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 2010 Courses

English Major Core Courses

ENGL 281.01: Literature in History I: BCE–1700 MWF 8:00, Bates

ENGL 281.02: Literature in History I: BCE–1700 MW 6:00, Charlebois

ENGL 282.01: Literature in History II: 1700–1900 TTh 2:00, Richardson

ENGL 282.02: Literature in History II: 1700–1900 MWF 12:00, Wooley

ENGL 283.01: Literature in History III: 20th Century MW 2:40, Richardson

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

ENGL 304.02: Methods in Literary Studies TTh 2:00, Chandler

NEW in 2010! An excellent choice for sophomore majors:

ENGL 204.01: Reading and Writing in the English Major TTh 2:00, Click

ENGL 204.02: Reading and Writing in the English Major TTh 10:00, Nelson

100 & 200 Level Literature

ENGL 106.01: Introduction to Literature: TTh 10:00, Cognard-Black

ENGL 106.02: Introduction to Literature TTh 12:00, Coleman

ENGL 106.03: Introduction to Literature MWF 2:40, Charlebois

ENGL 235.02: Novels and Narratives of American Slavery MWF 9:20, Wooley

In this course, we will explore representations of American slavery.  We will begin with the slave narratives of the antebellum era, focusing on well-known accounts by former slaves like Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass.  We will then consider both novels and short stories about the slave system written from a variety of perspectives, both before and after the Civil War. The final section of the course will take up more recent novels that focus on slavery.  Throughout, we will attend to how these works reflect and challenge cultural assumptions about race, while also providing a space for American writers to work out conflicted ideas about the history of slavery in the United States and its impact on how we understand “American” ideals like freedom and liberty. Course readings may include works by Jacobs, Douglass, William Wells Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Chesnutt, Joel Chandler Harris, William Stryon, Toni Morrison, Edward P. Jones, Octavia Butler, and Sherley Anne Williams.

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

This course may be used to fulfill the requirements of an AADS minor.

ENGL 235.01: Mysteries of Identity MW 6:00, Wilson

From ancient times to the present, from East to West, this course looks at how people have imagined the nature of identity.  Works might include the Bhagavad Gita, Kenko’s Essays in Idleness, Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy,  Isak Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales, R.K. Narayan’s The Guide,  Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, and Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain.”  

This course satisfies the General Education requirement in Literature and the Core Curriculum requirement in Cultural Perspectives. This course is crosslisted with ASIA and may be counted towards an ASIA minor or major. Prerequisite: ENGL 102, CORE 101, or CORE 301

300 & 400 Level Literature

ENGL 355.01: British Modernism MWF 1:20, O'Sullivan

"On or about December, 1910, human nature changed," said Virginia Woolf. She was being more than a little tongue in cheek—and yet, writers in the British Empire in the first half of the Twentieth Century did express a powerful sense that an old order, and perhaps even an old way way of being human, had passed or was passing. They responded to this transition with a bewildering range of approaches. In fiction, we’ll look at modernist experiments with multiperspectival narration and stream of consciousness, such as Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and excerpts from Joyce’s Ulysses. But we’ll also expand our definition of modernism by looking at novels like E.M. Forster’s Howards End and Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier, which seem more conventional as narratives but represent rethinking of old social conventions and identities. In poetry, we’ll see radical departures from established forms (in Mina Loy, for example) but we’ll also see sustained interest in formal rigor (in poets such as W.H. Auden).  There will be three formal papers and a reading journal.

Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor. English 283 recommended.

ENGL 355.02:  Fantasy Literature TTh 10:00, Bates


The course will dip into various points of England’s centuries-long fascination with fantasy, starting with Chaucer’s incursion into the world of faerie, moving on to William Shakespeare’s The Tempest,perhaps stopping at Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock, and then moving full bore into the rich 19th century where we may look at the Gothic revival (probably as it shows up in the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and John Keats), Charles Dickens’ interest in fairy tales (especially those of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen), the emergence of “nonsense” (Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear), the use of Greek mythology by Pre-Raphaelite poets and painters, and Christine Rossetti’s Goblin Market.  We will spend two or three weeks on Victorian and Edwardian children’s literature (such as Kipling’s Jungle Books and Just So Stories, James Barrie’s Peter Pan, Kenneth Graham’s The Wind and the Willows, and works by George MacDonald) and finish up examining how such “sword and sorcery” writers as C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and J. K. Rowling draw on English fantasy traditions.  To better understand the significance of fantasy we will be drawing on such theorists as Tzvetan Todorov (the nature of the fantastic), Sigmund Freud (his theory of the uncanny), Carl Jung (archetypal dream symbolism), Joseph Campbell (the journey of the hero), and Bruno Bettelheim (the uses of enchantment).  

