Fall 2020 Course Descriptions

ENGL 216: Topics in Literature – MW 3:40-5:25pm – ADMN 204A

Prof. Solveig Robinson
Literature of the Raj

This is a theme-driven introduction to college-level literary analysis and interpretation, focusing on India under the rule of the British Empire—a period referred to as “The Raj.” We will explore the themes of imperialism and colonialism from the 19th century to the 1947 Partition that created modern India and Pakistan. Through close readings of works by British, Indian, Pakistani, and Bengali artists in different genres (poetry, short and long fiction, nonfiction prose, and film), we will examine how literature changes and develops in response to cultural and social forces. A variety of writing assignments will complement the readings by providing opportunities for careful analysis of form and content. This course fulfills the LT and CC GenEd requirements.

ENGL 221: Research and Writing – TR 9:55-11:40am

Prof. Adela Ramos
Why Look at Animals?

As the course title suggests, ENGL 221 is about learning to write about research. It is meant to be an extension of the first-year writing course and a transition into field-specific research-based writing. Please note that this course is not an introduction to research and writing in any one discipline. Instead, we will focus our attention on moves and strategies that tend to work across a range of writing contexts as we investigate a central interdisciplinary theme: animals. In particular, we will think critically and with compassion about the place we assign to animals when we capture them in stories, photographs, film, dioramas, aquariums, zoos, and shelters to investigate a set of urgent questions: How are our relationships with animals shaped by art and science? How do institutions teach us to value certain kinds of animals while ignoring others? Do the stories we tell about animals bring us closer or pull us further apart from them? Can we avoid anthropomorphizing animals? We will explore these questions by reading theory from several disciplines, looking at art and photography, visiting the PLU’s Burton Ostenson Natural History Museum and the Point Defiance Zoo. The course is divided into three main units: Storytelling Animals; Picturing Animals; Capturing Animals. Each unit will provide you with the writing and research habits you need in order to develop a final place-based research paper.

ENGL 227: Intro to Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction – WR – MW 6:00-8:00pm – ADMN 208

Prof. Rick Barot

This is an introductory course in the writing of creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. During the semester, we will read works in the three genres, in tandem with writing exercises that students will engage in. In our analysis of the course texts, we will be governed by the idea that creative writing has as much to do with craft (which can be defined as the writer’s sense of technical possibilities and constraints) as it does with expression (defined as the writer’s set of feelings and experiences and imagination). We will spend substantial class time workshopping the pieces generated by students, with an eye towards helping these pieces achieve clarity, meaning, and beauty. We will also examine how works of creative writing generate emotional, aesthetic, philosophical, and political meanings—that is, the role of art in the world.

ENGL 234: Environmental Literature – LT – MWF 1:45-2:50pm – ADMN 204A

Prof. Nathalie op de Beeck

In this course, we examine literary representations of nature and environment, and we explore the ways in which humans define themselves through those representations. We will learn to differentiate between nature writing, environmental writing, and ecocriticism, and we will think critically about categories including human, nonhuman, and posthuman. Our readings take us across genres and include poetry, the literary essay, reportage, speculative fiction/sf/fantasy, memoir, and multimedia. We will study in particular the intersections between environmental justice and social justice globally and here at home in the Pacific Northwest. This course invites Literature and Writing majors and minors, Environmental Studies majors and minors, and General Education students seeking the LT element.

ENGL 251: British Traditions in Lit – LT – TR 11:50am-1:35pm – ADMN 214

Prof. Christian Gerzso

“London has been the site of rich literary and artistic production throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, from its time as the center of the British Empire to the multicultural, neoliberal city of today. In this course we will explore how the changing face of London has shaped the imagination of literary writers and artists since the early 20th century, including changes in architecture, transport, and communication technologies, as well as immigration from the former colonies, gentrification, and changing class, gender, and race relations. In turn, we will see how these writers and artists have shaped our views of London, showing us compelling and unexpected images of the city, challenging its exclusionary spaces and practices. We will focus on the ways novelists have depicted the metropolis and contrast these representations to poetry, painting, and film: from Virginia Woolf’s tour of interwar London in her novel Mrs. Dalloway to George Orwell’s totalitarian dystopia in Nineteen Eighty-Four to Samuel Selvon’s account of West Indian immigration in The Lonely Londoners to Alfonso Cuarón’s neoliberal dystopia in his film Children of Men to Zadie Smith’s recent exploration of the intersections of class, gender, and race in her novel NW.

ENGL 300: English Studies Seminar – TR 1:45-3:30pm – ADMN 211B

Prof. Jenny James

ENGL 301: Shakespeare – LT – MWF 11:15am -12:20pm – ADMN 204A

Prof. Nancy Simpson-Younger

Ben Jonson once wrote that Shakespeare “was not for an age, but for all time.” Is this true? To what extent does Shakespeare’s work help us wrestle with timeless problems, and to what extent is it rooted inextricably in the playwright’s own historical, social, and cultural circumstances? As we delve into these questions, we will explore what it meant to be human in the sixteenth century and what it means to be human now. Specifically, we’ll ask difficult questions about hierarchies, families, governments, gender, acting and disguise, deciding what’s right, dealing with history, and processing ideas through language. Since this is an upper-level course, we’ll also read and respond to critics who address these questions, asking how their work can shed light on perceptions of humanness in early modern literary culture. By the end of this course, you should be able to read Shakespeare with confidence, engaging actively with his ideas, and asking big questions about them in a way that shows a robust critical awareness of both history and text.

