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.

Spring 2011 Courses

New Course: Engl 495: Advanced Workshop in Poetry: Writing the Poetic Sequence—look at the bottom of the page for more details!

English Major Core Courses

ENGL 281.01: Literature in History I: BCE–1700 MWF 10:40, Bates

ENGL 281.02: Literature in History I: BCE–1700 MW 6:00, Wilson

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

ENGL 283.01: Literature in History III: 20th Century MW 2:40, Feingold

ENGL 283.02: Literature in History III: 20th Century TTh 2:00, Richardson

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

NEW this year! An excellent choice for first or second-year majors:

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

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

100 & 200 Level Literature

ENGL 106.01: Introduction to Literature: TTh 2:00, Coleman

ENGL 106.02: Introduction to Literature MWF 12:00, Wooley

ENGL 230.01: American Film MWF 8:00, Bates

We will study American film in the 20th and early 21st centuries, starting with the silent era and running through the golden age of Hollywood (the thirties through the fifties) and the Hollywood Renaissance (the late sixties and seventies) and continuing up to the present. We will look especially at how American cinema has responded to such moments of crisis and social change as rising racism and immigrant xenophobia (Birth of a Nation); the Roaring Twenties (It, Steamboat Bill Junior, The Black Pirate); the Great Depression (King Kong, She Done Him Wrong, City Lights, It Happened One Night, Citizen Kane); World War II and its aftermath (It’s a Wonderful Life, The Big Sleep); the anti-Communist paranoia of the 1950’s (High Noon, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dr. Strangelove); the civil rights and black power movements (The Heat of the Night, Do the Right Thing); the counterculture movement, the Vietnam war, and the Reagan reaction (Bonnie and Clyde, Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Rambo II); feminism, the backlash against feminism, and third wave feminism (9 to 5, Die Hard, Thelma and Louise); the gay rights movement; the culture wars and rise of the Christian right; and 9-11. Students will be required to watch two films a week outside of class in addition to keeping a journal and doing the reading.

This course satisfies the General Education requirement in Literature and the Core Curriculum requirement in the Arts.  Prerequisite: ENGL 102, CORE 101, NITZ 180or CORE 301.

ENGL 230.02: American Plays and Playwrights MW 2:40, Charlebois

In this course we will study plays by several American dramatists who address significant cultural, political, and aesthetic concerns of the post-World War II era. While much of our discussion will be on written scripts themselves, we will constantly keep in mind how issues of performance and theatricality bear on the written text and are essential to the nature of drama. We will study film adaptations of several of the plays and attend a performance of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. (a performance which, students should note, is required). In addition, students will work in groups to produce a scene from one of the plays we study with the goal of deepening their understanding of drama as a performed medium. Plays will be selected from the following list of titles: Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire; Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman; Lorraine Hansberry, Raisin in the Sun; Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; John Guare, The House of Blue Leaves; David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross or Sexual Perversity in Chicago; Ntozake Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf; Sam Shepard, True West; August Wilson, Fences; David Henry Hwang, M Butterfly; Tina Howe, Painting Churches; Beth Henley, Abundance or Crimes of the Heart; Paula Vogel, Baltimore Waltz; Tony Kushner, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Part One: Millennium Approaches; Margaret Edson, Wit; Suzan-Lori Parks, Topdog/Underdog; John Patrick Shanley, Doubt. 

This course satisfies the General Education requirement in Literature and the Core Curriculum requirement in the Arts.  Prerequisite: ENGL 102, CORE 101, NITZ 180or CORE 301.

ENGL 230.03: Gothic Literature MWF 9:20, 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.  

This course satisfies the General Education requirement in Literature and the Core Curriculum requirement in the Arts.  Prerequisite: ENGL 102, CORE 101, NITZ 180or CORE 301.

