English Sections Fall 2014

English Texts in Conversation (ENGL 201-204)

*Course availability is subject to change.


ENGL 201-41       HONORS: Journey Narratives
Whether we take a trip across campus or across an international border, our journeys have a way of changing the way we look at the world. Our outlook may shift through the people we meet along the way, or through overcoming unexpected challenges in order to get to the other side. In this class, we will experience journeys of all kinds, from physical travel to adventures in food, from those of the imagination to those of language. This course examines the conventions of and development within the genre of the travel narrative across literary history. We will examine two classics of travel—The Odyssey (in graphic novel format) and Alice in Wonderland—as a starting point for looking at the way novelists, memoirists, poets, artists, and filmmakers have envisioned the transformative effects of journeys. Other texts may include Christopher Bakken’s Honey, Olives, and Octopus, Amy Leach’s Things That Are, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, Joel and Ethan Coen’s O Brother Where Art Thou, and poetry from Emily Dickinson. We may also include our own journeys outside of the classroom walls. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing. Please note that this section is reserved for Aquinas Honors Scholars Program students only.


ENGL 202-01       Irish-American Literature
The defining American experiences of immigration, assimilation, and difference are all part of the Irish-American experience. This course examines those experiences as expressed in literature from a variety of genres. These range from fictionalized representations of immigration (for instance, Jane Urquhart's Away), memoirs, novels (such as Alice McDermott's Charming Billy), as well as films, plays, and some contemporary poetry. Many of these texts are award-winning works of literary art--but the raison d'etre of the course is not to exalt the Irish-American experience as unique, but rather, to use it as a starting point for engagement with larger themes. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing.

ENGL 202-03       Visual Literacy
In this course, we will explore the rich intersections between image and text across the twentieth century. Working from a critical framework of readings about the visual, we will apply certain key terms and concepts--from ekphrasis to punctum--to graphic novels, photo-essays, and stories and novels about visual artists. As a class, we will practice close-reading both images and literary texts, collaboratively developing a set of analytical strategies and practices along the way. This course will also involve visits to local museums, galleries, and exhibits. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing.


ENGL 203-01       Literature of the American West
In this class, we will explore literature of the American West (and examine popular notions about the "Old West") by studying historical personal narratives, fiction, folklore, poetry, and film. We will discuss ideas about landscape, myth-making, notions of the hero, justice, family, and gender. Possible authors studied may include Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Larry McMurtry, Elmore Leonard, Cormac McCarthy, N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Charles Portis. Possible films include True Grit and Appaloosa. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing.


ENGL 203-03       Playing God: Humans & Biotech
As far back as Ancient Greece, literature imagined and explored the possibility of using artificial means to create human (or human-like) bodies. From Hephaistos, the Greek god of artifice and metalworking, who fashioned his servants' bodies out of metal, to contemporary portrayals of cyborgs and clones in film and fiction, the idea that technology could be used to produce, shape, or enhance the human body has elicited both excitement and fear. Drawing on both literary and cinematic portrayals of artificially produced bodies, this class will examine some of the perennial questions surrounding bodies that are produced by such "unnatural" means. Possible texts may include such novels as Shelley's Frankenstein, Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, Piercy's He, She, and I, and such films as Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and Michael Bay's The Island. Short stories and essays will also be examined. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing.


ENGL 203-05     Midwestern Writers/Landscapes
This course will wind through the contours of the Midwest landscape--the hills, the valleys, the rivers, the creeks, the cities and the prairies--to reveal who we are. We will look at the domestic safety of the Midwest and the writers it spawned--Cather, Fitzgerald, Sandburg, Wilder, and Keillor--and ask whether the writer and landscape produce people who are the real source of American values. In addition, we also will compare the literature that we read to Midwestern visual art by examining such artists as Wanda Gag, Grant Wood, and Thomas Hart Benton. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing.


ENGL 203-06       20-Something Narratives
In this course we will examine two strains of the "20-something narrative," exemplified by Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise and Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (we'll read both), in which characters in their twenties attempt to navigate their way through the tricky waters of getting on (or not getting on, as the case may be) in the world. The works to be read in this class--all spanking good & life-changing--will divide between the light and the heavy, the sadly funny and the ultra-sad. They will also give you a preview of what heights you might aspire to--and to what depths you might sink. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing.


ENGL 203-07       New Orleans: River & Its City
Situated at the mouth of the Mississippi River, New Orleans has a certain romantic, provocative charm--one that pulls at natives and visitors alike. More so now than in the past, New Orleans is defined by spectacle and excess, both of which are part and parcel of the city's primary industry of tourism. Drawn in by dazzling events like Mardi Gras, the alluring architecture of the French Quarter and the promise of debauchery, tourists rarely bother uncovering the Crescent City's rich history. This class will remedy that oversight. Using the literature of Mark Twain, Kate Chopin, and John Kennedy O'Toole, as well as various social and environmental histories, we will explore pre- and post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans in all its complexities. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing.


ENGL 203-12       Existential America
In this course we will examine a body of work that traffics in such existential themes as freedom and responsibility, authenticity and bad faith, anguish and abandonment, identity and subjectivity, and choice and commitment. While some of our readings will reach beyond our own shores (Sartre, Beauvoir, Camus, Kafka, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, and Kierkegaard), we will mostly focus on works by 20th-century American writers: Alexander Maksik's You Deserve Nothing, Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man Is Hard to Find, James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, Nella Larsen's Quicksand, and Horace McCoy's They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? In the words of Zadie Smith, we're going to read a selection of very good books in this course, concentrating on whatever is most particular to them in the hope that this might help us understand whatever is most particular to us. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing.


ENGL 203-13       Crossing the Color Line

Race is a paradox. Biologists and anthropologists explain that it doesn’t actually exist, and yet we see it everyday. But what happens when we can’t see race? This course will explore the vagaries of the color line – specifically, what happens to those who dare to cross over from black to white or  “pass.” We will read various representations of black-to-white passing written by both black and white authors with an eye toward the ways that the absence of racial visibility troubles the very notion of race itself. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing.


ENGL 204-02       Race, Gender, Sexuality & Language
We live in a nation of languages--and this diversity of languages represents not a mere array of diversity, but power dynamics, histories of struggle, and warring values amongst different groups in America. We will read about the language variation of African-Americans, gays, and females in colloquial and literary speech, and examine power negotiations involved in these variations. We will likely read Joe Goodwin's MORE MAN THAN YOU'LL EVER BE: GAY FOLKLORE AND ACCULTURATION IN MIDDLE AMERICA, Gloria Anzaldua's BORDERLANDS/LA FRONTERA: THE NEW MESTIZA, Deborah Tannen's YOU JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND: WOMEN AND MEN IN CONVERSATION, Alice Walker's "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens," August Wilson's THE PIANO LESSON, poetry by Tillie Olson, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Sarah Jessica Moore, and a local zine by Mike Pudd'nhead titled WAGES SO LOW YOU'LL FREAK. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing.