Aml 3031-10784: Periods of Early American Literature Keith Cartwright

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Spring 2014 Undergraduate Course Descriptions

AML 3031-10784: Periods of Early American Literature

Keith Cartwright

This course will consist of readings in American literature from the pre-colonial period to the Civil War, with particular attention devoted to two distinct periods. We will consider the ways in which such periods as "the colonial" or the "American Renaissance" are constructed.

AML 3041-10653: Periods of Later American Literature

LIT 4934-12580: Literature and the Empathic Imagination (Seminar)

Tru Leverette
We can look to literature superficially for entertainment or more deeply for its ability to illuminate life and provide us with windows into diverse experiences. In exposing ourselves to other ways of being in the world, we can spark our empathic imagination, increasing our awareness of and emotional response to realities far different from our own. Our reading in this class will explore American fiction that we will (hopefully) enjoy, but we will look to texts that allow us to explore the question "How will we be?" Our texts will help us delve empathically into others' experiences in order that we question how people in various contexts choose to structure their lives; what is privileged; and what values—both conscious and unconscious—are used to shape lives, relationships, and communities. By extension, our exploration will allow self-reflection on how we want to go about forming our own lives, relationships, and communities.
AML 3102-12535: American Fiction

Bart Welling
Was D. H. Lawrence right to claim that “[t]he essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, a killer”?  Is our country a melting pot, a mosaic, a salad bowl, a quilt, a giant poem, an empire, a “land that has never been yet” (Hughes), or something else?  How influential has “the American dream” really been in shaping our lives and literature?  Can one story drive an entire nation to war?  Conversely, can the stories we tell about who we are, and where we are, help us live more justly and sustainably on the planet?    
We will grapple with questions like these on a regular basis as we attempt to make sense both of American places and American stories.  America has always been a fertile place for fiction; as many scholars have observed, “America” itself was a powerful fiction long before the establishment of the United States, when only a tiny fraction of the lands of the western hemisphere had been claimed and mapped by Europeans.  In this class we will explore key schools and developments in the fiction of the United States in the context of some of the larger cultural narratives that have inspired, shaped, and often bedeviled our identities, values, and lifeways as inhabitants of a bewilderingly diverse “New World.”  Our goal will not simply be to use literature to deconstruct these master narratives (America as Promised Land, the United States as America, Americans as Rugged Individualists, the U.S. as Bastion of Freedom, and so on).  That would be too easy.  Rather, we will carefully track the complex interplay

between master narratives and historical realities, and between foundational group narratives and the individual literary productions of some of our most talented writers of fiction.  We will also frequently turn back to scrutinize the contemporary American “storyscape,” asking how our private life stories mesh with new master narratives, how cultural fictions that have been officially disavowed (such as mythologies of white supremacy) continue to haunt us, how old narratives have adapted to new social trends and technologies of expression, and how the most useful and beautiful American fictions may be passed on to future generations.    

AML 3621-11323: Black American Literature – Race and Genre

Tru Leverette

Black American Literature: Race & Genre Literary categories have long been nationalized, and the literature of minority groups within nations has been sub-categorized based on authors’ minority status. We might question why and on what basis categories such as black American literature exist.

Likewise, we might ask whether such categories should exist at all. Are there distinct literary characteristics, specific tropes or certain styles and aesthetics, that can be said to distinguish black American literature from other American literatures? Is the distinction solely racial? This course will explore these and other questions through the study of texts, from slave narratives to contemporary novels, written by African-American writers. We will also read literary criticism that questions the genre of African-American literature within an increasingly globalized literary marketplace.

AML 4242-12536: Place, Race, and Gender in Modern U.S. Environmental Writing and Ecocriticism (20th Century American Literature)

Bart Welling

Who cares about environmental writing? In an era of catastrophic oil spills, collapsing ocean ecosystems, mass terrestrial extinctions, global climate change, worsening water shortages, ever-growing mountains of garbage and toxic waste, and ongoing problems with deforestation, desertification, and out-of-control wildfires—all compounded by the fact that the world’s human population is projected to keep expanding well into this century—it would make more sense to ask, Who can afford not to read environmental writing? Far from merely celebrating rocks and trees, authors who focus on questions about our place in the biosphere and our relationships with nonhuman beings can challenge our most deeply help assumptions about who we are and how we live. Moreover, they can help us envision a future defined not by scarcity and conflict but by greater abundance for all of the world’s species and cultures. The literary tradition that Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854) helped usher in has played a major role in the creation of national parks and the preservation of wilderness areas, but it has also participated in key debates on issues that affect the lives of people in the heart of the city: sprawl and overpopulation, smog and nuclear radiation, pesticides and organic farming, homelessness and urban planning. Environmental writers will continue to light our way as we move towards greener sources of energy, wiser systems of transportation, and cultures centering on sustainability and compassion rather than hyper-consumption and techno-narcissism. In short, if you’re interested in writing that has the potential to spark profound transformations in how people think, work, eat, shop, build, get around, and even express themselves spiritually, then you should care about environmental writing.

