Spring 2012 Courses Taught by Illinois Wesleyan English Department Faculty
(Credits and Descriptions of English Courses)
FA 110: Film Aesthetics (AR)
This course will closely examine film as an item of popular culture and as a serious art form with the aim of developing an understanding of the language of film drawn from its narrative content and formal structure. Special attention will be given to the thematic elements of the film and the unique ways in which the narrative mode is given cinematic realization.
Gateway 100: Understanding Comix
Comix? as high art? as serious literature? It’s true: comics have moved off the drugstore rack and onto the winner’s lists of prestigious literary prizes. With Scott McCloud’s Understanding
as a guide, we’ll explore the workings of the comix form. As we read and analyze both classic and contemporary examples of the comics form, we’ll investigate how the mind processes the comics form, the interplay between word and image, what happens between panels, and how time flows through a comics narrative.
Warning: No superheroes; no manga.
English 101: Intro to Creative Writing (AR)
101 1: Michael Theune
101 2: Michael Theune
101 4: Brandi Reissenweber
Study of both the theory and practice of writing creatively. Reading and understanding of literary forms is combined with practice in the basic processes of and strategies for writing fiction, poetry, or drama. General Education credit in Fine Arts.
English 101 3: Intro to Creative Writing (AR)
In this course, we will focus on how writers use the generic structures of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction to explore human experiences in imaginative ways. Through our careful reading of published poetry and prose, discussion on the craft of writing, and weekly workshops of your writing, this course will introduce questions that any writer of prose or poetry must address: How do writers transform complex emotional and intellectual experiences into art? What are the different formal demands of poetry and prose? How do music and metaphor work together to make a poem? How does character determine the conflict in a short story? How do we understand what’s “real” or “true” in creative nonfiction? We will also consider the crucial importance of revision in the creative process, and how challenging and satisfying that process can be.
English 170 1: Science Fiction (LT)
Science fiction has long suffered from a reputation as escapist fare unworthy of consideration as serious literature. One reason for this may be that, by definition, science fiction represents that which does not (or does not yet) exist. In this course, we will consider how science fiction uses “that which does not exist”—imagined futures, alternate histories, alien cultures, utopias and dystopias, etc.—to grapple with genuine historical, social and philosophical concerns.
English 170 2, 3: The Short Story (LT)
What is essential for a text to be a story? To answer, we will study short stories from a variety of places to see what they suggest about the genre. We'll distinguish story from plot and examine different styles of literary imagination as they engage us. In considering the traditional elements of fiction, we will look at how those elements can propose and/or subvert meaning. We will consider, too, the limits of the short story: what it can and cannot accomplish.
English 170 4: The Short Story (LT)
We will examine the notion that story is the essence of all literature, even as we question what is essential for a text to be a story. In examining such ideas, we will study short stories from a variety of places to see what they suggest about the genre. We’ll distinguish story (with beginning, middle, and end) from plot (which admits the uncertainty of beginnings and endings and everything in between), and we’ll examine different styles of literary imagination as they engage us. In considering the traditional elements of fiction—plot, character, setting, point of view, thematic concerns—we will look at how those elements can propose and/or subvert meaning. We will consider, too, the limits of the short story: what it can and cannot accomplish. We will consider the kinds of fictions we offer ourselves and one another and try to discover what that says about us all.
English 170 5 : Writing the American Civil War (LT)
English 170 6: I, Anxious: Circumnavigating the Self (LT)
A comparative examination of texts, mostly novels, that present the search for self-knowledge and enlightenment. Our focus will be on the tension and anxiety inherent in the process of self-discovery, on the dialogues between self and other that incite clashes between self-perception and customary reality.
Possible texts: Lancelot, or the Knight of the Cart; King Lear; Montaigne’s Essays; Frankenstein; Madame Bovary; Hedda Gabler; The Awakening; The Metamorphosis; The Stranger; The Dharma Bums; Grendel; A River Sutra.
English 201: Writing Fiction
Workshop in reading and writing fiction while focusing on principles and techniques used by writers and on key elements of the story form. Students will complete stories and develop a portfolio. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium.
English 202: Writing Poetry
Workshop in reading and writing poetry while focusing on primary techniques and fundamental elements used in writing poetry, both formal and free verse. Students will complete a series of poems and develop a portfolio. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium.
English 211: Newswriting and Reporting (W)
General Education credit in Writing Intensive
The fundamentals of newswriting, with emphasis on style, structure, and methods of news reporting.
