English Department Courses
ENG 217: U.S. Refugee Literature & the Afterlife of Atrocity (A/LT)
Prof. Jenny James
In this course we will explore the literature and culture of refugee communities in the United States, reading literary and filmic texts that bear witness to the traumatic history and resilience of stateless peoples. Through critical engagement with a range of literary genres (including poetry, fiction, autobiography, film and oral history), students will learn the skills of literary analysis in the thematic and historical context of refugee life and collective practices of psychological and cultural survival. In turn, our encounters with challenging texts that represent the struggles that displaced peoples face during and after resettlement will help us gain a better sense of the psychological, social and political structures that contribute to genocide and displacement – and make possible individual and communal efforts at repair.
Specific refugee communities studied in the course will include Jewish refugees from Europe seeking safe harbor after the Holocaust, Latin Americans seeking asylum from political violence and persecution in Cuba and Guatemala, Vietnamese refugees fleeing Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, and individuals displaced by the current wars and political strife in Iraq and Syria. One of the goals of this course is to foster a stronger sense of civic engagement with current refugee crises; to support this goal, students will take part in a community engagement project that will provide new perspectives and provide insights from our coursework to help local community leaders in serving refugees and asylum-seekers in Pierce County. Cross-listed with Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
ENGL 220: Introduction to Creative Nonfiction (WR)
Prof. Wendy Call
TR 9:55 to 11:40 AM
This creative writing course will introduce students to the history, contemporary practice, and craft elements of creative nonfiction. We will focus on how the “fourth genre” of creative nonfiction adopts elements of fiction (e.g. character, story structure, set scenes, and narration) as well as elements of poetry (precision of language, compression, the lyric). We will read, study, and write a wide range of literary nonfiction, including personal essay, place-based writing, short memoir, reportage, and lyric essay. This course will be a prerequisite for English 320: Intermediate Creative Nonfiction and for English 425: Nonfiction Capstone, beginning in Fall 2018.
ENG 225: Autobiographical Writing
Prof. Jason Skipper
Autobiographical Writing is a course designed to help students produce and revise literary autobiographical creative nonfiction. Over the semester, students will consider the many different approaches to producing autobiographical essays by examining essays by authors from different backgrounds, who are working in different modes and exploring complicated questions about themselves and their world. Students will study the craft and techniques these writers employ, and they will write about these authors’ essays in order to build their critical perspective and develop an understanding of how craft is implemented. Students will also produce a substantial amount of original writing, including two short essays, both of which will be critiqued by the class. Students will then use these critiques and their understanding of craft to revise their work, in order to create meaningful essays that follow a line of inquiry and lead readers toward a deeper understanding of the human condition.
ENGL 227: Introduction to Poetry and Fiction (WR)
Prof. Rick Barot
This is an introductory course in the writing of poetry and fiction. In the first half of the semester, we’ll look at poetry and its intricate textures, its powerful uses of form and content. We’ll look at how poems create emotional, aesthetic, philosophical, and even political meanings from their various technical resources: the line, stanzas, rhyme and other sonic effects, formal structures, diction, and so on. We’ll read a good amount of contemporary poetry, in tandem with the weekly writing that you will engage in. In the second half of the semester, we’ll shift gears and delve into writing fiction. Once again, we’ll read a good amount of contemporary fiction, while you are engaged in learning the building blocks that create good stories: character and characterization, conflict and plot, setting, point of view, and so on. Workshopping each other’s writings will be a prominent feature of the course.
ENGL 233: Post-Colonial Literature (C/LT)
Prof. Liam O’Loughlin
MWF 9:15-10:20 AM
“Writers and politicians are natural rivals,” writes Salman Rushdie, as “both fight for the same territory.” If so, what burdens, responsibilities, or choices does a writer have in the face of the British Empire’s brutality, the victories and disappointments of independence, and the hierarchies of neoliberal globalization? And how is the English language—the language of colonization and global capitalism—used to navigate these concerns? We will contemplate these questions as we trace postcolonial English literatures across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The course will consider matters of literary form (fiction, poetry, drama, and reportage) and style (modernism, social realism, magical realism) and their relation to the historical contexts of anticolonialism, post-independence, and contemporary neoliberal globalization. Course readings will draw from India, Pakistan, Ireland, and Nigeria, and will likely include writers such as James Joyce, Mulk Raj Anand, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Teju Cole, and Mohsin Hamid.