Prerequisites: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor. 

ENGL 365.01: Civil Rights Literature TTh 2:00, Coleman

This course introduces students to poems, short stories, novels, essays, and plays that specifically address the most transformative social movement of twentieth-century America.  Students will discover how the literature of the period reflects the complex and often tumultuous social climate of the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s.  Students will critically engage perspectives on the relationship between social equality and cultural production by conducting research, writing essays, and presenting their conclusions orally during the course of the semester. Readings will consist of works by James Baldwin, Sam Greenlee, Lorraine Hansberry, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, Malcolm X, and others.

Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor. English 283 recommended.

This course may be used to fulfill the requirements of a Democracy Studies or AADS minor.

ENGL 380.01: Dante and Eliot  TTh 12:00, Wilson


A comparative study of affinity and influence focusing upon the modern poet T.S. Eliot and the medieval poet Dante, whom Eliot calls the greatest influence upon his work. 




Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor.

ENGL 390.01: Sealed with a Kiss: The Literary Letter TTh 12:00, Cognard-Black

As Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler argue in their book, Letters of the Century:  America 1900 – 1999, letters “witness and fasten history, catching events as they happen….They give history a voice.”  This course considers the genre of the letter in light of Grunwald and Adler’s notion that the letter both observes and fixes history.  Specifically, looking at letters from Anglo-America across the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we will examine how the letter functions as one of the primary literary genres, one that encompasses everything from forging individual relationships to creating nation-states, from articulating private thought to fomenting public discourse, and from conveying factual information to becoming the fundamental basis of the Anglo-American novel.  As such, this course will look at letters in two senses—both as a discrete literary genre as well as “letters” as “literate culture.”  This dual focus means that we will read and discuss British and American epistolary novels from the Enlightenment through the present day (i.e., from Frankenstein to Everything is Illuminated); that we will read caches of actual letters by self-proclaimed “authors,” with a focus on letters about authorship and/or correspondences between authors; that we will also peruse letters by statespeople, especially letters that are about the creation or extension of the British or American nation-state; that we will consider the differences among handwritten letters and other mass technologies of written communication such as telegrams, emails, and text messages; and that we will write critically as well as think creatively about—and in the form of—letters.  Yet we will also discuss the cultural psychology of the letter, if you will—how it captures and contains human desire.  For we simply must talk about sensations such as Frank Warren’s Post Secrets books, the enduring interest humans seem to have in the love letter, our on-going fascination with stolen and lost letters, the fact that many people hold on to boxes of old letters long after the senders are dead, and why we are willing to pour money into archives that house “national letters” because we see them in some vital way as constituting a material repository of country, culture, and citizenship.  Letters articulate nations.  Letters articulate selves.  And, fundamentally, letters articulate relationships—since almost every letter is a vehicle between two parties, a writer and a reader.  In other words, this course will probe the letter in all its conundrums:  private yet public, insular yet shared, fixed yet fluid, both factual and fictional, pop culture and the highest form of art, a vehicle for dissent and yet also a container of collective idea or civic will.

Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor.


This course may be used to fulfill the requirements of a Democracy Studies minor.

ENGL 390.02: Poetry and Science TTh 10:00, Anderson


This class will allow us to explore the connections between the two disciplines--poetry and science--that have been understood by many writers and scientists as opposing endeavors. We will begin by considering the cultural implications of the terms “poetry” and “science” as they have appeared in American popular and literary discourse. From here, we’ll look at how modernist and Harlem Renaissance poets integrated and challenged scientific ideas from biology and physics; this study will foreground how US postwar and contemporary poetry formally engaged with both the promises and risks of borrowing from scientific disciplines such as botany, zoology, physics, ecology, chemistry, and genetics.  



Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor.

ENGL 400.01: The Female Coming-of-Age Novel MW 2:40, Feingold

The coming-of-age novel, or bildungsroman, explores a culture's most basic definitions of what it means to become an adult, an individual at once part of and independent from society. This experience of growing up is universal; the literary genre, though, traditionally examines the youth of a male European hero. In contrast, this class will explore patterns of female coming of age in literature. The syllabus interprets "coming of age" broadly, so we can explore the boundaries of the form: the reading list could include novels about middle-aged and elderly women, autobiographies, ensemble narratives, and potentially even graphic novels and film. Some common themes you can expect to encounter are mother-daughter and sister-sister relationships, conflicts between sexuality and independence, and links between gender and racial or national identity. Authors are likely to include Austen, Alcott, Woolf, Hurston, Sara Maitland, Marjane Satrapi, and Tsitsi Dangarembga.