English 220 1: Shakespeare’s Shrews (LT) (W)
Mary Ann Bushman
Shakespeare is often celebrated for creating “modern” women in his plays, but as Virginia Woolf pointed out, Shakespeare’s sisters wouldn’t actually have had many opportunities to exercise their “modernity.” This course will examine how Shakespeare’s plays represent the social and legal categories that limit women during the early modern period and how his dramatic characters who happen to inhabit those categories deal with those limits. This course is writing intensive and reading intensive.
English 220 2: Decade of Crescendo
The American 1850s constituted perhaps the most crucial decade the U. S. had faced since its founding as a nation. The slavery was being agitated as never before, and the political system strained to keep the Union whole: legislatively, the Compromise of 1850 (including the Fugitive Slave Act) and the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), which effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820; judicially, the Dred Scott decision in the Supreme Court (1857), which denied the any legal rights to slaves; and, politically, the foundation of the Republican Party (1854). But at the same time that the country was futilely struggling to avoid civil war, American writers produced some of the finest poetry, essays and fiction the U. S. has ever known. This course will examine major texts by authors like Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, Stowe, Emerson and Thoreau, with the goal in mind of how this literature both influenced and was influenced by the socio-political ‘crescendo’ of the 1850s.
English 232: British Drama: 1950-Present (LT)
Post-World War II realities will provide the point of departure for this course, with the absurdists, represented by Samuel Beckett, and “kitchen-sink realists” such as John Osborne setting the issues in a theatrical context. We will proceed with the works of playwrights such as Joe Orton, Peter Shaffer, Pam Gems, Caryl Churchill, Tom Stoppard, Michael Frayn, Brian Friel and Anne Devlin—quite independent voices in the staging of social and political concerns of the last fifty years in Great Britain. Set in dramatic forms that at times defy easy apprehension, this body of work provides a strong foundation for understanding the staging of private and public issues in the contemporary theatrical world.
English 243: English Poetry, 1500-1700 (LT)
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, English poets investigated women’s chastity, scientific knowledge, the eros and violence of Greek and Roman mythology, and the profound burden of sin and despair during the Protestant Reformation. In this course, we will read poems by Thomas Wyatt, Philips Sidney, William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, Mary Wroth, George Herbert, John Donne, and John Milton. We will consider the cultural contexts of these poets in order to understand the preoccupations of the early modern period. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium.
English 280: Practical Criticism (W)
Practice in interpretation of texts through discussion and written work; attention to strategies of writing about literature, to critical vocabulary, and to critical approaches in current use. Restricted to English majors and minors only. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium.
English 301 1: The Lyric Essay (AR)
The lyric essay is the essay at its most poetic. It’s inventive in form—exploding linear narrative in favor of juxtaposition and fragmentation—and meditative in quality, emphasizing image, metaphor, rhythm, and sound.
In the first few weeks of term, we’ll read examples and explorations of the form; you’ll even try your hand at assembling a shadowbox in the tradition of the artist Joseph Cornell, whose intricate creations are often cited as the visual analog of the lyric essay. You’ll then turn to writing your own lyric essays, refining your work in tutorial sessions and workshops.
Because the lyric essay appeals to poets as well as prose writers, the pre-requisite for this section of 301 is any 200-level writing course.
English 301 2: Forms of Poetry
Even before they had paper and pen, ancient poets were drawn to formal structures, and contemporary poets continue to write formal verse. Why are these prescribed forms so compelling? How do contemporary writers borrow from and reinvent forms for their own poetic ends? This workshop provides an introduction to a variety of forms, including the blues poem, the sonnet, the ghazal, the sestina, and the villanelle. In addition, we will experiment with found poems and Oulipian constraints.
English 301 3: Write What You (Don’t) Know (AR)
Ernest Hemingway said, “The hardest thing to do is to write straight honest prose on human beings. First you have to know the subject; then you have to know how to write.” This course will focus on the convergence of craft and the different ways writers can “know” a subject. We will consider the fiction writer as explorer and anthropologist, seeking out those details and mysteries of the human experience that ignite our individual imaginations. We will consider how these findings can interact with narrative structure and how to integrate the necessary contexts that create vivid and believable characters, plots, settings, and voices. Writers will challenge their own boundaries in fiction, generate a significant amount of new material, and consider its effectiveness in discussion and revision.
