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Descriptions of Past Graduate Courses

Rhetoric, Composition, and Theory

Introduction to Graduate Studies

Dr. Sharon Smith

Introduction to Graduate Studies is required of all first-year graduate students. The primary purpose of this course is to introduce you to modern and contemporary literary theory and its applications. Over the course of the semester, you will study a number of major theoretical movements: formalism, structuralism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, Marxism, historicism, feminism, gender studies, queer theory, race theory, and postcolonial theory. You will read critical work that applies these theories to literature and film and will engage at least one of these theoretical approaches in your own scholarly research project. In addition, this course will provide insight into issues related to graduate studies in English and the profession of English studies.


  • The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 3rd edition. W.W. Norton, 2018
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. Ed. by Johanna M. Smith. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. 3rd ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015/2016


  • David Lynch, Mulholland Drive (2001)
  • Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window (1954)
  • John Waters, Hairspray (1988)
  • Jennie Livingston, Paris is Burning (1991)
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out (2017)
  • Tim Burton, Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Seminar in Teaching College Composition

Dr. Michael Keller

This course is designed to ground you in the histories, theories, and practices of writing instruction and thereby: 1) prepare you to teach your own classes at SDSU and beyond, and 2) introduce you to issues and debates that have shaped and that currently shape the profession. To serve these aims, the readings, discussions, and writing assignments will address a variety of practical and theoretical concerns. The former include assignment and course design, assessment, and classroom pedagogies; the latter, theories of rhetoric and composition, as well as the social and institutional contexts that inform them.

Past texts have included the following:

  • Reading Popular Culture: An Anthology for Writers, edited by Michael Keller
  • They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein
  • The St. Martin’s Handbook by Andrea Lunsford
  • St. Martin’s Guide to Teaching Writing by Cheryl Glenn & Melissa A. Goldthwaite
  • Teaching Composition: Background Readings, edited by T.R. Johnson
  • A Teaching Subject: Composition Since 1966 by Joseph Harris
  • Rhetoric, Poetics, and Cultures: Refiguring College English Studies by James A. Berlin
  • Lives on the Boundary: A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America’s Educationally Underprepared by Mike Rose
  • My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student by Rebekah Nathan
  • Understanding Popular Culture by John Fiske
  • Trash Culture: Popular Culture and the Great Tradition by Richard Keller Simon
  • The Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges
  • The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age by Sven Birkerts

Written work for the course will include two short responses to the readings (2-3 pages), one research project (15 pages) that investigates an area of writing instruction of interest to you, and a syllabus for English 101 that includes a rationale (5 pages) for the sequence of reading selections and writing assignments. I recommend, too, that you keep a journal to record your thoughts on issues that arise in this class and in those you are teaching. In addition to class discussion, oral work will include two brief presentations: one to teach an essay from Reading Popular Culture and one to report progress on your research project.

Seminar In Rhetoric

Dr. Michael Keller

This course has three objectives: 1) to inform you of the histories and theories of rhetoric; 2) to afford you the opportunity to respond to these histories and to apply, adapt or challenge these theories in ways that will increase your understanding of western culture past and present; and 3) to expand your repertoire of interpretive strategies. To pursue these objectives, we will study a variety of texts from a range of historical periods—from the classical period to the present day—that focus upon problems that have long beset those who think about communication and its relation to culture. These problems include the tension between philosophy and rhetoric and that between rhetoric and politics, the disparity between truth and representation, the figural nature of language, the tenuous divide between misleading and educating one’s audience, and the epistemological crises occasioned by the rise of mass audiences and mass communications (mechanical and electronic) and by the inducements of advertising and entertainment. 

Written work for the course will include four essays: one of 4 pages, two of 7 pages, and one of 12 pages—all of which will respond to course readings. In addition to class discussion, oral work will include two presentations.

Prior iterations of the course have included the following texts: 


  • Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America by Garry Wills
  • The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing, and Imperial Administration by David Spurr
  • Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising in America by Jackson Lears
  • The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information by Richard A. Lanham 
  • Magic, Rhetoric, and Literacy: An Eccentric History of the Composing Imagination by William A. Covino 
  • Speed Limits: Where Time Went and Why We Have So Little Left by Mark C. Taylor 

Essays, Addresses, and Dialogs:

