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Department of English Language and Literature

  • Stacked English course books lying on a the top of a desk

Graduate Course Descriptions - Fall 2021

ENGL 600     Seminar in Verse Composition     Countryman     Mon 5:50pm-8:35pm     HUMCB 308

In this course, students will write and revise new poems and respond to one another’s work in written comments. We will also read poems by outside writers, which we'll look at alongside and in conversation with student work. Prerequisites: admission to the MFA program in poetry.

ENGL 602     Fiction Workshop: Short Story     Bajo     Tue 6:00pm-8:45pm     HUMCB 308

English 602 is for graduate students accepted into MFA Creative Writing program. It is an intensive workshop in the art and craft of the literary short story and the novel chapter. Writers will spend the majority of their time composing original stories or chapters and analyzing the fiction submitted by other workshop members. Our discussion will focus on each writer’s aesthetic decisions and the elements of fiction, including language and motif as well as plot, character, and temporal structure. We will also give some general consideration to the story form—its definitions, limits, variations, and possible futures. Interspersed will be discussions concerning professionalization. Prerequisites: admission to the MFA program in fiction.  

ENGL 691     Teaching of Lit. in College     Gavin     MW 2:20pm-3:35pm     HUMCB 312

Introduction to the methods of teaching critical reading and composition, with emphasis on current pedagogical practice and theory. *This course meets during the first seven weeks of term and provides supervision of graduate students (first-time GTAs) teaching ENGL 101.

ENGL 700     Introduction to Graduate Study of English     Gulick     TR 10:05am-11:20am     HUMBC 308

This course is designed for graduate students in their first year (or even beyond!) who want a formal opportunity to think through three distinct types of key questions about graduate studies in English. The first set of questions is personal: What am I doing in an English graduate program? How can I best set myself up to get what I came for? How do I need to adjust the rhythms and assumptions that worked for me as an undergraduate in order to be successful at the graduate level? The second set is practical and intellectual: What skills and genres of writing do I need to get comfortable with in order to do my coursework, develop mastery in a field, and prepare to do scholarly research? What does “professionalization” mean for a humanities graduate student, and how can I do that? The third set of questions is contextual: What is this world of higher education in which I’ve chosen to immerse myself beyond the BA? What scholarly trends and institutional pressures shape the kind of work that comes out of an English department in the twenty-first century? How can I approach my graduate program in a way that makes me feel less like a cog in the wheel of higher education and more like an agent for (positive) change?

We’ll develop answers to these questions through our study of one juicy, funny academic novel; reflective and critical writing assignments; readings in the history of higher education, the humanities and the English Department; collaborative discussions and in-class work designed to foster the kind of collegiality and intellectual generosity that makes graduate study a pleasure; and visits from a fabulous line-up of faculty guest speakers. We will discuss several of the major scholarly genres students are likely to encounter in graduate school - the conference paper, the book review, the article, the monograph - and will have the opportunity to try their hand at the first two of these. Please feel free to take a look at last year’s syllabus for more information about what we are likely to do (we’ll work with a different monograph this time around, our guest speaker lineup may look different, and I’m likely to change some assignments, but this will give you some idea of what to expect).

This class is primarily designed for first-year students who are brand new to graduate study, and who are working in fields centered around critical rather than creative work. That said, MFA students and students who are further along in their graduate careers do sometimes enroll, and have reported finding the course useful for their needs as well. Please feel free to contact me with any questions about whether this class is right for you at

ENGL 701     Special Topics in Old English Literature     Gwara     TR 11:40am-12:55pm     HUMCB 308

Old English

Intensive study of Old English language and literature with emphasis in the first half of the semester on grammar, and, in the second half, on interpreting verse texts. Verse selections include Dream of the Rood, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, and Battle of Maldon. We will also cover two or three prose selections, including Aelfric’s Colloquy, Genesis, and passages from the Life of St. Edmund. The readings will focus on cultural paradigms, largely relating to heroic ideals and the vexing problems of interpreting heroic and elegiac genres. We will have one translation exercise of about five pages, a mid-term, a research paper of about ten pages, a final exam, and weekly grammar quizzes for the first eight weeks. Our class includes one visit to Special Collections to examine facsimiles of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and other important bibliographical resources. By May students will have all the necessary tools to conduct primary research in Old English. The course is essential preparation for ENGL 701: Beowulf. Earning a B average in ENGL 701: Old English or 701: Beowulf counts for foreign language credit in the English graduate program. Text: Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson, A Guide to Old English (7th edition).