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

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

ENGL 410.01: Faulkner, Cather, Hurston MWF 10:40, Chandler

Created by a people from their land and tales, regional literature evokes visions both geographical and human.  While the land is never separate from the story, questions arise as to source, mode, and inspiration.  Willa Cather claims that “The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman,” while William Faulkner laments the futility of chronicling a people and a land, asserting that “two hundred years had not been enough.”  Zora Neale Hurston dramatizes more than philosophizes.  Hurston’s more direct approach and emphasis on characters’ voices brings into consideration narrative style in the construction of regional qualities.  Focusing on the interplay of natural history and social history, this course will begin with these authors’ short stories and progress to longer fiction.  Novels will include Cather’s My Antonia and The Lost Lady, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom! and Hurston’s Seraph on the Suwanee and Their Eyes Were Watching God.  As a 400-level seminar, students should be prepared to encounter criticism and theory in their readings and incorporate them into writings and discussions.

Prerequisites: English 304 and one English 300-level literature course or permission of the instructor. If they have not done so already, students are encouraged to take ENGL 283 concurrently with this course.

ENGL 410.02: The Shelleys and the Godwins TTh 6:00, Richardson

In this course, we’ll read the work of a family of writers—William Godwin, his wife Mary Wollstonecraft, their son-in-law Percy Shelley, and their daughter Mary Shelley—who collectively wrote about most of the major philosophical and political concepts developed during the Romantic revolution (1790 1830+). In fact, these authors are responsible for originating many of these concepts, which changed western thought and still provide many of the assumptions, overt and otherwise, that underlie our culture.  Readings will include Godwin’s political-gothic novel Caleb Williams, Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women,  Percy Bysshe Shelley’s philosophical poems, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (which is more complex and interesting when read as the sum of her family’s influences).  Other readings will include literary-critical essays, especially of Frankenstein.

Prerequisites: English 304 and one English 300-level literature course or permission of the instructor, and the ability to spell "Wollstonecraft." English 282 highly recommended. Interested non-majors should have some background in Romantic literature or 18th-c philosophy.

Writing Courses

ENGL 101.01: Introduction to Writing MWF 10:40, O'Sullivan

ENGL 101.02: Introduction to Writing TTh 10:00, Click

ENGL 102.01: Composition MW 2:40, Gabriel

ENGL 270.01: Creative Writing MWF 9:20, Gabriel

ENGL 270.02: Creative Writing TTh 2:00, Anderson

ENGL 395.01: Topics in Writing: Advanced Fiction MWF 10:40, Gabriel


English 395 is an advanced course in the theory, practice, and reading of fiction. We’ll read a lot of (mainly) short fiction—both published work and our own exercises and short stories—for all the reasons people usually read: to be entertained, to be surprised or inspired, to learn about the world, to participate in our own print culture. But as writers of fiction, we will also be reading with one eye always peaking under the hood, attempting to glean what we can, to understood how and why an author employed a particular technique or device—and to what effect. Nobody, the truism goes, can teach you how to write: writers learn for themselves how to do it—from example (reading good work), from experiment and practice, and from feedback (listening to and responding to the comments of others). So, in a nutshell, those are things that will happen in this course.


Prerequisite: one 200-level writing course and/or the permission of the instructor. ENGL 270 strongly recommended. 

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.

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

The primary purpose of this course is to enhance the gifts you already possess with respect to creating and expressing poetry.  Our class will be guided by the fact that most successful poets read poetry and prose, write on a regular and disciplined basis, keep notebooks for jotting down ideas or comments about poetry, observe the social nuances of the world around them, and share drafts with fellow writers.  You, too, will cultivate these time-honored habits, in part by submitting and workshopping poetry on a weekly basis.  In doing so, you will become part of the informal community of active poets: students of life who relay their knowledge and experiences through carefully crafted lines and stanzas. In this intensive writing workshop you will learn to create, refine, and critique more constructively and deepen your relationship to the creative process.  The majority of class time will be spent discussing assigned readings and writings and experimenting with creative and imaginative techniques.

Prerequisite: one 200-level writing course and/or the permission of the instructor. ENGL 270 strongly recommended.

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 2009 Course Catalogue, available on line.