Graduate Courses Summer 2009

Graduate Courses Summer 2009

Department of English

Graduate Course Descriptions - Summer 2009

Summer I 2009

5220: Studies in American Literature 5970: New Play Project
5400: Contemporary Literature 6800: Advanced Methods in Teaching Literature

Summer II 2009

5550: Major Authors
Hitchcock and Authorship
6970: Studies in English
Third Coast Writing Project
6100: Studies in Medievalism  

Summer I

English 5220: Studies in American Literature 
The Language of American Literature 
Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 3045
Dr. Lisa Minnick

In the Language of American Literature, we will consider the relationships between linguistics and literature, exploring the functions and effects of literary dialect and other literary-linguistic devices and features in 19th- and 20th-century American literature.

Using computational and other methods, we will explore the ways that literature can add to our knowledge about language use and about linguistic variation and change among real speakers, as well as the ways that a linguistic-analysis approach can open works of literature to new levels of interpretation.

Students will design and conduct an original analysis of literary works applying methods learned in class. Students who are creative writers are encouraged to experiment with the theories and methods of literary-linguistic analysis in relation to their own original texts. No prior knowledge of linguistics, literary stylistics, or computational text analysis is assumed.

Authors whose work we will consider may include Stephen Crane, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Laurence Dunbar, June Jordan, Charles W. Chesnutt, and Wallace Stevens. There will also be extensive reading on theoretical and methodological issues.

For graduate students, this course fulfills the Ph.D. requirement for English language or linguistics course OR for American literature II (but not both); M.A.-level elective.  (Graduate students are advised to check with Dr. Schulman or Dr. Kuchta for confirmation of the American literature II option.)

English 5400: Contemporary Literature 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 3048
Dr. Jon Adams

Description (from the Undergraduate/Graduate Catalog):
Readings in representative writers who have come to prominence chiefly since 1945.

We’ll focus this broad description by examining “postmodern” novels and theories of the postmodern.  Many postmodern theorists will claim that the novel is a ‘dead’ genre, all new (and hence, “novel”) ideas and/or stories having been already exhausted.  Novelists of the period appear to disagree.  But because “postmodern,” aside from ‘contemporary,’ is the only far-reaching label commonly used for the period, we “go with what we have,” as Joan Didion writes.  Nevertheless, we will actively contemplate the efficacy of the moniker as a label for the works and their craft, as an aesthetic, and as what Frederic Jameson calls “a periodizing concept”.  Together, we’ll generate ideas about what’s next for writers and the novel, for critics and aesthetics, and, by extension, for the act of reading and the discipline of English studies.

Cooper, T.                               Lipshitz 6, or Two Angry Blondes
Didion, Joan                            Democracy
Doctorow, E.L.                        The Book of Daniel
Hawkes, John                           Death, Sleep, and the Traveler
Pynchon, Thomas                     The Crying of Lot 49
Robbe-Grillet, Alain                  Jealousy
Swift, Graham                 Waterland

Theorist/Theories (short selections from):
Barthes, John                            “The Literature of Exhaustion”
                                                “The Literature of Replenishment”
Baudrillard, Jean                       The Precession of Simulacra
Haraway, Donna                      “The Cyborg Manifesto”
Hutcheon, Linda                       “Historiographic Metafiction”
Lyotard, Jean Francois The Postmodern Condition
White, Hayden             “The Historical Text as Literary Artifact”
Woods, Tim                             Beginning Postmodernism

English 5970: New Play Project 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:00 - 11:50 and Tuesdays, 8:00 - 10:00; 
Gilmore Theatre Complex 1119
Dr. Steve Feffer

What: Now in its sixth year, the Western Michigan University New Play Project has developed and presented almost seventy plays over five summers to standing room only audiences in the York Arena Theatre.  Twelve-fifteen short plays will be competitively selected to be developed for a public staged reading in the York in a class with a company of actors and directors from the Theatre Department.  Each play will receive two weeks of rehearsal for the script-in-hand reading.  Additionally, while the playwrights are not in rehearsal on their own plays, they will serve as dramaturgs, stage managers, and, sometimes, actors on the other readings.  Other classroom activities include workshops on other ways that plays are made and activities that examine the new play rehearsal process.

When: Summer I. Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:00 AM - 11:50 AM, with public readings and rehearsals Thursdays 8 pm - 10:00 pm.

How: All interested playwrights or creative writers or theatre artists—graduate and undergraduate—should submit two copies of a completed short play (10-30 pages, standard play format) to the mailbox of Steve Feffer in the English Department office on the sixth floor of Sprau Tower by 5 PM, Friday, March 13.  Between 12 and 15 plays will be selected from among these submissions.  The selected playwrights will then be enrolled in ENGL 5970.

Please note: Playwrights currently enrolled in 3680 or have only taken 3680 (and not 5660 or another New Play Project) are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED by the professors to submit a ten minute play.

Who: The course will be team taught by Prof. Mark Liermann, Theatre Department, and Dr. Steve Feffer, English Department.

Why: The course will provide the unique opportunity for playwrights, actors, directors, and dramaturgs to explore the process by which new plays are developed and produced through the rehearsal process, as well as through full company classroom discussions, readings, and devisings.  Plays from the New Play Project have gone on to publication and further local, regional and national productions.

For more information please contact Dr. Steve Feffer at

English 6800: Advanced Methods in Teaching Literature 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 3037
Dr. Allen Webb

This graduate seminar will address the theory and practice of the teaching of literature.  We will examine the historical development of literature curriculum and teaching in English, the inclusion of multicultural and cultural studies materials and perspectives, the relationship of literary scholarship and theory to pedagogy, instructional models and best practices (including how to lead dynamic discussions), the use of internet technology and resources for teaching in the 21st century, and presenting and writing about the teaching of literature at professional conferences and for professional journals.  The course is very helpful for graduate students seeking employment as teachers or currently employed as teachers. 