  • Ion and Gorgias by Plato 
  • Book I of Rhetoric by Aristotle 
  • The Decay of Lying by Oscar Wilde 
  • “General Introduction” to The Rhetorical Tradition and “Introduction to Classical 
  • Rhetoric” by Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg 
  • “Rhetoric” by Stanley Fish 
  • “Declaration by Design: Rhetoric, Argument, and Demonstration in Design Practice” by Richard Buchanan 
  • “Tropology, Discourse, and the Modes of Human Consciousness” by Hayden White 
  • A History of the Royal Society (excerpt) by Thomas Sprat 
  • Inaugural Addresses of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump 
  • “Culture Industry Reconsidered” by Theodor Adorno

Seminar in Rhetoric: Visual Rhetoric

Dr. Jason McEntee

This course will explore these (and other) questions: What does it mean to be visually literate? How does the role of the visual (that which we see in our day-to-day lives) affect the ways we process our thoughts and, in turn, develop our social, political, historical, racial, and gender-related attitudes about the things we see? What is New Media? What is/are the Digital Humanities?

Please think of this as a course with two distinct halves: 1) In the first half, we will ponder definitions of New Media through a wide variety of readings, viewings, and a guest panel of SDSU faculty; and 2) In the second half, we will take on two “case studies” that consist primarily of complicating our definitions through careful film analysis from two very different, yet two very complementary, decades.


  • Bolter, Jay and Richard Grusin. Remediation. Cambridge: MIT, 2000. 0262522799
  • Goodell, Jessica, with John Hearn. Shade it Black: Death and After in Iraq. Haverton (PA): Casemate Publishers, 2011. 978-1612000015
  • Jones, Ann. They were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars: The Untold Story. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2013. 978-1608463718
  • Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge: MIT, 2001. 0262632551
  • Mirzoeff, Nicholas, ed. The Visual Culture Reader, Second Edition. New York: Routledge, 2002. 0415252229
  • Morrell, David. First Blood.New York: Grand Central Publishing, Reprint Edition, 1972 (2000). 978-0446364409


  • RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987)
  • First Blood (Kotcheff; 1982)
  • Rambo: First BloodPart 2 (Cosmatos; 1985)
  • Aliens (Cameron; 1986)
  • Blue Steel (Bigelow; 1989)
  • Point Break (Bigelow; 1991)  
  • Lethal Weapon (Donner; 1987)
  • The Dark Knight (Nolan; 2008)
  • The Avengers (Whedon; 2012)
  • Man of Steel (Snyder; 2013)
  • Iron Man 3 (Black; 2013)
  • Redacted (De Palma; 2007)
  • In the Valley of Elah (Haggis; 2007)      
  • Avatar (Cameron; 2009)
  • The Hurt Locker (Bigelow; 2008)
  • Zero Dark Thirty (Bigelow; 2012)

Writing, Editing, and Publishing


Professor Steven Wingate

This course will deepen your practice of the craft of fiction (or help you establish one) by asking you to face the questions that are timelessly being asked by practicing writers. How should I approach my material? Am I ready to write the story I want to tell? How do I know when I’m revising for its own sake? Etc. While we will workshop original student fiction regularly, we will do much more. In each of the units shown in the schedule, readings (both example fiction and craft essays) will frame our conversations and ask you to consider your writing from new angles.

To facilitate this, I will ask you to establish a character set and/or a location that you can work with throughout the semester (and add to as necessary); I will give you specific writing prompts that will help you explore those characters and locations. The pieces you workshop are not limited to those you produce with such prompts, and I anticipate significant variety in the form, length, and texture of your writing collectively as a class.

My primary goal is part for you to create product, part to learn process, and therefore I will stress the fundamentals. Most good fiction does not get conceived and born within the constraints of a semester; fiction writers usually have a “pipeline” of projects and characters that develop over time. I would like to get you on board with this idea early in the development of your fiction practice so that you can have a healthy sense of the craft’s demands and, in fact, learn to love those demands for the creative doors that they open.


  • Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction
  • John Wood, How Fiction Works  

Writing Poetry: Form and Format

Dr. Christine Stewart

This course foregrounds student experimentation with patterns that build poems, in particular, form. Not only will students become familiar with traditional received forms and stanza structures, they will also learn about (and apply the constraints) of contemporary forms. Throughout the semester, large-group response workshops will give students experience sharpening their peer feedback skills. Students will also deepen their revision skills by iterating drafts to create exceptional poems, culminating in the design and execution of a format (a chapbook).


  • An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art by Annie Ridley Crane Finch (Author)
  • Four chapbooks, titles To Be Announced

Writing Creative Nonfiction

Dr. Christine Stewart

This course will immerse you into the practices of reading and writing of Creative Nonfiction (CNF). We will seek to define and name this genre, discuss what reasons we have for transforming experiences into writing, problematize the nature of truth(s) and memory, describe the role of the “I,” and probe the ethics of writing about and representing the people in our lives. We will also practice strategies and techniques for reading, writing, revising, responding to, and editing CNF texts. In this course, you will develop your ability to think critically, speculatively, and imaginatively. Not only will you build an appreciation for the art of creative nonfiction, you will strengthen your ability to write it. 


