Undergraduate Courses Fall 2010

Undergraduate Courses Fall 2010

Department of English

Undergraduate Course Descriptions Fall 2010


4150: Literary Theory and Criticism

4840: Multi-Cultural American Literature for Children

4160/Honors 4200: Women in Literature

5300: Medieval Literature

4400: Studies in Verse

5300: Post-Colonial Literature

4420: Studies in Drama 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Fiction
4440: Studies in the Novel 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Nonfiction
4440: Studies in the Novel 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Playwriting
4520: Shakespeare Seminar 5740: Grammar in Teaching Writing
4720: Language Variation in American English 5830: Multicultural Adolescent Literature
4790: Writing in the Secondary School 5970: Studies in English
Gender, Race, and Youth in American Popular Narratives
4790: Writing in the Secondary School 5970: Studies in English
Literary Publishing
4800: Teaching Literature in the Secondary Schools  


English 4150: Literary Theory and Criticism 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:00 - 1:50; Dunbar 4204
Dr. Todd Kuchta

This course provides an introduction to literary theory and criticism from classical antiquity to the present day. We'll begin with a brisk survey of some of the most important ideas about literature from ancient Greece, the Renaissance, the eighteenth century, the Romantic era, the Victorian era, and the early twentieth century. From there on, the course will focus on the most significant and influential movements in contemporary literary theory: structuralism, post-structuralism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, gender and queer theory, postcolonial theory, and new historicism.

Theory has a reputation for being difficult—heavy on abstraction and short on concrete answers. In fact, this may seem more like a philosophy course than a literature course. So why take it? In addition to fulfilling Proficiency 2 (Baccalaureate Writing) in the General Education requirements, it will provide you with a new set of tools for thinking about literature (as well as history, politics, sexuality, society, individual identity, and a range of power relations). Theory is meant to push us beyond our commonplace ways of thinking, making us more self-conscious of our premises and assumptions about literature and the world. With dedication, patience, and plain old hard work, you should leave this course with a much more informed sense of how you read literature—and why you read it that way.

Prerequisites: At least two upper-division English courses. Requirements will likely include regular short response papers, two 5-page essays, and a mid-term and final exam.


English 4160/Honors 4200: Women in Literature 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:00 - 1:50; Lee Honors College 1020
Dr. Katherine Joslin

This is a course in literature written by American, British and Canadian women.  Over the course of the semester, we will consider the quality and character of female writing.  When pressed to explain why women had not produced a writer who was the equal of William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf pointed out that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”  To her mind, women writers were at a disadvantage because they historically had been relegated to a secondary economic status and deprived of a rigorous education.  The twentieth century, she hoped, would offer women a serious education as well as more privacy and greater time and money to pursue art.  The question at the heart of this course is what women have achieved as writers in the English language over the last two hundreds years.  We will consider, too, the idea of a female literary tradition.  The course will require you to write a researched essay on a female poet and take a midterm and final exam.


English 4400: Studies in Verse 
Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:00 - 11:50; Brown 3003
Dr. Elizabeth Bradburn

This discussion-centered course is a survey of lyric poetry in English, from the Renaissance to the present, with a focus on understanding the relationship between verse form (including the various formal strategies used in free verse) and the lyric voice. Writing assignments will include a short (5 pp.) essay analyzing a single poem, and a longer (12 pp.) researched essay on a group of poems. Our course text will be the Norton Anthology of Poetry, 5th edition. Students should plan to purchase the book; although we will not read every poem in the anthology, some assignments will require browsing the collection as a whole.


English 4420: Studies in Drama 
Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:00 - 1:50; Sangren 2201
Ms Alisha Siebers

Studies in Drama covers a wide range of plays from around the world through lecture, discussion, attendance of campus plays, and student presentations and performances.  Readings cluster together older classics with newer plays so that we can examine how contemporary writers engage with intellectual and theatrical history.  We will emphasize that plays are skeletons of performances, exploring in class the variety of ways these scripts could be enfleshed into full productions.  In this writing intensive course, students will be involved in substantial projects that will consider how they would bring these scripts to life.


English 4440: Studies in the Novel 
Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:00 - 11:50; Brown 3017
Dr. Cynthia Klekar

This course studies the development and diversity of the novel as a literary form. Emphasis will be on the novel from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century. Attention shall be paid to the critical and theoretical bases of interpretation. This course is approved as a writing-intensive course which may fulfill the baccalaureate-level writing requirement of students’ curriculum.


