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Spring 2017 Course Descriptions

We have listed the numbers and titles of many of the English courses for the Spring 2017 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.

100: Introduction to College Composition

English 100 is an introduction to college composition that begins to prepare students for the demands of writing in the university and for a variety of contexts beyond the classroom. Students will compose several shorter and longer essays totaling 25-30 pages of revised writing, develop critical reading and thinking skills and information literacy, and practice oral communication.

120: Introduction to Theatre and Dramatic Literature – Mary Trotter

English/Theatre and Drama 120 is an introductory course offered in two formats: a 3-credit option and a 4-credit Comm-B (writing-intensive) option. In both formats we read plays, attend performances, and think, talk, and write about both dramatic literature and the art of theatrical production. 

This semester we will read about 11 plays covering a wide range of historical periods, cultural traditions and dramatic genres. You will also attend and write about at least one live performance. In addition to traditional writing assignments, students have options to explore non-traditional projects as part of their research for this course. 

Course objectives include: 

• To think about plays and performance in terms of the questions they pose about our identities and our world 

• To analyze selected dramatic texts as shaped by and shaping specific cultural, dramatic, and theatrical conditions 

• To investigate elements of performance in both theory and practice 

• To articulate informed responses to text and performance in both oral and written forms 

172: Literatures of Native America – Jarrett Chapin

Introduction to the key themes and historical intersections between Native American oral and written literature and the history of North American colonialism. 

English 173: Ethnic and Multicultural Literature – Ramzi Fawaz

American Fantasy 

The 20th century is often understood as the era when 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 the study of literature and popular culture by asking what role fantasy has played in shaping American popular and political 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 discreet 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. Throughout, we will explore how a variety of underrepresented or marginalized groups including women, ethnic and racial minorities, and gender and sexual outlaws have mobilized fantasy to carve a place for themselves in the American imagination. 

Some of our texts will include: L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Weird Science/Fantasy Comics of the 1950s, The Stepford Wives, Angels in America, The X-Men comics series, and much more. 

177:  Literature and Popular Culture– Martin Foys

Tolkien, Beowulf and the Rise of Modern Fantasy

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series were the books that launched the modern fantasy genre. But Tolkien was also a brilliant Oxford scholar of medieval literature, and used medieval literature as the foundation for all of his fantasy creations.

This class will first explore Beowulf, the Old English epic poem of heroes, feuds and monsters, using Tolkien's own modern translation and others. We will also study the legacy of Beowulf today, through comic book, film and video game adaptations, as well as some other examples of medieval literature that inspired Tolkien (such as chivalric romance).

We will then study the rise of modern fantasy through Tolkien's own theories about the genre, looking at Victorian fantasy (Alice in Wonderland), the fantasy of Tolkien and his time, (The Hobbit, Narnia Chronicles), before ending with thinking about the state of popular fantasy today in books, film and television (Peter Jackson's films, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, and G.R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones series).

178: Digital Media, Literature, and Culture – Mark Vareschi

Frankenstein, Robocop, Big Data

Frankenstein, Robocop, Big Data” is a course about memory. This course 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. 

182: Introduction to Literature for Honors – Nirvana Tanoukhi

Beautiful, Ugly, Cute, Dumpy

This course is an introduction to aesthetic theory. We will spend one third of term reading Immanuel Kant’s "Analytic of the Beautiful" from his monumental work The Critique of Judgment (1790), considered the founding work of Western aesthetics. In this work Kant offers a comprehensive account for what people do when they enjoy art and talk about it. To this end, he does two things.  1) He argues that when we evaluate works of art (for example by saying "This statue is beautiful," "This painting is Ugly"), we produce knowledge based in feelings, which differs from other forms of knowledge (for example, scientific knowledge) but is knowledge nonetheless.  2) He explains how we use language to make judgments about works of art, and how we are able to agree and disagree with each other while making assessments based on feelings.  After reading Kant, we will look at subsequent revisions and extensions of Kant's theory in 20th and 21st century aesthetics and literary theory, for example: Austin, Wittgenstein, Genette, Adorno, Zangwill, Ngai. (Honors course)

201: Intermediate Composition

English 201 is a small, topic-driven writing course that fulfills part B of the University’s Communication requirement. Sections of 201 offer hands-on practice with writing and revision, building on skills developed in earlier writing courses and providing new opportunities for students to grow as writers. Though topics vary by section and semester, this class consistently provides experience writing in multiple genres and for diverse audiences.


204: Studies in Writing, Rhetoric, and Literacy – Catherine Vieira

Writing and Cash 


We often think of writing as a fundamentally artistic and expressive enterprise, separate from the workaday world of economic transactions. But writing also has a more mundane, more worldly, more financial side. In fact, writing, writers, and the systems that depend on them have long been implicated in commercial exchange. This course examines how.


Specifically, we will tease out the relationship of writing and money as it has been experienced across diverse time periods and places, including ancient Mesopotamia, colonial Latin America, medieval England, contemporary China, 20th century Wisconsin, transitioning Slovakia, and a future dystopic New York City, among others. In doing so, we will see how the writing of accountants, priests, farmers, students, poker players, artists, and teachers has been implicated in global economic trends.  Over the course of the semester, students will track their own writing’s relationship to money, incorporating their findings into an auto-ethnographic term paper.