  • The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long. ISBN: 9780984242108
  • The Fourth Genre edited by Robert L. Root, Jr. and Michael Stenberg 6th Edition. ISBN: 978-0-205-17277-1


Professor Steven Wingate

Students will learn the fundamentals of screenwriting: good format, believable and imaginative stories, solid characterization, and well-turned narrative arcs. The class will read outstanding screenplays as craft examples, adapt a literary work to learn format, then draft, workshop, revise, and expand original scripts or adaptations. At the end of the course, students should have either a complete and polished first act of a feature script they can complete on their own time, or a fully-realized script for a short film or series episode. While we will not focus on “making it” in Hollywood, we will cover the basics of how the film industry works and what that means for writers who want to see their work onscreen.


  • Alternative Scriptwriting: Beyond the Hollywood Formula by Ken Dancyger and Jeff Rush
  • The Hollywood Standard: Script Format & Style by Christopher Riley

Professional and Technical Writing

Dr. Christine Stewart

This course assumes that professional writing is contextual, dynamic, and learnable-renewable; it is grounded in the belief that writing as a professional and technical thinker extends beyond the boundaries of genre. As a result, this course situates you, the student, in the role of a writing researcher so you can learn both how to write in professional contexts and about writing in professional contexts. This course is designed to teach a generalized rhetorical capacity that enables you to successfully adapt to new rhetorical (workplace) writing situations. This course emphasizes inquiry, research, and problem-solving skills as they relate to professional writing contexts. Inquiry questions include: How does writing work in professional settings? How do people use writing in professional settings? What are problems related to professional writing and how can they be solved? You will be asked to engage in the process of learning transfer/transformation and to use reflection as a way of making visible what you have learned about learning to write.


  • Beaufort, Anne. Writing in the Real World: Making the Transition from School to Work. Teachers College Press. 1999.
  • Dobrin, Sidney I, Christopher Keller, and Christian R. Weisser. Technical Communication in the Twenty-First Century. Second Edition. Prentice Hall. 2010.

Literary Publishing Practicum

Professor Steven Wingate

A hands-on, semester long introduction to literary publishing centered on, but not limited to, the production of SDSU's literary journal Oakwood, founded in 1976. Our work will involve soliciting, editing, producing, and promoting the magazine, as well as an overview of the publishing industry and an opportunity to craft a publishing resume. This class will give you demonstrable experience with workplace practices applicable in fields from editing to corporate communications. It will be conducted as an independent study course, though we will arrange for common meeting times based on the schedules of those involved.


  • Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century by John B. Thompson

British Literature

Old Norse Eddas and Sagas

Dr. Michael Nagy

This will be a reading-intensive course designed both to introduce students to several Old Norse texts and to explore the culture(s) in which those texts were inscribed. Various themes to be covered include cultural relativity, mythology, religion and its inherent tensions, philology, fairytale and folktale motifs, rhetorical and practical heroism, polysemous narration, and women’s role(s) in early Scandinavian society.


  • The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, Jesse Byock trans.

  • The Saga of the Volsungs

  • The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology,

  • Three Icelandic Outlaw Sagas, Anthony Faulkes

  • The Poetic Edda, Carolyne Larrington

  • The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection, Thorsson, Örnólfur and Bernard Scudder et al.

  • The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok, Ben Waggoner trans.


Dr. Michael Nagy

This course is an advanced study of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The principal aim is to read the “General Prologue” to the Canterbury Tales and ten of the tales themselves with their associated individual “Prologues.” These may be grouped by theme and genre as follows:

a.) “General Prologue”

b.) Three fabliaux: the Miller’s, Reeve’s, and Shipman’s Tales

c.) Three exempla: the Friar’s, Summoner’s, and Pardoner’s Tales

d.) Three tales of marriage: the Wife of Bath’s, Merchant’s, and Franklin’s Tales

e.) One miracle of the Virgin: The Prioress’s Tale


  • The Canterbury Tales: Complete, Geoffrey Chaucer, Ed. Larry D. Benson

Monsters and the Monstrous

Dr. Michael Nagy

Medieval literature plays host to a broad spectrum of monstrous figures ranging from the more familiar dragons, monsters, dwarves, and trolls to rather obscure draugar, haugbuar, and berserkers, to name a few. Schols often interpret these figures, with varying degrees of conviction, as the ostracized “other” in Icelandic, Old English, and Middle English literature, but, as we will see, such interpretations from the beginning of the discourse rather than its end. The purpose of this reading-intensive seminar is to expose students to a cross section of particularly strange works which revolve in whole or in part around supernatural characters; to theorize the narrative, cultural, religious, and political functions that these characters serve; and to answer the question (if only tentatively) of why fantasy fiction (whose roots are firmly fixed in the Middle Ages) continues to engage the attention of 21st-century authors, scholars, and students alike.

