 181 (FIG): Evolving Natures since 1800: Victorian Natures  (Bernstein)

What is nature? What does it mean to say that we are “part of nature”? In this FIG, we will address these questions by examining how nineteenth and twentieth-century literary and scientific writers thought about them.  We will read famous authors such as Mary Shelley and Charles Darwin, as well as writers less familiar today, such as Robert Chambers (who proposed a popular theory of evolution before Darwin) and Mathilde Blind, the poet who wrote an epic about evolution, The Ascent of Man, in the wake of Darwin’s The Descent of Man. Our investigations will illuminate a deeper sense of just how complex is the very nature of “nature.”  In “Victorian Natures,” we will consider how creative writers of the nineteenth century repeatedly imagined, first, what is human in relation to what is natural or intrinsic, part of the origins of all life, and, second, what is learned or imposed by the values of a particular culture in time. We begin with the Romantic writer Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), a novel that poses questions about the value and limits of scientific knowledge through the consequences of an “unnatural” birth. The course explores how Darwin’s ideas about nature and origins and change appear in his autobiography. By studying poems, fiction, and essays about death, about clairvoyance and telepathy, about the material and the immaterial, we will further our understanding of how Victorians understood the shifting border between nature and spirit. Our final unit looks to the future, to how Victorians, and how twentieth-century writers, imagined the future of human nature in the wake of Darwin’s evolutionary theory.

English 204 Studies in Writing, Rhetoric, and Literacy: Arguments for America (Olson)
*fulfills the requirement for a course in Composition/Rhetoric or English Language/Linguistics in the new major

Nations tell stories about themselves. Those stories, in turn, circulate arguments about who and what the nation is. The United States of America is no exception. This course will take you on a selective tour of five hundred plus years of arguments for and about America. It will focus on common American ideas—“We the People,” the “City on a Hill,” and Manifest Destiny—and trace how those ideas have been adopted and contested over time. We will read canonical texts by famous people (e.g. the Declaration of Independence and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail) alongside less familiar texts produced by lesser-known people (e.g. treaties with Native nations and speeches by Northern abolitionists). We will also analyze photographs, paintings, and built spaces that invest the idea of America with meaning. Your work for the class will include reading, short writing assignments, opportunities for primary source research, and a final exam.

English 219: Early Works of Shakespeare (Bearden)
*fulfills the requirement for a pre-1800 literature course in the new major and Shakespeare in the old major

This course will investigate a selection of Shakespeare’s early works before 1601 with an emphasis on how these texts represent error. A selection of comedies, tragedies, and histories along with shorter poems, sonnets, and some excerpts from Shakespeare’s sources and contemporaries will constitute the bulk of the required reading. Students will be asked to consider how error—in the metaphorical as well as the pagan and Judeo-Christian molds—is crucial to Shakespeare’s formal and cultural contributions to the Western literary tradition. Along with requiring the student to write two essays and two exams, the course will give students the choice to recite one of Shakespeare’s sonnets from memory or to write their own sonnet in Shakespeare’s form. Extra credit will also be made available in the form of play reviews and student performances of scenes.

English 236: Why is Writing Hard? (Vieira)

Writing is hard for nearly everyone—for college students working on research papers, for published authors, for UW professors. But why? This Comm-B course does not promise to make writing easier. But it will help us understand our own and others’ writing processes and challenges. By engaging with theories of how and why writing is hard, we will gain a more secure footing from which to grapple with the writing difficulties that inevitably arise, not only in college, but also in life. To fully grapple with the composition theories presented in this course, we will also frequently and prolifically write. We will meet regularly in peer review workshops and ultimately will compile and revise a portfolio of our thinking and learning. The final paper for the course will involve empirical research in writing.

