Graduate Courses Fall 2008

Graduate Courses Fall 2008

Department of English

Graduate Course Descriptions - Fall 2008


5220: Studies in American Literature 6110: Literary Forms - Point of View in Fiction
5300: Medieval Literature 6110: Literary Forms – Poetry
5340: Restoration and Eighteen-Century Literature 6300: Introduction to Graduate Studies
5380: Modern American Literature 6400: The Nature of Poetry
5390: Post-Colonial Literature 6420: Studies in Drama - Medieval Drama
5550: Major Authors - Dante and Late Medieval Culture 6660: Graduate Writing Workshop, Fiction
5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Fiction 6660: Graduate Writing Workshop, Nonfiction
5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Playwriting 6660: Graduate Writing Workshop, Playwriting
5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Poetry 6660: Graduate Writing Workshop, Poetry
5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Nonfiction 6690: Methods of Teaching College Writing
5740: Grammar in Teaching Writing 6760: Introduction to Old English
5830: Multi-Cultural Literature for Adolescents  


English 5220: Studies in American Literature
Early American Literature, 1492-1798
Mondays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 4010
Dr. Scott Slawinski
Fulfills: PhD Distribution requirement for early American literature (American I); M.A.-level elective

Early American literature tends to be thought of monolithically, dominated by the New England tradition and consisting mostly of white, privileged male writers, usually of the ministerial persuasion. I, on the other hand, consider early American literature to be the most diverse of all the literary eras, containing a plethora of voices: New England Puritans, Latin American Spaniards, Carribean Islanders, Southern Planters, Slaves, Free Blacks, Native Americans, Quakers, French Explorers and Missionaries, Dutch Settlers, Maryland Catholics, the Privileged and the Not-So-Privileged, and Women from all these categories. In this class we will examine as many of these voices as time allows, beginning with pre-Discovery Native tales and ending with a novel from the early republic. While theology permeates nearly all of these writings, we will also examine discourses in independence, abolition, feminism, the “rising glory of America,” the public and private domains. We will look at the development of the print culture, the proliferation of manuscript culture, and the development of authorship generally. The period we are looking at includes multiple genres, from histories and biographies to poems and plays, from journals and diaries to promotional tracts and travel narratives, from private and public letters to political polemics and nationalistic encomiums.

While students will find this course effectively covers the first half of the primary reading list for comprehensive examinations in American Literature I, at least one past participant drew on the course material when writing his examination in British Renaissance literature, demonstrating the transatlantic nature of the writing of this period. Aside from those with a focus in literature, education majors will find a solid foundation to teach the materials, supplemented, as time allows, by discussions of pedagogy regarding how to raise students’ appreciation of what might seem unapproachable texts. Creative writers in poetry, drama, fiction, or nonfiction will find much to attract them to the course, as we will be looking at all these genres, though poetry and nonfiction will dominate the syllabus.

Tentatively, participants will write two short essays (5-7 pages), and a seminar-length final essay (20-30 pages). They will also be responsible for one presentation on a critical article of their choice and for which they will prepare a one-page abstract.

Reading list will likely include:

Early American Writings, Carla Mulford, general editor (Oxford UP)
Early American Poetry, Jane Donahue Eberwein, editor (Univ. of Wisconsin Press)
Of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford (Modern Library)
The Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin (Norton Critical Edition or Penguin Classics)
The Contrast, Royall Tyler (NYU Press)
Wieland, Charles Brockden Brown (Penguin Classics)
Colonial America, Jerome R. Reich (Prentice Hall)

English 5300: Medieval Literature
Thursdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 4002
Dr. Jana Schulman
Fulfills: PhD Distribution requirement for medieval literature; M.A.-level elective

This survey course will focus on the genres of romance and epic in the Middle Ages. For centuries, scholars approached these two genres as if they were distinct entities with no or few common elements. The reality is that “genre” is hard to classify. In this course, we will discuss issues of genre blurring, common elements, and transcultural borrowings of tales told. For example, Marie de France’s Lais—which are classified as romance—were translated into Old Icelandic. The literary culture of Medieval Iceland did not include native romances in its “library,” nor, for that matter, did it have a warm climate that would encourage a lot of warm breezes and bared shoulders.

Course Requirements: Students will write response questions each week, write a short and a longer paper, and take a final exam.


