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 12:00, Nelson

ENGL 204.02: Reading and Writing in the English Major TTh 2:00, Richardson

ENGL 281.01: Literature in History I: BCE–1700 MW 6:00,  Charlebois

ENGL 281.02: Literature in History I: BCE–1700 TTh 10:00, Wilson

ENGL 282.01: Literature in History II: 1700–1900 MWF 12:00, Bates

ENGL 283.01: Literature in History III: 20th Century TTh 8:00, Coleman

ENGL 304.01: Methods in Literary Studies TTh 10:00, Click


100 & 200 Level Literature

ENGL 106.01: Introduction to Literature: Nature MWF 8:00, Bates

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

ENGL 106.02: Introduction to Literature: MW2:40, Charlebois

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

ENGL 235.01: Asian Literature in Comparative Perspective MW 6:00, Wilson

Critiques Ancient and modern works from India, China, and Japan, chosen for the central significance they hold for the cultures that produced them and for their ability to speak cross-culturally as well.

This course counts towards the ASIA minor or major.
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 6:00, McElmurray

ENGL 270.02: Creative Writing  TTh 2:00, McElmurray

ENGL 395.01: Topics in Writing:  Creative Non-Fiction MW 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.

ENGL 395.02: Topics in Writing:  Advanced Poetry TTh 2:00, Anderson

In this advanced class, we will focus intensively on the craft and art of writing poetry. Over the course of this semester, we will read and discuss contemporary poetry to understand the context into which we are writing; we will also study how traditional poetic forms and their relationship to our current moment. In our writing, we will attempt a series of complex and challenging exercises as well as a longer sequence of poems, attending to the local issues (such as meter or use of white space and global challenges (such as overarching narrative or sequencing). 

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

300 & 400 Level Literature

ENGL 355.01: 

Renaissance Drama TTh 2:00, Charlebois

Even without that poet William Shakespeare, the English Renaissance would be known as a period of astonishing innovation, sparking achievement, and exponential growth in the drama. In this course we will study eleven plays written by Renaissance playwrights from 1590-1633. In addition to delving into the lush lyrical language of these fascinating texts, we will explore early modern theater and drama as cultural institutions that engaged with most hotly contested controversies of the early modern period including sex, gender, politics, and religion. While the emphasis in the course will be on how the plays might be understood as cultural expressions of the English Renaissance, we will attend a live performance in Washington or Baltimore, view excerpts from film adaptations, and experiment with performance as means of exploring how dramatic literature is intimately linked to the stage as well as the page. We will read plays by Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, Ben Jonson, John Webster, Elizabeth Cary, Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, John Ford, and perhaps even one by Master Shakespeare.  

Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor. English 281 and/or some college-level exposure to Renaissance literature or drama is recommended. 

ENGL 365.01: Literature of the American Civil Rights Movement TTh 2:00, Coleman 

This seminar will introduce you to poems, short stories, novels, essays, and plays that specifically address America’s Civil Rights Movement. You will discover how the literature of the period reflects the complex and often tumultuous social climate of the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. You will critically engage perspectives on the relationship between social equality and cultural production by conducting research, writing essays, and presenting your conclusions orally during the course of the semester. Ultimately, we will all attempt to ascertain if and how the most transformative social movement of twentieth-century America still informs our twenty-first century lives.

This course counts towards the AADS minor
Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor. ENGL 283 recommended.

ENGL 365.02: Willa Cather M 6:00 (2 credit course!), Urgo

The American novelist Willa Cather (1873-1947) is famous in literary circles for observing that “the world broke in two in 1922 or thereabouts.” In the wake of this fissure, Cather entered a period of intense productivity, and in the next ten years she published six books--five novels and a collection of stories. Our seminar will focus on Cather’s work in the consciousness of a major cultural change. We’ll chart the dimensions of a broken world and see how an emerging aesthetic might work to reassemble it. Students will prepare weekly response essays and engage in literary and historical research. 

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

ENGL 380.01: Mythology in Literature MW 6:00, Richardson

There are many ways to study mythology: “scientific,” anthropological analysis of the common human experiences implied by the myths of technologically primitive peoples; psychological theories about archetypal myths in the individual or collective subconscious, and Myth Criticism in literary studies, which claims that all views of the world (including science) are imperfect fictions we create to give more structure to the universe than it has. All these methods reduce what were once unique, specific, and consciously-elaborated traditions of distinct cultures into one universal set of similar “myths”—and then treat these myths as something primitive that we, as advanced post-Enlightenment people, find either false or less self-aware than our own world-views. This course treats mythology in a different way. It explores how several well-developed mythic traditions in the West—the Celtic/Irish, the Nordic, and above all the Greek—have been used in major literary works to represent world-views different from, and not necessarily less true than, the schizophrenic science-versus-subjective-imagination “myth” under which the West has been laboring since the Enlightenment. Put simply, myth is metaphor on a cosmic scale, which reveals the way the forces in the universe (the gods) are understood and the relation of humans (the epic and tragic heroes) to that universe. We will attempt to see the world through truly different perspectives that nevertheless still underlie our own. Works studied will include The Iliad (in Fitzgerald’s poetic, not prose, translation), the Oresteia, Medea, The Bacchae, a bit of Greek sculpture, Lady Gregory’s translation and compilation of the ancient Irish Cuchulain stories, her friend W. B. Yeats’ poetry and plays about Cuchulain, and (relatively) short selections from the Wagner Ring operas (Die Walkure). Assignments will include journals due for each class session and two roughly 5-10 papers (probably one close reading, one involving some context/research). 

