Books that Cook
Professor of English Jennifer Cognard-Black's new book, Books that Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal, is being published by NYU Press this August.

Program Information

Ben Click, Chair
Professor of English

Office staff: 240-895-4225

Alumni—where are they now?

Monica Powell

Monica Powell (class of 2011) graduated with an English major and a WGSX minor. She currently lives in Washington DC, where she works in theatre education with the Young Playwright's Theatre and the Shakespeare Theatre Company.


Student Spotlight

Maria Smaldone

Maria Smalldone finds doors opening for her in Oxford, while studying at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Fall 2009 Courses

English Major Core Courses

ENGL 281.01: Literature in History I: BCE–1700 MW 6:00, Wilson

ENGL 282.02: Literature in History II: 1700–1900 MW 2:40, Cognard-Black

ENGL 282.02: Literature in History II: 1700–1900 TTH 10:00, Cognard-Black

ENGL 283.01: Literature in History III: 20th Century TTH 12:00, Feingold

ENGL 283.02: Literature in History III: 20th Century TTH 2:00, Coleman

ENGL 304.01: Methods in Literary Studies MW 2:40, Chandler

ENGL 304.02: Methods in Literary Studies TTH 2:00, Wooley

100 & 200 Level Literature

ENGL 106.01: Introduction to Literature: Poetry MW 2:40, Richardson

ENGL 106.02: Introduction to Literature: Poetry TTH 2:00, Richardson

ENGL 230.01: History of American Film MWF 8:00, Bates

We will study American film in the 20th and early 21st centuries, starting with the silent era and running through the golden age of Hollywood (the thirties through the fifties) and the Hollywood Renaissance (the late sixties and seventies) and continuing up to the present. We will look especially at how American cinema has responded to moments of crisis and social change: to rising racism and immigrant xenophobia (Birth of a Nation); the Roaring Twenties (It, Steamboat Bill Junior, The Black Pirate), the Great Depression (King Kong, She Done Him Wrong, City Lights, It Happened One Night, Citizen Kane); World War II and its aftermath (It’s a Wonderful Life, The Big Sleep); the anti-Communist paranoia of the 1950’s (High Noon, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dr. Strangelove); the civil rights and black power movements (The Heat of the Night, Do the Right Thing); the counterculture movement, the Vietnam war, and the Reagan reaction (Bonnie and Clyde, Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Rambo II); feminism, the backlash against feminism, and third wave feminism (9 to 5, Die Hard, Thelma and Louise), the gay rights movement; the culture wars and rise of the Christian right; and 9-11. Students will be required to watch two films a week outside of class in addition to keeping a journal and doing the reading.

This course satisfies the General Education requirement in Literature and the Core Curriculum requirement in the Arts. Prerequisite: ENGL 102, CORE 101, or CORE 301.

ENGL 230.02: Detective Fiction MWF 1:20, Nelson

This course will focus on detective stories and novels in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. More specifically, we will examine the ways in which these stories both reflect and engage with their historical, political, and cultural contexts. This class will also consider how particular literary and intellectual movements (e.g. romanticism, modernism, postmodernism) shape the detective story form. Syllabus may include works by authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, Paul Auster, James Ellroy, and Laurie King.

This course satisfies the General Education requirement in Literature and the Core Curriculum requirement in the Arts. Prerequisite: ENGL 102, CORE 101, or CORE 301.

ENGL 230.03: American Plays & Playwrights, 1945–Present MW 6:00, Charlebois

In this course we will study plays by several American dramatists who address significant cultural, political, and aesthetic concerns of the post-World War II era. While much of our discussion will be on written scripts themselves, we will constantly keep in mind how issues of performance and theatricality bear on the written text and are essential to the nature of drama. We will study film adaptations of several of the plays and attend at least one performance in Washington, D.C. (a performance that, you should note, is required). In addition, students will have the opportunity to produce a scene from one of the plays we study with the goal of deepening their understanding of drama as a performative medium. Plays may include the following: Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire; Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman; Lorraine Hansberry, Raisin in the Sun; Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; John Guare, The House of Blue Leaves; David Mamet, Sexual Perversity in Chicago; Ntozake Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf; Sam Shepard, True West; August Wilson, The Piano Lesson; David Henry Hwang, M Butterfly; Tina Howe, Painting Churches; Beth Henley, Abundance or Crimes of the Heart; Paula Vogel, Baltimore Waltz; Tony Kushner, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Part One: Millennium Approaches; Margaret Edson, W;t; Suzan-Lori Parks, Topdog/Underdog; John Patrick Shanley, Doubt.

This course satisfies the General Education requirement in Literature and the Core Curriculum requirement in the Arts. Prerequisite: ENGL 102, CORE 101, or CORE 301.