ENGL 235: Social Justice Youth Literature (LT)
Prof. Nathalie op de Beeck
TR, 1:45-3:30 PM
Why do diversity and social justice matter to young audiences, and how do texts for young readers address issues of race, ethnicity, class, disability, and gender? What are the ethical stakes when we have a diverse or a homogeneous child or youth literature? Should we dare raise questions of human rights and social justice in writing for elementary and middle-school children? How might we, in the university classroom, engage in a critical discussion of children’s and youth literatures, past and present? In this course, we will look at historical and contemporary debates around diversity and social justice in the books and other media children encounter. Our readings include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comics, and picture books, along with abundant critical material on social justice activism and childhood studies. Our guiding question is on the minds of readers, educators, writers, editors, publishers, and all involved in children’s books: How can we achieve meaningful diversity in literature for young readers?
ENGL 300: English Studies Seminar: Writer as Witness
Prof. Rona Kaufman
TR 1:45 – 3:30 PM
This course is designed for students who have declared their English major, whether it be the writing emphasis or the literature emphasis. We will come together in a seminar format to reflect on and practice the pleasures, demands, and rewards of the inter-connected processes of reading and writing. We will focus on the imaginative, critical, and social power of reading and writing as acts of creating meaning and beauty, as acts of self-expression, as acts of social analysis and critique, and as vehicles of change and memorializing. We will read and write texts from a range of genres, engage criticism and theory, and reflect on the broad question of why reading and writing matter. Our goal is to help you sharpen your sense of focus as an English major—to refine your own purposes and passions in pursuing your course of study within the major—and to help you become a more confident, flexible, and sophisticated reader, writer, and thinker.
This particular section of English 300 will focus on issues of witnessing, testimony, and trauma. Trauma comes from the ancient Greek word for wound, and while the concept of trauma was born in the physical dangers of nineteenth-century industrial innovation, it has, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, come to include, perhaps even emphasize, woundings of the mind and spirit. Although some critics have suggested that we live in an age of complaint, more believe that we now live in an age of trauma. A need to testify to trauma, as well as need to understand others’ experiences of trauma, is one of the reasons that many of us read and write. Through our readings, writings, and discussions, we’ll work to answer a range of questions about the relationships among witnessing, testimony, and trauma. What counts as trauma? What must witnessing encompass? What forms can testimony take? How does genre shape testimony? Who can tell which stories? What do we do with manipulated witnesses? Unreliable witnesses? And what are our responsibilities to the testimonies we hear and read?
ENGL 301: Shakespeare (LT)
Prof. Nancy Simpson-Younger
MWF 11:15-12:20 PM
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 320: Intermediate Creative Nonfiction & ENGL 425: Nonfiction Capstone Seminar
Prof. Wendy Call
TR 1:45 to 3:30 PM
What does it mean to be a writer in the world? What does the world mean to the writer? In this combined 300-level and 400-level (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, by authors including James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Deborah Miranda, George Orwell, and Claudia Rankine. In class discussions and in our writing, we will explore questions of citizenship, belonging, and representation.
ENGL 320: Students taking this course for 300-level credit will develop three short works, 4-to-6 pages, in at least two different subgenres of creative nonfiction. At least one of the works must include a significant research component. Students will also develop a simple webpage that explores some element of the creative nonfiction craft, as exemplified by one creative nonfiction author. Prerequisite: Introduction to Creative Nonfiction (ENGL 289 or 220) or instructor permission.