English 4440: Studies in the Novel 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:00 - 5:50; Brown 4045
Dr. Jon Adams

The WMU undergraduate catalog describes English 4440 as:

The study of the development and diversity of the novel as a literary form.  Emphasis will be on the novel from the eighteenth- to the early twentieth-century.  Attention shall be paid to the critical and theoretical bases of interpretation.  This course is approved as a writing-intensive course which may fulfill the baccalaureate-level writing requirement of the student's curriculum.  Prerequisites: Two courses that count toward the English major at the 300-level.

We’ll fulfill part of this description by studying theories of the birth and rise of the novel and several early, influential novels.  Many novels that we’ll read, however, will be 20th Century novels, as we explore the influences of critical theory and modernism/post-modernism on contemporary novels.  Requirements: weekly reading responses, two essays, one revision, and a final exam. 

AUTHOR                     TITLE                         PUBLISHER  ISBN
Auster, Paul                Oracle Night                Picador           0312423667
DeFoe, Daniel              Robinson Crusoe        Dover              0486404277
Didion, Joan                 Democracy                 Vintage           0679754857
Fielding, Henry             Joseph Andrews         Dover              0486415880
Ford, Ford Madox         The Good Soldier        Dover              0486419215
Hawthorn, Jeremy        Studying the Novel    Hodder Arnold 0340887877
Hawthorne, Nathaniel  The House of the       Dover              0486408825
                                         Seven Gables
Morrison, Toni             Paradise                      Plume             0452280397
O’Brien, Tim                In the Lake of the Woods Penguin      0140250948
Pynchon, Thomas       The Crying of Lot 49     HarperPerennial 0060931671
Roy, Arundhati          The God of Small Things HarperPerennial 0060977493

English 4520: Shakespeare Seminar 
Mondays and Wednesdays, 2:00 - 3:50; Brown 4045
Dr. Margaret Dupuis

This advanced Shakespeare class will focus on only four of his plays, but will dig deeply into the historical, cultural, religious, publishing, and theatrical background of each work.  We will also take a look at the stage and film history of these plays and ultimately students will produce four short DVDs of scenes from the works we have examined closely during the semester.  The course will also incorporate film adaptations, expert speakers, and fictional accounts relating to the plays.  The goal for this course is for students to immerse themselves in four plays by the man who is arguably the world’s greatest playwright.  English 4520 fulfills the Baccalaureate Writing Requirement for English majors.  Prerequisites: English 1100 or English 2520.


English 4720: Language Variation in American English 
Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:00 - 11:50; Brown 3045
Dr. Lisa Minnick

From the catalog: English 4720 is the study of regional and social varieties of American English from sociolinguistic perspectives, focusing on the forces that influence different types of language variation. It examines issues of linguistic bias and offers a multi-cultural perspective on the role of language in daily life. 

Course description, purpose, and objectives: In this course, we will discuss the theories and practices of language variation research, particularly as applied to American English. In doing so, we will consider approaches to the study of language variation, with attention to key figures, studies, and methodologies. We will discuss the functions and effects of dialectal variation, and how factors such as geography, ethnicity, gender, social status and other extralinguistic variables interact with language and contribute to variation. We will also explore how popular perceptions and attitudes contribute to the differential valuation of American English varieties and the effects of these valuations. Finally, students will learn the skills and practices of linguistic research and language description and apply these skills to original research projects.


English 4790: Writing in the Secondary School 
Thursdays, 5:00 - 8:30; Brown 3017
Ms Amanda Stearns-Pfeiffer

English 4790 is designed to prepare pre-service secondary English educators in the teaching of writing.  It will give prospective English teachers some intensive instruction in ways to write and ways to teach writing at the middle and high school levels.  Students can expect to gain a better understanding of their own writing processes and develop as a writer, learn and try out new techniques for teaching writing in various contexts, and consider current issues under national discussion in public schools and how those issues affect the ways they teach.

The course will be based on the principles of “Best Practices in writing;” we will talk extensively about Best Practice methods.  English 4790 is designed in accordance with the NCTE English Language Arts ‘Standards in Practice’ Series and the Michigan Department of Education’s Standards for English Language Arts.  This class leads to certification in secondary English (grades 7-12) as described by the Michigan Department of Education.


