English Classes


American Detective/Crime Literature (EH 214)

Time: M/W/F 10:10 a.m.- 11:00 a.m.
Instructor: Victor Camp

We’ll survey this very American genre from Edgar Allan Poe to the present, linking its development with the dime-novel era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the hard-boiled ethos in Black Mask magazine in the 1920s, the golden years of pulp from the 30s to the 50s, and the more recent renderings that have expanded the genre’s ranges of ethnicity, gender, class, and subject matter. Besides Poe, we’ll read stories by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith, and Sara Paretsky, as well as some by the lesser known. We’ll also read some influential critical essays to help us explore questions like:
  • What explains the continued fascination with this genre over the last two hundred years or so?
  • What representative techniques are involved, and how might they be connected to its popularity?
  • How much reality should we attribute these works?
  • Are any of them worthy of the designation of literary fiction, or are they indeed a lower art form deserving of their inferior status as genre fiction?
Edgar Allan Poe. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.Edgar Allan Poe. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.One could say, then, that we’ll be following the conventional critical (and detective) route of looking beneath the surface of these texts for a more sophisticated understanding of their characteristics and effects, and there may be some truth in that. Yet, if we heed the unconventional advice of Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin, it is the obvious that we’ll need to pay more attention to.

Walking the Line: The Role of Comedy in Eradicating and Exacerbating Racism (EH 324)

Time: M/W/F 11:15 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
Instructor: Jessie Dunbar

This course explores the origins and applications of comedy to opening discourses concerning of race relations in the United States. We will grapple with the implications of this approach including its effectiveness in creating dialogs (useful and harmful), debunking or supporting stereotypes, and shaming or emboldening practitioners of racism. The question that we, as a community, will seek to answer is this: Does race-based comedy advance our understanding of cultural difference or does it merely inure the American population to politically incorrect utterances? We will analyze a variety of tradition and nontraditional texts, such as:
  • James Weldon Johnnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man
  • Alice Randall’s Wind Done Gone
  • Damali Ayo’s How to Rent a Negro
  • “race sketches” performed by comedians Dave Chappell, and Key and Peele

Nature Writing (EH 327-2C)

Time: T/TH 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Instructor: Kyle Grimes

Global warming, urban sprawl, shrinking biodiversity, pollution, sustainable agriculture ... the relationship between humankind and the environment is one of the abiding issues of the modern world. And, at least since the days of Genesis, nature has also been one of the great and recurrent themes of both creative literature and non-fiction prose. In this course we will explore the many expressions of Nature in writing. Through such classic writers as Wordsworth and Thoreau and even Grimm's Fairy Tales, through more modern writers like Rachel Carson, Loren Eisley, Gary Snyder, Wendell Berry, and others, and even through national park brochures, nature magazines, and conservation and industry websites, we will consider some of the questions about Nature that have been significant in our history and that have bearing on current environmental discussion:
  • Are natural resources here for human use, or do we damage Nature by using natural resources?
  • Is Nature simply an uncivilized and perhaps violent chaos that we need to "tame," or is Nature a beautiful, perhaps even spiritual essence with which we should strive to live in harmony?
  • Does natural beauty express some genuine moral or ethical values?
  • Is there some deeply spiritual quality in Nature that we need to protect, or is Nature just our name for a set of mechanical processes that are indifferent to human desires?
  • Why do people spend energy and time working to buy things like cars and houses...and then spend their weekends fishing, or camping, or hunting, or "getting back to Nature"?

View of frog pond looking from southwest - Briarwood: The Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve, 216 Caroline Dormon Road, Saline, Bienville Parish, L. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. View of frog pond; Briarwood: The Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve, Louisiana. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. There are as many questions about Nature as there are nature writers fascinated by its marvelous, terrible, necessary beauty. This course will consider writing about nature from a very wide perspective — everything from reverent celebrations of natural beauty to hard-headed scientific essays that "explain" nature. We will read and discuss these works in class, we may have a field trip or two, and we will write a couple of papers — one short critical essay about the readings and a longer paper/project at the end of the course which can be, optionally, an original essay in a nature writing genre.

Women’s Literature and Theory: Women’s Bodies of/and Literature (EH 444/544)

Time: T/TH 2:00 - 3:15 p.m.
Instructor: Margaret Jay Jessee

Unlike a course titled American Literature or Shakespeare, when we name a course Women’s Literature, we are invoking two bodies: a body of literature and the writer’s gendered body. This course will focus on those two bodies. We will read various theories of the body, and we will explore how notions of the body inform a body of literature by women. We will grapple with questions like:
  • How does our literature shape bodies and how do bodies shape literature?
  • What happens to human bodies and to bodies of literature that do not conform to dominant cultural norms?
  • What makes a body gendered, and do bodies of scientific literature have the potential to change our conceptions of the gendered body?
While our goal is not to fully answer all of these questions, I hope that we will come away from the course with intriguing ideas concerning the complex relationship between gender and literature.

Faulkner & Southern Writers (EH 427/592-2B)

Time: T/TH 9:30 - 10:45 a.m.
Instructor: Kieran Quinlan

William Faulkner, the contemporary of James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, and Marcel Proust, invented a South called Yoknapatawpha County. In iconic novels — The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom! — and short stories, he populated it with a wide assortment of characters that have defined the region ever since. But earlier Southern writers also grappling with region, race, and gender provide Faulkner’s templates, while his contemporaries — Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty — both complement and subvert his marvelous creation. Finally, new Southern writers — Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Bobbie Ann Mason, Alice Walker — redefine Faulkner’s imaginative space revealing complexities previously unnoticed.

Modern British and Irish Comedy, or, “What’s So Funny about THAT?” (EH 492/592-8N)

Time: 7:00 - 9:30 p.m.
Instructor: William Hutchings

Oscar Wilde. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. Oscar Wilde. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. This course will assess the remarkable variety and vitality of 20th century British and Irish comedy, in both drama and fiction. Authors and works to be studied are:
  • Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
  • George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion
  • Sir Henry Bashford, Augustus Carp, Esq.
  • J. M. Synge, The Playboy of the Western World and The Well of the Saints
  • Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One
  • Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm
  • Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
  • Harold Pinter, The Homecoming
  • Joe Orton, Loot and What the Butler Saw
  • Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
  • Martin Amis, Money
Specifications: Midterm; fully documented research paper (8-10 pp. undergraduates, 12-15 pp. graduate students) and/or final exam (choices to be explained in class). In lieu of quizzes, students will write a 1-page single-spaced “initial response” paper for each work assigned. Active participation in discussion is expected from all who enroll.