 207: Introduction to Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry Workshop 

(open only to freshmen and sophomores)

In this course, students are taught the fundamental elements of craft in both fiction (plot, point of view, dialogue, and setting, etc.) and poetry (the image, the line, sound and meter, etc.). This class is taught as a workshop, which means class discussion will focus on both craft (published stories, poems, and essays) and, perhaps more importantly, the fiction and poetry written by each student. That is, the student writing becomes the text, and the instructor leads a sympathetic, but critical, discussion of the particular work at hand. Students should expect to read and comment on two or three published works per week as well as the work of their peers. To enable a collegial and productive class setting, all sections of 207 are capped at eighteen students. 

English 207 satisfies a Comm B requirement.

241: Literature and Culture to 1800 – Stephanie Elsky

This course offers an introduction to the English literature of the medieval period through the eighteenth century. We usually think of this time period as producing a series of intimidating Great Works, from epic poetry to the novel. But students may be surprised to discover that writers were often trying to figure out whether such a thing as “English Literature” could (or even should) exist. In this class, we will look at works from a span of over 700 years and think about them as experiments with language, form, and genre in what was then an emerging and uncertain literary culture. The class will also consider the relationship of writings by authors including Chaucer, Margery Kempe, Shakespeare, Mary Wroth, and Milton to some of the major changes that took place during their lifetimes. Again, we may find ourselves surprised at these authors and their playful, irreverent, and even subversive relationships to the religious, political, sexual, and social landscape they inhabited.

The course focuses mainly on close reading and literary analysis, but with careful attention on the relationship of formal issues to historical ones.  This course also develops skills for writing clearly and critically that are essential to majors and non-majors alike.

242: Literature and Culture l from the 18th Century to the Present - Nirvana Tanoukhi

Shackled by Freedom: British & Anglophone Literature since 1790 

This Course covers literature in English from 1790 to the contemporary moment.  Readings are selected and organized on two principles:

1. Cultural Breadth: You will be exposed to literature in English from England (UK), the prior British colonies, and the so-called “commonwealth.” This spread of English as a literary language is part of a cultural phenomenon known today as “Global English.” 

2. Artistic Agency: Works of literature are practical applications of the ability to make things with words. We will approach each work, by extension, also as a test of the very idea and practice of freedom: its promise and limits, ambiguities and contradictions, seductions and dangers.

To sustain this view of artistic creativity, we will be guided by the modern idea of “prose.” We will understand the prosaic as a mode of writing that, from the 18th century, became opposed to the poetic. As such, modern prose signifies a taste for freedom from social and artistic rules. But this is an acquired taste. Think of a writing assignment without rules: how it entails both infinite freedom and a lack of direction. All the authors we will read in this class, despite their different choices of genre and style, and despite the diversity of their artistic and political prejudices, write against a shared consciousness of this modern sensibility, which we can think of broadly as prosaic

Keeping in mind this link between “making with words” and “the freedom to make,” we will look at this diverse body of literature in English not as finished products, but the outcome of processes of artistic deliberation. We will imagine the authors asking themselves: “What structure am I to adopt, what frame to impose, what rules to flaunt, how much freedom to forfeit—to find the form to speak through the words?” or “To make the case for unconditional love in my novel, should I suspend my plot line or tighten the grip of suspense?” or “If the heroine of my story is to have her cake and eat it too, should she be more of a doer than a talker, or should she be mostly a thinker?” “Will my poem best express rage, or shame, or insight through order or disorder?” “As a postcolonial or immigrant writer, should my English be unmarked or accented, dissonant or all the way ‘rotten’?” 

From Romantic poetry, to the novel of manners, to Gothic fiction—from the literature of colonialism, to high modernism, to the postcolonial diaspora—we’ll examine the works of writers engaged by the impossible promise of prose: the potential for certainty and uncertainty, the mixture of decision and indecision. And we’ll reflect, above all, on their effects on us as readers. 

Main Textbook:

Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th edition (2012), vol. D. 

Other readings:

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813). Norton.
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847). Norton.
Other shorter readings will be made available through Learn@UW.

245: Seminars in the Major

Lecture 001: Methods in the Study of Literature – Elizabeth Bearden

My version of this course is centered on a set of questions: 


  • What is literature’s function in society? 
  • How do we define and classify literature? 
  • What makes literature good or valuable? 
  • How can we articulate and deepen the experience of reading? 


Course goals


You will acquire a basic practical and theoretical understanding of the form, analysis, and theory of literature and a knowledge of how to conduct responsible and effective research. You will read actively, think critically, and write eloquently. We will achieve these goals by the following methods: a formal analysis of literary texts, acquisition of research and writing skills, and an introduction to complex theoretical formulations of literary criticism. 