English 4790: Writing in the Secondary School 
Mondays and Wednesdays, 2:00 - 3:50; Brown 3037
Dr. Ellen Brinkley

In English 4790 we’ll consider how writing has been taught historically and examine how today’s best teachers and researchers teach and work with student writers. The class is designed in alignment with Michigan’s English Language Arts High School Content Expectations and with Michigan’s high-stakes ACT and MME assessments. We’ll conduct research that involves middle- and high school English teachers and/or students, and teach each other a range of classroom strategies and structures that can support and strengthen writing. All our 4790 materials, class sessions, research and activities are designed to prepare you to teach writing within the context of an English class and to use writing to teach courses across the curriculum. For more information, contact ellen.brinkley@wmich.edu.


English 4800: Teaching Literature in the Secondary Schools 
Mondays, 4:00 - 7:20; Brown 3037
Dr. Karen Vocke

English 4800 is a capstone course which considers fundamental questions of why and how to teach literature; we will also focus on recent waves of reform, reader response, cultural studies, and the impact of the internet. Using both reader response and cultural studies approaches, we will examine the ways that culture and literature intersect to inform--and transform--our practice. We will use a thematic approach to explore a variety of themes in a problem-posing, student-led format.  Of special emphasis in this section of 4800 are the following: examining the reading process—how effective readers engage texts and use strategies to make the most of their reading experiences; understanding the history, current state, and influence of the English literary canon; examining issues of censorship, and designing curriculum and lessons sensitive to students of diverse abilities and backgrounds.

A variety of technologies are examined in this class: digital storytelling, website creation, wikis, webquests, and podcasting, to name a few. Guest speakers will include area teachers and administrators.

For additional information, contact Dr. Karen Vocke at Karen.Vocke @wmich.edu


English 4840: Multi-Cultural American Literature for Children 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:00 - 5:50; Brown 3037
Dr. Elizabeth Amidon

Course Description:

This course focuses on developing an understanding of American cultural diversity through multicultural oral and written literature for young people.  Attention will be paid to developing criteria for selecting and evaluating literature which reflects our multi-cultural heritage, provides positive vicarious experiences, and explores universal values, and to achieving balance in selecting such literature for elementary and middle school classrooms and libraries. 

This course fulfills a General Education requirement in Distribution Area III - The United States: Cultures and Issues.

Required Texts:

Because this course covers a wide variety of materials that have not been brought together in any one textbook, you are expected to raid area bookstores and libraries for your weekly readings.

There is no required text book for this class; we will create our own text. 

There will be additional novels required for this class.  You will get a specific list as each assignment is given.


There will be a series of Short Papers (or homework assignments) to be handed in on the various topics presented during the course of the semester. 

There will be a major project and a group report.  You will have a wide variety of topics and formats for presentation to choose from for these assignments. 

Major Project (your choice of a research paper, annotated bibliography, or thematic unit/lesson plans) should be approximately 10-12 pages.  You will be encouraged to choose and investigate a topic that appeals to you.  The format for presenting your research may be varied.

English 5300: Medieval Literature

Tuesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 3030
Dr. Eve Salisbury

Did medieval people stay in one place?  Did they move beyond the city gates, the cloistered abbey, and/or the castle moat?  This course focuses on medieval travel narratives and travel compelled by mercantile desire, exploration, crusade, pilgrimage, and the promise of conquest and monetary gain.  The Travels of Marco Polo, the Book of John Mandeville, theBook of Margery Kempe, Prester John’s letters, Chaucer’s Squire’s Tale, the Romance of Alexander, selections from the Arabian Nights, Middle English romances, Bevis of Hamptonand Floris and Blancheflour, transport us from Mongolia to Africa, from the Middle East to East Anglia, from otherworlds inhabited by dragon ladies and dog-headed men to familiar realms of pilgrims, pardoners, and plowmen.  Literary and literal journeys such as these carry us into the unfamiliar worlds of the medieval imagination to reveal the reciprocal nature of global storytelling.  Waldo’s Medieval Travel Writing database, a collection of manuscripts dating from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, will provide additional resources for our study.


