Undergraduate Courses Spring 2010

Undergraduate Courses Spring 2010

Department of English

Undergraduate Course Descriptions Spring 2010


4100: Special Topics: Holy Road Trips

5550: Major Authors: Chaucer

4150: Literary Theory and Criticism

5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Nonfiction

4420: Studies in Verse

5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Playwriting

4440: Studies in the Novel 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Poetry
4440: Studies in the Novel
4620 :Advanced Writing
4640: Professional Writing 5970: Studies in English: American Novel to 1865
4720: Language Variation in American English 5970: Studies in English: Blacks in Cinema
4800: Teaching Literature in the Secondary Schools 5970: Studies in English: World Englishes
4800: Teaching Literature in the Secondary Schools  


English 4100: Special Topics
Holy Road Trips: Medieval, Renaissance, and American Pilgrimages 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:00 - 1:50; Brown 4037
Professors Grace Tiffany and Eve Salisbury

From Chaucer’s THE CANTERBURY TALES to Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD, pilgrimage—the “holy road trip”—has inspired millions of literal and “armchair” travelers.  Some pilgrimages have been imaginary peregrinations, others, real journeys to sacred places like Compostela, Canterbury, Rome, Jerusalem, Mecca, Native American shrines, and even Elvis’s Graceland.  What prompts the journey?  Various and mingled motives: restlessness, pleasure-seeking, curiosity, greed, religious obligation.  Yet each real or imaginary journey has in some way expressed the spiritual yearning of the traveler.  This course addresses many kinds of pilgrimage, from the literal to the literary, from the visual to the lyrical, in the Middle Ages, the early modern period, and the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries in America.  As a class we will explore the ways in which both secular and spiritual impulses define the purpose and meaning of the “holy road trip.”

Required texts: Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales; Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well; N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain; Jonathan Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  Supplemental literary and other cultural materials will be provided by the instructors.

Assignments: two short papers (five pages each) and a journal to be kept throughout the duration of the course and handed in at mid-term and at the end.  There will also be an opportunity to come up with a pilgrimage of your own, either imaginary or literal, and describe it to your classmates at the end of the semester.  This course fulfills the baccalaureate writing requirement.


English 4150: Literary Theory and Criticism 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00 - 3:50; Brown 4030
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 4420: Studies in Verse 
Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:00 - 1:50; Brown 4037
Dr. Elizabeth Bradburn

In this course we will learn how to read, hear and respond to the lyric voice.  We’ll look at a survey of British and American poetry to become familiar with poetic forms and techniques, and will consider in depth book-length selections by Philip Sidney, George Herbert, Elizabeth Bishop and Louise Glück.  Requirements include participation in class discussion, 3 papers, a recitation, and a final examination.


English 4440: Studies in the Novel 
Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:00 - 1:50; Brown 4035
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, 12:00 - 1:50; Brown 4035
Dr. Jil Larson

Studies in the Novel is one of the university’s required baccalaureate writing courses.  These courses give you the opportunity to write intensively within your major and, as such, ENGL 4440 is designed to help you hone the skills you have been developing all along in your English courses.  It will also offer you in-depth study of a single genre, the novel, as well as subgenres within that larger category.  We will read American, British, and international novels that employ a wide variety of narrative techniques and imagine fictional worlds of all sorts.  Your writing will allow you to pursue your own particular interests in this literature and share your discoveries and insights with the rest of the class.  Although the reading list is still in flux, it is likely to include novels by writers such as Jane Austen, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, Franz Kafka, Joseph Conrad, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, Graham Greene, Jeanette Winterson, Italo Calvino, and Kazuo Ishiguro.


English 4620: Advanced Writing 
Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:00 - 1:50; Brown 1037
Mondays, 4:00 - 7:20; Brown 1037
Professor Jason Beaudin

A course for juniors and seniors which examines in detail the rhetorical strategies and structures found in digital media.  The course focuses on the critical analysis of conventions of digital interface and non-linear argumentative structures, with an emphasis on production of aware and adroit digital texts.  Includes instruction on and experience with industry-standard web design software such as Dreamweaver and Fireworks.