English 5340: Restoration and Eighteen-Century Literature
Tuesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Dunbar 4204
Dr. Cynthia Klekar
Fulfills: PhD Distribution requirement for eighteen century; M.A.-level elective

This course will cover the major dramatic works in England between 1660 and 1700. We will pay particular attention to the social, cultural, political, and economic contexts of theatrical performance, and we will discuss the major issues that find their way onto the London stage: sexual morality, the role of women in a patrilineal society, and the problems of empire, trade, and colonialism. Because the Restoration period featured the popular and critical success of a number of women dramatists—Aphra Behn, Susan Centlivre, Mary Fix, and Catherine Trotter—we will devote a good deal of attention to the ways in which these playwrights appropriated the conventions of the seemingly anti-feminist genres of wit comedy. In addition to these women dramatists, we will read and discuss plays by George Etherege, John Dryden, William Wycherley, Thomas Otway, and William Congreve.

A word of caution (or perhaps inducement): the comedy of the period is often explicitly sexual, and seduction, adultery, and libertine critiques of religion are commonplace. The tragedies we will read include scenes of torture, incest, and general bloodletting. In addition to the plays, then, we will look at some of the criticism of Restoration drama—from nineteenth and early twentieth-century condemnations of its immorality to more recent celebrations of its seemingly "modern" treatments of sexuality and desire.


English 5380: Modern American Literature
Wednesdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Dunbar 3203
Dr. Jon Adams
Fulfills: PhD Distribution requirement for Modern American literature (American II); M.A.-level elective

The Western Michigan University Catalog describes English 5380 as “readings in representative writers in the period 1890–1945, not exclusively in British and American literature.” But because this class can be repeated for credit and because Western’s English faculty features several Modern specialists, we will cover exclusively American Modern writers. These writers, however, will not all be Modernist. Rather, the course will feature a survey of writing beginning with late-19th Century Realism and Naturalism and culminating with 1930s genre and creative non-fiction. As we read we’ll learn details about these periods and genres as well as about the authors and critical work pertaining to them.

Texts: ISBN:
Agee/Evans—Let Us Now Praise Famous Men 0395488974
Dos Passos, John—1919 0618056823
Faulkner, William—Absalom, Absalom! 0679732187
Hemingway, Ernest—In Our Time 0684822768
Toomer, Jean—Cane 0871401517
Wescott, Glenway—Apartment in Athens 1590170814
West, Nathanael—The Day of the Locust 0451523482

Dover Thrift Editions:
Anderson, Sherwood—Winesburg, OH 0486282694
Blaisdell, Bob, ed.—Imagist Poetry: An Anthology 0486408752
Dreiser, Theodore—Sister Carrie 0486434680
Jewett, Sarah Orne—The Country of Pointed Firs 0486281965
Larsen, Nella—Passing 0486437132
Masters, Edgar Lee—Spoon River Anthology 0486272753


English 5390: Post-Colonial Literature
Thursdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 2021
Dr. Todd Kuchta
Fulfills: PhD requirement for Non-traditional literature; M.A.-level elective

This course is designed to introduce advanced undergraduates and graduate students to postcolonial literature. Broadly, this refers to works written in Europe ’s former colonies after imperial rule, which began to dissolve just after World War II. We will read novels from Africa and from the South Asian diaspora (India, Pakistan, and contemporary Britain), focusing on how they relate to their historical and cultural contexts, illustrate prominent post-colonial themes, and engage with postcolonial theory—among the most influential forms of scholarship today. The thematic and theoretical issues we will investigate include the power struggle between colonizer and colonized, the relationship between European and non-European cultures, depictions of racial/ethnic difference, ideas of community and nation, and the effects of emigration and exile.

During the semester, we will proceed through a number of “moments” in colonial and postcolonial relations during the twentieth century. We will begin with European colonization, primarily in Africa, and move on to narratives of colonial decline by white South African writers. We will then spend a few weeks on India’s transition from colony to independent nation. From there, we will examine the aftereffects of colonialism in Britain and its former colonies. If we have time, we may also consider the contemporary "war on terror" in relation to postcolonial studies. Authors may include Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Nguugii Wa Thiong’o, Tsitsi Dangarembga, J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Salman Rushdie, and Zadie Smith. We will also read some important pieces of postcolonial theory by Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, Gayatri Spivak, Partha Chatterjee, Stuart Hall, and Frantz Fanon. Students will write one 5-page paper, one research paper (7-10 for undergraduates, 15-20 for graduate students), and regular online posts.


