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Undergraduate Courses - 400-Level Courses

ENG 402: Topics in Writing & Research

Prerequisites: Junior or senior standing or instructor’s permission.  Satisfies the following general education requirement(s): Writing Intensive.  Satisfies the following English major requirement(s): None

Recent offerings:

Textual Analysis and Archival Research (Spring 2011, Friedlander)

“The Mona Lisa is in the Louvre. Where is the text of King Lear?” With this seemingly innocent question George Bornstein opens a fascinating discussion of literary texts as material artifacts. The artifacts he has in mind–manuscripts, newspapers, books–comprise the archive on which editors depends in preparing their scholarly editions, and Bornstein’s use of that archive is inspired by his own experience as an editor of William Butler Yeats. Nor is Bornstein the only scholar who has drawn on such an experience in developing a new theory of textuality or new practice of reading: Jerome McGann, through Byron; Random Cloud, through Shakespeare; John Bryant, through Herman Melville; and Susan Howe, Martha Nell Smith, and Marta Werner, through Emily Dickinson, are only a few of the recent scholars who have shook up literary study by taking seriously the material remains of the authors they studied. This course, then, will be an immersion in materiality, much of it digital, through hands on experience with archival materials and a critical examination of several scholarly editions (including, most likely, editions of Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and Charles Olson). These case studies will allow us to work through theories and practices of textual editing, in preparation for a final research or editing project of the student’s own. I emphasize that the final project can take the form of a research paper OR a new edition with apparatus.

ENG 405: Topics in Creative Writing

Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor only. Satisfies the general education Writing Intensive requirement.

Recent offerings:

Playwriting (Fall 2009, Yellow Robe)

Unlike other playwriting courses this class has a unique approach by being presented by a nationally acclaimed professional playwright, William S. Yellow Robe, Jr.  This course examines and explores the art medium of playwriting through an Indigenous perspective. Students  are required to write a full-length play or two one-act plays.  Screenplays, musicals, or adaptations are not acceptable.

Required Texts:

  • “Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers and Other Untold Stories,” by William S. Yellow Robe, Jr.
  • “Where the Pavement Ends:  Five Native American Plays,” by William S. Yellow Robe, Jr.
  • The Piano Lesson,” (Actors’ Edition) by August Wilson
  • The Promise”, (Actors’ Edition) by Jose Riviera

Evaluation:  Letter grade is based upon participation and commitment to completion and revision of all writing assignments and projects.

Altered Texts (Fall 2008, Kress)

Given language as a ready-made, something that pre-exists our encounter with it, can we nevertheless create texts that are somehow “ours”? 4000 years ago, Egyptian poets complained that they had “arrived too late” to create anything original or new, and yet writing has continued unabated, constantly testing the adage, continually looking for a sign that it—or we—aren’t too late. But, although we like to think our writing “original,” a work of art that allows us to speak in our “own voices,” the truth of the matter is, as the saying goes, “there is nothing new under the sun”—and that includes our ideas and our voices. With these ideas in mind, this course will explore possibilities for creative writing through such suspect literary techniques as plagiarism, collage, cut-up, found poetry, Markov chains, Japanese Rengu poems and other group writings, Rimbaud’s derangement of the senses, dub and sampling fiction, fold-ins, email piracy, and other methods for altering “available” texts. Although our other 400-level creative writing courses are centered in poetry or fiction, this course is should be intriguing to students in both creative writing concentrations.

Projects: Assignments will include extensive reading, both in the theory and practice of altered texts, in-class writing experiments, and a final project. Besides a wide-ranging series of in-class writing assignments—both creative and critical/analytical—each student will create a twenty-five page “altered book” of poetry, fiction, or some new hybrid for a final project.

Texts: I will provide most of the readings in the form of hand-outs, but we will also be using several outside texts that may include texts like or such as Kathy Acker’s Empire of the Senseless, William S. Burroughs’ Nova Express, Tom Phillips’ A Humamanet, collage novels and/or poetry by Rosemarie and/or Keith Waldrop, and so on.

ENG 407: Advanced Fiction Writing

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.