300 & 400 Level Literature

ENGL 355.01: Restoration and 18th-Century Couples Comedy MWF 10:40, Bates

We will look at relationship comedies from the British Restoration and 18th century, concluding in the Regency period with Jane Austen’s first novel. The works will include bawdy poetry by “the libertine,” John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester; Restoration comedies by William Wycherley (Country Wife) and Aphra Behn (The Rover); poetry by Alexander Pope (Rape of the Lock), Jonathan Swift (the bedroom poems), and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; neo-Restoration comedies by Oliver Goldsmith (She Stoops to Conquer), Thomas Sheridan (School for Scandal), and Hannah Cowley (The Belle’s Stratagem); and novels by Henry Fielding (Tom Jones), and Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility). Under girding the course will be two theories of comedy, the hard view of Thomas Hobbes (comedy as attack) and the soft view of the Earl of Shaftesbury (comedy as sympathetic identification). Since comedy today continues to fall into these two camps, we will compare the above works with contemporary television and film comedy.

Prerequisite: One 200-level ENGL literature course or permission of the instructor. ENGL 281 recommended.

This course is crosslisted with WGSX and may be counted towards a WGSX minor.

ENGL 355.02: The Emerging Novel MWF 12:00, Chandler

In this course we will investigate the question “When was the novel born?” We will do this by exploring early British fiction primarily from the eighteenth century, including such authors as Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, Fanny Burney, and Ann Radcliffe. For many prose narratives from this time period, “novel” is a convenient label subsequently assigned. Agreed-upon conceptions of what we now consider the novel were not actually in the minds of either writers or readers until the early nineteenth century when our final two writers—Sir Walter Scott and Jane Austen—flourished. As a way to focus our exploration, we will closely investigate the mixed modes of narration along with changing conceptions of authorship and authority. Why did expectations for prose fiction seem to change in the middle of the century? Why, by the end of the century, did something called the novel clearly exist in the minds of readers and writers? By the early nineteenth-century, what conventions had been established for the genre?

Prerequisites: one 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.English 282 recommended.

ENGL 355.03: Cool Britannia TTH 6:00, Feingold

Tea and Crumpets? Fish and Chips? If this is what comes to mind when you think of England, perhaps you’d better think again. Contemporary Great Britain is a melting pot of individuals from dozens of former colonies: in the markets of London, you’re as likely to find mangos as apples; and, in a recent poll, Britons nominated chicken tikka masala their favorite national dish. Along with this culinary and ethnic diversity comes a literary one, in which writers such as Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy, Neil Gaiman, Hanif Kureishi, and Ian MacEwan have struggled to capture the realities—and the fantasies—of British life on the cusp of a new millennium. Looking predominantly at novels and films, this class will explore the shifting sands of British identity over the past 25 years, investigating the ways that literature both reflects and contributes to the formation of the nation. Issues to be considered include the roles of race, religion, class, and gender in the construction of national identity; the ways historical and fantasy fiction have been deployed to explore the present and the real; the place of London as a national (and imperial) metropolitan centre; and possible causes for the recent proliferation of zombie movies.

Prerequisite: One 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.English 283 recommended.

This course is crosslisted with WGSX and may be counted towards a WGSX minor.

ENGL 365.01: Whitman, Dickinson, and the Politics of Contemporary American Poetry TTh 12:00, Anderson

What does poetic form have to do with politics? You may think the answer is “nothing”—or that the political dimension of poetic form is a relatively recent invention. In reality, though, two canonical nineteenth century U.S. poets have long been the at the center of a discussion of politics and poetry. In this class, we’ll use the poetry of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson to illuminate the politics of form as it has appeared in the many of the major movements in contemporary U.S. poetry. By examining the love and the loathing these two poets have inspired in over a century of creative and critical writing, we’ll ask how these poets’ work focused arguments about what conventional and experimental poetic forms have to do with cultural, racial, sexual and national identity. In the second part of the course, we’ll be looking at how contemporary poets have found ways to follow and break with the traditions established by these two influential poets.

Prerequisite: One 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor. English 282 and/or English 283 recommended.

This course is crosslisted with WGSX and may be counted towards a WGSX minor.

ENGL 380.01: Asian Literature TTH 10:00, Wilson

A selection of modern and ancient works from India, China, and Japan, chosen not only for the central significance they hold for the cultures that produced them but for their ability to speak cross-culturally. Works will be discussed in comparison not only to possible Western counterparts but to the differing Asian traditions, and the modern and ancient manifestations of those traditions, that inform them.

Prerequisite: One 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.

This course is crosslisted with Asian Studies and may be counted towards an Asian Studies major or minor.