Eighteenth-Century Travel Narratives

Dr. Sharon Smith

Eighteenth-century Britain was a nation in motion. Modes of transportation were improving; fashionable destinations like Bath and London served as sites of conspicuous consumption and lavish display; the Grand Tour symbolized good breeding and a well-rounded education for upper-classed young men—and was undertaken by many women as well; England was asserting its influence as a colonial power throughout the globe. This increase in movement, coupled with the growth of the literary marketplace, resulted in numerous published accounts of travel—or travel writing. At the same time, the novel was emerging as a new genre, frequently entertaining its readers with descriptions of fictional journeys. As Elizabeth Bohl’s asserts, “It is scarcely possible to discuss the eighteenth-century novel without speaking of travel. Its protagonists’ journeys so often give impetus and form to their stories.” Not surprisingly, many eighteenth-century novelists were also travel writers.

This semester, we will read fictional and non-fictional accounts of travel from the long eighteenth century, along with a selection of recent critical responses to these texts. We will consider travel writing and the novel as separate genres with distinct characteristics, but we will also explore the influences that these two genres exerted upon one another. As we do so, we will discuss where—and whether—we can draw a strict dividing line between fiction and non-fiction. We will consider issues such as the relationship between travel and the development of national identity, perceptions of England’s role as a colonial empire, interactions between the individual and his or her environment, and how all of these contribute to the construction of the traveler’s subjectivity. Throughout the semester, we will be attentive to the ways in which accounts of travel reveal cultural attitudes toward gender, race, ethnicity, and social class.


  • Aphra Behn, Oroonoko

  • Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

  • Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker

  • Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho

Travel Writing:

  • Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Turkish Embassy Letters

  • Olaudah Equaino, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

  • Mary Wollstonecraft, Letters from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark

The Unruly Eighteenth Century

Dr. Sharon Smith

In his preface to Pamela, the eighteenth-century's most popular novel, Samuel Richardson insists that the purpose of his fiction is not only to "Divert and Entertain," but also to "Instruct, and Improve the Minds of the Youth of both Sexes." Like Richardson, many eighteenth-century writers aimed to teach their reading public taste, refinement, decorum, and virtue. At the same time, however, eighteenth-century literature represents many characters who break the rules these writers were attempting to establish, characters who act up, act out, and misbehave. This semester we'll read about a number of these eighteenth-century troublemakers, including adulterers, philanderers, prostitutes, thieves, murderers, cross-dressers, and—a favorite among eighteenth-century audiences—reading women. Throughout the semester, we will be attentive to the ways in which these accounts of unruly behavior both reveal and challenge eighteenth-century attitudes toward gender, race, ethnicity, and social class.


  • Daniel Defoe, Roxana (Oxford, 2008)

  • Laura J. Rosenthal, ed., Nightwalkers: Prostitute Narratives from the Eighteenth Century (Broadview, 2008)

  • Aphra Behn, The Rover (U of Nebraska, 1967)

  • Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote (Oxford, 2008)

  • George Lillo, The London Merchant (U of Nebraska, 1965)

  • John Cleland, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Oxford, 2008)

  • Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho (Oxford, 2008)

  • Maria Edgeworth, Belinda (Oxford, 2008)

  • John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, “The Imperfect Enjoyment”

  • Aphra Behn, “The Disappointment”

  • Aphra Behn, The History of the Nun

  • Jonathan Swift, “The Lady’s Dressing Room”

  • Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, “The Reasons that Induced Dr. S…”

Women and Poetry in the Eighteenth Century

Dr. Sharon Smith

Poetry was the most widely circulated and most frequently published literary form in eighteenth-century England, and much of the poetry from this period was written by women. For many women writers, poetry served as a medium for the exploration of subjects that included religion, politics, social life, education, marriage, motherhood, friendship, work, solitude, and nature. The significance of this poetry lies not only in its artistry, but also in its influence. For example, eighteenth-century women’s poetry arguably inspired both English feminism and English Romanticism. Until very recently, however, women poets from this period have been rarely studied and largely excluded from the canon of eighteenth-century poetry.