Course Requirements and Grading:


The course requires active class participation (20%), two textual analyses (10% (Oedipus) and 15% (Tempest)), one explication (15%), a take-home midterm (15%), an oral report (10%), a library research project (15%). In sum, this is an intense course that will rigorously prepare you for the demands of an English major.

Lecture 002: Community and Belonging in US Literature and Culture – Ramzi Fawaz

This course explores competing visions of community, belonging and collective life in 20th century American literature and culture. We will ask how writers, political thinkers, and artists in this period produced multiple definitions of "hanging together" within the framework of American democracy, while articulating vastly different motivations for pursing collectivity. In particular, we will study feminist, queer, and anti-racist responses to such 20th century phenomenon as Jim Crow segregation, the suburban ideal of the 1950s, post-WWII internationalism and human rights, fears of atomic warfare, environmental destruction, and the AIDS epidemic among others. In so doing, we will ask: how did a nation wracked by violent economic, social, and political inequality also encourage the invention of innovative, rebellious, and effective forms of alternative community and belonging? Along the way we will compare, debate, and rethink a range of concepts describing alternative forms of solidarity and togetherness in 20th century US culture, including pluralism, cosmopolitanism, human rights, democracy, collectives, and multiculturalism, among others. This course will train students in interdisciplinary American Studies methods that encourage studying literature alongside political documents, cultural theory, and film and media. 

Lecture 003: Contemporary African American Literature - Aida Levy-Hussen

This course provides a selective overview of African American and Black diasporic literature from the 1980s to the present. We will examine a range of formal and thematic developments in contemporary black fiction and poetry, in the context of major cultural, political, and legal developments of the last thirty-five years. Our guiding questions will include the following: What makes a text a black text? Must African American literature serve a moral or political cause? How does today's African American literature revise, reject, or re-imagine the black literary tradition? How and why has the topic of racial slavery come to occupy a central place in contemporary black literature? Assigned reading will probably include works by Chimamanda Adichie, Percival Everett, Charles Johnson, Toni Morrison, Claudia Rankine, and Colson Whitehead. Students should expect to read approximately 200 pages per week, and to complete various assignments, including skill-building exercises in plot summary and close reading, a midterm essay (5 pages), and a final essay (6-8 pages).

Lecture 004: Back to the Future in Renaissance Literature – Stephanie Elsky 

The Renaissance was an exciting time for writers as they experimented with new kinds of poetry, prose, and drama and new forums for performance and print. They were also deeply inspired by their growing knowledge of the past.  Yet this could be a troubling time for them as well since what they found out did not always confirm what they thought they knew – about themselves or about the world at large. In this class, we will this tension, and ask: How did Renaissance writers relate to the past at this moment? What is the relationship between confronting the past and imagining the future?  To explore these questions, we will consider three inter-linking histories: native (England/Britain); classical (Greece/Rome); and global (Old/ New World).  Throughout we will consider how these concerns shaped Renaissance writing at a formal level and, at the same time, allowed writers to intercede in political and cultural debates. Finally, we will ask, how does Renaissance literature take us back to our own future? Required reading will include Thomas More’s Utopia, William Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Poems, excerpts from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, and Isabella Whitney’s A Sweet Nosgay. We will also read some theory about history, memory, and the promise of the future. Assignments and requirements will include two papers, two rigorous paper revisions, and a visit to our library's Special Collections.

 248: Women in Ethnic American Literature – Leslie Bow

 Racial Negotiations 

 This course explores the intersections among race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexuality in fiction, poetry, memoir, and visual texts by African American, Asian American, American Indian, Latina, and multiracial women in the U.S. The course is structured thematically around overlapping social issues within a cross-cultural framework, focusing on four themes in particular: racial authenticity and ethnic belonging; coming of age stories and the externalization of the gender role; activism and radical consciousness; and race as metaphor. One of our goals will be to understand the ways in which girls and women from diverse backgrounds negotiate competing affiliations and loyalties amid differing notions of home, place, and community. We will pay particular attention to issues of sexuality and the consequences of sexual transgression. The course reader includes work by Pat Parker, Cherrie Moraga, Alice Walker, Janice Gould, Lois Ann Yamanaka, Hisaye Yamamoto, and Toni Morrison among others, with secondary reading by Immanuel Wallerstein, Ian Haney Lopez, Patricia J. Williams, Hazel Carby, and bell hooks. 

NOTE: This is an intensive, online course to be completed during the intersession. Students should be prepared to complete all reading and course assignments on time; daily posts are required in lieu of embodied class meetings; failure to post represents a class absence. Internet access is required. 

Required Texts 

--Reader accessed on course site 

--Books to purchase: 

The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros 

Skim, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki 

Lakota Woman, Mary Crow Dog 

Monstress, Marjorie Liu 

Requirements: daily online written responses (min. 200 words per day); 2 papers; final exam.

250: Woman in Literature – Anja Jovi-Humphrey

307: Intermediate Fiction and Poetry Workshop

(open to any student with junior standing or to any student (including sophomores) who have completed 207).

