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.

Spring 2010 Courses

English Major Core Courses

ENGL 281.01: Literature in History I: BCE–1700 MWF 10:40, Bates

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

ENGL 282.01: Literature in History II: 1700–1900 TTh 10:00, Wooley

ENGL 282.02: Literature in History II: 1700–1900 TTh 2:00, Richardson

ENGL 283.01: Literature in History III: 20th Century TTh 12:00, Coleman

ENGL 304.01: Methods in Literary Studies TTh 10:00, O'Sullivan

100 & 200 Level Literature

ENGL 106.01: Introduction to Literature: Nature MWF 8:00, Bates

ENGL 106.02: Introduction to Literature MWF 10:40, Chandler

ENGL 106.03: Introduction to Literature MWF 1:20, Hall

ENGL 106.04: Introduction to Literature MW 6:00, Wilson

ENGL 230.01: From Thoreau to Obama: Democracy, Civility, and Community in American Letters TTh 2:00, Coleman

This course satisfies the General Education requirement in Literature and the Core Curriculum requirement in the Arts. This course is crosslisted with DMST and may be counted towards a DMST minor. Prerequisite: ENGL 102, CORE 101, or CORE 301.

ENGL 235.01: Shakespeare, Sex, and Gender MW 2:40, Charlebois

Was Shakespeare a feminist? Was he “gay” or “bi”? What about all those cross-dressing drag queens? These questions are impossible to answer, not just because we don’t know much about Shakespeare’s biography, but because the very terms in which they are framed didn’t even exist four hundred years ago. One thing we do know is that Shakespeare and his contemporaries were as preoccupied with sex, gender, and desire as we are, although they expressed that preoccupation in language and within a cultural context strikingly different from ours. After exploring the spectrum of early modern desires in Shakespeare’s sonnets, we will go on to read eight plays, likely to include Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, The Winter’s Tale, Twelfth Night and As You Like It. We will read Shakespeare in light of English Renaissance attitudes about friendship, marriage, patriarchy, family, and the theater, always keeping in mind how these attitudes relate to and differ from our own.

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

ENGL 235.02: Mysteries of Identity TTh 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.


Summer Shakespeare!

In Summer 2010, students may take part in Shakespearean Studies in Britain, a study tour offered as both ENGL230 and ENGL355. As part of this tour, students will begin reading plays and having once-weekly meetings in the second half of spring semester. Click on Will for more information.

300 & 400 Level Literature

ENGL 355.01: Milton MW 6:00, Hammond

This course focuses on one of the most influential—and nowadays, least read—figures in British literature. Milton’s Classical learning, religious preoccupations, and linguistic virtuosity make him one of the most intimidating of the "high-canon" poets. Until fairly recently, familiarity with his poetry was virtually a mandated part of higher education. Because this is no longer the case, to read Milton closely is also to reflect on the course and processes of literary history. We will read his poetry within its historical contexts, but we will also—and inevitably—read it from our own perspectives. These two very different frameworks offer a bracing but sobering reflection on time, change, and literary fashion. A friendly warning: by signing up for this course, you are committing yourself to the close and careful reading of some very difficult texts. As with most hard things, however, the rewards will be as great as your effort.

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

ENGL 355.02: Renaissance Drama TTh 2:00, Charlebois

In this course we will study ten plays written by English Renaissance playwrights from approximately 1590-1633. Attention will be paid to how the theater as a controversial institution both reflects and participates in debates about hotly contested issues of the early modern period including sex, gender, marriage, politics, and religion. While the emphasis in the course will be on how the plays might be understood as cultural expressions of the English Renaissance, we will attend a live production, view a film adaptation, and experiment in the classroom with performance as means of exploring how dramatic literature is intimately linked to the stage. While we may study one Shakespeare play for purposes of comparison, the focus of the course will be on non-Shakespearean drama including plays by Kyd, Marlowe, Webster, Middleton, and Ford.