ENGL 311 (PPAP 301, COMA 321): The Book in Society – MW 1:45-3:30pm – ADMN 214

Prof. Solveig Robinson

What exactly is a “book”? Who produces it, who reads it, and why? In this course we will examine the many ways in which books have been central to modern society: how they have informed, entertained, inspired, irritated, liberated, and challenged readers. We will also look at the processes by which books are produced and distributed to readers, and how those processes shape both the ideas that are contained in books and the ways in which readers respond to them. (This is one of the required core courses for the PPA Minor. It can also be taken for English, Communication, or GSRS elective credit, or to fulfill the “Literary Innovations and Historical Contexts” line in the English/Literature emphasis or the “History and Theory” line in the English/Writing emphasis.)

ENGL 320 (ENGL 425): Intermediate Creative Nonfiction – TR 6:00-8:00pm – ADMN 211B

Prof. Wendy Call

This course builds upon the skills and background developed in English 220, Introduction to Creative Nonfiction. We will delve more deeply into the history, contemporary practice, and craft of creative nonfiction. In this course, we will employ the elements of fiction (e.g. character, story structure, set scenes, and narration) as well as poetry (precision of language, lyricism, compression) to create works of literary nonfiction—works based on memory, research, reporting, fieldwork, and (most important) fact. We will read and study a wide range of literary nonfiction, including personal essay, political essay, place-based writing, short memoir, reportage, and lyric essay—both contemporary, from the early 20th century, and foundational works that are more than a millennium old. You will develop and polish three works of creative nonfiction, each 4 to 6 pages long, in at least two different subgenres of creative nonfiction, as well as a short audio essay.

ENGL 329: Intermediate Fiction Writing – WR – TR 6:00-8:00pm – ADMN 211A

Prof. Jason Skipper

ENGL 348: Lit, Cul, Power – LT, A or C – MWF 9:15-10:20am – ADMN 204A

Prof. James Albrecht
Topic: Studies in 19th Century American Women Writers

“In the nineteenth century, American women from diverse backgrounds became published authors at an unprecedented rate. Writing novels, poems, autobiographies, journalism, and political tracts, they asserted their voices in the public sphere, championing reform on a wide range of issues: the abolitionist fight against slavery and post-war efforts to combat white-supremacy; the struggle for women’s rights and suffrage; the dilemmas of assimilation facing ethnic and immigrant groups; and late-century concerns over the ills of an increasingly urban and industrial society. They contested the socially constructed ideal of “true womanhood,” while also affirming what Margaret Fuller called “femality” as a radical source of cultural power; they wrestled with the intersections between gender and the structures of racial and economic inequality (what today we call “intersectionality”); and they considered whether women could attain fulfillment—artistic, economic, spiritual, and sexual—within the bounds of traditional society. We’ll start with works by pioneering antebellum writers Lydia Maria Child, Margaret Fuller, and the radical-abolitionist Grimke sisters—culminating with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery blockbuster, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (the best-selling book of the century), and Harriet Jacobs’ masterful anti-slavery memoir, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. We’ll study works by trailblazing African-American activists of the post-Reconstruction era—Sojourner Truth, Frances Harper, Ida B. Wells, and Pauline Hopkins. We’ll also read memoirs by Native American writers Zitkala-Sa and Sarah Winnemucca, and short stories by Chinese-American author Sui Sin Far. We’ll explore the gender-transgressive energies in Emily Dickinson’s poetry (alongside works by lesser-known poets). Lastly, we’ll read works by turn-of-the- Century reformers Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Jane Addams, and conclude with Kate Chopin’s 1899 proto-feminist classic, The Awakening. Engaging these remarkable American women writers of the 19th Century will give you a deeper understanding of our literary history—and of the cultural roots of today’s social justice movements.

ENGL 360B: Studies British Literature – LT – TR 8:00-9:45am – ADMN 208

Prof. Adela Ramos
Mary Wollstonecraft to Mary Shelley, 1792-1818

In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, a radical and hopeful argument to grant women their status as human beings and citizens. In 1818, her daughter, Mary Shelley, published Frankenstein to denounce human failure to build an inclusive and just society. What happened between 1792 and 1818 for mother and daughter to hold such disparate visions of what is possible? In literary studies, 1792-1818 marks the end of the Enlightenment and the development of Romanticism. The writers of this period witnessed the scientific and industrial revolutions, and the expansion of the British empire. They wrote for and against the enslavement of humans, the rights of women, and the rights of animals. In this course we will examine art, essays, novels, and poetry to explore how artists and writers defined the human, gender and sex, race, and nation in times of social transformation. In addition to reading literature, writing critical essays, and conducting research, we will read criticism and theory, and develop a digital project. A course reader will be provided by the instructor. The editions of the novels that will be reading are Mansfield Park (Oxford World’s Classics) and Frankenstein (Norton Critical Edition). Please note that print editions of the two novels are required. If you anticipate needing accommodations for financial or learning reasons, email ramosam@plu.edu.

ENGL 400: Studies Theory and Criticism – TR 9:55-11:40am – ADMN 214

Prof. Lisa Marcus

ENGL 425 (ENGL 320): Seminar Nonfiction Writ – SR – TR 6:00-8:00pm – ADMN 211B

Prof. Wendy Call

What does it mean to be a writer in the world? What does the world mean to the writer? In this Capstone course, we will focus on the literary genre of creative nonfiction as we explore answers to these questions. We will read political, personal, and lyric essays, as well as memoir, in book form and from contemporary literary journals. We will explore questions of citizenship, belonging, and representation, as we observe (and participate in) presidential elections. This course focuses on drafting, workshopping, revising, and presenting aloud creative nonfiction (CNF), as students develop and refine their Capstone projects: a 20- to 25-page work of creative nonfiction that includes a research component, a 5-page critical essay on the student’s literary influences, and a public presentation late in the semester.