English 241: Literature and Culture I (Cooper)
*fulfills the requirement in the new major and can substitute for English 215 in the old major

What is a person, a home, a nation, a world? What we now call "English literature" begins with these questions, imagining a cosmos filled with gods and heroes, liars and thieves, angels and demons, dragons and dungeons, whores and witches, drunken stupor and religious ecstasy. Authors crafted answers to these questions using technologies of writing from parchment to the printing press, and genres old and new, from epic and romance to drama and the sonnet. Emphasis will be on developing the skills of close reading, critical analysis, and writing that are of use for majors and non-majors alike. Work for the course is likely to include 3 papers (of 2-3, 4-5, and 6-7 pages), a mid-term, and a final exam, as well as potential small assignments in individual discussion sections.

English 242: Literature and Culture II: Human/Nature (Ortiz-Robles)
*fulfills the requirement in the new major and can substitute for English 216 in the old major

According to historian Michel Foucault, “man” was invented at the turn of the nineteenth century. This course will explore the cultural, artistic, and political dimensions of this claim as it pertains to the study of literature. Of particular interest to this exploration will be the relations literature describes, and in describing often shapes, between humans and non-humans, humans and nature, and, of course, humans and “other” humans. Readings will include works of fiction, poetry, and drama written over the last two centuries that celebrate, qualify, critique and otherwise trouble the nature of what we call “humanity.” This course develops skills of critical reading and writing that are essential to majors and non-majors alike.

English 243: American Literary Cultures (Steele)
*substitutes for English 217 in the old major and fulfills the American literature requirement in the new major

Is America a new world, a city on a hill, an imperial power? Are American literatures revolutionary, nationalist, countercultural? This course explores how writers have wrestled with such questions for several hundred years. We will encounter literary figures from white whales to red wheelbarrows, focusing on the diverse geographies, cultural practices, and political mythologies that compose the Americas, and interrogating what is meant by American literature and what it means to be American.  We will consider the ways that genres from Native stories to slave narratives to postmodern novels have contributed to social, intellectual, and political currents of American cultures. This course develops skills of critical reading and writing that are essential to majors and non-majors alike.

English 245: Seminar in the major (several sections):
*fulfills a requirement in the new major

  • Monsters, Brutes, and Hysterics:  American Literature at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century (Castronovo)
    Moving from settings in tropical jungles to the ghettos and slums of North America, this course explores the often-strained connections between literature and the prospect of social justice.  Our readings will include realist fiction, utopian fiction, “race” novels, feminist fiction, and documentary realism.  Possible authors include Edgar Rice Burroughs, Stephen Crane, W.E.B, Du Bois, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Booker T. Jacob Riis, Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett among others.  The seminar format for this course emphasizes engaged discussion.
  • World Theatre in English (Dharwadker)
    This course will consider major modern and contemporary playwrights who belong to many different cultural geographies around the world, but have chosen to practice their art and craft in English. The choice of English appears to be "natural" for playwrights in predominantly English-speaking countries like Canada, Australia, and South Africa, which began as, or became, European settler colonies. But in former British colonies in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia, English coexists with one or more indigenous languages, and its choice as a creative medium has important implications for both authors and audiences. These cultural and political differences are relevant to the development of English as a global language, and we will keep them in mind as we consider our selection of world playwrights.
    Tentative Reading List
    George Walker, Ramona and the White Slaves (Canada, 1976)
    Louis Nowra, The Golden Age (Australia, 1985)
    Brian Friel, Translations (Ireland, 1980)
    Athol Fugard, Sizwe Bansi is Dead (South Africa, 1972)
    Wole Soyinka, Kongi’s Harvest (Nigeria, 1966)
    Derek Walcott, Ti-Jean and his Brothers (Trinidad, 1958)
    Ama Ata Aidoo, Anowa (Ghana, 1970)
    Mahesh Dattani, Tara (India, 1990)
    Manjula Padmanabhan, Harvest (India, 1997)
    Nick Joaquin, The Portrait of the Artist as Filipino (1951)
  • The Brontës (Levine)
    Sheltered daughters of an Irish clergyman, isolated in a remote village in England, the Brontë sisters produced some of the most violent, shocking, sophisticated, and popular fiction of the nineteenth century. Their works and lives sparked so much interest from their own time to ours that every generation of readers has had something to say, including cartoonists and film directors. We will read novels by the three sisters (including Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Villette) alongside Elizabeth Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Bronte, the first contemporary biography of a woman writer. We will also read nineteenth-century reviews, recent biographies, and critical essays from a variety theoretical perspectives. This is a writing-intensive course: there will be weekly writing assignments as well as three longer papers. No exams.
  • Back to the Future in Renaissance Literature (Elsky)
    How does Renaissance literature take us back to our own future? The Renaissance was a period in which new knowledge about the past was constantly being brought to light, whether through archaeological discoveries or the recovery of old texts.  This knowledge was exciting and inspiring; it sparked a whole range of literary creations. Yet it could also be deeply troubling.  What was found did not always confirm the stories the English and others thought they knew, whether about themselves or the world at large.  In this class, we will ask, how did Renaissance writers relate to the past at this moment? How did confronting the past force or enable these writers to imagine the future?  In order to explore these questions, we will consider three inter-linking histories: native (England); classical (Greece and Rome); and global (the Old and New World).  We will read a range of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century genres, including poetry, drama, utopian fictions, chronicle histories, and travel narratives, as well as Renaissance and contemporary theory about history, memory, and the promise of the future.  Throughout we will consider how these concerns shaped their writing at a formal level and how they allowed these writers to intercede in political and cultural debates. Some of the authors we will read include Shakespeare, Thomas More, Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney, Isabella Whitney, Ben Jonson, and John Donne. Assignments will include two papers, a class presentation, and short reading responses.