In this course, we’ll read poetry by women writers like Katherine Philips, Aphra Behn, Anne Killigrew, Mary Chudleigh, Anne Finch, Elizabeth Singer Rowe, Mary Wortley Montagu, Sarah Fyge Egerton, Mary Leapor, Anna Barbauld, Charlotte Smith, and Joanna Baillie; we’ll consider representations of women in the poetry of male writers like Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, and Stephen Duck; and we’ll read a significant amount of secondary material that will give us a deeper understanding of these poets and their work. We’ll study women’s poetry and poetry about women within the context of eighteenth-century attitudes about gender, sexuality, family, labor, leisure, empire, politics, commodity culture, and the literary marketplace.


  • Alexander Pope. Selected Poetry. Oxford University Press, 2008. (The poems we’ll be reading are also available to print on D2L.)

  • Paula R. Backscheider and Catherine Ingrassia, eds. British Women Poets of the Long Eighteenth Century: An Anthology. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

  • Sarah Prescott and David E. Shuttleton, eds. Women and Poetry 1660-1750. Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Eighteenth-Century Gothic

Dr. Sharon Smith

With the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto in 1764, Gothic fiction came into being. Dark tales of gruesome violence and psychological terror, Gothic novels incorporate elements such as distressed heroes and heroines pursued by tyrannical villains; gloomy castles with dark corridors, secret passageways, and mysterious chambers; haunting dreams, troubling prophecies, and disturbing premonitions; abduction, imprisonment, and murder; and, of course, a varied assortment of corpses and apparitions. In this course, we will trace the development of Gothic fiction during the eighteenth century, considering not only how this fiction delves into the shadowy recesses of the human psyche, but also how it both represents and reflects upon its cultural and historical contexts. As the authors of many Gothic novels suggest, the true horrors of human existence have less to do with inexplicable supernatural phenomenon than with the hard realities of everyday life, and their texts often function as progressive—even radical—critiques of political, economic, and social oppression. Throughout the semester, we will explore the connection between the psychological and the social/political/historical within both human life and literary texts. Is there a connection and, if so, how is it to be understood?


  • Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (1764), Oxford UP, 2014
  • Sophia Lee, The Recess; or, a Tale of Other Times (1783-1785), Kentucky UP, 2000
  • Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), Oxford UP, 2008
  • William Godwin, Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794), Oxford UP, 2009
  • Eliza Fenwick, Secresy; or, The Ruin on the Rock (1795)
  • Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796), Oxford UP, 2008
  • Ann Radcliffe The Italian (1797), Oxford UP, 2008
  • Mary Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Woman; or, Maria. (1798), Oxford UP, 2007
  • Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818; written circa 1798-1799), Oxford UP, 2008

The Victorian Supernatural

Dr. Katherine Malone

This course explores the nineteenth-century fascination with the supernatural: ghosts, vampires, werewolves, clairvoyants, invisible and unexplained forces. Our primary texts include short stories and novels spanning from the supernatural tales marketed as Christmas stories in the early Victorian era through the Gothic revival at the fin de siècle. We will analyze this exciting reading material through a range of critical lenses and within the historical context of empire, scientific innovation, the growth of periodical press, and religious and philosophical debates. In addition to writing a seminar paper, students will explore critical approaches to the genre, lead discussion, and gain expertise in pedagogy and textual production by creating a digital anthology of short stories with critical apparatus.


  • Eliot, George. The Lifted Veil. New York: Oxford UP, 2009.

  • Haggard, H. Rider. She. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2006.

  • James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1999.

  • Le Fanu, Sheridan. Carmilla. Richmond: Valancourt, 2009.

  • The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories. Ed. Michael Cox. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. (9780192804471)

  • Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2005.

  • Terrifying Transformations: An Anthology of Victorian Werewolf Fiction,

    1838-1896. Ed. Alexis Easley and Shannon Scott. Richmond: Valancourt Books, 2012.

  • Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2007.

The Lady Novelist: Gender & Authorship in the Victorian Era

Dr. Katherine Malone

This course focuses on women’s fiction and the discourse about women novelists during the Victorian period. Thanks to rapid changes in printing technology, cheap paper, and increased literacy, the mid-nineteenth century saw a boom in magazine and book publishing. While this new market created unprecedented opportunities for women writers, the accomplishments of female authors directly conflicted with Victorian gender ideology that limited women to the domestic sphere. We will read six novels by women, along with contemporary essays and review, to explore how a wide range of writers negotiated these conflicts from the 1840s through the 1890s. By the end of the semester, students will be able to:

  • Use digital and print databases to locate primary and secondary resources

  • Construct bibliographies of primary and secondary sources using MLA style

  • Pose critical questions and arguments that engage with a larger scholarly conversation

  • Demonstrate pedagogical skills by designing short lessons on Victorian literature and culture.