English 4640: Professional Writing 
Thursdays, 6:00 - 9:20; Brown 1037
Dr. Charlotte Thralls

Professional Writing provides practice in developing the forms and techniques of writing, editing, and researching required in business, industry, and government.  Students should take this course as their capstone experience in practical writing.  Prerequisite: two writing courses.  English 3050 (Practical Writing) recommended.

As a capstone to your classes (and experiences) in practical writing, this course is designed to help you move to the next level: either a career as a professional writer or a career that requires a high level of communication competence.  The course thus focuses on some of the knowledge and skills you’ll need to make this transition.

Through course projects, for example, you will have an opportunity to

1) Develop Professional Quality Projects that Demonstrate Your Communication Experience and Expertise. Here, you will gain experience with communication strategies (for example, adapting information to readers, using print and digital technologies, designing pages and documents, creating visual evidence and displays), important in workplaces and the professions.

2) Learn What It is Like to Do a Writing Project for a Client. Here you’ll get experience      in creating documents for actual organizations.

3) Develop Techniques for Effective Presentation of Your Writing Experience and Competence.  Here, you’ll learn how to create a professional portfolio—in either digital or print form—that synthesizes and articulates your knowledge and skills as a writer.


English 4720: Language Variation in American English 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:00 - 11:50; Brown 3037
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 4800: Teaching Literature in the Secondary Schools 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00 - 3:50; Brown 3037
Dr. Allen Webb

English 4800 is an exciting and important opportunity for English majors and minors in the secondary eduction curriculum to bring together their work in literature and education courses. The class is the capstone course in the program and often taken soon before intern teaching. English 4800 will ground students in traditional approaches to literature pedagogy while simultaneously focusing on recent waves of reform, reader response, cultural studies, and the impact of the internet. We will use a thematic approach to integrate these approaches as we explore a variety of cultural studies themes in a problem-posing, student-led format.

This course contends that the starting point for curriculum and teaching methodology for teaching literature is addressing what the literature is about, what it means as well as how it means, in historical, cultural and social contexts.

By focusing on difficult and potentially controversial cultural studies curricular themes during the student-led portion of the course, future teachers will gain understanding of issues involved in teaching literature at the secondary level, see the course syllabus at www.AllenWebb.net.

Class will be held in a new, wireless, laptop classroom in Brown Hall specifically designed for English education courses. This room will allow us to integrate technology into literature teaching in a "classroom of the future." Our class will be organized by our on-line syllabus that will also serve as an electronic, hyperlinked, textbook. All students will develop and publish their own teaching website, both a portfolio of work and a real-world working site for future teaching. 

A significant portion of the class will be student-led, as we explore the development of response-based, cultural studies literature teaching within the context of NCTE and the State of Michigan standards, content expectations, and model curriculums. Student groups will select topics addressing current and controversial themes such as literature and the Third World, literature and the environment (global warming?), literature and social class, literature and religion, literature and sexuality, literature and sexual orientation, literature and service learning, literature and the mass media, teaching Native American literature, literature and white priviledge, literature and the Middle East, literature and the Iraq War, etc. Expect to spend an additional twenty dollars on books, packets, and reading materials for each of the student-led units -- this reading will be announced throughout the course.