English 315 English Phonology (formerly English 330) (Purnell)

This course offers an introduction to the sound system of English, including phonetics and elementary phonology. Topics include acoustic phonetics, articulatory phonetic descriptions of consonants and vowels, classic phonemic theory, the nature of phonological processes, linguistic change and the acquisition of phonological systems. By the end of the course, students will be able to describe and transcribe the speech sounds of English, recognize and describe phonemic and phonotactic patterns and account for basic phonological processes.

English 316 English Language Variation in U.S. (formerly English 331) (Purnell)

The course introduces the student to linguistic investigations of both regional and social varieties of present day American English. The course also deals with the nature of past and present language contact situations in the United States. It is intended that the student attain a knowledge of the features which distinguish language varieties as well as of the causes of variation and the contribution of such variation to linguistic change.

ENGL 331: Gender, Place, and Power in Seventeenth-Century Literature (Elsky)
*fulfills the requirement for one pre-1800 course in both new and old majors

In this course, we will read poems, plays, diaries, and travel narratives that challenge – sometimes in radical ways – the notion that, in the past, a woman’s place was in the home.  This literature represents seventeenth-century women inhabiting and traversing a remarkable range of spaces – the nunnery to the tavern, the household to the court and marketplace, the city of London to the New World and even, in one case, to planets beyond our own.  The course explores how gender was constructed in relationship to place and space.  Together we will ask: how did writers make use of space to both define and unsettle gender categories? Is the household for these writers really a private space set apart from the world of politics and power?  We will also address broader theoretical questions about the distinction between public and private (a division that is still the subject of heated debate today), as well as explore the capacity of the literary past to shape and reshape our own understandings of gender and its relationship to power and authority. We will begin by reading some contemporary theory before moving on to works by William Shakespeare, Anne Clifford, Margaret Cavendish, John Donne, John Milton, and others, all of whom offer a tantalizing glimpse into the sites and locations that loomed large in the English imagination.  Assignments will include one short paper, a midterm, a final research paper, and a group class presentation.

ENGL 334, “London Calling”: Imagining London in Literature, 1660-1789 (Vareschi)
*fulfills the requirement for one pre-1800 course in both new and old majors

London in the late 17th and early 18th centuries was a city of rapid growth and expansion. From 1600 to 1700 the population of the city more than doubled. Against this rapid growth and development there was also death and devastation. The Great Plague of 1665 killed an estimated 100,000 and the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed approximately two-thirds of the city.  It is against the backdrop of expansion and destruction that we will explore the place of London in Restoration and eighteenth-century literature. London was a city of promise and wealth; it was also a city of danger and ruin. Readings may include: A Journal of the Plague Year (Daniel Defoe), Samuel Pepys’ Journal, Selections from The Tatler and Spectator (Joseph Addison and Richard Steele), Fantomina (Eliza Haywood), Evelina (Frances Burney), James Boswell’s London Journal, prints from William Hogarth, and more.

