Books that Cook
Professor of English Jennifer Cognard-Black's new book, Books that Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal, is being published by NYU Press this August.

Program Information

Ben Click, Chair
Professor of English

Office staff: 240-895-4225

Alumni—where are they now?

Monica Powell

Monica Powell (class of 2011) graduated with an English major and a WGSX minor. She currently lives in Washington DC, where she works in theatre education with the Young Playwright's Theatre and the Shakespeare Theatre Company.


Student Spotlight

Maria Smaldone

Maria Smalldone finds doors opening for her in Oxford, while studying at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Fall 2012 Courses

English Major Core Courses

ENGL 204.01: Reading and Writing in the English Major TTh 2:00, Richardson

ENGL 204.02: Reading and Writing in the English Major TTh 10:00, Nelson

ENGL 281.01: Literature in History I: BCE–1700 TTh 6:00, Wilson

ENGL 281.02: Literature in History I: BCE–1700 MW 2:40, Charlebois

ENGL 282.01: Literature in History II: 1700–1900 MW 2:40, Richardson

ENGL 283.01: Literature in History III: 20th Century MWF 8:00, Bates

ENGL 283.02: Literature in History III: 20th Century MWF 10:40, Nelson

ENGL 304.01: Methods in Literary Studies MW 2:40, Chandler

ENGL 304.02: Methods in Literary Studies TTh 2:00, Wooley

100 & 200 Level Literature

ENGL 106.01: Introduction to Literature MW 6:00, Charlebois

This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in the Arts. Prerequisite:  ENGL102, CORE101, NITZ180, or CORE301.

ENGL 130.01: Reading Nature MWF 9:20, Chandler

Whoever you are, wherever you live, what is most important in life connects in some way to your relationship with land, water and air; it is the integration of your inner with your outer world.  A good way to understand ourselves, therefore, can come from reading about the ecologies to which we belong. For that reason, this course will explore both nature and nature writing. One goal is to use our readings to think about our individual and collective relationship with our environment, and to that end, we will read essays by authors including Henry David Thoreau and Annie Dillard, poetry by authors including Mary Oliver and N. Scott Momaday, and fiction by authors including Ursula K. Le Guin and Raymond Carver. We will use these works also to think critically about nature and modern civilization and about how our literary tradition has contributed to our exchange of ideas.

This course counts towards the ENST minor.  
This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in the Arts. 
Prerequisite:  ENGL102, CORE101, NITZ180, or CORE301.

ENGL 235.01: Slave Narratives MWF 9:20, Wooley

In this course, we will explore representations of American slavery.  We will begin with the slave narratives of the antebellum era, focusing on well-known accounts by former slaves like Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass.  We will then consider both novels and short stories about the slave system written from a variety of perspectives, both before and after the Civil War. The final section of the course will take up more recent novels that focus on slavery.  Throughout, we will attend to how these works reflect and challenge cultural assumptions about race, while also providing a space for American writers to work out conflicted ideas about the history of slavery in the United States and its impact on how we understand “American” ideals like freedom and liberty. Course readings may include works by Jacobs, Douglass, William Wells Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Chesnutt, Joel Chandler Harris, Toni Morrison, Edward P. Jones, and Sherley Anne Williams.

This course counts towards the AADS minor.
This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Cultural Perspectives.
Prerequisite: ENGL 102, CORE 101, or CORE 301.

Writing Courses

ENGL 270.01: Creative Writing TTh 10:00, Cognard-Black

ENGL 270.02: Creative Writing  TTh 2:00, Staff

ENGL 395.01: Topics in Writing:  Creative Non-Fiction TTh 6:00, Hammond

Creative non-fiction, as its name suggests, is both "creative" and "nonfictive." Creative nonfiction enacts an imaginative engagement with the real: it combines the shaping presence of the imagination with a deep and honest exploration of factuality. The imaginative element demands a strong and consistent point of view, as in all first-person prose. But in its factual dimension, creative nonfiction goes beyond memoir in order to make a point, convey knowledge, and/or deliver an insight. This workshop offers extensive study of and practice in the genre. 

Prerequisite: one 200-level writing course or the permission of the instructor.