ENGL 425: Students taking this course for capstone credit will focus on drafting, workshopping, revising, and presenting aloud creative nonfiction, as they develop and refine their Capstone projects. The final project is a 20- to 25-page work of creative nonfiction, including a research component, as well as a 5-page critical essay on the student’s literary influences. A 30-minute excerpt of the work will be presented to the public at the Capstone presentations in December. Prerequisites: ENGL 300, one upper-division course from lines 1, 3 or 4 of writing emphasis, or instructor permission.
ENGL 323: Writing in Professional and Public Settings (WR)
Prof. Scott Rogers
M/W 3:40-5:25 PM
According to a 2016 Bloomberg Job Skills Report, strong written communication is among the most desired but least common skills demonstrated by applicants coming to the professional marketplace after college. That is, top level companies want to hire people who can write well, but the majority of applicants simply don’t have these skills. But what does it mean write well? And how does the nature of effective writing change based on context, purpose, medium, and so on?
This course will serve as an introduction to writing across a range of professional (and, by relation, public) contexts. We will anchor our work in three specific conversations related to good writing: Rhetorical Thinking, Genre and Audience Awareness, and Writing Process. Further, we’ll think about things like research, technology, design, and collaboration as they relate to the work that professional writers do every day. Importantly, in the world of professional writing we make a distinction between those who write professionally (i.e., they are paid to write) and those who write as part of their profession. Because this course attracts students pursuing both of these potentialities, the curriculum is carefully designed to provide students with flexible writing skills that will serve them well regardless of what, how, or for whom they end up writing.
This is a writing intensive course. Assignments will include a job preparation portfolio, a study of real-world writing contexts, a technical guide, a small grant application, and client-focused website analysis report. Some course work will be completed in small groups.
ENG 329: Intermediate Fiction Writing (WR)
Prof. Jason Skipper
English 329: Intermediate Fiction Writing is an intermediate-level course designed for students interested in producing literary short fiction. Over the term, students will consider the history and myriad approaches to writing fiction by examining literary fiction by a wide range of authors from different backgrounds who have made a significant impact on literature. Students will write about these stories in order to build their critical perspective and their understanding of techniques used to produce engaging and meaningful fiction. The course also requires substantial original writing, including two short stories, both of which will be critiqued by the class. Students will then use these critiques and their understanding of craft to revise their stories, in order to create meaningful fiction that is engaging, original, follows a line of inquiry, and provokes readers to consider complicated questions about the world.
ENGL 343: Post-Colonial Literature and Theory (C/LT)
Prof. Liam O’Loughlin
MWF 11:15-12:20 PM
The sun has long set on the British Empire, but what has risen in its wake? How have writers represented the impact of imperialism on nationalism, gender, and the environment? To answer these questions, this course will focus on literature and film from two periods: the national liberation movements of the twentieth century and the contemporary “War on Terror.” Course material will include theory (Frantz Fanon, Edward Said), fiction (Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Nadeem Aslam), and film (Gillo Pontecorvo, Mani Ratnam). Coursework will include a student-assembled historical and literary timeline. Students will finish the course with a clearer understanding of imperialism and nationalism and how these concepts help us understand and act on the present.
ENG 370B : Fictions of Social Conflict in a Modernizing America – 1865-1900 (LT)
Prof. Jim Albrecht
In 1865, Americans found themselves in a society irrevocably transformed by the Civil War. The defeat of the Confederacy, and the period of Reconstruction designed to re-make the slavery-based society of the American South, ushered in an often bloody struggle over race and civil rights that would last more than a century. While areas of the post-Reconstruction South reverted to a nearly feudal social system, the war simultaneously catapulted America into the modern age, greatly accelerating the processes of industrialization that transformed what had been in 1850 a largely agrarian and traditional society into an increasingly urban and modern one. Large influxes of immigrants changed the character of major American cities, creating fears amongst whites that ethnic outsiders threatened “American” identity, while the closing of the Western frontier saw Native Americans pushed into tragically marginalized situations on reservations. Jefferson’s vision of the democratic self as independent citizen-farmer was imperiled—both by the rapid growth, in cities like Chicago and New York, of an urban (and often immigrant) working class, and by the plight of individual farmers in an increasingly integrated national economy. In this period of economic consolidation, the fault-lines of serious class divides between super-rich “robber barons” and common workers and farmers fostered new political movements like Populism and trade unionism, and threatened at times to break into open class warfare. While elements of the emerging modern society held new possibilities for women, their status continued to be culturally, politically and economically constrained. And by 1900, the U.S. (which one hundred years earlier was fresh from its own struggle to escape colonial domination) had launched out on a course of imperialist expansion in Cuba, the Philippines, and Hawaii.