English 353 Modern British Literature (Begam)

This course surveys a number of the principal works of twentieth-century British, Irish and Commonwealth literature.  We will spend some time considering the function and scope of the term “modernism” (e.g. does it designate a period, a movement, or a critical perspective?), as well as examining its practical utility.  Discussions will focus on the analysis of individual texts and the situation of those texts within a number of related contexts (aesthetic, philosophical, historical, cultural).  Issues to be considered include the “inward turn” of modernism (its interest in subjectivity and epistemology); the fascination with myth and archetype inspired by the emerging discipline of anthropology; England’s changing economic conditions and the accompanying crisis in liberalism; the encounter between Western and non-Western cultures resulting from British colonialism; and, finally, the erosion of philosophical foundations and the attending transformation of cultural norms. 
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (Heinemann)
Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (Grove Press)
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Penguin, Hampson, edition)
T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land and Other Poems (Penguin)
E. M. Forster, Howards End (Vintage)
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Penguin, Deane edition)
G. B. Shaw, Major Barbara (Penguin)
Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Stories (Penguin)
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (HBJ)
W. B. Yeats, Selected Poems (Scribner)
Paper: 1500-2000 words (25%)
Examination #1 (25%)
Examination #2 (25%)
Class Participation (25%)

English 400, Advanced Composition (Fiorenza)
*fulfills the requirement for one course in Composition and Rhetoric or English Language/Linguistics in the new major

This writing intensive course will help you develop as a writer and practice productive ways to discuss both work in progress and writing as a process. In Fall 2014, the course will have a particular focus on the genre(s) of nature and environmental writing. Within that broad umbrella, you will be required to write about places, issues, topics, or other subjects that matter to you personally and/or professionally, connecting them to the larger world through research, other texts, other media. You will also be asked to reflect on writing choices, take risks with your writing, extend yourself beyond comfortable habits, and consider writing as a subject of inquiry.  Required texts include The Norton Book of Nature Writing; Elbow, Writing with Power; Williams and Colomb, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace.

English 407: Creative Nonfiction (Nixon)

In this workshop, we’ll be asking “what does it mean to write nonfiction?” And what are the resources and techniques available to a nonfiction writer? We’ll be trying to become more fluent, accomplished, and confident writers in a range of nonfictional forms. Our goal is to help each student find their voice by exploring a variety of topics and perspectives. We’ll be discussing the personal essay, memoir, travel writing, opinion pieces, investigative journalism, and environmental writing and experimenting with some of these forms.

English 415: Introduction to TESOL Methods (Arfa)

Formerly 334, this is an introductory survey of methods of teaching English as a second or foreign language, with a focus on theory and rationale, and techniques and materials. The historical look at the role of English and how it has been taught is followed by an emphasis on developing your ability to critically evaluate methods and materials.  We will discuss practices and issues in the teaching of ESL/EFL or other second or foreign languages. You will observe ESL classes and tutor a language learner throughout the semester.

English 425: Medieval Romance (Cooper)
*fulfills the requirement for one pre-1800 course in both new and old majors

In this course we will become modestly familiar with one of the major literary forms of the high Middle Ages, the romance, and with its development from the late twelfth century in France to the end of the fifteenth century in England.  No previous knowledge of medieval literature or culture is required. Issues we will explore include: the way the romance genre draws upon and breaks with the traditions of classical literature and medieval epic; the interrelationship of romance and historiography; the concept of authorship and the conjuncture of the oral and the written in medieval culture; the legend of Arthur, the nature of kingship, and the meaning and function of knighthood; the chivalric ideal and the (rather vexed) concept of “courtly love”; and, last but certainly not least, the romance’s juxtaposition of the public arena and the private self. Work for the course will include three analytical papers (of approximately 3, 5, and 8 pages), or two papers and a final project in other media to be determined in consultation with the professor.