Recent offerings:

Spring 2011, Kress

This course will maximize your potency and versatility as a creative writer.  Because deeper reading from a wide range of styles should help you use language more artfully, we’ll spend a good chunk of our time reading published fiction and talking about what makes particular works of fiction effective.

To help you achieve linguistic precision and versatility, you will perform a variety of exercises on sentence structure and dynamics, style, figurative language, diction, tone, imagery, chromatic patterning, and so on.  For example, a typical exercise might involve writing a snippet in a so-called minimalist style and then the same snippet in so-called purple prose.  After dallying with these two stylistic poles you should be more adept at texturing language for your own effects and purposes.  We will work with technical aspects, of course, but we will also explore thematic dynamics, genre-mixing, and more.  Most of all, we will pick at the language that produces these effects.   During this course, you will complete many small exercises, and hopefully some of these will blossom into larger works.   For example, when we discuss point of view, you will experiment with a variety of narrative voices and if one of these experiments is especially successful, you might expand it into a larger piece.

Note: Those primarily interested in elves, mages, alchemists, demons, zombies, old gods, and the like, should probably look elsewhere.

Spring 2010, Alex Irvine

A fiction workshop at the advanced level. This is the advanced level course for fiction writers in the English concentration in creative writing, and may be taken in tandem with ENG 499 (capstone experience).  May be repeated once for credit.

Spring 2009, Kress

ENG 408: Advanced Poetry Writing (Moxley)

Prerequisites: ENG 308, writing sample and permission of the instructor.

Recent offerings:

Fall 2010

A poetry workshop at the advanced level. This is the advanced level course for poets in the English concentration in creative writing, and should be taken in tandem with ENG 499 (capstone experience).

Fall 2009

Fall 2008

ENG 415: Advanced Report & Proposal Writing (Diaz)

Typically offered in spring semesters. Next offering tentatively set for Spring 2015.

Prerequisites: ENG 317 or instructor’s permission.  Satisfies the following general education requirement(s): Writing Intensive.  Satisfies the following English major requirement(s): May count toward the Professional & Technical Writing concentration; please check with your advisor.

This course prepares students to write workplace proposals and reports. Students will spend approximately four weeks analyzing proposals—including grant proposals—and reports. Students will spend the next eight weeks researching and writing a grant proposal, a project proposal, or an analytical report.

When possible, students will work on projects for campus clients. The last three weeks of the semester will focus on exploring visual and audio reports, including designing electronic materials that support oral presentations and preparing audio reports using podcast technology. This course will be taught as a workshop with student writers sharing drafts, providing peer feedback, and working as collaborators.

We will do short analyses of reports and a larger project that focuses on writing a report or a grant for a client. The goal is for each participant to have a significant writing portfolio sample by the end of the semester.

Required Texts (subject to change):

  • Johnson-Sheehan, R. & Dragga, S. (2002). Writing proposals. New York: Longman.
  • New, C. & Quick, J. (2003). How to write a grant proposal. New York: Wiley.
  • Netzley, M. & Snow, C. (2002). Guide to report writing. New York: Wiley

ENG 416: Technical Editing & Document Design (Diaz)

Typically offered every fall. 

Prerequisites: ENG 317 or permission of the instructor. Satisfies the general education Writing Intensive requirement.

This course focuses on print and online editing, including the use of traditional proofreading marks and online techniques, document layout and design, principles of copywriting, and the study of style manuals. The course follows two lines of study: one of editing/text crunching practices and one of print document design principles and practices related to the editing of documents. The cornerstone of the course is producing a newsletter or other document for a client.

Learning Objectives

During this course, you will have the opportunity to learn the following:

  • To improve writing through drafting and revising the student’s own writing -by drafting and revising one’s own writing -by reading and editing the writing of another student
  • To become proficient editor -by learning paper mark-up techniques provided in the Associated Press Style Guide -by learning online editing techniques using MS Word -by learning to identify parts of speech
  • To create effective document designs -by learning principles of effective visual designs -by learning how to use InDesign to create visual designs
  • To design, write, and edit a document that meets the needs of a client -by working with a client to develop a brochure, a newsletter, or other document

Students will work with clients to develop portfolio pieces.

ENG 418: Topics in Professional Writing (Diaz)

Typically offered in spring or summer semesters.