300 & 400 Level Literature

ENGL 355.01: 

"We Other Victorians" MW 2:40, Cognard-Black

British literature during Queen Victoria’s reign represents a fascinating period in the development of what we now term “popular culture.”  London’s Crystal Palace served as a symbol of middle-class consumerism; modern-day advertising was born; photographs became metonyms for personal and national identities; the serialization of the novel enticed middle- and working-class audiences to become avid readers; and technologies like the steam engine and the telegraph allowed for mass production and distribution of goods, including printed texts.  In this course, we will explore interconnections between Victorian literature and culture by examining the treatment of some of the major issues of the time:  science and evolution, industrialization and commercialism, women’s rights and domesticity, race and empire, fashion and image, as well as aesthetics and criticism.  We will simultaneously discuss our modern-day views of the Victorians through the medium of our own popular culture, examining excerpts from such texts as contemporary films and novels about the Victorian period.  By the end of the term, it is my hope that you will re-see our own world through the Victorian imagination, coming to understand what Foucault meant when he said that we are Other Victorians.

Novels will include works such as Hard Times, Jane Eyre, Vanity Fair, Alice in Wonderland, Daniel Deronda, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wide Sargasso Sea, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman.  We will also read poetry by such authors as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and Christina Rossetti as well as polemics by Charles Darwin, John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, and/or Oscar Wilde.  In addition, we will simultaneously survey cultural texts such as advertisements, puffs, reviews, cartoons, paintings, and personal letters as well as consumer goods such as clothing, furniture, and wallpaper—and we will watch at least one modern-day film. 

Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor. English 282 recommended.

ENGL 355.03: British Fantasy TTh 10:00, Bates

The course will dip into various points of English’s centuries-long fascination with fantasy, starting with William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and then moving full bore into the rich 19th century where we’ll look at the interest in Medievalism (John Keats’s Eve of St. Agnes, the Pre-Raphaelites), the use of fantasy as a counter to industrialism and laissez-faire capitalism (Charles Dickens’s Hard Times), the emergence of “nonsense” (Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear), and the merging of the fantastic and the erotic (Christine Rossetti’s Goblin Market). We will spend two or three weeks on Victorian and Edwardian children’s literature and popular literature (such as Kipling’s Jungle Books and Just So Stories, James Barrie’s Peter Pan, Kenneth Graham’s The Wind and the Willows, and works by George MacDonald and Ryder Haggard) and finish up with 20th century fantasy (C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, another author to be chosen). To better understand the significance of fantasy we will be drawing on such theorists as Tzvetan Todorov (the nature of the fantastic), Sigmund Freud (his theory of the uncanny), Carl Jung (archetypal dream symbolism), Joseph Campbell (the journey of the hero), and Bruno Bettelheim (the uses of enchantment). 

Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor. 

ENGL 365.01: American Realism MW 2:40, Nelson 

In his late nineteenth-century text Criticism and Fiction, WD Howells argued that American literature should “portray men and women as they are, actuated by the passions and motives in the measure we all know.” This course will examine how writers after the Civil War responded to Howells’ mandate by telling stories about American citizens “as they are.”  Of course, as we will discover, this mandate is deceptively simple, and the second half of the nineteenth century could be characterized as a time in American literature when writers struggled with the complexities of this project. Which “men and women,” they asked, are worthy subjects of these stories?  Do “we … all know” the same things about these men and women?  How do we tell these stories?  Furthermore, how do we tell stories about men and women we don’t know?  What are the "passions and motives" appropriate for literary texts? How do changes in American culture and politics (Reconstruction, The Gilded Age, progressivism, industrialization, modern capitalism, the rise of consumer culture) affect these men and women and our ability to tell stories about them? In short, this class explores how all of these authors are working through questions of what it means to be an American and how literature should talk about that American.  As we explore these questions, we will examine short stories, essays, and novels by authors such as Howells, Mark Twain, Henry James, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sarah Orne Jewett, Joel Chandler Harris, Edith Wharton, Charles Chesnutt, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. Du Bois.

Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor. ENGL 282 recommended.