  • Lady Audley’s Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon

  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

  • Adam Bede, George Eliot

  • The Story of a Modern Woman, Ella Hepworth Dixon

  • Phoebe Junior, Margaret Oliphant

  • The Clever Woman of the Family, Charlotte Yonge

  • “The Daughters of England” – Sarah Stickney Ellis

  • “The Lady Novelists,” G.H. Lewes

  • “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists,” George Eliot

Victorian Print Culture and the Novel

Dr. Katherine Malone

In this course, we will explore how the material and cultural conditions of Victorian print culture influenced the creation and reception of the novel. Rapid changes in printing technology, the repeal of the “taxes on knowledge”, cheap paper, and increased literacy led to a boom in British periodicals and book publishing beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Indeed, many of the novels we now consider classics first appeared serially in the pages of magazines where they ran alongside a variety of journalistic genres and advertisements. Furthermore, the numerous reviews and essays about literature that flourished in periodicals helped shape readers’ expectations, genre conventions, and the newly emerging profession of criticism. To understand how the novel genre developed during this era, we will read six novels published between the 1840s and 1890s. We’ll pay close attention to their original publishing context and critical reception to discover how they participated in literary debates about authorship, reading practices, and the role of the literary critic, as well as larger cultural and political debates. Besides reading several big, fat novels that will engage your sympathies, you can expect to gain a broad historical foundation in Victorian literature and culture, familiarity with a range of critical lenses and theories of the novel and specialized research skills in periodicals studies and book history.


  • Lady Audley's Secret, Mary Braddon

  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

  • Hard Times, Charles Dickens

  • Adam Bede, George Eliot

  • The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy

  • The Story of a Modern Woman, Ella Hepworth Dixon

British Modernism

Dr. Nicole Flynn

This course will introduce you to British Modernism and offer you familiarity with the authors, ideas, and controversies associated with it. Modernism was a period of aesthetic and philosophical transfiguration at the beginning of the 20th century. A movement that crossed disciplines and genres, British Modernism radically altered the course of literary history, and it remains a vibrant field at the center of contemporary literary studies. The names we associate with British Modernism are among the most indispensable in world literature: James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, and Joseph Conrad. Yet Modernism was not merely an aesthetic movement; it was also a period of seismic shifts in politics, philosophy, and science. The works of Sigmund Freud and Henri Bergson are as essential as Joyce and Eliot to understanding Modernism. In this course, we will read works by these and other writers in order to trace the literary history of the early 20th century and to understand how Modernism, as a field within contemporary literary studies, continues to develop.


  • Endgame, Samuel Beckett

  • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

  • A Bill of Divorcement, Clemence Dane

  • Collected Poems, T.S. Eliot

  • Howards End, E.M. Forster

  • Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud

  • Dubliners, James Joyce

  • Women in Love, D. H. Lawrence

  • Time and Western Man, Wyndham Lewis

  • Good Morning, Midnight, Jean Rhys

  • Bad Modernisms, Rebecca Walkowitz and Douglas Mao

  • World War One British Poets, Candace Ward

  • The Return of the Soldier, Rebecca West

  • To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

Remembering The Great War

Dr. Nicole Flynn

The Great War. World War I. The War to End all Wars. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of this epic conflict. This war ended the carefree Edwardian era and ushered in the violent birth of modernity. It left no part of British culture and society untouched—gender roles, the economy, technology, medicine, family structure to name a few—and it redrew the map of the world. Although we will anchor our examination in Britain’s experience of the war, our scope will inevitably extend in every direction across the globe. We will examine texts that represent this multifarious global event: canonical and neglected texts; written, visual, and dramatic; fiction and nonfiction; experimental and traditional; texts composed before, during, and after the war; texts about the battlefield and the home front. Furthermore, we will interrogate the way it has been remembered and how texts represent the concept of war.

American Literature

American Renaissance

Dr. Paul Baggett

With the appearance in 1941 of scholar F. O. Matthiessen’s seminal study American Renaissance, critics commonly came to apply the term “Renaissance” to the outpouring of “great” literary works that appeared in the United States during the momentous decade of the 1850s. It is no less common today to see Matthiessen’s famous phrase applied in ways that he might not have anticipated. On the one hand, some would extend the term “Renaissance” to the general period of U.S. literary production that occurred from 1820 to 1865, the latter date marking the end of the nation’s Civil War. On the other hand, revisionist scholars would expand Matthiessen’s influential canon of elite artists to include additional “serious” and alternative “popular” writers whose very presence in or near the American canon must qualify how we define “literature,” let alone literary “greatness.”