This class is similar to English 207 (see above) but with greater emphasis on craft (narrative control, poetic form) and the writing process. Like 207, this class is taught as a workshop, which means class discussion will focus on both craft (published stories, poems, and essays) and, perhaps more importantly, the fiction and poetry written by each student. That is, the student writing becomes the text, and the instructor leads a sympathetic, but critical, discussion of the particular work at hand. Students should expect to read and comment on two or three published works per week as well as the work of their peers. To enable a collegial and productive class setting, all sections of 307 are capped at 16 students. 

 Too, 307 satisfies a workshop requirement for the emphasis in creative writing. 

English 307 satisfies a Comm B requirement

 314: Structure of English – Thomas Purnell

This course introduces students to the basic principles of the descriptive analysis of English phrasal grammar (i.e., syntax). In other words, we treat words and phrases in a somewhat structured and formal manner while at the same time thinking about real sentences, particularly those produced by speakers in archival recordings of American English. Student’s course grade is based on class attendance and participation, frequent homework, quizzes and a final paper on the grammar used by a vernacular American English speaker. 

 319: Language, Race and Identity - Thomas Purnell

This course examines the role of language in the social construction of racial identity in the U.S. context. Combining research and theory from anthropology, biology, psychology, sociology, and linguistics, this course emphasizes the important relations between language, culture, and our genetic endowment specific to our species. We begin with a brief study of current theories on the language faculty and the social construction of race. We then address the different language issues facing the identity of speakers within speech communities with strong non-standard components (African Americans, Latinos/as, Native Americans, Asian Americans). This course positions basic linguistic concepts (on language structure, for example) within the context of the interface between language and culture/biology.

336: The Eighteenth-Century Novel – Mark Vareschi 

Where did the novel in English come from? How did the novel come to be the dominant literary form in modern culture? What is so “novel” about the novel? This course will explore the central questions surrounding the rise of the English novel in the eighteenth century through authors such as: Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Laurence Sterne, Horace Walpole, Frances Burney, and Jane Austen. The novel of this period was fundamentally an experimental, adventurous, and innovative form that was subject to interrogation by both readers and writers. We will seek to understand how these novels variously work to represent truth, consciousness, history, and everyday life. Further, we will attend to the novels on a formal level to examine the questions they raise about the generic conventions of narrative fiction in order to understand how the novel came to resemble its current form in contemporary culture. 

346: Victorian Poetry – Ella Mershon

 Fossil Poetry: Old Forms in a New Age 

“There rolls the deep where grew the tree. 

O earth, what changes hast thou seen! 

There where the long street roars hath been 

The stillness of the central sea” 

-- Tennyson, In Memoriam 

The Victorian era witnessed the explosive growth of mass industrialization, urbanization, consumerism, and globalization, alongside a proliferation of new technologies, including the railroad, the telegraph, and photography. This class will explore nineteenth-century “fossil poetry,” that is, the poetic layering of different temporalities – techno-futurism, medievalism, antiquity, and classical myths – in the allegedly old-fashioned poetry of the Victorians. With this sedimentary view of poetry in mind, we will consider how Victorian poetic forms respond to the experience of modernity, register the increasing historical self-consciousness of the times, and grapple with the alien timescales of nineteenth-century science, i.e. the deep past of geological time and the long slow changes of evolutionary biology. We will start with a basic question: why poetry? In an age dominated by the novel (itself a new literary genre said to be suited to this new age), why write poetry? How and why did Victorian writers deploy poetic forms to address the sense of rapid acceleration, disorientation, displacement, and alienation typical of modern life? How do poetic practices—rhythm and rhyme, cadence and lineation—shape the place of the human subject in an increasingly nonhuman world? Lastly, how might Victorian poetry help us grapple with our own experience of rapid technological acceleration and unthinkable geological futures? 

We will survey major Victorian poetic forms—the long narrative poem, the dramatic monologue, the lyric, the ballad, the song, and the sonnet sequence—with an eye toward their negotiations of ancient pasts and dizzying futures. Readings likely to include such key figures as: Tennyson, Browning, EBB, D.G. Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, William Morris, Matthew Arnold, Algernon Swinburne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Michael Field, Charlotte Mew, Amy Levy, Oscar Wilde, and Thomas Hardy.

351: The Modernist Novel – Sarah Anderson

Welcome to early 20th Century American fiction. In this course, we will cover texts from Cather’s Midwest to Faulkner’s South, Hemingway’s Europe to Ann Petry’s Harlem and Steinbeck’s California. The course will teach you important social and historical contexts for understanding the dynamic literary changes in fiction writing during this time period. We will discuss gender roles, racial conflicts, class, and more as we challenge traditional interpretations of these classic texts, seeking out new ways of reading and understanding. Some selections are written by authors explicitly dedicated to the modernist imperative to "make it new," whereas others engage with their cultural context in less self-conscious ways. Our examination will draw from literary criticism, historical documents, as well as your own writing. This is a reading and writing intensive course. You can expect to read roughly 80 pages per class meeting (see syllabus for details) and write response papers and longer papers. Class meetings will combine lecture and active discussion formats. Your participation is required, as is your attendance.