ENGL 235.01: African-American Expression TTh 8:00, Coleman

This course will examine the multiple roles of African-American creativity in the expressive arts. Theater, fiction, poetry, music, and film from the 1800s to 2010 will be explored in order for students to gain a deeper cultural understanding of how American artists and writers of African descent have inscribed the African presence and played essential roles in shaping America's identity, history, thought, and culture. 

This course satisfies the General Education requirement in Literature and the Core Curriculum requirement in Cultural Perspectives.  Prerequisite: ENGL 102, CORE 101, NITZ 180or CORE 301.

This course may be counted toward the AADS minor.

ENGL 235.02: Mysteries of Identity TTh 12:00, Wilson

From ancient times to the present, from East to West, this course looks at how people have imagined the nature of identity.  Works might include the Bhagavad Gita, Kenko’sEssays in Idleness, Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy,  Isak Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales, R.K. Narayan’s The Guide,  Dai Sijie’sBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, and Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain.”

This course satisfies the General Education requirement in Literature and the Core Curriculum requirement in Cultural Perspectives.  Prerequisite: ENGL 102, CORE 101, NITZ 180or CORE 301.

This course may be counted toward the ASIA minor or major.


300 & 400 Level Literature

ENGL 350.01: Rhetoric of Politics MWF 1:20, O'Sullivan

How do politicians use language to change voters’ minds or capture their allegiance? How do voters critically read and respond to such efforts at persuasion? To begin answering these questions, we’ll study ancient and modern theories of rhetoric--the art of using language to persuade. Then we’ll take these theories, along with the close reading skills that literary study develops, and apply them to political texts, mostly from recent American political campaigns. We’ll also include some poetry and fiction with political overtones, so that we can see how the arts of rhetoric and poetics intersect. The work for the course will include three papers, an exam on rhetorical theory, a presentation, and an online journal responding to contemporary political rhetoric.

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

ENGL 355.01:  The Emerging Novel MWF 9:20, Chandler

In this course we will investigate the question “When was the novel born?” by exploring early British fiction primarily from the eighteenth century. For many prose narratives from this time period, “novel” is a convenient label we have assigned to these texts rather than a fully accurate term. Agreed-upon conceptions of what we now consider the novel were not actually in the minds of either writers or readers until the early nineteenth century when our final two writers—Sir Walter Scott and Jane Austen—flourished. As a way to focus our exploration, we will closely investigate the mixed modes of narration along with changing conceptions of authorship. Why did expectations for prose fiction seem to change in the middle of the century? Why, by the end of the century, did something called “the novel” clearly exist in the minds of readers and writers? By the early nineteenth-century, what conventions had been established for the genre?  

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

ENGL 365.01: American Environmental Literature MW 2:40, Chandler

This course will examine texts commonly referred to as nature writing, a type of literature that crosses boundaries of both discipline and genre. Reading essays, excerpts, and complete texts—as widely as our time allows—we will attempt to gain a historical perspective on this genre. We will read Thoreau and major figures who follow in his tradition such as Aldo Leopold, Joseph Wood Krutch, Rachel Carson, Gary Snyder, and Annie Dillard. One of our goals will be to achieve a deeper understanding of how American environmental literature reflects and shapes cultural attitudes and directions. We will explore how we can engage with Thoreau's enterprise and the fundamental issues raised by these authors' inquiries into the environment. We will, of course, develop skills that help us to discover what makes each text unique and powerful as a literary work as well as an awareness of eco-critical approaches. In an effort to better understand how these essays and books engage us aesthetically and philosophically, we will borrow the concept of interconnectedness from ecologists and study relationships generated by these texts between nature and psyche, terrain and culture, science and art.

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

This course may be used to fulfill the requirements of an ENST minor.