English 4800: Teaching Literature in the Secondary Schools
Thursdays, 6:00 - 9:30, Brown 3045
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 

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


English 5550: Major Authors
Chaucer and Late Medieval Culture 
Tuesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 4003
Dr. Eve Salisbury

As the “father of English poetry,” Chaucer contributes not only to the literature of Britain but to literary and social histories extending well beyond spatial and temporal boundaries, shaping modes of thought that reach into our present moment.  To get some sense of Chaucer’s influence in these fields of knowledge and experience, we read (and speak aloud in Middle English) The Canterbury TalesTroilus and CriseydeThe Book of the DuchessThe Parliament of Fowls,and some of the short poems.  We will ask questions about Chaucer’s characterizations, constructions of gender and class, the many genres in which he works, his poetic innovations, adaptations, and affiliations.  How do normative codes of behavior such as those implicitly and/or explicitly defined in chivalry and courtly love influence individual and group identities?  How does Chaucer’s work fit into and/or comment upon a vacillating and ever-expanding cultural milieu?  How does the notion of pilgrimage relate to other forms of medieval travel?  Since Chaucer often eludes definitive interpretations (one reason his work is still so intriguing to us), we may not come to any specific conclusions. Nonetheless, the process of reading, speaking, and interpreting these particular works promises to be engaging, enlightening, even entertaining.

Required Texts:
The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
A Companion to Chaucer, ed. Peter Brown. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2002.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Nonfiction
Mondays, 6:00 - 9:30; Brown 3017

Catalog Description: An advanced course in the writing of poetry, fiction, or drama, with class criticism of each student's writing.  The course may be taken more than once.


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 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Poetry
Tuesdays, 6:00 - 9:30; Brown 3017
Dr. Adam Clay

This is a workshop and conference course in the writing of poetry with emphasis on refinement of the individual student’s style and skills.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Fiction
Tuesdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 3048

Catalog Description: Any given section of this course will focus on either poetry, fiction, or drama.  Course organization will emphasize roundtable discussion of student writing.


English 5740: Grammar in Teaching Writing 
Mondays, 6:00 - 9:30; Brown 3037
Dr. Ellen Brinkley

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 won't provide quick and easy answers, but we will consider grammatical issues as they are viewed by the public and within the profession.  We'll consider how grammar has been taught historically and examine research studies that have influenced the teaching of writing and grammar.  We'll also examine NCTE statements and Michigan's k-12 English Language Arts Content 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 statements, curricular plans, and/or articles suitable for publishing.  For more information, contact Dr. Ellen Brinkley (387-2581, Ellen.Brinkley @wmich.edu).


English 5970: Studies in English
American Novel to 1865 
Tuesdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 3010
Dr. Philip Egan

This course will study American novels from the early republic to about the Civil War.  In addition to some of the well-known works of this period by Melville (Moby-Dick), Hawthorne (The Blithedale Romance), and H. B. Stowe (Uncle Tom's Cabin), we will sample several works from, among others, the sentimental, domestic, and captivity subgenres of narrative including: Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland; Catherine Sedgwick's Hope Leslie; Sara Willis Parton's (Fanny Fern's) Ruth Hall; and Rebecca Harding Davis's “Life in the Iron Mills.”  We may do others if time allows.  In order to give us a more complete picture of American novels of this period, students will also report on some outside works as well.


English 5970: Studies in English
Blacks in Cinema 
Thursdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 3017
Professor Dramane Deme

See course catalog or contact instructor.


English 5970: Studies in English
World Englishes 
Mondays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 3010
Dr. Paul Johnston

Over the last few centuries, because of colonialization and global political, economic and demographic developments, English has transformed itself from the language of a small but powerful island nation to a true global language, with its speakers adapting it to suit the local conditions of the societies that use it.  In this class, students will learn about the structure, origins, patterns of use, and language ecology/interplay with other languages in a number of differing types of Englishes, from the British dialects from which other dialects stem to settler's Englishes outside North America (Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) to varieties spread by the American and British empires and increasingly molded into true national or regional varieties (South Asia, Anglophone Africa, Singapore, the Philippines) to pidgin and creole forms of English that developed in plantation settings through extensive contact with a multitude of languages (Caribbean and West African pidgins and creoles; South Pacific pidgins and creoles).  Through this examination, students will experience the linguistic diversity that characterizes English and gain an appreciation for the adaptability and vivacity of the language, learning much about the interaction of language and society in the process.

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