We will consider how writers of this turbulent period—often characterized as the era of realism and naturalism in American fiction—strove to develop new forms of literary expression capable of expressing, exploring, and shaping this emerging social reality. We will study authors such as William Dean Howells and Theodore Dreiser, whose works typify realism and naturalism; writers such as Mary Wilkins Freeman and Edith Wharton, who used realist fiction to address the status of American women; as well as a variety of authors who used realist and naturalist prose to write from the margins of American society—from African-American writers like Frances W. Harper, Charles Chesnutt, and W.E.B. DuBois, to the Native American writer Zitkala-Sa, to immigrant authors like Abraham Cahan and Sui-Sin Far.
ENGL 397: Literatures of Genocide and the Holocaust (A/LT)
Prof. Lisa Marcus
Topic: The Holocaust in the American Literary Imagination
This course explores the impact of the Holocaust on the American literary imagination through the study of fiction, autobiography, graphic memoir, poetry, film, essays, and theory. We begin by taking up big questions raised by philosopher Theodor Adorno and survivor Elie Wiesel, who ask us to consider how and even whether the Holocaust can be represented in literature. Adorno famously asserted that “there can be no poetry after Auschwitz,” and Wiesel is known for his exclamation that “there is no such thing as a literature of the Holocaust, nor can there be … Auschwitz negates any form of literature … a novel about Auschwitz is not a novel, or else it is not about Auschwitz. The very attempt to write such a novel is blasphemy.” And yet, novels and poetry and other art have emerged in the aftermath of the Holocaust despite these prohibitions. In this class, we will pay particular attention to how North American writers – from survivors who arrived as immigrants to their second generation children and grandchildren – have grappled with how and even if language can be used to respond to genocide. From Arthur Miller’s prescient pre-Holocaust novel Focus, to survivor and immigrant Ruth Kluger’s Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered, Art Spiegelman’s controversial comic Maus, and ending with Philip Roth’s eerily relevant portrait of a fascist, Nazi-allied U.S. in The Plot Against America, our readings will raise questions about: memory and memorialization, trauma and the ethics of bearing witness, and the legacy of ongoing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. The course will include a substantial unit meditating on the appropriation of Anne Frank’s Diary in American culture and her emergence as a Holocaust icon. The course is open to all students who are up for a writing- and reading-intensive challenge, with activities and assignments that include a range of critical and creative responses, as well as a Wikipedia editing project. Cross-listed with Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
Courses in Interdisciplinary Programs
EDUC 497: Writing Center Theory and Practice
Prof. Scott Rogers
This course will introduce students to a range of theories and practices related to effective work in a university writing center. We will examine major trends and tensions in writing center scholarship, explore course syllabi and assignment prompts, identify best practices for writing center consultations, and reflect on our ongoing work in the PLU Writing Center. The course will run in tandem with regular employment in the PLU Writing Center. Course readings and assignments will have direct application to the daily work of one-to-one writing consultation (some of our assignments will be completed online).
EDUC 497 is required of and restricted to students employed in the PLU Writing Center. Students may elect to take the course for 1 or 0 credit depending on their credit hour totals for the semester.