ENGL 431: How to Kill a King: Reading, Writing, & History in Shakespeare (Calhoun)
*fulfills the requirement for one pre-1800 course in both new and old majors and the Shakespeare requirement in the old major

This course considers Shakespeare as a poet, a historian, a king-maker, and a king-killer. Readings of Julius Caesar and Hamlet will bookend the course, but our focus will be Shakespeare’s Second Tetralogy: Richard II, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, and Henry V. Rarely does one get the opportunity to read all four of these plays together in a class. Our immersion in the world of Shakespeare’s historical English royalty will allow us to make connections among historical characters. It will also prompt an ongoing conversation about how history is made, especially about the artificial truths told by both Shakespeare as a poet and by the politicians he gives voices to in his history plays. Major course assignments will include a midterm, a research project, a commonplace book, and a final essay.

English 439: Scientific Americans:  Science in the Americas, 1700-2014 (Allewaert)
*fulfills the requirement for a course in American literature the new major

From Puritans to presidents to plutocrats to proletarians, science has been an important driver of American thought, shaping the Americas’ religious, political and literary forms.  In this course, we will study the interdependence of the sciences, philosophy and literature through an investigation of four themes:  gravity, electricity, microscopics, plagues.  After familiarizing ourselves with key scientific and philosophical developments of the late sixteenth and seventeenth century (Galileo, Hobbes, Boyle, Newton, Locke), we will read works by Puritan divines (Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards), early American pragmatists (Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, Charles Brockden Brown), early nineteenth-century scientific fabulists (Edgar Poe, Martin Delaney, Nathanial Hawthorne, Henry Box Brown, Fitz James O’Brien, Emily Dickinson), and a few twentieth- and twenty first-century  writers and filmmakers (likely to include Buckminister Fuller, Ursula Leguin, Kim Stanley Robinson).  Although we will mainly focus on writing before 1800, we will spend about a third of our time studying nineteenth and twentieth century works.

English 453: Intellectual Backgrounds to Modernism (Begam)

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).
Beckett, Molloy (Grove Press)
Conrad, The Secret Agent (Penguin)
Descartes, Discourse on Method  (Penguin)
Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground/The Double (Penguin)
Kafka, The Metamorphosis, The Penal Colony and Other Stories (Schocken)
Lawrence, Women in Love (Penguin, Farmer-Vasey-Worthen edition)
Mann, Death in Venice (Norton)
Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (Vintage)
Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals (Vintage)
xeroxed material (available Room 1650, Humanities)
1500-2000 word paper (25%)
Examination #1 (25%)
Examination #2 (25%)
Class participation (25%)

English 456: Travel and Leisure in African American Literature (Sherrard)
*fulfills the requirement for a course in American literature the new major

Contrary to mainstream perceptions of the African American subject as bound and limited by the socio-economic structures of capitalism and institutionalized discriminatory practices,  African American travelogues and novels of manners form a literature that test the boundaries of social mobility, identity, and Diaspora.  Over the course of the mid-19th into the 20th century, the African American travelogue documented the mobile transgressions of men and women who used their appearance, gestures, and education, among other strategies, to create a stylized performance and a mobile identity that allowed them to transgress the social, legal and metaphysical boundaries of race, class, gender and sexuality.  In the stories we will read about privilege, pleasure, and the precariousness of class aspirations in American society, labor and leisure are often interwoven and the boundaries between each difficult to discern.  To that end, we will develop, discuss and deploy close-reading methods that open up myriad possibilities for interpretation. We will analyze the authors’ thematic concerns and stylistic conventions while placing each work in its particular historical and cultural context.  One of our aims will be to identify common questions that surface in the novels we study. Certain debates and concepts relevant to the authors’ philosophic and aesthetic concerns including, but not limited to, pseudo-scientific racism, Diaspora, gender and sexuality studies, citizenship, consumerism, and socio-economics will be covered in order to deepen our understanding of the novels.  Students should expect to produce two papers and one in-class writing exam as well as engage in lively debate and in-class discussion.
Required texts may include:
Mary Seacole’s The Wonderful Adventures of Mary Seacole
Eliza Potter’s A Hairdresser’s Experience in High Life
Frank Webb’s The Garies and their Friends
Nella Larsen’s Quicksand
Jessie Fauset’s Comedy: American Style
James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
Andrea Lee’s Sarah Phillips
Dorothy West’s The Wedding
Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor
Toni Morrison’s Love