ENGL 365.02: Growing Up in a Strange Land TTh 12:00, Coleman

Whether we consider them nurturing, dysfunctional, tragic, comedic, or all of the above, families often serve as a wellspring of creativity for some of our finest writers. This course will explore various narratives of homelife in fiction, poetry, and drama to help us better understand American culture, ourselves, and each other. In addition to issues of family accord, we will pay close attention to the depiction of gender roles, sexuality, immigration, and other essential aspects of personal, familial, and cultural identity. What do literary families and family systems theory teach us about our own lives and families? What do they reveal about human nature, potential, and worth? Do authors use families as models or as cautionary tales? Or are they merely central yet metaphorical figures used to support narratives that reach above and beyond the boundaries of home? How are mothers, daughters, and sisters created in classic and contemporary American literature as opposed to fathers, sons, and brothers? How does geography impact destiny? These are some of the questions and subjects we will explore during the course of the semester.

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

This course may be used to fulfill the requirements of an AADS minor.

ENGL 365.03: The Harlem Renaissance TTh 10:00, Nelson

This course will examine the Harlem Renaissance -- what James Weldon Johnson called “ the flowering of Negro literature” -- as a historical, literary, political, and intellectual movement. We will begin the course by looking at some writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, including W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, and James Weldon Johnson, who influenced many of the later writers of the Renaissance. We will then explore how writers and intellectuals of the 1920s and 30s such as Alain Locke, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, Jessie Fauset, and Richard Wright used their stories, poetry, and novels to celebrate as well as problematize notions of African-American identity in the modern United States. Students should prepare themselves for a very intensive reading load in this class.

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

This course may be used to fulfill the requirements of an AADS minor.

ENGL 380.01: New Testament Narrative  MW 6:00, Hammond

This course will focus on the narrative texts of the New Testament: Mark, Matthew, Luke/Acts, and John. That the Gospels and Acts have exerted a profound influence on Western culture is a good reason for knowing something about them. Another equally good reason is that in their unsettling mix of strange and familiar elements, these writings make for some utterly fascinating reading. Please note that our approach will not be "religious," but historical, anthropological, and literary/critical. This means that we will read these stories as literature written by humans for humans living within particular historical and cultural moments. Through close reading and discussion, we will examine not only how these texts seem to "work" as narratives, but also how they may have "worked" within the first-century Jewish and Greco-Roman milieu in which they were written.

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

ENGL 380.02: Tolstoy: War and Peace MW 6:00, Richardson

The class will spend the semester reading what is arguably the greatest novel ever written, Lev Tolstoy’s monumental intertwining of the Napoleonic Wars, Russia’s quintessential conflict with western European culture, and the personal quests for life’s meaning on the part of several main Russian characters. Besides reading the novel, students will study and do some research on Tolstoy’s life, philosophy, the Russian and western culture of the era, and the 19thc realist novel. Assignments will include two papers and journal writing for each class. Recommended Prerequisite: Literature in History II, or some basic familiarity with 19th-century European history or 19th-century fiction.

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


ENGL 390.01: Books that Cook TTh 12:00, Cognard-Black

Given their sensory—and therefore sensual—nature, cookbooks and culinary narratives suggest an implicit relationship between author and audience beyond the bounds of mere reading. When one person writes down a recipe for another, a moment of cultural work has been enacted: the giver imparts a simultaneous history of region, family, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, whereas the receiver re-enacts these multiple histories the moment she or he cooks and consumes the dish. In this course, we will discuss such cultural work by exploring how different literary genres (recipes, cookbooks, memoir, fiction, and film) represent the production and presentation of food for various aims. For instance, we will examine how the literatures of food reveal relationships among women and men of certain regions, ages, or ethnicities; express love or anger, acceptance of or opposition to dominant culture; record history or fairytales and fantasies via food; and serve as articulations of sexual, social, or artistic power through the acts of reading about and performing food. While no knowledge of food preparation is expected, this class does ask that you engage in a certain amount of cookery. For the first time, this term Books that Cook will be crosslisted with Environmental Studies. As such, we will focus our discussions throughout the term on issues of sustainability, including local and seasonal eating practices, organic vs. industrial farming methods, and how food “sustains” body, community, and planet. Students will be expected to engage service-learning activities related to this focus, such as hours spent in the Campus Farm and collaborating on a Writers Harvest creative reading to benefit Share Our Strength, a DC-based organization that fights against Child Hunger.