Prerequisites: 6 hours of English, including ENG 317 and permission of the instructor. Satisfies the general education Writing Intensive requirement.

Recent offerings:

Science Writing (Spring 2013–Schmitt)

Scientific topics challenge the professional writer to convey volumes of detailed knowledge gained through years of specialization in simple, interesting language that engages the non-scientist reader yet remains scientifically accurate. This course introduces the craft of writing about science for non-scientific audiences. Students read examples of science writing (including narrative and literary nonfiction), review presentations, and explore the editing process. Writing assignments include explanatory prose, research summaries, news, web content, and feature stories.

Science writers work at the intersection of science and the humanities, and have promising career opportunities as freelance journalists, book authors, and at online media outlets, magazines, newspapers, university news offices, research labs and federal agencies, museums, and many other venues.

Communication for Small Business & Nonprofits (Spring 2012–Diaz)

This class begins with the story of a lawsuit over a Ficus tree. This lawsuit taught instructor, Charlsye Smith Diaz, to write more than brochures that sit on a countertop for customers to take.

Studying communication for small business is important in Maine, where approximately “41,000 businesses employ the majority of Maine’s work force,” according to Eastern Maine Development Corporation. Nationally, 99 percent of all businesses are small (Economic Perspectives).

This class will focus on the communication small businesses use to do business. We will study the types touted online: using social media, writing for the web, creating one-sheets, and learning to pitch ideas, and will focus also on writing business plan and grant application narratives, demand letters, annual reports, and white papers.

ENG 429: Topics in Literature

Prerequisites: 6 hours of literature or permission of instructor.

Recent offerings:

Revenge (Brucher, Spring 2011)

Francis Bacon called revenge “a kind of wild justice.” It tries to right wrongs, but it offends law and taints the mind of the revenger. Officially, the closer revenge comes to public practices of law, the more legitimate it may be; popularly, the cleverer it is, the more appealing it may be. Representations of revenge in poems, plays, short stories, novels, and films expose and exploit tensions among justice, psychological gratification, aesthetic pleasure, and moral squalor. Consequently, revenge has been a staple of literature for as long as narrative has been recorded, from Aeschylus’ The Oresteia to the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl.” Revenge narratives tend to be popular in times of high

This course will examine revenge stories from a range of periods, cultures, and genres. Discussions and papers will employ a variety of theoretical approaches to explore the appeal of revenge as moral lesson, political analysis, cultural critique, and vicarious entertainment. As well as examples of classical, aristocratic, and tribal revenges, the course will include examples of comic, feminist, working class, environmental, and contemporary urban vigilante

Texts: Titles have not yet been settled, but the reading and viewing list will likely include plays and fiction by Aeschylus, Euripides. Shakespeare, Schiller, Melville, Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, and Fay Weldon, as well as
films by Ford, Kurosawa, Eastwood, Todd Field (In the Bedroom, 2001, was filmed in Camden), and Neil Jordan (The Brave One, Jodi Foster’s 2007 vigilante film was well received). (The Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit, which is based on a Charles Portis novel, is due for release in December 2010; it may be available on DVD by late spring.)

Evaluation: Grades will be based on participation in discussions, perhaps an oral presentation, and a combination of short (3‐5 pp.) and longer (10‐12 pp.) papers.

Utopian Literature (Jacobs, Spring 2011)

In common usage, the word “utopia” is employed to mean “impossible or impractical blueprints for a perfect world.”   By contrast, we will consider the utopian mode of thought – in both eutopian and dystopian forms – as an hermeneutic allowing us to explore what’s missing in the world we know, as well as to imagine better worlds.

We will begin with the founding instance of the genre, Sir Thomas More’s Utopia of 1518, and then go on to consider two more-or-less serious classic utopias of the fin de (19eme) siècle:  William Morris’ News from Nowhere and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland.   From there we’ll look at a pair of dystopias:  Zamyatin’s We, from revolutionary Russia, and Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, set in a near-future southern California in a state of social collapse.   The final unit will take up three formally inventive postmodern utopias by Calvino, Le Guin, and Mayer that raise questions about the very enterprise of projecting alternative worlds.