English 457: Literature and Social Movements (Gillis)
*fulfills the requirement for a course in American literature in the new major

Does literature have the power to change the world? In a 1979 interview, James Baldwin cautiously asserted that it does: “You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world [...] and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way a person looks or people look at reality, then you can change it.” This course explores the relationship between literature and the life and death of social movements in North America, looking at the way literature inculcates social consciousness (changing the way an individual or group “look[s] at reality,” as Baldwin puts it), shapes questions of personal and collective identity, and summons its readers to collective action. We will read novels, poems, plays, and essays produced during periods of major social unrest, including the 1930s, 1960s, and the 2000s. Some of the works covered in the course are written by authors, like Baldwin, who set out to change the world by writing, while others are by those interested in why people try to change the world and what happens when they do. Our discussions of these materials will be supplemented by testimonials by and, when possible, conversations with local activists and artists. Students will be required to complete one in-class presentation, two papers, and a final exam; and they will be given the option to submit a work of creative writing or organize an event in lieu of the second paper.

English 464: Asian American Women Writers (cross-listed with Asian American Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies) (Bow)
*fulfills the requirement for a course in American literature the new major

This course examines contemporary Asian American women's literature in a discussion based, task-oriented classroom.  How do women negotiate multiple affiliations, whether ethnic, familial, or national bonds?  We will focus on issues such as coming of age, the policing of women’s sexuality, and the formation of collective political consciousness.  In addition to looking at works that engage issues of immigration and acculturation in the U.S., we will engage the historical and unfolding political situations in Asian countries that impact international diplomacy.  The course will investigate the ways in which literature can be a forum for interventionist critique of both domestic race relations and international politics.
Required Texts:
Fifth Chinese Daughter, Jade Snow Wong
Farewell to Manzanar, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston
Jasmine, Bharati Mukherjee
When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace, Le Ly Hayslip
Saturday Night at the Pahala Theatre, Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Dictée, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
Grapefruit, Yoko Ono
SKIM, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
The Scent of the Gods, Fiona Cheong
Electronic Course Reader
Films: Miss India Georgia; Daughter from Danang
Attendance, preparation, and participation; in-class presentation; two papers; final exam

English 481: Junior Honors Seminar: Agency, Alterity, and Accountability (Ortiz-Robles)

This course will consider how we conceptualize ourselves as humans: are we animals, disciplined subjects, creatures of habit, cultural products, performative personae, deliberative citizens, ideological constructs, alienated automatons, autonomous beings, immortal demigods? Accordingly, we will study a number of conceptual models of subject formation and analyze the linguistic, historical, and political forces that give shape to its formal materializations. Theoretical readings by Freud, Althusser, Badiou, Balibar, Barthes, Benveniste, Butler, Deleuze and Guattari, Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, and Levinas will situate and supplement the topics to be covered, which fall under three interrelated rubrics: agency, alterity, and accountability. Of special interest to this seminar will be the figure of the animal as it comes to inhabit the literatures and philosophies of subjectivity both as a limit to the human and as a condition of possibility of the subject’s modernity. The course may therefore include works of fiction by Carroll, Kipling, and Kafka, and one or two films that, in their treatment of the animal, stage the agency, alterity, and accountability of the subject in ways that both complement and challenge the theoretical works under consideration.