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

ENGL 380.02: Yeats and the Noh TTh 2:00, Wilson

When W.B. Yeats read Ezra Pound’s translations of classical Japanese Noh drama in 1916, the plays – especially those portraying the painful, sometimes fearful review of a past life on the part of a ghost -- had an immediate and lasting effect upon his poetry, his drama, and his researches into Irish folklore and myth. As a study in affinity and influence, the course examines the nature and implications of this particular East-West encounter, and of such encounters in general. 

This course counts towards the ASIA major or minor 
Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor. ENGL 283 recommended.

ENGL 390.01: American Film TTh 10:00, Bates

The course will focus mainly on Hollywood, beginning with the silent era and moving through the sound era to the current agent-driven system and “the art of the deal.” For each period we will look at representative films, actors, directors, studios, genres, and technologies. At the end of the course we will also look at the rise of the “indie.” Students will be required to view two assigned films each week outside of class and will write a final essay on a film that functioned as a historical event. 

This course counts towards the TFMS Film Studies major 
Prerequisite: ENGL 281, 282, or 283, or permission of the instructor. ENGL 283 recommended.


ENGL 410.01: Black Intellectuals of Post-War America: Wright, Ellison, Baldwin TTh 10:00, Nelson

Shortly before his death in 1987, James Baldwin said, “No true account really of black life can be held, can be contained, in the American vocabulary.” In light of Baldwin’s pessimistic assessment, this class will examine the writings of three modernist black writers – Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin – that attempted to use a post-war American vocabulary to tell the story of “black life.” We will explore how these writers interrogated concepts such as “identity,” “race,” “blackness,” and “America” in order to make African-American culture visible to a mainstream (and often international) audience. Moreover, we will look at how these writers theorized the role of the public intellectual and how they adopted this role in order to engage with the cultural and political issues of their time. Texts will include: Native Son, Black Boy, White Man, Listen! and selected short stories by Richard Wright; Invisible Man and selections from Shadow and Act and Going to the Territory by Ralph Ellison;, Giovanni’s Room, The Fire Next Time, and selected non-fiction essays by James Baldwin. 

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

ENGL 420.01: The Rhetoric and Poetics of Modernism TTh 10:00, O'Sullivan

Many literary modernists saw it as part of their project to “wring the neck of rhetoric,” as the French Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine put it. By this, they meant eliminating artifice or excessive ornamentation from the poetic voice. But other thinkers steeped in modernism have seen the Twentieth Century as a time of the return of rhetoric—with “rhetoric” understood not simply as ornamentation or even simply as the art of persuasion (a classical definition), but as the shaping of belief by language and perspective. In this course, we will see how modernist rhetoric and modernist poetics diverge and converge; we will reas Twentieth-Century rhetoricians like Kenneth Burke, I.A. Richards and Chaim Perelman alongside modernist poets like Ezra Pound T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore and Langston Hughes, as well as some modernist prose fiction and essays.

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

ENGL 430.01: Sympathy and Sentiment MW 2:40, Wooley

What is the relationship among literature, feeling, and social change? In this course, we will develop an understanding of how nineteenth-century American writers used sympathy and sentiment to address both ethical questions and sociopolitical issues.  Throughout, we will pay close attention to the ways that American writers—both those who are identified as “sentimental” and those who aren’t—engage with the idea of “sympathy” in an attempt to work out the relationship between the individual and the body politic.  Students should expect to become familiar with the critical debates surrounding the sentimental, and to read a number of nineteenth-century sentimental works by authors such as Lydia Maria Child, William Wells Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Jacobs, Helen Hunt Jackson, and Frances Harper. Many of the novels by these authors are long and can feel too didactic to modern readers; thus, our task will be to complicate our understanding of how such texts work and to unpack what’s at stake in their narrative strategies.  We will also look at how authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, and Charles Chesnutt similarly—or not so similarly—present ideas about sympathy. 

This course counts towards the WGSX minor
Prerequisites: English 304 and one English 300-level literature course or permission of the instructor. Engl 282 highly recommended