Along the way we will also read selections from theorists such as Ernst Bloch, Fredric Jameson, Ruth Levitas and Tom Moylan.  If time allows, we might also take a look at a film such as The Truman Show or Pleasantville.


  • Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (1993)
  • Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (1972)
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915)
  • Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas” and The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974)  OR Always Coming Home (1984)
  • Bernadette Mayer, Utopia (1984)
  • Thomas More, Utopia (1518)
  • William Morris, News from Nowhere (1890)
  • Evgeny Zamyatin, We (1921)
  • Critical and theoretical selections on xerox and on-line

There will be a $5 course fee to cover the costs of xeroxing, including the entire text of Mayer’s Utopia (courtesy of Mayer’s “Utopian Copyright — All Rights Unreserved”).



  • Regular attendance and active participation                                 15%
  • Three 5-7 page take-home exams  (25% each)                             75%
  • Quizzes, in-class exercises, brief responses, etc.                          10%

This is a writing intensive course.  Some guidance on critical writing will be offered and students will have the opportunity to revise their work in response to the instructor’s feedback.

Poetics of Translation (Fall 2010, Brinkley)

The course will explore the poetics of translation both in theory and in practice. I will offer what I have learned to do as a translator of modern and contemporary Russian, German and French poetry. How does a poem in one language “write” a poem in another? How does a poet in one language mentor a poet in another? Each student will be asked to find a poet in a language (more or less known to them) in a language other than English. They will then be asked through the course of the semester to create a small anthology of that poet’s works. At the same time students will explore theories of translation that are implicit in the writing of authors like Benjamin, Bakhtin, Derrida, De Man, and Irigaray.

Required Texts (subject to change):

  • Tsvetaeva, “An Attempt at a Room”
  • Tsvetaeva, Pasternak, Rilke, Letters
  • Pasternak, “My Sister—Life”
  • Rilke, Duino Elegies
  • Mandelshtam, Selected Lyrics and “Conversation about Dante”
  • Celan, Selected Lyrics and translations of Mandelstam
  • Baudelaire, Selected Lyrics
  • Rimbaud, Selected Lyrics
  • Valery, Selected Lyrics
  • Benjamin, “Task of the Translator”
  • “Language as Such and the Language of Man”
  • Derrida, “Towers of Babel”
  • DeMan, “Conclusions: Walter Benjamin’s ‘Task of the Translator”
  • Irigaray, “The Fecundity of the Caress”
  • Bakhtin, Dostoevsky’s Poetics (Selections)
  • Dialogic Imagination (Selections)
  • Poets to be selected by participants in the course

Beginning with the third week, students will begin presenting their own translations to the class. They will also be expected to write short weekly papers and meet with me for weekly tutorials.

Writing as Design (Fall 2010, Dryer)

The communicative technologies that have enabled the postindustrial globalized workplace have also transformed the field of writing studies.  Contemporary scholars are arguing for flexible understandings of texts as “designs”—(re)configurations of data, words, and images that produce and reflect reconfigured reading and writing practices.  To this end, we will be reading and writing about recent scholarship in composition theory and professional/technical writing studies, and then turning those theoretical perspectives and research methodologies toward original field-research to help answer questions about our production and consumption of redesigned texts.  Specifically, those interested ineducation will encounter new work in ‘multiliteracies’; those interested in new media will have the chance to theorize ‘multi-modal compositions’; those interested in workplace communications will be equipped to work withtextual/activity systems; and everyone will have a chance to see what’s at stake in the proliferation of ‘global englishes.’

The Graphic Novel (Fall 2009, Alex Irvine)

In this class we will trace the evolution of sequential narrative. Beginning with newspaper cartoon strips at the turn of the twentieth century, we will go through the rise of the comic book in the 1930s and the explosion of independent comics in the 60s and 70s to the current interest in the ‘graphic novel’…whatever that is. Along the way we’ll read a great many comics and quite a bit of popular culture scholarship, looking at the ways the sequential narrative has reflected and developed ongoing American preoccupations with such issues as immigration, race, and power.

Apes, Angels, and Victorians (Fall 2009, Wilson)

(1) John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

We’ll concentrate on the following major ideas: empiricism, rationalism, laissez-faire, the relationship between the State and the Individual, “common sense,” humanism, the origin of ideas, pleasure as the sole good, and human equality.