English 501, Writing Internship (Fiorenza)
*fulfills the requirement for one course in Composition and Rhetoric or English Language/Linguistics in the new major

Students in this writing-intensive course will develop rhetorical awareness and writing skills that support their future careers while participating in a learning community. You will build knowledge and reflect on experiences through discussions, writing projects (possibly multi-modal), and presentations. All students in this course will be concurrently working at an internship that has a focus on writing (minimum 6-10 hours per week). In the context of the learning community, readings and projects can be tailored toward individual internships and interests. Students must begin their internship by September 1, 2014, and continue working throughout the semester. For help in finding an internship, English, Philosophy, and Comparative Lit majors may consult Karen Knipschild ( All L&S students can work with L&S Career Services to locate internship opportunities ( English 500 (formerly 317) is suggested as a prerequisite, but no longer required. Interested students are welcome to email the instructor ( Junior or Senior standing, completion of Comm A and Comm B, necessary.

English 511: Poetic Forms (Barry)

NO FREE VERSE ALLOWED! In this course, we will tackle free verse’s arch nemesis, poetic form, by studying twelve forms ranging from traditional fare (like the sonnet and villanelle) to more contemporary forms (such as the cross-out and prose poem), making sure to sprinkle in some whimsy now and then (e.g. a DIY final project involves each student inventing a form of one’s own). By semester’s end, students will have a better understanding of the differences (and commonalities!) between form and free verse and why the two don’t have to be at each other’s throats. As that old formalist Robert Frost once claimed, “Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.” So come see for yourself if Frost was right.

ENGL 516: English Grammar in Use (Wanner)

In this course we will look at the role of grammar in constituting texts and at the choices speakers make when they express a state or event in a certain way. For example, in a letter of recommendation for a student I could say “This student is great, just great! You would be crazy not to give the job to him,” but chances are I will express my recommendation differently. Topics that we will explore include the differences between spoken and written language, the notion of politeness, the development of genres or text types (such as the scholarly essay, a letter of recommendation, the e-mail hoax, or a sales pitch), and the awareness of linguistic norms. Everybody will engage in a data-based research project on the development of a particular text type or construction (data will mostly come from linguistic corpora and written language, no previous experience in corpus linguistics necessary). Sadly, no tree diagrams.

English 520: Old English (Zweck)
*fulfills the requirement for one pre-1800 course in both new and old majors

This course is designed to provide students with an introduction to the language, literature, and culture of England before the Norman Conquest of 1066. Because the English language has changed so much since 1100, Old English must be learned as a foreign language.  In the first half of the class, we will cover basic pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary, while doing short translation exercises. In the second half of the semester, we will put the skills you’ve learned to work, tackling major works of Old English poetry and prose. Because this is a language class, no papers will be required. Instead, there will be regular translation exercises, quizzes, and exams. No previous experience with Old English is required.

ENGL 533: Farmers & Poets in Pre-Anthropocene England, c. 1600 (Calhoun)

If we are in a geologic epoch shaped by human industry—the Anthropocene—when did it begin? With the atomic bomb in the 1950s? With the Industrial Revolution around the turn of the nineteenth century? Or might it have begun with agrarianism and coal mining and even book printing as early as the sixteenth century?

This course explores the social preconditions of the Anthropocene (defined by Mike Davis as “the emergence of urban-industrial society as a geological force”). What does the pastoral literature of sixteenth century England have to say about the stewardship and abuse of nature? What do the raw materials from which books were made reveal about the emergence of an urban-industrial society?

We will study writings about nature, landscape, farming, and resource extraction in Renaissance England during an age of expanded agriculture, colonial occupation, and proto-industrial bookmaking. Readings will include sixteenth-century poetry and prose (some from well-known authors such as Spenser, Shakespeare, and Donne; some from lesser-known authors such as Tusser and Manwood) as well as modern environmental literature (including Jane Bennet, Wendell Berry, Ursula K. Heise, and Timothy Morton). Major assignments will include a research essay, an in-class presentation, and a final project.