English 5300: Post-Colonial Literature
Thursdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 2037
Dr. Mustafa Mirzeler

Writing about post-colonialism and literature, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, one of the greatest African novelists, suggests that in moments of change, when new societies arise from the old ones, powerful members of the new society often impose silence on the population by taking away certain human rights, such as the right to organize and the right to express political opinions.  Such acts, however simultaneously give voice to the oppressed population, and this includes storytellers, writers and artists (1998: 26-28).  Political rulers and others have throughout history sought to tame the tongue of the African storyteller and the writers, but success in such endeavors is only sporadically successful, is never long-lasting (Scheub 1996: XV).  The African storytellers fuse ancient ideas, motifs, and images of the past with the emotionally felt experiences of the members of their audiences as they persuasively provide new contexts, meaning, and insights to society’s contemporary problems.  Storytellers and writers work the images of their tradition to transform the tale into a symbol of the collective voice around which the members of the society could be mobilized for social and political change.

This course gives voice to the African storytellers who are seldom heard from outside of their villages as well as the internationally recognized novelists.  Important changes in the lives of the African people came about not only through colonization of the continent, the development of the post-colonial nation states, the introduction of wage labor and modernity, but also by new world order, new forms of political violence and terrorism which have altered the core of the African societies.  In contrast to the changes relating to modern nation states which devalued women’s power and authority, and hindered their mobility, new form of terrorism have increased young men’s power and authority and enhanced their mobility and international networking abilities.  One of the themes that will dominate the class discussion is the impact of the new form of international violence and terrorism which impacted people’s daily lives, altered gender relations, and transformed the meanings of death and violence.  When we analyze the stories of these storytellers and writers, we can see how the narrative of the storytellers gives voice to alternative discourse and becomes an integral expression of the oppressed, serving the imagination and the creation of a new societies and landscapes, engendering new memories from those of the past.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Fiction
Tuesdays, 6:00 - 9:30; Brown 3003
Dr. Jaimy Gordon

See catalog description or contact instructor.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Nonfiction
Mondays, 6:30 - 9:50; Brown 3003
Professor Richard Katrovas

This course will take the form of a traditional creative-writing workshop in which student texts are closely critiqued and edited.  Though there will not be a textbook for this course, the professor will assign readings, relative to the critiques of student work, that may be easily accessed on the internet.

Though students may submit either fiction or nonfiction, they are encouraged to offer for scrutiny both fiction and nonfiction texts; indeed, most critiques will center on a semester-long conversation regarding the structural, existential, historical and ethical differences and similarities between the two genres.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Playwriting
Wednesdays, 6:00 - 9:30; Brown 3017
Dr. Steve Feffer

This is a workshop in the writing, critical reading and presentation of original drama.  We will spend most of our time in class on the presenting and workshopping of your work.  However, we will also have a few classes where a portion of the session will be devoted to playwriting exercises that will help you develop your existing work, start something new, or to integrate into your own writing process.  Additionally, we will have a couple of days of “ice breaking” and additional play development work.  Most weeks you will be assigned readings in contemporary drama for consideration of its structure, style, and theatricality, as well as other elements.  The emphasis in the class will be the process by which your playwriting ultimately is about writing theatre.  To this end: We will work with actors and directors who will assist you with the readings, staged readings or productions of your work—as elaborate or basic as you need—as well as taking part in the discussion of it in order to introduce you to the process by which through performance, drama emerges as theatre.


English 5740: Grammar in Teaching Writing 
Mondays, 6:00 - 9:30; Brown 3045
Dr. Ellen Brinkley

Many English language arts teachers today have had relatively 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 examine key research studies that have influenced the teaching of writing and grammar. We will examine NCTE statements and state mandates (MEAP and Michigan English Language Arts Content Standards and Expectations) and explore a range of grammar-related classroom strategies and structures that can support and strengthen student writing. We will learn from each other, and produce position papers, curricular plans, and/or articles suitable for publishing. For more information, contact Ellen.Brinkley @wmich.edu


English 5830: Multicultural Adolescent Literature
Tuesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Dunbar 2210
Dr. Gwen Tarbox

This course draws upon a variety of fields – cultural studies, youth studies, and literary history – to explore contemporary multicultural literature about and for young adults.  As part of our discussion, we will ask the following questions:

  • What are the characteristics of contemporary multicultural literature?  Why should it or should it not be studied separately from, say, the Bildungsroman or mainstream adolescent literature?
  • Who are the key critics who write about multicultural literature for or about adolescents?  What are the conventions of critical works that treat multicultural authors, texts, and issues? 
  • What are the themes that have emerged in the last 20 years regarding multicultural literature for or about adolescents?