This semester, we will continue the ongoing project to revise what, when, who, how, and why we would signify by the phrase “American Renaissance.” Students specifically can expect to approach assigned primary readings from a historicist perspective, as we examine the socio-cultural contexts in which these works were created. We likewise will familiarize ourselves with recent secondary scholarship in the field, so as to participate in the most current critical conversations on period American literatures.


  • Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Walden, Henry David Thoreau

  • Young Goodman Brown and Other Tales, Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

  • The Portable Edgar Allen Poe, Edgar Allen Poe

  • The Lamplighter, Maria Cummins

  • Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman

  • The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Emily Dickinson

  • Beneath the American Renaissance, David S. Reynolds

American Realism and Naturalism: Muckraking in America

Dr. Paul Baggett

This course has traditionally focused on two cultural movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the United States: literary realism and literary naturalism. This semester, we shift our attention to a subgenre of these movements, the literature of exposé and disclosure, also known as muckraker literature. We typically identify the first muckrakers as journalists, those whose bold, investigative reporting exposed corporate corruption and crooked political machines while raising public awareness about urban poverty, unsafe working conditions, racism, and issues such as child labor. But a number of prominent literary figures—most of them literary naturalists who were also experienced journalists—also gained reputations as muckrakers, the most famous being Upton Sinclair, whose novel The Jungle exposed the exploitation of immigrant workers and the corruption of the meatpacking industry. In addition to Sinclair, we will examine works by Jack London, Edward Bellamy, Sinclair Lewis, and Frank Norris, as well as by the prominent feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman and African American writer Charles W. Chesnutt. Before doing so, we will familiarize ourselves with the period of muckraking, the Progressive Era. In addition to reading some significant muckraking pieces by journalists such as Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, and Ray Stannard Baker, we will examine the speech by Theodore Roosevelt, who coined the label “muckrakers.”

One of our primary interests is to treat muckraking, in whatever form, as a narrative art. To get some preliminary knowledge of narrative theory, we will read selections from two foundational texts in the field, Hayden White’s The Content of Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation and James Phelan’s Narrative as Rhetoric: Technique, Audience, Ethics, and Ideology. In light of their theoretical insights, we will consider how the literary muckrakers shared with journalists a commitment to immersion and comprehensive reporting, and conversely, how the journalists employed some of the same narrative devices of voice, plot, character development, and symbolic language as their literary counterparts. Finally, while we will devote the majority of our time to authors of the early twentieth century, we will also consider the narrative art of some contemporary muckrakers, including journalist Eric Schlosser, documentary film maker Michael Moore, and Julian Assange, founder of the non-profit media organization, which describes itself as fearless in its efforts to “get the unvarnished truth out to the public.”

Studies in African American Literature: Poverty, Politics, and Cultural Identity

Dr. Paul Baggett

Since the beginning of the African American literary enterprise, the question of authenticity has plagued and compromised the effort to produce a united front against racial oppression. This semester we will look at the role poverty has played in shaping African American identity and how escape from poverty can be seen as a double-edged sword which frees the individual and his/her family from suffering, while raising questions about the person’s continued commitment to the struggle against racism. We will examine other issues as well, including mixed-raced origin and phenotype, gender, sexual identity, interracial marriage, regionalism, and politics. Readings include: Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain; Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition; Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory; Gaines, Of Love and Dust; Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun; Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Larsen, Passing; Morrison, The Bluest Eye; Obama, Dreams of my Father; and Wright, 12 Million Black Voices.

American Literature and the “Transnational Turn”

Dr. Paul Baggett

In essence, this course asks “what does it mean to be American?” by investigating a range of literature from the early 20th century to the present. This question is surely not a new one, but the recent “transnational turn” in American literary studies and the scholarly interest in American literature’s encounter with, as well as integration into and circulation through, the rest of the world have opened up a productive field of inquiry. We will begin by familiarizing ourselves with some foundational texts in American Studies that seek to globally re-map American literary cultures and to theorize American literature through concepts of the planetary. We will then consider this trend through a number of case studies from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including works by African American, Native Americans, American expatriates, and American immigrants. Reading these works will allow us not only to comprehend but to interrogate the term transnational: what does it mean to read “transnationally,” for a literary text to behave “transnationally” or for it to possess transnational qualities? In addition to theoretical selections from Appadurai, Gilroy, Said, Gunn, Rowe, Anderson, and Dimock, our readings will include works by Larsen, McKay, Baldwin, Hemingway, Erdrich, Danticat, Diaz, Lahiri, and Adichie.