English 546: Topic in Travel Writing before 1800 (Bearden)
*fulfills the requirement for one pre-1800 course in both new and old majors

This rigorous, upper-level course will investigate a selection of travel writing from Antiquity through the Eighteenth Century with an emphasis on the period between 1500 and 1750 C.E.  The course will take a comparative approach, treating travel texts from a variety of national traditions, while focusing on the literary and social repercussions of these texts in early modern Europe.  We will also read theoretical works that will enrich and expand our understanding of the travel genre. Lively class discussions and oral reports will encourage critical thinking and debate. Students will hone their analytical and writing skills through three essay assignments and through occasional online reading responses. Creative writing assignments will stimulate the students’ ability to relate these texts to their own ways of imagining the world. The course has four thematic areas of focus:
1. The figure of the traveler,
2. Reasons for and forms of travel,
3. What travel does to European concepts of identity in the early modern period, and
4. How travel affects European literature.
The student should have a firm understanding of these overarching concepts by the end of the class. These topics will help to define our discussion of the texts at hand. The goal of the course is not only to provide an understanding of the narrative form and function of early modern travel writing, but also to stimulate students’ awareness of travel writing’s role in defining and complicating European estimations of cultural ‘Others’ and of themselves.

English 559: Queer Popular Culture Studies (Fawaz)

This course in literary and cultural theory will explore the intersection of Queer Theory and Popular Culture Studies. The dramatic visibility of queer people and other sexual outlaws in the realm of contemporary mass media has been heralded by many as a sign of the LGBT community’s entry into mainstream culture; at the same time, queer people have often been associated with the most innovative and provocative creative transformations in 20th century art, literature, and film. Yet as many scholars and cultural critics have shown, cultural representations alone rarely translate into tangible social and political gains for sexual minorities. Against a celebratory vision that equates LGBT representational visibility with social equality, queer popular culture studies has questioned the very ideological structures of sexual difference and gender hierarchy that have organized ways of seeing, modes of entertainment, and the popular narratives through which Americans have projected their social and political desires. In this course, we will explore how recent developments in queer popular culture studies have transformed approaches to histories of cultural production, audience reception, and the analysis of media texts. We will consider the study of queer publics and counterpublics, the affective or emotional economies of popular culture, the intersections of racial, gender, and sexual identity in mass culture, the anti-social turn in queer theory, and the new queer materialism. Throughout the course, we will pair key theoretical texts in these emergent fields of inquiry with case studies in a variety of media – including film, television, popular novels, digital media, and comic books – to unpack the ways in which queer cultural theory has emerged as a political response to particular media texts and cultural transformations in the late 20th century.

Previously Offered Courses

We've listed some of our previously offered courses below for your reading pleasure. In addition, we've asked several of our faculty to film short videos discussing course offerings, so be sure to click through to hear them talk about their course's themes, reading lists, and inspirations to determine if you might be interested in taking the course the next time it's offered.


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).

Syllabus for English 513

Jillian Sayre discusses her class, ENG 625, "Hack the Text: Moby Dick." 


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
American Moderns (Dreiser, Cather, Ellison)

This course explores American modernism by focusing on three major novelists from the first half of the twentieth century: Theodore Dreiser, Willa Cather, and Ralph Ellison. Spanning three ages of literary modernism, evoking a range of geographies (from Gilded-Age Chicago to the open spaces of the American West to the streets of Harlem), and embodying diverse experiences of race, gender, ethnicity, and religion, these writers help us understand modern art as a cultural project, as well as the broader social economic, and philosophical contexts from which it emerged: "American modernity" writ large. Because vision has long been understood as a defining trope of the modern, we'll complement our readings by surveying contemporary developments in the visual arts, including urban "Ashcan school" painting, regionalist art for the Midwest and Southwest, and documentary photography. We may also sample the work of other important modernists including Gwendolyn Brooks, John Dos Passos, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, and Richard Wright. Classes will consist of discussions and occasional lectures. Assignments include two papers and an exam.

Required texts will likely include:
Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (Penguin)
Willa Cather, My Antonia (Dover Thrift)
Willa Cather, The Professor's House (Vintage)
Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man (Vintage)