360: The Anglo-Saxons – Martin Foys

What was life like in England, over 1,000 years ago, and why should we care? This course proposes to find out. Over the semester, we will learn about how Anglo-Saxon England came into existence, how it became Christian, how it fought and assimilated with Vikings, and how it all ended with the Norman Conquest. As a framework for the class, we will study the literature of the period (in modern translation), but we will also explore the period's history, language art, religion, architecture and everyday culture. We will study surprising and unexpected materials such as: a manual for medieval sign language, an illustrated manuscript depicting the monstrous races thought to inhabit the far east, the deviant funeral rites for burying zombies, an embroidery almost as long as a football field that depicts the conquest of England, holy saints' lives that seem to delight in the number of ways you can torture somebody, and clever riddles that are as profane as they are profound.  It's astonishing to consider how much has survived from early medieval England - words, objects, spaces, places, ideas and beliefs - and how sophisticated the culture was, and how our sense of this past contributes to our own modern identity today. 

English 361: Modern and Contemporary American Literature - Aida Levy-Hussen

The Racial Imagination

Race is commonly thought of as a kind of difference we can see. But when we recognize racial difference, “what is it that ‘sees’—in other words, do we look with the eyes or with the psyche?” This question frames a 1996 essay, in which the literary critic Hortense Spillers argues that in order to understand what race means and how it produces social effects, we must think energetically about the inner workings of the mind. How are conceptions of race produced and sustained through fantasies, stereotypes, and projections of fear and desire? What are the psychological consequences of having a racially marked identity? How can we reconcile the idea that race is an invention of the imagination with the knowledge that racism’s effects are often socially, politically, and economically real?

Working through these questions and others, this class surveys 20th and 21st century African American novels, short stories, poems, and journalistic and critical essays that attempt to make sense of the psychological dimensions of blackness. We will study a range of symbols, metaphors, and allegories that black writers have used to describe the race concept, and we will consider whether and (if so,) how literature is uniquely equipped to expose, re-frame, and contest racism.

Assigned reading will probably include works by James Baldwin, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ralph Ellison, Nella Larsen, Toni Morrison, Albert Murray and Claudia Rankine. Students should expect to read approximately 200 pages per week, and to complete assignments of varying lengths, including skill-building exercises in plot summary and close reading, several short response papers (~2 pages each), a group presentation, and a final essay (~7-10 pages).

407: Creative Writing Nonfiction Workshop - Susan Bernstein

What is creative nonfiction?  How does it differ from fiction and other nonfiction forms? To answer these questions we shall read a variety of personal essays including by writers including James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Roxanne Gay, Leslie Jamison, Jamaica Kincaid, Philip Lopate, Rebecca Solnit, and Virginia Woolf. Each weekly meeting usually has two different formats: discussion of published nonfiction along with occasional short exercises, and workshopping writing (either in small groups or the entire class). The aims of this course are to become better readers and more skillful practitioners of the craft of writing. To accomplish these goals everyone will read and respond to published and drafted writing and everyone will explore a variety of topics and ways of writing and revising their own work.  The three paper assignments are on persons, places, things and there will be suggested prompts for each of these.

408: Creative Writing Fiction Workshop

This class helps students apply lessons from published fiction (both classic and contemporary) to their own work. Class typically begins with a lecture concerning some aspect of craft, and is followed by “workshop.” This entails a discussion of story shape, word choice, character development etc. using the creative work of the student as the text. Classes are small (15), and students are expected to read the work of their peers carefully and participate during class discussions.

411: Creative Writing Poetry Workshop

In this course we will study received poetic forms both contemporary and traditional. Forms will include the sonnet, the villanelle, and more modern fare like the cross-out. By semester's end, we will have covered twelve forms old and new.

417: History of English Language - Jordan Zweck

Have you ever wondered why the plural of foot is feet, where the y in “ye olde shoppe” comes from, or how textspeak and emojis are changing Modern English? If so, this class is for you! We will explore the history of English from its origins as an Indo-European language to the present day, studying the systematic changes that took place to its phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon. In addition to linguistic history, we will also study the social, cultural, and political history that shaped and was shaped by the English language. The course proceeds chronologically, and will focus on four main periods of the English language: Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English, and Present-Day English (including dialects of American English, World Englishes, and the ways that technology affects language).

No previous experience in early English (Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English) or linguistics is required. 

420: Topics in ELL – Jacee Cho

Universal Grammar and Child Language Acquisition

 [English Language and Linguistics] (Mixed Grad/Undergrad) 

This course provides an introduction to the linguistic study of child language acquisition. Children attain adult-like linguistic knowledge by the age of 5-6 without any explicit instruction or correction from their caregivers. In this course, we will examine the properties of the human mind that make language so easily accessible to all normally developing children and discuss evidence for the claim that children are born with built-in universal linguistic principles (Universal Grammar) that constrain language acquisition. We will discuss experimental methods on child language acquisition. We will cover child first language/monolingual acquisition as well as child bilingual acquisition (children acquiring two languages simultaneously). We will also discuss language development of blind children and children with SLI (specific language impairment). All reading materials will be available electronically on the course website