ENGL 390.01: Modernism and World War I TTH 12:00, O'Sullivan

As the social, cultural and technological forces that would shape World War I gathered force in the early 1910s, many of the same forces began to find expression (and critique) in literary modernism. Examining literature from the early 1910s through the 1920s and beyond, we will study how American and British modernists anticipated, reflected and memorialized the war. In particular, we will focus on ways in which the war influenced ideas about individual and cultural memory. Literary readings will probably include poetry by T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, and fiction by Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rebecca West and Virginia Woolf. We will also draw upon primary and secondary historical readings pertaining to the causes and effects of the war. Course requirements will include online journal entries, two exams, two short papers developing close readings, and a longer paper interpreting a modernist text or texts in context.

Prerequisite: One 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor. English 283 recommended.

ENGL 390.02: Mythology in Literature TTH 6:00, Richardson

There are many ways to study mythology: “scientific,” anthropological analysis of the common human experiences implied by the myths of technologically primitive peoples; psychological theories about archetypal myths in the individual or collective subconscious, and Myth Criticism in literary studies, which claims that all views of the world (including science) are imperfect fictions we create to give more structure to the universe than it has. All these methods reduce what were once unique, specific, and consciously-elaborated traditions of distinct cultures into one universal set of similar “myths”—and then treat these myths as something primitive that we, as advanced post-Enlightenment people, find either false or less self-aware than our own world-views. This course treats mythology in a different way. It explores how several well-developed mythic traditions in the West—the Celtic/Irish, the Nordic, and above all the Greek—have been used in major literary works to represent world-views different from, and not necessarily less true than, the schizophrenic science-versus-subjective-imagination “myth” under which the West has been laboring since the Enlightenment. Put simply, myth is metaphor on a cosmic scale, which reveals the way the forces in the universe (the gods) are understood and the relation of humans (the epic and tragic heroes) to that universe. We will attempt to see the world through truly different perspectives that nevertheless still underlie our own. Works studied will include The Iliad (in Fitzgerald’s poetic, not prose, translation), the Oresteia, Medea, The Bacchae, a bit of Greek sculpture, Lady Gregory’s translation and compilation of the ancient Irish Cuchulain stories, her friend W. B. Yeats’ poetry and plays about Cuchulain, and (relatively) short selections from the Wagner Ring operas (Die Walkure). Assignments will include journals due for each class session and two roughly 5-10 papers (probably one close reading, one involving some context/research).

Prerequisite: one 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor.

ENGL 410.01: Spenser's Faerie Queen TTH 2:00, Charlebois

When Edmund Spenser died in 1599, he had only completed half of the twelve “books,” of his sixteenth-century epic The Faerie Queene, yet its 36,000 lines of intricate, rhyming verse arguably constitute the greatest achievement in the English language. (To give you a sense of scale, Milton’s Paradise Lost is 10,000 lines of unrhymed iambic pentameter). Combining complex and subtle allegory with fantastic tales of mythical adventure, each of the poem’s completed six books is devoted to illuminating the nature of a particular virtue — Holiness, Temperance, Chastity, Friendship, Justice, or Courtesy — which is variously tested and embodied by a knight who is aided in his (or her!) hour of need by King Arthur, who is on his own quest in search of the Faerie Queene. While reminiscent of Arthurian romances of the middle ages in both style and structure, The Faerie Queene is, however, very much a chronicle of the early modern English imagination, embedded in the politics of the Protestant Reformation and the court intrigue of Queen Elizabeth I, Spenser’s patron. In this class we will read the poem in its entirely, attending to its multiple levels of signification, while examining the classical philosophy of Aristotle and Plato and the literary theory of Spenser’s contemporary, Sir Philip Sidney, in order to illuminate further the distinctive nature of Spenser’s poetic project..

Prerequisites: English 304 and one English 300-level literature course or permission of the instructor. English 281 highly recommended. This class, combined with another upper-level English course, satisfies the senior requirement in English for students not completing an SMP.

ENGL 420.01: Rhetoric and Poetics MW 2:40 , Click

Lean a little closer to this description—the title of this course is not as foreign to you as it may sound. In the broadest sense, rhetoric can be defined as “language and its persuasive uses”; poetics can be defined as “the aesthetic principles governing the nature of any literary form.” Do such broad definitions allow us to talk rhetorically about poetry or theories about poetry? In this course, let’s explore the historical relationship between rhetorical theory and poetics to find out. Along the way let’s do some of our own rhetorical criticism of poetic discourse. Maybe we’ll use Aristotle, Horace, Longinus, and Cicero to examine the Greek tragedy Antigone. Maybe we’ll look at the revival of rhetoric that occurred in the Renaissance to see what it tells us about some of the literature of that time. Or maybe we’ll see if twentieth-century rhetoricians can help us unpack the powerful texts of a Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, or Toni Morrison. Our choice of poetic discourse will depend upon the particular interests of those present in the class—though I do have suggestions to propose.