HGST 200: Introduction to Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Professor Lisa Marcus and Rabbi Bruce Kadden
TR 9:55 – 11:40 AM
This team-taught multidisciplinary class examines the Holocaust and selected examples of genocide and systematic mass violence to probe the intersections of dehumanization, violent oppression, cultural destruction, and war in the last two centuries. Voices of resisters and case studies from the U.S. are included. HGST 200 is the foundational course in PLU’s minor in Holocaust and Genocide Studies and is designed to meet the learning objectives of PLU’s Alternative Perspectives component of the General University Requirement for Perspectives on Diversity.
In this class we will
- Explore definitions of “genocide” and debates about the use of the concept
- Study causes of dehumanization and authority-led mass violence
- Examine the unique experiences of selected targets of genocide and violent dehumanization
- Investigate possible means of post-genocide justice
- Consider the ongoing effects and harms of genocide and violent dehumanization
- Survey the cultural & political lessons taught in wake of genocide and violent dehumanization
- Reflect on the moral obligations of human beings in a world where genocide & violent dehumanization have occurred and continue to occur
By the end of the semester, with reference to the case studies & questions above, class participants will understand and be capable of using research skills, multiple disciplinary approaches, exploratory and formal writing, rich and challenging dialogue, and critical reflection as tools within the field of Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Each class participant will work throughout the semester, through assignments, activities, class discussions, and soul-searching, to identify and explain that individual’s own ethical commitments in a world where dehumanization, authority-led violence, and mass crimes against humanity have existed and persist today. Students will develop and teach our final class sessions to demonstrate all of the above capabilities and understandings, paired with distinctive individual insights and approaches to studying & grappling with contemporary examples of resisting, responding to, and working to prevent genocide in the 21st century. Finally, students will individually design & propose “counter-monuments” that complicate the concept of “teaching lessons” about the Holocaust, genocide, and mass crimes against humanity.
FYEP 101-09: Wonder and Wildness
Prof. Nathalie op de Beeck
Environmental activist and marine zoologist Rachel Carson, author of The Edge of the Sea and Silent Spring, wrote that a deep sense of wonder informed her research and writing. By reporting on the wild places and the small creatures that sparked her vivid sense of wonder, Carson shared her marine research with a wide audience and conveyed the urgency of conserving damaged ecosystems. Carson combined wonder, rigorous study, and an ability to communicate her passions to the public. In our course, we will learn how scientists, poets, philosophers, and others define awe and wildness, follow their curiosity, develop practical skills, and speak out for social and environmental justice. We will read, discuss, and write about wonder and curiosity; we will practice asking questions and gathering factual information; and we will develop our future plans as socially engaged scholars.
FYEP 101: The Purpose of University Education
Prof. Liam O’Loughlin
[Location and Time TBA]
What is the purpose of university education in the 21st century? What do students expect from the university? How does it—or should it—engage students in learning, prepare them for careers, or involve them in politics? Did students sitting in your seats 50 years ago think about their educations the same way you do? With these questions in mind, how is the university not simply a preparation for, but very much part of, the so-called “real world”? In this course we will reflect upon the university as an institution—considering its history, narratives constructed about it, and our places within it. Course texts include fiction, scholarly essays, films, and testimonials. Students will hone their writing by working in multiple forms, including personal narrative, argument analysis, reportage, and a historically-informed essay.
FYEP 101-10: The Great War
Prof. Solveig Robinson
A century ago, the June 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, heirs to the Austro-Hungarian throne, set off a chain of events that eventually pulled all the major powers into a global conflict. World War I—known at the time as the “Great War,” or “The War to End All Wars”—fundamentally changed previous arrangements in politics, social developments, science, and the arts. This course will incorporate fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and film to examine the events and some of the effects of the Great War. We will analyze the causes of the war, experience the horrors of trench warfare through the eyes of British and German poets and novelists, and nurse casualties with memoirist Vera Brittain. Along the way we will consider what qualities—physical, emotional, intellectual—enable people to endure, and even surmount, the hardships of war. The course will concentrate on expository writing (writing that explains).