 422: Outstanding Figure(s) in Literature before 1800 – Ronald Harris

Ovid in English

Ovid was an ancient Roman poet (43 BC - 17 AD), whose writings have been very influential in English and world literature. Ovid's work has retained its power in large part because of the stories he told and the ways he told them, stories full of bizarre and often erotic human-animal and human-tree metamorphoses, where, for example, silenced woman are reduced to scrawling their names in dirt with their hooves, or a disappointed lover is left caressing the bark of the tree that was once the girl he chased. In this course, we will study both Ovid's poetry and Ovidian poetry in English by such Renaissance writers as Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, Arthur Golding, and John Marston, along with contemporary writers like Ted Hughes and Alice Fulton. Students will read Ovid in English translation, mostly from A.D. Melville's translation of The Metamorphoses. Other readings will be available in inexpensive paper editions or through electronic reserves. 

Students will write frequent response papers, complete several essays or projects, and maintain a daily reading journal. 

Materials (**you may use other editions of these texts; please see instructor if you wish to use other editions) 

1. Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. A.D. Melville. (Oxford World Classics, ISBN 019283472X). 

2. Christopher Marlowe, The Complete Poems and Translations (Penguin, ISBN 0143104950). 

3. Mary Zimmerman, Metamorphoses: A Play. (Northwestern UP, ISBN 0810119803). 

4. William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Titus Andronicus, The Rape of Lucrece. Any good modern edition of these plays and poem will do. 

5. Reserve readings. See Learn@UW coursepage:

427: Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales provides a rich introduction to English literature in the Middle Ages. Written in the fourteenth century, the Tales comprise a wide variety of genres and styles, covering topics as disparate as love, religion, and science. If medieval literature was often didactic, the Tales taught audiences everything from how to woo a lady to how to divide a fart into twelve parts. We will consider the relationships between individual tales and between tales and their tellers, asking how the Tales’ generic variety shapes our understanding of the work as a whole. We will also examine the Tales within their social context by reading both medieval sources and recent literary criticism on subjects such as the medieval estates, the effects of the plague, and medieval gender and sexuality.

No previous experience with medieval literature or Middle English is required.

431: Early Works of Shakespeare – Joshua Calhoun

Inhabiting Spenser’s Fairyland

Perhaps because it is a rich, complex, lengthy, poem Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene is seldom read in its entirety in a single course. In this course, we will read slowly on purpose. We will take the time to inhabit Faerie Land–to learn its topographies, its characters, its poetic language, its politics, its flora and fauna, and so on. Slow-reading Spenser’s FQ will also open out into broader discussions about book history, environmental literature, anthropology, colonialism, humanism, Elizabethan politics, and poetic theory. Additional primary and secondary readings will inform our in-depth reading, but FQ will be our main focus throughout the semester. 

443: Outstanding Figure(s) in Literature since 1800 - Susan Bernstein

The Brontës  

(online course with Writing Fellows component)

From a remote village on the Yorkshire moors of England, Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë published some of the most passionate, violent, shocking, and fascinating novels ever written. These novels and the sisters who wrote them have prompted responses since the middle of the nineteenth century to today in film, popular music, comics, and fiction. The syllabus includes four novels by the Brontës, sections from a biography of Charlotte Brontë published by Elizabeth Gaskell, another Victorian novelist who knew Brontë, and excerpts from a recent biography, as well as critical essays, and Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, a postcolonial novel published over a century later in response to Jane Eyre.  We'll also view film adaptations and shorter videos Broad. As an online course, you are expected to keep up with the schedule of reading and viewing and the biweekly (twice a week) posts as your required virtual particaption.  There will be two essays (with drafts to Writing Fellows and conferences with them), and a final project using popular culture (films, videos, songs, comics and more) in relation to the Brontës. 

Texts (preferred paperback editions given below; no online versions, please)

Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Oxford)

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (Broadview or Norton or Oxford)

Charlotte Brontë, Villette (Oxford)

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (Oxford)

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (Norton)

454: James Joyce – Richard Begam

This course focuses on the major writings of James Joyce, excluding Finnegans Wake. Most of our attention will be devoted to an in-depth examination of Ulysses conducted over the course of nine weeks. By way of preparation, we shall read two earlier works by Joyce, Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, as well as Joyce’s principal source text, Homer’s Odyssey. Among the larger questions we shall address: Where does Joyce position himself in relation to the conflicting demands of nationalism, individualism and aesthetics? What is the significance of the “odyssey of styles” in Ulysses, and how does it affect the novel’s mimetic aspirations? Finally, how does Ulysses reconceive such fundamental ideas as time and place, love and marriage, truth and language, art and morality? Requirements: Two exams and one longer paper.

456: Topic in Nineteenth-Centry American Literature and Culture – Russell Castronovo

Rebels and American Literature

How does literature intersect with rebellion and revolution?  Literature promotes values commonly associated with the social order, which is why we learn about literature in school.  But literary works often seem to have proximity to political violence and social unrest.  As we move from Revolutionary-era Boston to Zuccotti Park and Occupy Wall Street, we will explore the relationship between literature and social and political movements associated with the radicalism of slave resistance, anti-capitalist demonstrators, turn-of-the-century feminism, and other conflicts.  As we do so we’ll also think about different literary modes and forms, including manifestos, satire, short stories, poetry, and the novel.