Prerequisites: English 304 and one English 300-level literature course or permission of the instructor.

This class, combined with another upper-level English course, satisfies the senior requirement in English for students not completing an SMP.

ENGL 430.01: Sympathy and Sentiment TTH 10:00, Wooley

What is the relationship among literature, feeling, and social change? In this course, we will develop an understanding of how nineteenth-century American writers used sympathy and sentiment to address both ethical questions and sociopolitical issues. Throughout, we will pay close attention to the ways that American writers—both those who are identified as “sentimental” and those who aren’t—engage with the idea of “sympathy” in an attempt to work out the relationship between the individual and the body politic. Students should expect to become familiar with the critical debates surrounding the sentimental, and to read a number of nineteenth-century sentimental works by authors such as Lydia Maria Child, William Wells Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Jacobs, Helen Hunt Jackson, and Frances Harper. Many of the novels by these authors are long and can feel too didactic to modern readers; thus, our task will be to complicate our understanding of how such texts work and to unpack what’s at stake in their narrative strategies. We will also look at how authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, and Charles Chesnutt similarly—or not so similarly—present ideas about sympathy.

Prerequisites: English 304 and one English 300-level literature course or permission of the instructor. ENGL 282 is highly recommended.

This class, combined with another upper-level English course, satisfies the senior requirement in English for students not completing an SMP.

This course is crosslisted with WGSX and may be counted towards a WGSX minor.

Writing Courses

ENGL 101.01: Introduction to Writing MWF 9:20, Gabriel

ENGL 101.02: Introduction to Writing MWF 10:40, Click

ENGL 101.03: Introduction to Writing MWF 12:00, Click

ENGL 101.04: Introduction to Writing TTH 10:00, O'Sullivan

ENGL 102.01: Composition: Gangsters MWF 9:20, Nelson

ENGL 102.02: Composition: Gangsters MW 10:40, Nelson

ENGL 201.01: Feature Writing TTH 10:00, Bates

The goal of the course will be to produce thoughtful, insightful, and engaging human- interest stories. To that end, we will work on idea generation, writing strategies, interview techniques, research, and final polishing. There will also be an emphasis on peer editing. Essays will be written with an eye toward St. Mary’s publications and other outlets. For further craft ideas, each student will also study the work of an essayist of his or her choosing.

Prerequisite: ENGL 102, CORE 101, or CORE 301.

ENGL 270.01: Creative Writing MWF 1:20, Gabriel

ENGL 270.02: Creative Writing TTH 8:00, Anderson

ENGL 395.01: Topics in Writing: Advanced Fiction MW 2:40, Gabriel

Prerequisite: one 200-level writing course and/or the permission of the instructor.

ENGL 395.02: Topics in Writing: Creative Non-Fiction MW 6:00, Hammond

Creative nonfiction, a relatively new and increasingly popular prose genre, is (as the name suggests) both “creative” and “nonfictive.” At root, creative nonfiction involves an imaginative engagement with the real. That is, it combines the shaping presence of the imagination with a deep and honest exploration of factuality. The imaginative element demands a strong and consistent point of view, which is why most creative nonfiction is autobiographical in mode. But in its factual dimension, creative nonfiction goes beyond memoir and autobiography in order to make a point, convey information, and/or deliver an insight. The course offers an extensive study of and intensive workshop in the genre.

Prerequisite: one 200-level writing course and/or the permission of the instructor.

ENGL 395.03: Topics in Writing: Advanced Poetry TTH 8:00, Coleman

In this intensive poetry writing workshop, advanced poets will learn to create, refine, and critique more constructively, deepen their relationship to the creative process, and read collections by emerging and established contemporary poets and critics. Most of class time will be spent discussing student writing or experimenting with creative/imaginative techniques, but coursework also requires attending outside readings, maintaining a notebook or journal, conferencing with the instructor, and preparing a final portfolio of well-polished poems. This course will also explore the use of traditional and modern forms of poetry and contemplate the multiple ways in which poetry can be experienced, inhabited, and comprehended.

Prerequisite: one 200-level writing course and/or the permission of the instructor..

Cross-listed Classes

Beginning in Fall 2009, the English department will no longer be cross-listing classes originating in other departments. We will still, with permission of the department chair, be offering major credit for some classes previously cross-listed. For a listing of possible classes, please see the English major description in the Fall 2009 Course Catalogue, available on line.