English 5550: Major Authors
Dante and Late Medieval Culture

Tuesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 2021
Dr. Eve Salisbury
Fulfills: Ph.D Distribution requirement for Late Medieval Literature; M.A.-level literature elective

In this course we study the development of Dante’s poetic style and form, his innovations in vernacular poetry, and the making of a distinctive and influential poetic corpus. We will look at Dante’s interpretive methodologies, his construction of poetic authority as well as the social, political, theological, philosophical, and literary traditions informing his work. By beginning with the Vita Nuova, the poet’s theory of interpretation as outlined in his Letter to Can Grande and Convivio and moving through the three canticles comprising theCommedia, we will be brought to an appreciation of Dante’s thought, the relationship of his life to his art, and the cultural forces and creative energy compelling it all. Featured also will be a number of illustrations from the works of William Blake, Sandro Botticelli, and Gustav Doré, and others.

Required Texts:
Dante Alighieri, La Vita Nuova, trans., Barbara Reynolds, Penguin.
Letter to Can Grande; Convivio (handout)
The Divine Comedy (La Divina Commedia)
Inferno, trans., Allen Mandelbaum, Bantam Classics
Purgatorio, trans., Allen Mandelbaum, Bantam Classics
Paradiso, trans., Allen Mandelbaum, Bantam Classics
Rachel Jacoff (ed.), The Cambridge Companion To Dante


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Fiction
Wednesdays, 6:00 - 9:30; Dunbar 4209
Dr. Jaimy Gordon
Fulfills: PhD or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

This course, which can be repeated for credit, is the most advanced fiction writing workshop that undergraduate English majors and minors with a creative writing emphasis can take. It is also open to graduate students in creative writing. Each member of the workshop will present at least two stories (or excerpts of longer works) over the course of the semester. In addition the class will read together short fiction by a number of contemporary authors, including those who will be visiting WMU in the fall; and there will be many short creative assignments based on these readings, each stressing some aspect of fictional technique.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Playwriting
Wednesdays, 6:00 - 9:30; Dunbar 3216
Dr. Steve Feffer
Fulfills: PhD or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

See catalogue description, contact instructor, or consult updated course descriptions online.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Poetry
Tuesdays, 6:00 - 9:30; Dunbar 3204
Dr. Nancy Eimers
Fulfills: PhD or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

Art, says poet Carl Phillips, “is its own signature--irreplicable, strange, never seen before, not seeable again elsewhere in the future.” In this advanced poetry writing workshop, we will spend the semester exploring how, in poetry, this might be true. We’ll examine the “signatures” of contemporary poets, and each week we will workshop poems by members of the class.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Nonfiction
Mondays, 6:00 - 9:30; Dunbar 3214
Professor Richard Katrovas
Fulfills: PhD or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

This course will center on bi-weekly assignments and close readings of essays in Philip Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay. Students should acquire more acute reading and editing skills from this course, as well as a deeper appreciation of the complex relationship between truth and artifice in the genre.


English 5740: Grammar in Teaching Writing
Mondays, 6:00 - 9:30; Brown 4002
Dr. Ellen Brinkley
Fulfills: PhD Prerequisite requirement for English language course; fulfills M.A. in English with an emphasis in teaching language requirement; M.A.-level elective

English teachers have traditionally been thought of as grammar police, ready to fine those who break the grammar “laws.” But many English teachers today have had little instruction in grammar, and they are unsure about whether or how to teach it. This course will not provide quick and easy answers, but we will consider grammatical issues as they are viewed by the public and within the profession. We will consider how grammar has been taught historically and discuss research that has influenced the teaching of writing and grammar. We will also examine NCTE statements and state mandates (MEAP, MME, Michigan English Language Arts Content Expectations) and teach each other a range of grammar-related classroom strategies and structures that can support and strengthen student writing. We will produce position papers, curricular plans, and/or articles suitable for publishing.


English 5830: Multi-Cultural Literature for Adolescents
Thursdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Dunbar 4205
Dr. Ilana Nash
Fulfills: PhD requirement for Non-traditional literature; M.A.-level elective; M.A.E.T. multi-cultural literature requirement and/or children’s literature requirement

The novels in this class have one thing in common: they are “coming of age” stories with protagonists outside the racial/ethnic norm in America. The texts are a mixture of “teen fiction” and “adult” fiction, though one of our concerns will be to analyze the aesthetic and political assumptions that underlie those distinctions.