Graduate students in Creative Writing, Literary Studies, and English Education are welcome.  The class is appropriate for students teaching or intending to teach literature at university, college, community college, or secondary school levels.  The class will be taught in a wireless laptop classroom and will experiment with a variety of new technologies.  Students will publish a professional, interactive, teaching website modeling reflective curriculum development for a course that they are teaching, or would like to teach.  Students are expected to join the National Council of the Teachers of English or the Modern Language Association and to present at a professional conference. 


Summer II

English 5550: Major Authors
Hitchcock and Authorship 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 2037
Dr. Casey McKittrick

Although it may seem counter-intuitive to discuss the notions of authorship and authorial vision in a highly collaborative medium like film, cinematic scholarship has been intermittently preoccupied with such a discussion since the early 1950s.  In this course, we will perform a brief historical survey of Auteur theory, from its roots in the Cahiers du Cinema with Francois Truffaut to the American popularization of the theory in the 1960s by Andrew Sarris.  In doing so, we will examine some of the theory’s more provocative and controversial claims: 1) That directors, not screenwriters, are the real “authors” of film; 2) That there are not good and bad films; only good and bad directors; and 3) That successful auteurs have either a consistent theme or a distinctive style that permeates their body of work in an easily recognizable way.

This seminar focuses on the iconic status of Alfred Hitchcock as a director, as a public figure, and as the subject of much auteur criticism, in order to pose and answer some of the following questions:  How did Hitchcock’s early training in German Expressionism and Soviet Montage influence his ideas of filmmaking?  What recurring stylistic techniques and thematic preoccupations constitute Hitchcock’s “thumbprint” or “signature” upon his films?  Does Hitchcock’s “signature” change or evolve over time?  Did Hitchcock’s issues with control hinder or engender his status as auteur?  When contemporary works are described as “Hitchcockian,” what auteurist signifiers are at work in determining cinematic Hitchcock-ness?  Finally, we will ask:  What are the benefits and drawbacks of considering films and filmmakers through the auteurist lens?  What critical blindnesses and insights ensue? 

SOMETHING TO CONSIDER:  Even if you leave this class wholly unconvinced of Auteur theory as a worthwhile theoretical concept, the foundational questions in this class nevertheless have a great heuristic value in that you will become conversant with the fundamentals of film theory and authoritative in matters of Hitchcock, his career, and his aesthetic.

Films:  The 39 Steps (1937); Rebecca (1940); Shadow of a Doubt (1943); Notorious(1946); Strangers on a Train (1951); Rear Window (1954); The Man Who Knew Too Much(1956); Vertigo (1958); North by Northwest (1959); Psycho (1960); The Birds (1963);Marnie (1964).

Texts:  The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, Donald Spoto; The Hitchcock Romance, Lesley Brill;The Murderous Gaze, William Rothman; The Women Who Knew Too Much, Teresa de Lauretis; The American Cinema: Directors and Directions,Andrew Sarris; excerpts fromHitchcock/Truffaut; essays by Francois Truffaut, Alexandre Astruc;  Jean-Luc Godard.

English 6100: Studies in Medievalism 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:00 am-11:30 am; Brown 2021
Dr. Richard Utz

Medievalism might be defined as the ongoing reception, academic and popular, of medieval culture in post-medieval times. As a phenomenon, at least from a Eurocentric perspective, it could be said to commence with Renaissance humanists’ invention of their own era as rebirthing the glory of Ciceronian Rome or Periclean Athens and their concomitant debasement of the period in between Early Modernity and Classical Antiquity as a mere medium aevum, a Middle Age. Medievalism ends, but then it never really does, with your muffler repair at Merlin’s, your drive by the Neogothic Water Tower, or your annual pilgrimage to the International Medieval Congress. In this interdisciplinary graduate seminar we will explore how various ideas and functions of the ‘medieval’ have evolved through the centuries and why the ‘Middle Age’ as a cultural signifier has been able to encompass these various, often mutually exclusive ideas and functions. Areas of inquiry may include textuality, authority, periodicity, pastism, presentism, reception, nationalism, memorialization,  musealization, sedimentization, and other concepts yet to be boldly neologized. Several experienced practitioners of medievalism from around the world will hopefully join us as ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ guests.

This class should be valuable to students of medieval studies as well as those interested in the early modern, modern, and postmodern readings of medieval culture. Participants interested in the seminar will be ready to engage with different modes of critical inquiry from Francis Petrarch through Umberto Eco, to participate actively in intellectually challenging seminar style discussion, and to research and write a substantial, original, and expertly edited research paper of publishable quality.

English 6970: Studies in English
Third Coast Writing Project 
Dr. Ellen Brinkley

For more information about applying to participate in Third Coast Writing Project programs, contact Dr. Ellen Brinkley, TCWP director, Ellen.Brinkley or 387-2581.

  • Improving Thinking and Comprehension Workshop (June 15-19, 2 grad credits available)
  • Writing 2.0 Workshop: Teaching Writing in the Digital Age (June 15-19, 2 grad credits available)
  • Invitational Summer Institute (June 22-July 17, 4-6 grad credits available)
  • Teacher as Writer Workshops: (2 grad credits available)
    • Teaching Writing through the Lens of Poetry (June 22-July 3)
    • Teaching Writing through the Lens of Narrative (July 6-July 17)
  • Connecting English Language Learners to Classrooms and the World 
    (June 29-July 1) (2 grad credits available, academic year follow up)

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