457: Topic in American Literature and Culture since 1900 – David Zimmerman

Imagining Apocalypse

This course examines how writers from Puritans in the 1600s to prizewinning novelists today have imagined apocalypse and its ramifications for self, society, nature, nation, and art. The course texts offer intimate studies of personal loss, trauma, and resilience. They also present critical analyses of cultural, environmental, religious, and political concerns, including the legacy of 9/11, the meaning of "America," and the possibility of environmental cataclysm. Half of the works will be contemporary novels (U.S. and Canadian). These include Colson Whitehead, Zone One; Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake; and Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven. Half of the works will be earlier texts, including a Puritan captivity narrative, African-American antislavery literature, and apocalypse novels by Edgar Allan Poe and Jack London.

**Content alert**: some of the course material features gore and graphic violence, including sexual violence and suicide; class discussion will occasionally focus on these topics.

This is a Writing Intensive course. Students will produce around 50 pages of analytical writing, including two major essays, multiple shorter analyses, a research report, and a final exam. This is not a lecture course.

459: Three American Novelists– Sarah Anderson

Hemingway, Faulkner, Cather

This novels course focuses on select novels by each of these three authors, considering narrative style, representations of gender, class, and race. There will be short and long papers, a reading journal and class participation. (Some possible texts: As I Lay Dying, Go Down, Moses, The Sound and the Fury, The Garden of Eden, A Farewell to Arms, A Lost Lady, O Pioneers!)

474: Topic in Contemporary Literature– Colin Gillis

Literature and HIV/AIDS

This course will examine the body of literary works that has emerged in response to HIV/AIDS. We will look at memoirs, poems, novels, plays, and films about HIV/AIDS from the initial outbreak of the epidemic in the early 1980s to the present. We will study how these works bear witness to the suffering of friends and lovers, memorialize the dead, intervene in the cultural and scientific discourses around HIV/AIDS, catalyze political action, and situate the disease in its social and historical contexts. Our discussions will also address some of the deeper theoretical and philosophical questions raised by these works: What can literature tell us about illness and the human condition? How does infectious disease alter our understanding of the relationship between self and community? And what role does literature play in the formation of social movement cultures? 

514: English Syntax – Anja Wanner

 In this mixed grad-undergrad class we will apply the framework of Generative Grammar to the analysis of sentences in English. You will learn to identify complex syntactic constructions in  a sentence and give visual representations ('tree diagrams') of their structures. The type of constructions and the theoretical concepts that we will discuss goes well beyond the material from English 314 (The Structure of English). Every student will become the expert for one particular construction (such as the relative clause, the resultative construction, or the imperative) and will compare and evaluate two different approaches to that particular construction. Tree diagrams will get fairly complex in this class, but what really makes this an advanced class in linguistics is the focus on the ability to construct a syntactic argument: What makes a construction interesting/challenging from a linguistic perspective? Why is one analysis better than another? What are problems that remain unsolved? This class makes use of a textbook and is organized around weekly homework assignments.

 561: Modern Critical Theories – Richard Begam

Approaches to Reading Literature 

What do we “do” in English courses when we interpret a work of literature? Where and how do we locate the “meaning” of a text? Is it to be found in the words on the page, in the author’s intention, or in the reader’s impression? We will begin with this simple—but not easily answered—question. We will then proceed to ask a series of additional questions. To what degree have developments in modern thought—especially Friedrich Nietzsche’s critique of objectivism—affected how we identify and define hermeneutic or interpretive truth? How do our cultural and historical situations constrain our ability to understand texts not only of our own time but also of the past? Finally, what roles do aesthetic appreciation and evaluation play, both in guiding interpretation and in helping us determine which works we read in the English major? This course is organized into four sections: (1) Authorial Intention, (2) Truth, Language and Indeterminacy, (3) Truth, Power and Ideology and (4) Aesthetics and Evaluation. Readings include a number of short essays by W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley, E. D. Hirsch, Roland Barthes, Noel Carroll, Ferdinand Saussure, Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard Rorty, Paul de Man, Karl Marx, Stephen Greenblatt, Arthur Danto, Terry Eagleton and Pierre Bourdieu. We will also read some longer works by Plato, Immanuel Kant, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. Requirements: Two exams and one longer paper.

578: Modern American Drama and Theatre – Michael Peterson

Representative twentieth-century plays from Glaspell and O'Neill to the present considered, within contemporary cultural, theatrical and academic context. Particular attention to the involvement of US theatre with social movements and critique and the complexities of "American" identity.


Typical topics/schedule:

Typically one or two plays plus short critical readings each week, with variation for thematic clustering and in-class critical practice.


Key Words:

Drama, American Drama, US Drama, Critism, Realism, Expressionism, African-American, Women Writers, Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway


Class Format:

As much as possible, class meetings are for collaboratively processing content engaged outside of class--plays, critical readings, videos, etc. The instructor provides a set of critical frameworks for reading these works and guides students in working through their own analyses of texts. Critical writing is the major means of assessing student learning.