ENGL 709     Special Topics in 19th Century British Lit.     Stern     MW 3:55pm-5:10pm     HUMCB 308

Our Victorians

This course will focus on three of our most enduring British legacies: race relations, capitalism, and ecological impact. Reading novels, essays, poems, and plays, we’ll consider the traditions, aesthetics, and liabilities we’ve inherited from nineteenth-century Britain, to consider how we might approach and teach those legacies now. We’ll cover a range of canonical and non-canonical works as we dig into histories, scholarship and archives to better understand the links between Britain’s colonial past and the way we live now.

ENGL 733     Classics of Western Literary Theory       Aria Dal Molin     T 4:25pm-7:10pm     HUMCB 204

Cross-listed with CPLT 701

In his essay “The Archetypes of Literature” Northrop Frye argues that it is not really possible either to teach or to learn “literature.” What teachers teach, and what students learn, in “literature” courses, Frye concludes, is really the criticism of literature, because literature itself cannot be grasped except through some sort of criticism. Therefore much of the texts that will be studied in this class is comparable to that which is studied in literature courses, the difference is that the students will approach the material with a higher degree of self-consciousness.

This course underscores the complex questions at the foundation of all literature such as “what is reading?” and “what is literature?” We shall study major writers of the Western philosophical and literary traditions who consider the nature and function of literature as well as our capacity to make reasonable determinations concerning better and worse examples of it. The course will be conducted in the manner of a seminar, with each participant being expected to make daily contributions to class discussions. Required Textbooks and Readings: LEITCH, VINCENT B., William E. Cain, et al. (eds.), Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, First Edition ISBN: 978-0393974294

ENGL 741     Special Topics in African-American Lit.    Lee    Th 6:00pm-8:45pm     HUMCB 308

The Black Radical Tradition

This graduate course will provide an academic survey of the Black Radical Tradition, broadly conceived, in light of the February 2021 republication of Cedric Robinson’s classic Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. This tradition can be defined as the fusion of a Marxist analysis of modern capital with a critical race analysis of anti-Blackness, proffering 1) a reorientation of the origins of capital away from classical Marxism; 2) an account of the political economy of chattel slavery and the development of an irreducibly racial capitalism; and 3) an account of both the diagnoses and prognoses by Black activists and revolutionaries who resisted the entire system known as racial capitalism. We will center our investigations around Robinson’s work as well as that of W. E. B. Du Bois, in order to frame the academicization of the Black Radical Tradition from the vantage of the long twentieth century. Thinkers we may encounter together, in addition to Robinson and Du Bois, include Oliver Cromwell Cox, Angela Davis, C. L. R. James, Joy James, Claudia Jones, Robin D.G. Kelley, Grace Lee Boggs, Fred Moten, Adolph Reed, Assata Shakur, Tendayi Sithole, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Eric Williams, and Malcolm X.

ENGL 747     Special Topics in Global Anglophone Lit.     Jelly-Schapiro     TR 1:15pm-2:30pm     HUMCB 308

World Literature?

This course will examine contemporary works of “world literature.” The resonance of the term “world literature” is contested, as we will discuss; but in one definition it signifies text that strive to apprehend the world at large, as well as works that illuminate the local constitution and articulation of global forces and histories. Reading novels from across the world, our inquiry will focus on the literary representation of several interrelated phenomena: capitalism, imperialism, climate change, and the conjoined problems of history and memory. We will devote especial attention to the question of how contemporary literature reckons with the longer history of the interlocking crises—economic, political, cultural, and environmental—that define our current planetary predicament. Thinking about the history of the present, we will simultaneously consider how literary texts bring into view alternative futures, other possible worlds within this one. And we will return, throughout the semester, to the question of “world literature” itself—the vibrant debates surrounding its meaning and critical or political efficacy.