Despite the unfortunate fact that environmental issues tend to be coded as liberal concerns in contemporary U. S. culture, this class is not designed to “convert” students to any one political perspective. But it does aim to introduce students to a set of environmentally-oriented texts and new ways of reading them—critical practices that have proliferated in recent years under the sign of ecocriticism—that will involve everyone in non-partisan political activities of the best kind: engaging in spirited dialogue with the authors on our list and each other; analyzing and producing environmental and ecocritical rhetoric; getting our hands dirty as we leave the classroom to test and build arguments about the everyday places we inhabit, and asking deep questions about how they might be transformed. The class will also engage with the politics of ethnic, cultural, gender, sexual, and even human identity as we explore points of convergence between environmental and ecocritical issues and the topics that have dominated critical debates in literary studies since the 1960s. We will focus, in particular, on the dialectic between experiences of place in the modern U. S. and our standpoints as readers and writers who belong to diverse cultures, ethnicities, genders, socioeconomic classes, and other groups—but who also dwell in a country marked by unique and powerful master narratives about nature and our nation’s place in it.

CLT 4110-12538 : Classical Backgrounds of Western Literature

Samuel Kimball

In this course we will read some of the major Greek works, along with one Roman epic, that are part of the classical inheritance of Western literature. We will do so in order to understand how this literary heritage has influenced the emergence and subsequent transformation of Western consciousness in general and Western religious thought in particular. To this end we will focus on how Greek literature and Virgil’s Aeneid represent the pagan Olympian gods, above all Zeus, compared with how selected books of the Bible (Genesis, the Gospels, and Revelation) develop a monotheistic conception of a single Godhead who, in the New Testament, sacrifices his only begotten son.

Our itinerary will begin with Hesiod’s Theogony, which depicts the origin and history of the Olympian gods, and contrast this narrative with how Genesis envisions the creation and history of the world, with how the Gospel of John reinterprets the Genesis account of God’s inaugural manifestation, and with how Revelation anticipates an apocalyptic end to the history that begins with Genesis. We will then turn to Homer’s Odyssey, which we will read in relation to René Girard’s signature work of anthropological and cultural criticism, Violence and the Sacred, which traces the origin of human sociality to the discovery or invention of sacrificial victimage and its institutionalization in ritual and its subsequent commemoration in epic narratives and tragic drama. In tandem with this interpretive task, we will read various Greek tragedies—Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, and Euripides’ The Bacchae—in relation to the Eucharist and the Crucifixion in order to suggest how Jesus offers a critique of the Greek gods and the sacrificial worship they demanded. We will then extend our comparison by returning to Aeschylus (specifically, the three dramas that make up his Oresteia) and to Euripides (his Medea). We will conclude our investigation of the religious concerns that are central to early Western literature by critically examining how Virgil envisions the founding of the Roman Empire in his epic poem, the Aeneid.

As we proceed, we will endeavor to understand what it means to think critically about the sacred. What is involved in this activity? How does one go about such critical thinking? How do Greek and Roman literary texts themselves offer critical perspectives on their pagan tradition? What has Judeo-Christianity inherited from these texts, how and why has it revised this inheritance, and to what extent has this revision been a form of cultural critique? What is the relation between the sacred and the symbolic order, including the ideological conditioning and social control of consciousness that the symbolic order enforces?

As part of the theoretical framework for our discussions of these and other questions, we will read Penelope Deutscher’s short book, How to Read Derrida. This introduction to Derrida’s thought will provide a framework for examining to what extent Greek literature is able to deconstruct the “logocentric” economy of the Greek mind that produces Greek culture, especially as Greek culture makes the transition from orality to literacy. We will also read Derrick de Kerckhove’s essay, “Theory of Greek Tragedy,” which examines how Greek drama participates in this momentous cultural transition. To this end we will endeavor to understand how Greek literature addresses the intellectual problems and especially the emotional challenges that arise for a polytheistic society that is learning how to adapt its thinking to the new technology of alphabetic writing, a development that, for reasons we shall explore, supports the rise of monotheism.