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

This course may be used to fulfill the requirements of a WGSX or ENST minor.

ENGL 410.01: Staging Shakespeare TTh 2:00, Charlebois

This seminar examines five plays by Shakespeare, keeping in mind that the first “publication” of these texts happened not on the page, but on the stage. Students will study the wide-ranging implications of the textual differences between two versions of King Lear, explore what early modern theatres were like by attending a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the reconstructed Blackfriars Playhouse, and work in small groups called “directorates,” collaboratively producing a scene from either Hamlet, As You Like It, or The Winter’s Tale. In preparing their scenes, students will make interpretive choices in terms of early modern theatrical practice, from editing Shakespeare’s texts for performance to attending to the shaping influences of architecture, audience, and budget. The collaborative work of the course will conclude with a public performance and group presentation, after which each student will submit a substantial final paper that reflects his or her individual research. The seminar will focus on the Shakespeare who, contrary to Ben Jonson’s famous claim, did not write “for all time,” but for a very specific time and place, the early modern theater, which functioned as an architectural space, a thriving business enterprise, and a provocative cultural institution. While no acting or theater experience is required, a willingness to work collaboratively and independently is a must. Students will be expected to meet in their small groups on several occasions outside of scheduled class time. Previous coursework in Shakespeare or Renaissance drama is strongly recommended although not required. On a day to be determined, students will be required to attend a weekend performance at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia.

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

ENGL 410.02: Twain at 100 TTh 10:00, Click

Mark Twain wrote in one of his notebooks, “I am not an American. I am the American.” (Although misattributed to him in context, it still fits our purposes of describing this course.) This course will explore the life and literary works of Mark Twain to see if the quote fits. Timing and talent allowed him to be bold in his self-proclamations. Twain stands unique among American authors, and there’s likely never to be another like him. He arrives at the end of the Age of Jackson and writes through and about the major events that shape his America and the one we live in now: the Civil War, the end of formal slavery, the industrial revolution, and rising American imperialism. America’s identity in life and literature emerged during his lifetime, and he wrote about it. We will read extensively the work that Twain produced from 1851 to 1910: short sketches in the Southwest humorous vein, newspaper hoaxes and burlesques, letters, literary criticism, and short and long novels. We will read other authors whose influence Twain felt; he either embraced or lampooned these influences. In addition, we will read a combination of critical commentaries as well as biographical excerpts. In doing so, we may come to understand not only “the American” claim, but also his lifelong literary and personal companion W. D. Howells’ claim that Twain as “the Lincoln of our literature.”

Prerequisites: English 304 and one English 300-level literature course or permission of the instructor. Writing Courses

ENGL 102.01: Composition MWF 1:20, Magruder

ENGL 201.01: Writing about Science MWF 10:40, Gabriel

This course will be an introduction to writing about the sciences for a general audience. We’ll analyze the way science is written about in the popular media (comparing, for instance, a scientific journal article to its representation in publications like New Scientist or The New York Times)—and we’ll try our own hand at converting scientific papers into news stories. The main project for the course, however, will be writing a science-based feature article or profile. This will most likely entail doing research and interviews in the field. In preparation for this project, we will look at examples of this sort of work from writers like Malcolm Gladwell, Diane Ackerman and David Quammen, paying close attention to the ways in which they bring science to life for non-scientists. Both science majors and non-science majors should feel equally comfortable in this course; that is to say, no specialized scientific knowledge is necessary. What will be necessary is a willingness to make sense of scientific research and a determination to “translate” that work in an engaging way for those not familiar with it.

Prerequisite: ENGL102, CORE101, NITZ180, or CORE301.