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

ENGL 355.03: The Romantics TTh 6:00, Richardson

This course will focus on the works of five poets—Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats—who created a poetic and philosophical revolution that is still the foundation of poetry written in English.   These writers forged a new kind of poetry to embody the political and social revolutions of the early 1800s. But they also mounted a deeper challenge to the Enlightenment’s primarily rational way of understanding the universe—what we now think of as the scientific world-view.

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

ENGL 365.01: Whitman, Dickinson, and the Politics of Contemporary American Poetry MWF 9:20, 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: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, 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 365.02: American Comedy: Humor and Sature in American Literature MWF 10:40, Click

This course provides a study of humor as it appears in representative non-dramatic works of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American Literature.  We will explore why we as Americans laugh, or, historically, why we have laughed, and whether there is a distinct entity known as American humor.  Thematically, the course traces the emergence and development of an ever-changing American character and identity as seen through the works of authors such as Benjamin Franklin, Washington Irving, Mark Twain, James Thurber, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Ken Kesey, and others.

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

ENGL 365.03: Contemporary Multicultural Voices: With or Against the Mainstream? TTh 8:00, Coleman

Toni Morrison once wrote, “There is something called American literature that, according to conventional wisdom, is certainly not Chicano literature, or Afro-American literature, or Asian-American literature, or Native American.”  Where, then, does one place the twentieth and twenty-first century literature produced by Latino/Hispanic, African-American, Asian-American, and Native American writers? Conventional wisdom has improved since Morrison’s statement and the population of the United States has become more diverse; however, there is still a tendency to marginalize writers from traditionally underrepresented communities.  This course will focus on writers who fall within these categories and who represent a multitude of American cultures.  We will pay special attention to the subject matter these writers choose and the aesthetics they employ.  For example, are the writings intended to be representative of specific communities or are they intended to be universal?  Are the works intended to be political, literary, or both?  What’s the difference?  Is it possible for a literary work to be political and “good” or does political literature fall into the realm of propaganda rather than art?  Are these writers attempting to “fit in” to mainstream culture or rejecting that culture in any way?  How do we define “American” or “mainstream American literature”?  In addition, how does a writer’s gender or sexual orientation, when paired with racial or ethnic identity, impact our expectations or relationship to the text?  Do we, as intelligent and informed readers, have certain expectations of writers from various communities?

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

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

ENGL 380.01: The Tale of Genji TTh 12:00, Wilson

A semester-long look at The Tale of Genji, the cornerstone of Japanese literature composed by a court woman named  Murasaki Shikibu in the eleventh century.  Known  (inappropriately but understandably) as the world’s first novel, the work employs the changing seasons as a metaphor for human destiny and expresses better than any work of literature the Japanese feeling for the inter-relationship of human life, art, and nature. Readings will include selected works influenced by the tale from the fifteenth through
the twentieth centuries.

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

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

ENGL 400.01: Film Genres TTh 12:00, Bates

We will study different film genres in this course, both mainstream Hollywood and interesting variants by foreign and independent filmmakers.  Particular emphasis will be placed on the horror, romantic comedy, action adventure, and crime genres.  Students will select their own genre for the final project.  The course requires participants to watch two films a week outside of class and read challenging theoretical material.

Prerequisites: English 304 and one English 300-level literature course or permission of the instructor. English 281 highly recommended.

ENGL 410.01: Black Intellectuals of Post-war America: Wright, Ellison, and Baldwin MWF 1:20, Nelson

Shortly before his death in 1987, James Baldwin said, “No true account really of black life can be held, can be contained, in the American vocabulary.”  In light of Baldwin’s pessimistic assessment, this class will examine the writings of three twentieth-century black writers -- Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin – that attempted to use a post-war American “vocabulary” to tell the story of “black life.” We will explore how these writers interrogated concepts such as “identity,” “race,” “blackness,” and “America” in order to make African-American culture visible to a mainstream (and often international) audience.  Moreover, we will look at how these writers theorized the role of the public intellectual and how they adopted this role in order to engage with the cultural and political issues of their time.  Texts will include: Native Son, Black Boy, White Man, Listen! and selected short stories by Richard Wright; Invisible Man and selections from Shadow and Act and Going to the Territory by Ralph Ellison; Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room and selected non-fiction essays by James Baldwin.