CRW 2201-11269: Introduction to Creative Non-Fiction

Mark Ari

The National Foundation for the Arts defines creative nonfiction as “factual prose that is also literary – infused with the stylistic devices, tropes and rhetorical flourishes of the best fiction and the most lyrical of narrative poetry.” Creative Nonfiction may use scenes, dialogue, and cinematic and sensory detail to increase vividness of writing. But, in the words of Philip Lopate, it can also be “reflective writing where thinking and the play of consciousness is the main actor.” In this class, we explore possibilities that range from Gonzo to Tinker Creek, and everything between and beyond. The course further provides an introduction to basic creative writing concepts and methods in the service of a radically subjective narrative or lyrical approach to the factual. Experimentation is encouraged. Laughter is relished.

CRW 2930-12542: Horror Fiction Workshop

Will Ludwigsen

H.P. Lovecraft once wrote, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” It may well be that the very first stories our hominid ancestors ever told were as simple as jumping from the caves shouting, “Boo!” Horror is our way of inoculating ourselves against the real horrors of the world, making them small and concrete and portable in our hands. By the end of this course, you will understand the basic principles of writing horror fiction in the short form, including: voice, character, plot, point of view, scene, description, and revision; specific topics important to horror fiction writers including horror tropes and the different subgenres of the form; and special issues of working with or against the long history and active culture of genre fiction.

CRW 2930-12541: Makings of Memory – Writings of Remembrance and Oblivion

Clark Lunberry
What does memory have to tell us, to reveal to us, about the world, about ourselves? In this class, we will read, view and discuss a variety of different types of memory-related materials, all of them united in their focus upon remembrance and imagination, the shaping of a life as it is seen through re-collection, as if through the rear-view mirror. The assigned readings for this class will be intended as starting-off points for your careful reflection, our wide-ranging discussions and, then, your own engaged writing, always moving us towards a more fruitful examination of our own memories and imagination. How are memories made, and to what end? What does it, as Wittgenstein said, “feel like to remember”? How are memories written, filmed and photographed (and, in the process, perhaps fabricated), and for what purpose? What is the role of memory (and forgetful oblivion) in the creation, and sustaining, of identity? And what happens to that identity, that sense of self, when memories falter or fail, as we recognize that which “memory cannot contain,” as we, as Shakespeare counseled, “Commit to these waste blanks”?
CRW 3110-11271: Fiction Workshop

Mark Ari

Each of us, however long we’ve been writing, are wherever we are and hoping to get “better,” whatever this means to anyone at a particular time. We are always, every one of us, “beginners.” In this workshop, we write lies. Perhaps we do so in the service of some greater truth. I don’t know. You’ll have to tell me and try to convince me. We tackle technical concerns and seek methods by which the reliable resources of imagination can be tapped in the service of narrative fabrication. We read and write fiction. We talk and write about the fiction written by others. We bite nails and open veins and tend to the work at hand. Experimentation is encouraged. Laughter is relished.

CRW 3930-11939: New Media Writing

Mark Ari

What is creative writing in a post-paper world? What new inspiration might we find in its freedoms and constraints? With these questions in mind, we will examine the exciting possibilities suggested by new methods of communication and the genre-busting potential of new technologies. As writers, our focus will be on tapping the reliable sources of imagination to discover opportunities for new strategies and forms of fiction and/or creative nonfiction. Students may, if they chose, incorporate other genres (poetry, songwriting, drama) and forms (film making, visual art, music, sound, design, etc.) This is not a course in creating content for websites. It is one that explores how we can find inspiration and artful expression in a new era of real-time creation, publication, and interaction. Collaboration is possible. Experimentation is encouraged. Laughter is relished.

CRW 4924-11932: Ghostwriting

Mark Ari

Prerequisite: Permission of the Instructor (email - This class will focus on the art of writing someone else’s story. Students will learn interviewing techniques and prepare transcriptions of recorded interviews. They will review the raw material gathered, deriving and shaping story to create drafts that will be revised and polished into finished manuscript. Exercises and mini-projects will be used to learn and practice for the main work of the class which will focus on a single subject, an individual from our community who has lived a unique and varied life. Our manuscripts will tell this person’s story. Since all of the elements of successful storytelling will be addressed (point of view, characterization, voice, etc.), this course is especially useful to students who write creative nonfiction and fiction, those seeking careers in editing, publishing, or ghostwriting, and those who simply want to tell the stories of interesting people.