One purpose of this class is to explore the experiences of non-white youth in the US over the 20th and early 21st centuries. On a larger scale, we’ll be examining the ideological myths that uphold much of our national imagination–like the myth of the so-called “American Dream”–from the perspective of the marginalized and dienfranchised.

The class includes a historical component; along with the relevant fiction, we’ll read Ronald Takaki’s groundbreaking text A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural American.

Major assignments for the course include a midterm, a final, and an analytical essay.


English 6110: Literary Forms
Point of View in Fiction
Tuesdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 2048
Dr. Jaimy Gordon
Fulfills: M.F.A. or Ph.D. in Creative Writing Forms requirement

In this class we will read some classic and seminal as well as some eccentric specimens of point of view in fiction, and we will try a number of them on for size. Although other kinds of English graduate students may enroll, this is a seminar designed for graduate students in creative writing, and the assignments will be creative assignments. In addition, the class will meet with the semester’s visiting Frostic authors and read their work–including The End, a first novel by Salvatore Scibona and a particularly brilliant contemporary excursion into multiple point of view.


English 6110: Literary Forms–Poetry
Mondays, 4:00 - 6:30; Dunbar 2209
Dr. Nancy Eimers
Fulfills: M.F.A. or Ph.D. in Creative Writing Forms requirement

“The history of poetry is a continual fixing and freeing of conventions.”–Hayden Carrruth

This is at once a reading and a studio course in the forms of poetry. Each week we’ll read and discuss a poetic form–probably including but not limited to the ballad, the sonnet, blank verse, repeating forms, syllabics, the prose poem–with particular attention to the ways each generation–each poet–each poem–translates or reinvents the tradition. Class members will explore their own responses to that tradition by writing poems in various forms, and a poem will be due each week.


English 6300: Introduction to Graduate Studies
Tuesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 2048
Dr. Gwen Tarbox
Fulfills: Prerequisite requirement for M.A. and PhD in Lit; elective for all other students

English 6300 prepares you to conduct advanced research in English, to recognize the conventions that govern such study, and to continue the process of refining your academic prose. We’ll begin the semester in a workshop format, as you and your classmates present examples of your academic writing, so that you can develop a manageable set of writing goals. Next, we’ll tour Waldo Library, where you’ll conduct research for a bibliographic essay, an assignment designed to increase your knowledge about an area of English studies that interests you. Then, you’ll write a book review, a genre that often represents a student’s first foray into academic publishing. Finally, you’ll write a research paper, based upon your analysis of one of the following books, which we’ll discuss in class: Austen’s Emma, Joyce’sA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. In addition, you’ll learn about professional development resources that will help guide your career in academia.


English 6400: The Nature of Poetry
Thursdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Dunbar 4203
Dr. Daneen Wardrop
Fulfills: PhD-level prerequisite requirement in genre specific course; M.A. prerequisite requirement; for M.F.A. candidates - can serve as forms course requirement for secondary genre; for M.A. in English with an emphasis in teaching students--can serve as an elective

English 6400, The Nature of Poetry, will be devoted to studying a great many poems over the course of the history of poetry written in the English language. While the intent of the course is more or less expansive with regard to examining form and literary history, there will be a specific focus or two for our studies—most particularly that of political poetry. The combination of politics and poetry has been seen, conventionally, to be an uneasy fit, even though poets as early as Tu Fu in the 700s A.D. have claimed, for instance, “Nothing in ten thousand kingdoms but war,” and Adrienne Rich in this century, has seen “ghosts of war fugitive / in labyrinths of amnesia.” Requirements will include one fifteen-to-twenty-page paper, one fifteen-minute class presentation of a poem, one ten-minute pair presentation of a short critical essay, vigorous preparation resulting in spirited class discussion, and a final examination.