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

ENGL 430.01: Writing India, Writing Empire MW 2:40, Feingold

What happens when worlds collide? In this class, we'll study the particular collision created by the British colonization of India. We'll begin by looking at 18th & 19th-century British writings about India, among them travel narratives, imperial adventure stories, and colonial administrators' writings. The middle third of the class will look at the texts (fictional and non) of the Indian independence movement: how did Indian freedom fighters borrow from the language of British political philosophy? Where did they strike off on their own in opposition to their colonizers? How did they imagine the democratic state they were attempting to create? The final third of the semester will be devoted to the phenomenon of reverse colonization: fiction, film, and drama centered  on the ever-increasing Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi emigration to Great Britain. Along the way we'll be discussing food and fashion, class and religion, gender and sexuality. Authors to be studied include Kipling, Burnett, Forster, Kureishi, Stoppard, and Ali. No prior knowledge of Indian history required – but you may expect to learn quite a bit along the way.

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

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

Writing Courses

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

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

ENGL 102.03: Composition TTh 8:00, Covey

ENGL 102.04: Composition: Music TTh 6:00, Messenger

ENGL 201.01: Writing Arguments MWF 1:20, Click

Writing effective arguments involves understanding the rhetorical principles that aid and inspire an audience to believe a claim.  This course examines those principles in depth by studying what classical through modern rhetoricians, writers, and philosophers show us about writing effective arguments.  We will apply those principles by writing papers on various topics, most of which the student will chose. In addition to examining the argumentative essays, we will investigate how argument functions in poetry, dramatic literature, transcribed speeches, cartoons, and print advertisements.  Course requirements include writing four papers (5-8 pages each) and actively participating in discussion.  This course is open to students interested in improving their thinking and writing skills.

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

ENGL 201.02: Writing about Science TTh 2:00, Gabriel

This course will be an introduction to writing about the sciences for a general audience. We’ll analyze the way science is written about in the popular media (comparing, for instance, a scientific journal article to its representation in publications like New Scientist or The New York Times)—and we’ll try our own hand at converting scientific papers into news stories. The main project for the course, however, will be writing a science-based feature article or profile. This will most likely entail doing research and interviews in the field. In preparation for this project, we will look at examples of this sort of work from writers like Malcolm Gladwell, Diane Ackerman and David Quammen, paying close attention to the ways in which they bring science to life for non-scientists. Both science majors and non-science majors should feel equally comfortable in this course; that is to say, no specialized scientific knowledge is necessary. What will be necessary is a willingness to make sense of scientific research and a determination to “translate” that work in an engaging way for those not familiar with it.

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

ENGL 270.01: Creative Writing MWF 12:00, Hall

ENGL 270.02: Creative Writing TTh 10:00, Gabriel

ENGL 350.01: The Study and Teaching of Writing (Peer-tutoring) MWF 10:40, O'Sullivan

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

ENGL 395.01: Topics in Writing: Advanced Poetry MWF 12:00, Anderson

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

ENGL 395.02: Topics in Writing: Nature-Writing MW 2:40, Chandler

This class will provide you with the opportunity to develop and refine your writing skills.   You will have four months to immerse yourself in writing, reviewing, and reading what is emerging as an important and popular literary prose genre in America—the nature essay.  Writers such as E. O. Wilson, Sue Hubbell, Tom Horton, and Barbara Hurd pose questions that we will ponder: how humans negotiate their place in nature, how science relates to literary art, what ties there are between emotion and reason, wildness and civilization.  While we will turn to books and essays as models for content, form, and style, this is a writing course; that means that you will write or rewrite for every class meeting.  Writing will be our primary activity and the focus of our discussions.  Since this is a workshop, you will also be expected to comment constructively aloud on each other’s pieces.  And, since writing about the natural world must be based on your own experiences, past and continuing, you will keep a field journal of your nature observations, working to discover the value of your own perceptions through writing.

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

This course is crosslisted with ENST and may be counted towards an ENST minor.

ENGL 395.03: Topics in Writing: Advanced Fiction TTh 8:00, Cognard-Black

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 Fall 2009 Course Catalogue, available on line.