ENC 2451-11329: Medicine in Narrative and the News

Chris Gabbard

Per capita, Americans spend far more on health care than do the people of any of the other advanced industrialized nations. Health-care spending at the current rate is not sustainable. And yet, the results are disappointing: in terms of health outcomes (life expectancy, infant mortality, recovery from curable diseases, etc.), the U.S. ranks down in the pack.

U.S. health-care delivery systems are undergoing major change. The Affordable Health Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, has gone into effect. While these mandates represent major reform, they constitute only a part of the transformation. This course will explore some of the big issues and pressing problems in how medical care is delivered in the U.S. It also will examine how medical care operates in other advanced nations. Students will read about the issues, write summaries, refresh themselves on the basics of grammar and mechanics, and engage in a substantial research project (investigating a topic of their choosing) using APA method.

ENC 2460: Writing for Business

Brenda Maxey-Billings

This course introduces students to rhetorical components of business writing and to strategies for successful research-based writing in diverse academic and non-academic situations within business. This course familiarizes students with expectations for business documents, including formatting, content, and style. Students practice writing in a variety of genres, including the argumentative essay, and address a variety of audiences, using research strategies relevant to business and related professional communities. The class focuses on four cornerstones of effective professional communication: (1) Surface correctness; (2) “Plain English” style; (3) Logical, Appropriate, and Ethical Content; and (4) Document Format and Design.

ENC 3250 (online): Professional Communication - Business

Brenda Maxey-Billings

In this distance-learning class, students work toward improving the quality and content of their professional writing and familiarizing themselves with various document formats. Thus, the class focuses on four cornerstones of effective professional communication: (1) Surface correctness; (2) “Plain English” style; (3) Logical, Appropriate, and Ethical Content; and (4) Document Format and Design.

The coursework requires students to investigate rhetorical and visual features of communication; research and formulate strong documents; master “Plain English” stylistic skills; demonstrate comprehension of written instructions; improve their writing’s grammatical, mechanical, and syntactical correctness; and gain practice in the conventions of professional writing. During the term, each student produces several professionally formatted documents/texts (correspondence, employment materials, technical writing, case studies, etc.), and one formal online “presentation” to the class.

ENC 3250-11845: Professional Communication

Tim Donovan

When you begin a profession many of you will spend a great deal of your time writing--nearly 40%. Yet until recently you have had little, if any, experience in the kind of writing required for a technical or business profession. Your writing assignments generally have been research projects, literary essays, or short lab reports directed to an audience that is more knowledgeable about the subject matter: your professor. Professional Communication is an intermediate course that prepares students for the types of written communication found in professional settings. Rather than mere information transfer, professional communication generally translates and mediates highly complex details efficiently for a colleague, supervisor, client, or a less expert audience. Likewise, the professional reports you will be writing on the job will address more complex audiences and have more instrumental purposes; unlike your professor, these audiences are dependent on the precision and clarity of your written work. Thus, the importance of this course is finding the ways of making this communication effective and meaningful to these varied audiences.

ENC 3310-10173: Writing Prose

James Beasley

ENC 3310 is described as "writing of various kinds, such as speculation, reports, documented articles or criticism, with emphasis on persuasion as the object." The purpose of this class is to first of all demonstrate how that object of persuasion is culturally constructed in American academic institutions in the 21st century. The second purpose of this course is to demonstrate the kind of thinking that writing in an American academic institution allows writers to do, and conversely, to demonstrate the kinds of thinking that writing in an American academic institution in the 21st century does not allow writers to do. To this end, we will focus on the modern nature of this writing, the overtly masculine nature of this writing, and the American nature of this kind of writing. By taking this class, you will become critically conscious of the artifice and constructed-ness of writing in American academic institutions in the 21st century, which after many years of uninterrupted and unexamined practice, may have become opaque or invisible to you.

ENC 3930-12559: The Essay

James Beasley

This course will examine the history and philosophical journey of the essay form. The French word for essay is not a noun, but a verb—to essai, to experiment, to try. Students will examine the essay's beginnings in the age of exploration, its mid-twentieth century maturation, and its postmodern reinvigoration. Students will not only analyze the beginnings of these movements but also examine contemporary essayists whose experimental natures embody the essay's exploratory nature.

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