English 6420: Studies in Drama
Medieval Drama
Monday, 4:00 - 6:20; Dunbar 2202
Dr. Eve Salisbury
Fulfills: PhD-level prerequisite requirement in genre specific course; M.A. elective; for M.F.A. candidates--can serve as forms course requirement for secondary genre; for M.A. in English with an emphasis in teaching students–can serve as an elective

In this course we study the major genres of medieval drama—liturgical, mystery, morality, miracle, saints’ plays—as well as the more secular drama of the early modern period. Focusing primarily, though not exclusively on early English drama, we will read (and occasionally perform in class) select continental plays from the Fleury Playbook, select works of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim (the first woman playwright), Hildegard of Bingen (dramatist and twelfth-century Renaissance woman), the Digby Mary Magdalene, selections from the York, N-Town, Chester, and Townley mystery cycles, moral comedies—Everyman, Castle of Perseverance, Mankind, World and the Child, Wit and Science (young man falls in love with Lady Science), Johan, Johan (comic love triangle, husband /wife/ local priest), and two short “university” plays—Fulgens and Lucrece and Gammer Gurton’s Needle. We will also study the material aspects of play production and the larger social, political, and economic implications to be gleaned from the recently compiled Records of Early English Drama(REED).

Required Texts:

Bevington, David. Medieval Drama. London: Houghton Mifflin, 1975.
The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theater, ed. Richard Beadle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Supplemental materials will be made available in a course pack, and the use of online texts will be encouraged.


English 6660: Graduate Writing Workshop, Fiction
Mondays, 7:00 - 9:20; Brown 4017
Professor Don Lee
Fulfills: PhD or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

See catalogue description, contact instructor, or consult updated course descriptions online.


English 6660: Graduate Writing Workshop, Playwriting
Tuesdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 4025
Dr. Steve Feffer
Fulfills: PhD or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

See catalogue description, contact instructor, or consult updated course descriptions online.


English 6660: Graduate Writing Workshop, Nonfiction
Wednesdays, 7:00 - 9:20; Dunbar 2209
Professor J. D. Dolan
Fulfills: PhD or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

This is a graduate creative writing workshop. Students in this course will study the art and craft of creative nonfiction, with particular emphasis on structure, style, voice, character, development, setting, details, point of view–in other words, many of the techniques commonly associated with fiction writing. Students will also refine their skills in researching, interviewing, and editing.


English 6660: Graduate Writing Workshop, Poetry
Tuesdays, 7:00 - 9:20; Dunbar 2209
Dr. William Olsen
Fulfills: PhD or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

This class involves extensive criticism of student poems, in a traditional workshop environment. The workshop will also serve as a forum for discussions of aesthetics. Students may be encouraged to work with models, and the class will involve the reading and discussion of at least three books of contemporary poetry.


English 6690: Methods of Teaching College Writing
Thursdays, 4:00 - 6:30; Dunbar 4204
Dr. Joyce Walker
Fulfills: Teaching component for Ph.D. and M.A. students

Participants in this course will learn and share strategies for teaching first-year composition. We will consider a range of theoretical frameworks and practical strategies for college composition courses. Writing and research for this course will center on building a personal teaching philosophy and a set of usable strategies and plans for future teaching situations. Course activities will include reading responses, presentations, classroom assessments, and the creation of lesson plans and a teaching portfolio. In the fall of 2007, the class participants will also be working to create multimedia research narratives for use as teaching tools in first year writing courses. Instructors who are teaching college-level writing are the primary audience for this course, but any individual interested in college-level writing courses (whether currently teaching or not) is welcome.


English 6760: Introduction to Old English
Wednesdays, 4:00 - 6:45; Dunbar 2209
Dr. Jana Schulman
Fulfills: PhD English Language requirement; M.A. elective

In this course students learn the fundamentals of Old English grammar and language, read and translate prose and poetry that bring to life the Anglo-Saxon period, and examine the historical and cultural forces that shaped the language and literature.

This course is a prerequisite for English 6100, offered in the spring, which is a translation and discussion seminar. The topic for this course is not yet determined, but previous ones have included Beowulf (Spring 2003), Anglo-Saxon Heroic Literature (Spring 2005), Law and Literature in Anglo-Saxon England (Spring 2006), and Death in Anglo-Saxon England/Old English Literature (Spring 2007).

Doctoral students who take the year-long sequence and complete each semester with a grade of “B” or better may use this to fulfill their foreign language requirement.

Note: Readers should consider all course descriptions and booklists to be tentative and are encouraged to confirm all times and locations before attending class.


Department of English
6th floor Sprau Tower
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5331 USA
(269) 387-2572 | (269) 387-2562 Fax