English 344: Romantic Literature (LT)
The primary objective of this course is to study the British Romantic Period: the notion of such a period and the usefulness of such a concept, the various definitions of the phenomena that collectively came to bear that designation, and, more than anything else, the poetry written in England during the time roughly between 178 and 1850. We will read poetry closely, evaluating the functions of meter, rhyme, and line, even as we place texts within the context of larger literary, philosophical, and historical developments.
English 352: Black Jazz Age (LT)
This course examines a period in American culture [1915 to 1940) often called the Harlem Renaissance. This Black Jazz Age, framed by World Wars I and II, and fueled by the Great Migration of Blacks from the South, saw New York city become the spiritual capital of Black culture, politics, literature, music, and the visual arts. Using literature for our primary texts, we will study some of the era's concerns: aesthetics, Afro-American identity, history and folk tradition, the visual arts' celebration of Blackness, Christianity, alienation, radicalism, urban life, the many-layered consciousness of Black women, blues and jazz.
English 370: The Empire Writes Back (LT) (W)
“The Empire writes back to the Centre,” wrote Salman Rushdie approvingly in 1982, but these days it can be difficult even to locate that “centre.” We’ll read contemporary works that consider what it is to be colonial, post-colonial, British, and even post-9/11 and 7/7. Readings will likely include Zadie Smith’s White Teeth
, Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland
, Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant
Fundamentalist, and Hanif Kureishi’s adaptation for the stage of his novel The Black Album
Englsh 391: Chaucer (LT)
This is a rigorous study of Chaucer's works in their cultural and biographical contexts. We'll spend most of our time on The Canterbury Tales, although we might turn to other Chaucerian texts. We'll read the Tales from a variety of perspectives, as we discuss their tellers'—and perhaps Chaucer's—views on literature, textual authority, feudal hierarchies, women, the Church, the market economy, the effectiveness of kingship, and life on the road. And, of course, you'll have the opportunity to learn about The Great Vowel Shift. All of our primary readings—silent and aloud—will be in Middle English.
Prerequisites: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 170 or 220-259, plus 280. 280 can be waived with the consent of the instructor.
English 394: Shakespeare’s Tragedies and Romances (LT) (WEFL)
Mary Ann Bushman
Both English 393 and 394 investigate the ways our culture is informed by Shakespeare’s works and the ways in which we construct meaning from them. While both focus on the dramatic forms, they may occasionally include the sonnets and verse romances. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 170 or 220–259, plus 280.
English 398: James Joyce
This course examines James Joyce’s major works in cultural and historical contexts; emphasis on Ulysses.
English 480 1: Senior Seminar: Emily Dickinson & Friends (W)
Intensive comparative study of lyric sequences by the three most important 19th century American poets: The "Fascicles" of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," and F.G. Tuckerman's "Sonnets: First Series" (all written between 1855 and 1863). We will spend the major part of our time on E.D.'s Fascicles, or manuscript books, looking at the mystery of the poet's having arranged and bound together certain groups of her poems. We will ask, among other questions: What are the fascicles? Why did E.D. construct them? For herself? For a particular private reader? For posterity? And what is their peculiar power? The critical test will be the extent to which each fascicle constitutes a lyric sequence-that is, a new, modern genre in which a series of individual short lyrics makes a larger artistic whole. To aid us in our work, we will employ the characterization of lyric sequence in Rosenthal and Gall's 1983 book, The Modern Poetic Sequence. Whitman and Tuckerman's work will serve as touchstones for comparison with E.D.-poems that are clearly lyric sequences ("Song of Myself") and poems that very probably are ("Sonnets: First Series"). The final product of our discoveries will be a major paper, a precís of which will be presented to the seminar; along the way, students will also give oral presentations, lead critical discussions, and present a "work-in-progress" essay around mid-term time.
English 480 2: Senior Seminar: Brilliant Failures (W)
In this seminar we’ll investigate ways in which artists have arranged space as a meaning-producing medium. I’ll propose and we'll develop an interpretive methodology based upon theories of visual thinking, which we’ll run through various artistic media. Although many of our study texts will be in print, we’ll see that the interpretive approach we generate has wide applications and thus will support myriad kinds of projects. This senior seminar is designed to be a true capstone, to enable you to synthesize and apply much of what you've gathered during your journey through IWU's liberal arts curriculum. It will most definitely be a challenge but also an opportunity to work in and as a congenial intellectual community.