Participants in the course will discuss, on average, one short novel per week and complete the following assignments:  a semester essay; mid-term and final examinations; a blog entry; and periodic in-class writing assignments designed to encourage reflection on the texts and ideas generated during class discussion. 

Tentative Text List:

Abdel-Fattah, Randa.  Does My Head Look Big in This?  New York:  Scholastic, 2007.  ISBN: 978-0439922333.

Alexie, Sherman.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.  New York:  Little, Brown and Co., 2007.  ISBN:  978-0316013697.

Alvarez, Julia.  Before We Were Free.  New York:  Laurel Leaf, 2002.  ISBN:  978-0440237846.

Beah, Ishmael.  A Long Way Gone:  Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.  New York:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007.  ISBN:  978-0374531263. 

de la Peña, Matt.  Mexican WhiteBoy.  New York:  Delacorte, 2008.  ISBN:  978-0440239383.

Hidier, Tanuja Desai.  Born Confused.  New York:  Scholastic, 2002.  ISBN:  978-0439510110.

Kass, Pnina Moed.  Real Time.  New York:  Graphica, 2004.  ISBN:  978-0618691746. 

Myers, Walter Dean.  Monster.  New York:  Amistad, 2001.  ISBN:  978-0064407311. 

Na, An.  Step from Heaven.  New York: Penguin, 2001.  ISBN:  978-0142500279.

Yang, Gene Luen.  American Born Chinese.  New York:  Square Fish, 2007.  ISBN:  978-0312384487. 

English 5970: Studies in English

Gender, Race, and Youth in American Popular Narratives
Wednesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 4035
Dr. Ilana Nash

This course will focus on the subject of “coming of age” in American narrative culture of the late 19th through late 20th centuries.  We will consider such questions as what it means to be American, and how the coming-of-age process parallels our ideals of national identity; how the maturation process is influenced by ideologies of gender, race, and age; and how Americans’ ideas of youth and adulthood have changed over time.

To address these questions, we’ll combine literature, popular fiction, history texts, film, and television.  Students will read selections from Mark Twain, Booth Tarkington, J. D. Salinger, Louisa May Alcott, Richard Wright, and Sandra Cisneros, among others.  Our visual texts will include seminal films and television series such as Rebel Without a Cause,The Patty Duke ShowFreaks and Geeks, and many others, including little-known gems from bygone eras.  Students will have the opportunity to write an original research paper focusing on any aspect of age, race, and gender, as studied in the course.


English 5970: Studies in English
Literary Publishing
Mondays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 4030
Professor Jay Nicorvo

Not since the days when a German goldsmith and printer revolutionized publishing—and helped usher in the Renaissance by unknowingly improving upon a system of moveable type that had existed since the Eleventh Century—has the activity of producing material for distribution to the public been so drastically altered by a technological advance.  As the printed word makes way for the pixelated word, literary publishing faces another reinvention, if not another renaissance.  But just like the photograph didn't put an end to the canvas—despite the death knells—neither will the screen spell doom for the page, even if it ultimately improves upon it.

In this class, we will explore the inseparable history and technology of literary publishing.  We will practice the trade of publishing and the craft of editing.  You will each subscribe to one literary magazine and make a presentation on it; likewise with a few titles from one independent press.  You will write a medium-length research paper on a historic aspect of literary publishing, such as: BÏ Shçng and his movable-type press made from Chinese porcelain in the 1040s; the publication of Lolita by Olympia Press (the publisher that would later publish Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto) and the subsequent copyright lawsuits that lasted decades; Lawrence Ferlinghetti's launching the publishing arm of City Lights; Barney Rosset and the obscenity trials of Grove Press; the Woolfs' founding of Hogarth Press.  You will write and revise a few book reviews and submit them to literary journals.  You will come up with a business plan for a press or print magazine, complete with budget.  You will take an open-book copyediting and fact-checking exam.  Using the WordPress platform, you will each launch an online literary magazine consisting exclusively of public-domain content.  Required books (or, when available, online subscriptions!) are The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition; the CLMP Literary Press And Magazine Directory 2009/2010 and Pocket Pal: A Graphic Arts Production Handbook, plus a course packet and handouts. 

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