ENGL 790     Survey of Composition Studies     Brock     Wed 5:50pm-8:35pm     HUMCB 308

This course serves as an inquiry into the field of composition studies, focusing on the historical contexts and theoretical movements which have defined its development thus far. Students will explore the conversations undertaken by composition scholars to understand what composition is, what it does, how it occurs, and what sorts of composition practices and products matter in regards to various spheres (academic, professional, civic). As a major component of the course, students will examine--through readings and written responses thereto, class discussions, and longer papers leading up to a focused major project--the discursive controversies marking significant theories and practices within the field.

ENGL 794     Modern Rhetorical Theory     Muckelbauer     Th 6:00pm-8:45pm     HUMCB 312

Negotiating Theory

While this class will involve reading and discussing "theory" (whether rhetorical, literary, cultural, or otherwise) its focus will involve a process of negotiation among those who enroll for the class.  I have a several possibilities in mind, but what I propose for now is simply that sometime toward the end of Spring 2021. I will send an email offering some general guidance and soliciting suggestions from those who sign up for the class.  From your feedback, I will come up with some alternatives and then we can (collectively) develop a schedule that will get us started in August (of course, it's entirely possible that this negotiation will continue throughout the semester as well, but we can decide that later).

ENGL 803     Special Topics In Literary & Cultural Studies     Woertendyke     Wed 5:50pm-8:35pm     HUMCB 312

Theories of Realism

Realism is deceptively simple: corresponding with the rise of the novel in the eighteenth century, realist novels employ familiar surroundings, recognizable (though unique) plots, and concrete details of everyday existence. In its pretentions to truth, faith in language, preoccupation with character development over time, and tension between the individual and society, realism can seem naïve to contemporary readers; however, its ubiquity and versatility, across history, nation, language, culture, suggests a sophisticated genre. In this course, we will attend to the philosophical, aesthetic, political, and economic origins of realism and ask how and why it surfaced in modernity. We will read the novels that have formed the theoretical basis of realism in literary criticism, move on to examples of realism at the peak of its critical power, and, finally, turn to works that simultaneously rely upon—and subvert—its formal conventions and philosophical pretentions. At base, we will investigate the capacity of language and narrative to represent the world in different historical moments, including our own.

ENGL 804     Special Topics In Theory and Critical Methods     Glavey    Tue 6:00pm-8:45pm     HUMCB 312


This course begins with a consideration of the recent reception of the New York School of Poetry. Once considered by many critics to be a relatively minor strain of postmodern American literature, its seriousness partially limited by its association with the gay male aesthetic of camp, the New York School appears to have gone increasingly mainstream in the twenty-first century. This transformation is evident throughout the work of contemporary poets, but it has been unfolding in popular culture as well: with John Ashbery serving as the first poet laureate of MTV, Frank O’Hara popping on Mad Men and in promotional materials for Coca-Cola, and, more recently, the work of Joe Brainard inspiring an entire line of couture by LOEWE.  The recent ubiquity of these poets can be explained in part by the increasing acceptance of non-normative sexualities within American culture, but it also registers something important about the queer aesthetic sensibility that their work helped articulate and make available for its readers, a sensibility that I am calling their poetics of relatability. Reading extensively in the work of Ashbery, Brainard, O’Hara, as well as Amiri Baraka, Tim Dlugos, Eileen Myles, Alice Notley, James Schuyler and Lorenzo Thomas, this course will explore this sensibility and its implications for our understanding of the relationship between poetics, sexuality, and aesthetics.

ENGL 890     Studies in Rhetoric and Composition     Hawk     Mon 5:45pm-8:35pm     HUMCB 312

New Material Rhetorics 

The course will address the importance of new materialist thought for rhetoric and composition. The predominant understanding of rhetoric sees it as a symbolic and social art. While material things are certainly around us and at issue, it is human meaning and persuasion that traditionally define rhetoric. The class will examine current texts in rhetoric and composition that instead deploy or invoke new materialism as a basis for persuasion alongside key theorists and concepts. Students will write three short papers on these texts, a research statement connecting their projects in rhetoric and composition to new materialism, and a final paper articulating their own research projects.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.