ENGL 365.02: Gothic Literature TTh 10:00, Wooley

From its beginnings, the literature of the United States has been marked by its reliance on conventions we might identify as gothic:  haunted houses, unexplained events, unhinged minds, and the like. In this class, we will address how the gothic tendencies of American literature have attempted to question national ideals of freedom, reason, and progress by destabilizing the categories of nation, history, home, and personhood.  Students should expect to the bulk of our coursework to focus on the nineteenth century.  Syllabus may include works by Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Henry James, Ambrose Bierce, Edith Wharton, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 

 Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor. ENGL 282 recommended.

ENGL 365.03: American Plays and Playwrights, 1945–Present TTh 2:00, Charlebois

In this course we will study the works of a dozen playwrights who have variously posed some of the most defining, provocative, and persistent questions about American culture and experience.  While much of our discussion will focus on these plays as beautifully crafted literary texts that reflect the historical, political, and artistic landscapes in which they were written and received, we will constantly keep in mind how issues of performance and theatricality are indispensible to understanding them.  With this in mind, we will frequently view clips from film adaptations of the plays and attend one or two live productions in Washington, D.C. as a way of appreciating how plays live ultimately not on the page but on the stage (and screen).  You will also have the opportunity in groups to research and work on enacting a particular scene from one of the plays with the goal of deepening even further your experience of the ways in which the language of a play depends on performance to make its meaning complete. Plays may include the following: Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey into Night; Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire; Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman; Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun;  Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Marsha Norman, Getting Out; Sam Shepard, True West; David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross; David Henry Hwang, M Butterfly; Tony Kushner, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Part One: Millennium Approaches; Margaret Edson, W;t; John Patrick Shanley, Doubt: A Parable; David Henry Hwang, Yellow Face; Bruce Norris, Clybourne Park. 

 Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor. ENGL 283 recommended.


ENGL 410.01: Faulkner, Cather, and Hurston MWF 12:00, Chandler

Created by a people from their land and tales, regional literature evokes visions both geographical and human. While the land is never separate from the story, questions arise as to source, mode, and inspiration. Willa Cather claims that “The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman,” while William Faulkner laments the futility of chronicling a people and a land, asserting that “two hundred years had not been enough.” Zora Neale Hurston dramatizes more than philosophizes.  Hurston’s more direct approach and emphasis on characters’ voices brings into consideration narrative style in the construction of regional qualities. Focusing on the interplay of natural history and social history, this course will begin with these authors’ short stories and progress to longer fiction. Novels will include Cather’s O Pioneers! and My Antonia, Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses and The Sound and the Fury, and Hurston’s Jonah’s Gourd Vine and Their Eyes Were Watching God. As a 400-level seminar, students should be prepared to encounter criticism and theory in their readings and incorporate them into writings and discussions. 

Prerequisites: English 304 and one English 300-level literature course or permission of the instructor. English 283 highly recommended.

This course is crosslisted with WGSX and ENST.

ENGL 410.02: The Godwins and the Shelleys MW 6:00, Richardson

In this course, we’ll read the work of a family of writers—-William Godwin, his wife Mary Wollstonecraft, their son-in-law Percy Shelley, and their daughter Mary Shelley--who collectively wrote about most of the major philosophical and political concepts developed during the Romantic revolution (1790 1830+). In fact, these authors are responsible for originating many of these concepts, which changed western thought and still provide many of the assumptions, overt and otherwise, that underlie our culture.  Readings will include Godwin’s political-gothic novel Caleb Williams, Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women,  Percy Bysshe Shelley’s philosophical poems, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (which is more complex and interesting when read as the sum of her family’s influences).  Other readings will include literary-critical essays, especially of Frankenstein.

Prerequisites: English 304 and one English 300-level literature course or permission of the instructor. Engl 282 strongly recommended. Interested nonmajors should have some background in Romantic literature or 18thc philosophy, and the ability to spell "Wollstonecraft."

ENGL 410.03: The Tale of Genji TTh 12:00, Wilson

A semester-long look at The Tale of Genji, the cornerstone of Japanese literature composed by a court woman named Murasaki Shikibu in the eleventh century. Known  (inappropriately but understandably) as the world’s first novel, the work employs the changing seasons as a metaphor for human destiny and expresses better than any work of literature the Japanese feeling for the inter-relationship of human life, art, and nature. Readings will include selected works influenced by the tale from the fifteenth through the twentieth centuries.

This course is cross-listed with ASIA.
Prerequisites: English 304 and one English 300-level literature course or permission of the instructor.