ENGL 201.02: Radical Revision MWF 10:40, O'Sullivan

Revision can be fun. This is a controversial proposition; some writers think revision is just editing and proofreading, and no one looks forward to slogging through finished papers to hunt for errors. But for a lot of students, writing starts to get interesting when revision is no longer just about “fixing” but about taking a second look at a subject from a different perspective, trying out a new perspective, or rewriting with a different audience and purpose in mind. We’ll read theoretical and practical work on revision along with literary examples in which we can see writers revising. Along the way, you may “revise” your idea of academic writing by discovering (or rediscovering) that writing papers can be creative as well analytical. Students will assemble a portfolio, or reflective collection, of writing that includes previously rewritten papers revised in the course as well as new projects revised and started this semester.

Prerequisite: ENGL102, CORE101, NITZ180, or CORE301.

ENGL 270.01: Creative Writing TTh 10:00, Anderson

ENGL 270.02: Creative Writing TTh 8:00, Anderson

ENGL 270.02: Creative Writing TTh 2:00, Cognard-Black

ENGL 395.01: Topics in Writing: Advanced Fiction MWF 9:20, Gabriel

English 395 is an advanced course in the theory, practice, and reading of fiction. We’ll read a lot of (mainly) short fiction—both published work and our own exercises and short stories—for all the reasons people usually read: to be entertained, to be surprised or inspired, to learn about the world, to participate in our own print culture. But as writers of fiction, we will also be reading with one eye always peaking under the hood, attempting to glean what we can, to understood how and why an author employed a particular technique or device—and to what effect. Nobody, the truism goes, can teach you how to write: writers learn for themselves how to do it—from example (reading good work), from experiment and practice, and from feedback (listening to and responding to the comments of others). So, in a nutshell, those are things that will happen in this course.

Prerequisite: one 200-level writing course and/or the permission of the instructor. ENGL 270 strongly recommended.

ENGL 395.02: Topics in Writing: Feature Writing Th 10:00, Bates

The focus of this course will be on writing human interest or feature stories of the kind that would appear in a newspaper or magazine. By the end of the course, you will be able to identify interesting human interest stories, conduct fruitful interviews with strangers, research subjects, organize your material in effective ways, write compelling titles and leads, and conclude your essays in such a way that your readers will leave feeling they have learned something of significance. Because the course duplicates material that was taught in the English 201: Advanced Composition that I taught in fall 2009, it is not open to students who took that class.

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

ENGL 495.01:  Advanced Workshop in Poetry:Writing the Poetic Sequence TTh 2:00, Anderson

Do you love writing poetry but wonder how to go beyond writing the single, stand-alone poem?  In this class, our main task will be to write a longer collection of interconnected poems.  We’ll talk about how to come up with an idea for a sequence and how to sustain interest in it over the long haul.  And we’ll also explore how to structure the poetic sequence—we’ll read and write groups of poems that “talk back” to other visual artists, musicians, and writers; poems based on travel experiences; poems written in a set form (such as the sonnet); and poems that respond to an important moment in personal or public history.  (We will very likely do a collaborative project with Colby Caldwell’s Photobook class as a way to think about responding to visual arts.)

We’ll discuss how to rigorously research poetry, find craft resources, and how to keep surprise and spontaneity alive the process of writing.  And we’ll discuss the art of making your work public—by reading it aloud and by publishing it in journals, chapbooks, and books. As a 400-level class, Writing the Poetic Sequence will require a large amount of both reading and writing.

Prerequisite: ENGL 270 (Introduction to Creative Writing) or permission of the instructor.

Cross-listed Classes

Beginning in Fall 2009, the English department will no longer be cross-listing classes originating in other departments. We will still, with permission of the department chair, be offering major credit for some classes previously cross-listed. For a listing of possible classes, please see the English major description in the 2009 Course Catalogue, available on line.