FYEP 101: Rhetorical Listening
Prof. Scott Rogers
MWF 12:30-1:35 PM
In an age defined by new tools, methods, and forums for communication, we have forgotten how to listen. Unlike other forms of engagement like speaking, reading, or writing, the work of listening has become “naturalized.” It is something we all assume we do, but rarely, if ever, do we think about how, when, or why we do it. Nor do we consider the value systems or characteristics of identity that might shape when, how, or to whom we are willing to listen.
This section of FYEP 101 will take listening as its central theme. In particular, we will use Krista Ratcliffe’s “rhetorical listening” as a strategy for learning how to listen more carefully to stories of experience, particularly those stories that are different from our own. Ratcliffe describes rhetorical listening as “a stance of openness that a person may choose to assume in relation to any person, text, or culture” (17). This sort of listening necessitates difficult work as we must set aside our own interests and acknowledge our own privileges in order to listen authentically and to seek out opportunities for identification and productive dialogue. But, if we are committed to making the world a more just and equitable place, we must first be able to understand how people are living in it. This means listening with open minds and hearts, not waiting for our chance to speak, acknowledging both sound and silence. To accommodate a range of stories and experiences, course readings will include memoir, ethnography, documentary film, and critical theory.
Importantly, this is a writing intensive course meant to provide students with skills necessary for effective communication on and off campus. As such, students enrolled in the class should expect to do a great deal of writing and revision. Assignments will include critical analysis, ethnographic study, reflection, and multimodal/digital compositions. Additionally, the course will emphasize PLU Integrated Learning Outcomes (ILOs) related to critical reflection, expression and communication, and the valuing of other cultures and perspectives.
WRIT 101: 140 Characters: Reading and Writing in the Twenty-First Century
Prof. Rona Kaufman
TR 9:55 – 11:40
This course is designed to help prepare you for the reading and writing that you’ll do throughout college and, ideally, show you reasons to write long after you graduate. It understands writing as a process of inquiry that adheres to—or plays with—particular conventions involving genre, form, grammar, and citation. To do this work, we’ll focus on issues of literacy in the twenty-first century. In an age of text messages, Twitter, and Facebook, of high-stakes standardized testing, of “fake news,” of widely and wildly popular novel series like Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games, of research showing the neurological and social benefits of sustained reading and second-language acquisition—what does it mean to be not only a reader and writer but also a good reader and writer? That’s the central question that will drive our work this semester. In this writing seminar, we’ll consider the broad range of literacies in the twenty-first century, examining the rhetorical, social, educational, cognitive, and ethical dimensions of digital and print texts.
FYEP 101: Literature and Medicine
Prof. Nancy Simpson-Younger
MWF 1:45-2:50 PM
How do we know what’s healthy—and when is it okay to judge someone else’s health? Going a step further: how can reading and writing lead us to deeper insights about the nature of health itself, including the health of an individual, a group, or even a society? (And what ethics are linked to these questions?) As we read and reflect on a range of material, from journalism (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) and memoir (El Deafo; Intern) to a documentary (The Genius of Marian) and a play (Wit), we’ll ask how literature and medicine can interact to teach us about observing details, setting priorities, listening to rarely-heard voices, and (even) writing a strong essay in college. Three portfolios will allow you to draft, revise, and hone your work as you think in complex ways about questions of health and wellness.
FYEP 101 Section 07: Banned Books
Prof. Lisa Marcus
TR 1:45-3:30 PM
What do Fifty Shades of Grey, Captain Underpants and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian have in common? These books are united near the top of the list of frequently banned books over the last several years. Whether they are perceived as too racy or too raced, too exciting or too inciting, these books provoke some communities to outrage and censorship. This seminar will explore the ethical/moral/religious/ ideological motivations that lead communities to suppress books. You’ll write about your own reading transgressions and research the controversies surrounding several book bannings. And, of course, we’ll read together a selection of banned books – from picture books to literary classics that excited the censors’ wrath. We will pay special attention to the banning of children’s books celebrating sexual diversity and to the targeting for censorship of books written by writers of color. One anti-censorship website proclaims, “Rise to the challenge. Read censored books!” We’ll do just that this term.