American Experimental Traditions

Professor Steven Wingate

Though America is a relative latecomer to the world literary stage, it has established a reputation in the past century as fertile ground for avant-garde movements. This course will explore various strains of experiment, as exemplified by Gertrude Stein, Kenneth Patchen, William S. Burroughs, Donald Barthelme, Lydia Daivs, Kenneth Goldsmith, etc. We’ll also examine the work of filmmakers like Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Ken Jacobs, and Phil Solomon, as well as digital literature practitioners such as Nick Montfort and Emily Short. Student-led exploration will be a strong component of this class, and we will remain open to discussion of how historical avant-gardes affect and enable more “mainstream” literary practices.


  • Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons

  • Kenneth Patchen, The Journal of Albion Moonlight

  • William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch

  • Donald Barthelme, Forty Stories

  • Lydia Davis, Varieties of Disturbance

  • Kenneth Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age

The Body in Literature and Film

Dr. Paul Baggett

Critical interest in the human body has a long history, written about by philosophers, historians, and cultural theorists alike. It has been described, variously, as a biological entity, a site of cultural production, a psychosexual construct, and a material burden. It is at once a locus of invention and self-expression, and also an object of domination and control. Historically, body images have served to circumscribe national identities, and in contemporary culture, the body often serves as a site for debates about race, class, gender, and sexuality.

This course will consider ways in which the human body figures within American literature and culture. It will encourage students to explore the politics of bodily representation, in terms of how the body has been depicted and how it has become a trope employed to signify different philosophical, social and political ideas. While we will focus primarily on the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, we will also examine works as early as Walt Whitman’s 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass and as recent as Philip Roth’s 2007 novel Exit Ghost. We will also view a couple films, including David Cronenberg’s1997 filmic adaptation of David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly.Other works may include: Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition, Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery, Luther Standing Bear’s My People the Sioux, Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth,Jack London’s Martin Eden, James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. In addition, we will read some of the foundational theories of the body as well as recent scholarship in gender studies, critical race theory, and transnational American studies.

The Postmodern Doorstop Novel of the Late 1990s

Dr. Jason McEntee

We will examine three significant novels from the late 1990s: David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (1996), Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon (1997), and Don DeLillo’s Underworld (1997). This will be a course that involves close reading and intense discussion of that reading. Attendance is mandatory. Additional readings TBD. Our initial discussions of each novel will be rooted in the contexts of “postmodernism/postmodernity” (and, of course, “modernism/modernity”). After that, however, I expect that we will embark on a wide-ranging, organic discussion of the issues emanating from these novels. Course requirements include: 1) reading (lots of it); 2) three 10-minute presentations on journal articles related to each author; and 3) a rigorously-researched final seminar essay of 15-20 pages (which also includes a required paper proposal and brief discussion with the class).

The Gulf and Afghanistan Wars in Literature and Film

Dr. Jason McEntee

The Gulf Wars in Literature and Film will examine the social, historical, political and artistic impacts of the novels, graphic novels, biographies, poetry, drama, television and film that attempt to chronicle and define the nation’s involvement in Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.


  • The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, Jean Baudrillard

  • The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq, Helen Benedict

  • My War, Colby Buzzell

  • She Went to War, Ronda Cornum

  • Stateside: Poems, Jehanne Dubrow

  • The End of Victory Culture, Tom Englehardt

  • The Forever War, Dexter Filkins

  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain

  • The Heart and the Fist, Eric Greitens

  • The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers

  • The Iraq War Reader, eds. Micah Sifry and Christpher Cerf

  • Jarhead, Anthony Swofford

  • Here, Bullet, Brian Turner


  • Wag the Dog (1997)

  • Courage Under Fire (1996)

  • Three Kings (1998)

  • Standard Operating Procedure

  • The Dark Knight (2008)

  • In the Valley of Elah (2007)

  • Wartorn (2011)

  • Uncovered: The Whole Truth about the Iraq War (2003)

  • The Hurt Locker (2008)

  • Grace is Gone (2007)

  • Lioness (2008)

  • The Invisible War (2012)

  • Redacted (2007)

  • The War Tapes (2006)

  • Osama (2003)

  • Restrepo (2011)

  • The Messenger (2009)

  • Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (2007)

  • Source Code (2011)

  • The Big Lebowski (1998)