Learning Outcomes:

--engage in advanced critical thinking about how plays work and create meaning and experience

--understand the important contexts for US plays in different times and places

--develop an ability to analyze both content and form

--acheive a general understanding of the evolution of "drama" itself in the context of US theatre

593: Literature of Jewish Identity in America – Sunny Yudkoff

What does it mean to argue for something passionately? What does it mean to channel anger into the written word? And what does it mean to develop an opinion that grows out of one’s experience as an ethnic minority? This course, which fulfills the Ethnic Studies General Education Requirement, considers these questions by examining a series of essays, creative texts, and films in which a writer argues—and argues angrily—for a particular vision of Jewish culture and politics. Of particular importance will be the literary record of the so-called New York Intellectuals, several of whose leaders would shift ideologically from left to right from the 1920s to 1980s. We will also turn our attention to the work of a series of angry first and second-generation Jewish writers, including Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. We will touch on such subjects as: the history of Jewish socialism and communism in America; the sexual revolution; the role of the Holocaust in Jewish American identity; and the changing dynamics of Black-Jewish relations in multi-ethnic America over the course of the twentieth-century.

706: Special Topics in Composition Theory – Catherine Vieira 

Writing, Healing, and the Body


Recent popular and scientific literature has claimed that writing can heal emotional and physical trauma. But under what conditions? for whom? and how? 


In this course, we will first explore the possibility that writing has the potential to heal because, as writing studies scholars have shown, it is embodied. That is, writing issues from bodies, sometimes causing them pain (Van Ittersum and Hensley Owens), sometimes measuring "disabled" bodies against social constructed literate norms (Miller); sometimes with physical movement that shapes meaning (Haas and Witte); and often with differential rhetorical effects based on writers' race, gender, class (Ashanti Young). But how might the embodied nature of writing promote healing (and might other embodied practices also help us write?)? To grapple with this question, in the second part of the class we will read a range of texts in neuroscience (Flaherty; Davidson), psychology (Pennebaker and Evans), kinesiology (Todd), neurology (Wilson); and cognitive science and philosophy (Varela, Thompson, and Rosch). Finally, in the third part of the class, students will focus on a small-scale field project exploring the potential and limits of writing to heal.

 715: Advanced SLA – Jacee Cho

[Graduate] Prerequisite: Eng 318 SLA or equivalent 

This course continues the introduction to SLA (Eng 318) by focusing on a number of critical issues in SLA from linguistic (generative) and psycholinguistic perspectives. In this course we will discuss findings of recent research in SLA that address questions such as: (1) what is the role of Universal Grammar in L2 acquisition? (2) how does L2 knowledge develop over time? (3) how does abstract linguistic knowledge interact with other cognitive and psychological factors in real-time language performance (production & comprehension)? We will learn how to design various linguistic and psycholinguistic experiments, and you will carry out a research project to investigate second language acquisition within the generative, or psycholinguistic theories. All reading materials will be available electronically on the course website.

 731: Advanced Research in Theatre History, 500 BCE to 1700 - Mary Trotter

This course surveys a number of significant theatre traditions from the ancient to the early modern periods. While this course emphasizes historical staging practices (acting style, design, economics, celebrity, censorship, etc.), we also will discuss dramatic structure and genre, historical theorizations of theatre and performance, and theatre’s cultural roles and relation to ritual or other performance practices. 

Subjects to be covered include Medieval European Theatre, Sanskrit Drama, Spain’s Golden Age, Early Modern English Theatre, Bunraku and Noh Theatre, 17th Century France, Restoration England, Latin American theatre before 1700, and ancient Greek and Roman theatre. 

Students will write a research paper on a subject of their choosing relevant to the scope of the course, give a class presentation, and complete a few very short projects. Along with our study of historical periods we will also reflect on the nature of historiography generally, and the unique challenges concomitant with studying and writing about the theatrical past. 

This class welcomes students from all departments who are interested in studying theatre and performance history.

905: Seminar-Topics in Applied English Linguistics– Anja Wanner

Bad Grammar

In this seminar, which is open to graduate students of any linguistic background, we will explore the vexed relationship between descriptive and prescriptive grammar. While the field of linguistics has long rejected prescriptive accounts of language use as irrelevant and damaging, the broader culture is fascinated with such accounts, even if they are brought forward by individuals who openly profess that they have no interest in the structure of language per se. In the spirit of Anne Curzan's suggestion to "engage rather than dismiss" prescriptive voices in public discourses about language, we will discuss different forms of prescriptivism, the history of prescriptive grammar, as well as constructions that have been/are targets of such approaches. Everybody is expected to engage in a research project on a specific  linguistic construction that has been singled out as an example of "bad grammar". (This includes classics like not ending a sentence on a preposition and more recent phenomena like the use of singular "their".) You will present your research at an end-of-semester student-organized symposium. Ideally, your work in this class will be the basis for a conference presentation.