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English Graduate Course Descriptions

Summer 2023

English 792.S01 Topics: Gothic Film

Dr. Sharon Smith


Horace Walpole’s 1764 novella The Castle of Otranto established many of the conventions we associate with Gothic narrative: distressed heroes and heroines pursued by tyrannical villains; gloomy estates 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, apparitions, and “monsters.” These conventions infiltrated cinema early in its history, establishing Gothic film as a significant genre that continues to engage audiences in the present day. Like their literary predecessors, these films explore the darker side of family, marriage, gender, and sexuality, often revealing the power dynamics that shape them. As they do so, they demonstrate how the true horrors of human existence often have less to do with inexplicable supernatural phenomena than with the horrific realities of life. Among these realities is our inability to escape a past that relentlessly haunts the present and that must be confronted before it can be left behind. During this five-week online course, we will watch films that engage Gothic conventions and concerns and will read a selection of criticism focusing on the films we watch. Films may include Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, Georgina Lightning’s Older Than America, Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, and Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog.


Fall 2023

ENGL 592.S01 Professional Editing & Publishing

On Campus: Mondays 3-5:50 p.m.

Dr. Katherine Malone

This course focuses on the theory and practice of professional editing in the field of English studies. Our readings will consider questions relating to authorship, textuality, and the role of the editor in journal, book, and web publishing. In addition to exploring contemporary debates in scholarly editing, we will consider how editorial decisions (such as introductory essays, appendices, footnotes, illustrations, and textual sources) shape meaning across various editions of a work. You will learn how to build style sheets, ensure error-free copy, and manage editorial projects while gaining hands-on experience with a top-tier academic journal. Assignments include a course blog, two edited articles, a textual history essay, and a final project for which you will use your research and editing skills to create an anthology of nineteenth-century short stories.


  • Einsohn, Amy, Marilyn Schwartz, and Erika Buky. The Copyeditor's Handbook and Workbook: The Complete Set. Oakland: University of California Press, 2019. (9780520306677)
  • Keleman, Erick. Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction. New York: Norton, 2009. (9780393929423)
  • Williams, Joseph M., and Joseph Bizup. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. 12th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2016. (9780134080413)

ENGL 592.ST1 Screenwriting


Prof. 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.

ENGL 705.S01 Seminar in Teaching Composition

On Campus: Thursdays 1-3:50 p.m.

Dr. Nathan Serfling

This course will provide you with a foundation in the pedagogies and theories (and their attendant histories) of writing instruction, a foundation that will prepare you to teach your own writing courses at SDSU and elsewhere. As you will discover through our course, though, writing instruction does not come with any prescribed set of “best” practices. Rather, writing pedagogies stem from and continue to evolve because of various and largely unsettled conversations about what constitutes effective writing and effective writing instruction. Part of becoming a practicing writing instructor, then, is studying these conversations to develop a sense of what “good writing” and “effective writing instruction” might mean for you in our particular program and how you might adapt that understanding to different programs and contexts.

As we read about, discuss, and research writing instruction, we will address a variety of practical and theoretical topics. The practical focus will allow us to attend to topics relevant to your immediate classroom practices: designing a curriculum and various types of assignments, delivering the course content, and assessing student work, among others. Our theoretical topics will begin to reveal the underpinnings of these various practical matters, including their historical, rhetorical, social, and political contexts. In other words, we will investigate the praxis—the dialogic interaction of practice and theory—of writing pedagogy. As a result, this course aims to prepare you not only as a writing teacher but also as a nascent writing studies/writing pedagogy scholar.

At the end of this course, you should be able to engage effectively in the classroom practices described above and participate in academic conversations about writing pedagogy, both orally and in writing. Assessment of these outcomes will be based primarily on the various writing assignments you submit and to a smaller degree on your participation in class discussions and activities.

ENGL 726.S01 Seminar in English Literature since 1660: Living “In the Wake” of Colonization and Slavery

On Campus: Tuesdays 3-5:50 p.m.

Dr. Sharon Smith

This course examines representations of race in literature of the long eighteenth century, considering how these representations were used to both rationalize and critique colonization and transatlantic slavery. Though we’ll consider texts written from the perspective of the colonizing culture, a significant portion of the course will focus on voices from multiple historical, geographical, and generic contexts that push back against and fill gaps within colonial narratives. Engaging a “presentist” approach to the study of eighteenth-century texts, we’ll discuss how twenty-first-century Americans are currently living “in the wake”—to use Christina Sharpe’s phrase—of colonization and slavery, as can be seen in the movements for and reactions against ending systemic racial violence, teaching Black and Indigenous histories, reforming the prison system, and returning stolen Indigenous lands. Literary texts will include Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, The Woman of Colour, Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, Mary Prince’s Autobiography, and a variety of shorter texts that engage with subject matter related to colonization, indigeneity, enslavement, abolition, and rebellion. We will also consider the work of more recent authors and scholars, including Robert Hayden, Toni Morrison, Saidiya Hartman, Christina Sharpe, and Layli Long Soldier.

ENGL 792.ST1 Reading Contemporary Poetry and Creative Nonfiction


Amber Jensen, M.A., M.F.A.

In this course, we will explore how contemporary poetry and creative nonfiction build upon traditional models but also continue to innovate and blur genre distinctions. We will draw from theoretical texts How to Read (and Write About) Poetry, Second Edition by Susan Holbrook and The Next American Essay (A New History of the Essay) by John D’Agata) and read individual poems and essays, as well as complete collections and memoirs, including (selections subject to change): Kaleb Ray Cadrilli’s Water I Won’t Touch, Tyree Daye’s Cardinal, Christine Stewart’s The Poet & The Architect, Joy Harjo’s Crazy Brave, and Mary Alice Haug’s Out of Loneliness.Our rhetorical reading of these texts will focus on the relationship between text and context, examining how these works reflect and impact the world they are produced and consumed in, what we bring to our reading of these texts and what these texts offer to us.