(2) Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe.

We’ll read this novel as a dramatization of the emergence of homo economicus and modern capitalism. We’ll also explore the relationship of the individual to capitalism and of Protestantism to rationalism and empiricism.

(3) Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract.

Major ideas: democratic political theory; a new view of nature, of humankind, of the child; the “Golden Age”—a communal state; the innate goodness of man, egalitarianism, civilization versus nature; the nature of society.

(4) The impact of Locke, Defoe, and Rousseau on the Victorian world.

(5) Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present.

We’ll use Past and Present as an opening into the question of the relationship of empiricism, rationalism, science, and religion as it specifically relates to the “Condition of England Question.” We’ll ask ourselves whether Carlyle’s use of the medieval monastery as a template for his historical understanding of the social ills of the early Victorian period could work. This formulation by Carlyle of a basic social question—that of man’s social obligations—will prepare us for Marx’s analysis and raise questions about the role of science, reason, and the empirical butting up against the human issues of poverty and class, especially within the context of the newly industrialized technological society of England of the 1830s and ‘40s. (Carlyle, unlike Marx, for example, bases his answer on a religious but not Christian model. [He gave up his Christianity after reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.] Does Carlyle imply in his religious choices a return to the paganism of the society the British most wanted to emulate, the Roman?)

(6) Karl Marx, vol. one of Capital; the Manifesto of the Communist Party, as well as various shorter works.

Major ideas: Marx’s romantic and rationalistic basis for his philosophy; his dialectical materialism (unlike Carlyle’s medieval romanticism); his economic determinism (hence his development of a scientific (rational) religion (romantic); his idea of work and of surplus value; his critique of capitalism.

(7) John Ruskin, Unto This Last.

The focus here will be on Ruskin as a “sacramental humanist,” attempting in his social writing to address the same problems as Marx but basing his answer on humanism, socialism, and an increasingly pagan religious point of view. (Born into a conservative evangelical Protestant family, he gave up his belief in orthodox Christianity after a “conversion” in a chapel in Turin, Italy in 1858.) Ruskin and Carlyle share a similar world view.

(8) Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man.

Major ideas: the emergence of biology as a science; his theory of natural selection and its implied rejection of a teleology; his emphasis on the empirical, the objective, the phenomenal, on, in short, the inductive method; Darwin not a metaphysician but an epistemologist. Darwin’s world: amoral, relativistic, emphasizing process and change.

(9) John Henry, Cardinal Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

The antithesis to Darwin, Newman presents the absolutist, dogmatic Catholic Christian position, arguing from faith rather than reason, from tradition rather than experience, from revelation rather than phenomena. Views science as an adjunct to other and greater sources of truth.

(10) William Morris, News from Nowhere—a socialist romance.

Morris presents a practical acceptance of science and technology, and of socialistic ideas, but weaves them together with pagan religious ideas. In many ways, then, the utopian News attempts to reconcile the many forces and conflicts we’ll have been looking at in the course.

(11) Finally, we’ll attempt to bring all of this together with the implications for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Listen!  Poetry in the Age of the MP3 (Fall 2008, Steve Evans)

In this course we’ll explore the sonic archive of modern and contemporary poetry, focusing on the art of interpreting poems not just as printed texts but as voiced structures whose meaning can be “sounded” as well as seen. In addition to hearing, seeing, and reading a wide variety of poetry, we’ll make use of secondary literature from the fields of literary criticism, poetics, linguistics, prosody, speech pragmatics, and the new media to fashion a supple critical vocabulary for the description, interpretation, and evaluation of poetry soundfiles. We’ll also work with sound editing and analysis software applications (Audacity, Praat) that allow us to visualize the sound shape of poetic language. In addition to conventional writing assignments, students can also expect to program a radio segment and to make regular postings to a course blog.

Apes, Angels, and Victorians (Fall 2008, Wilson)

The Grail in Medieval Literature and 20th Century Film (Spring 2008)

As a central chapter in the Arthurian Cycle, the quest for the Holy Grail has captured the Western imagination for nearly nine centuries. In this course we’ll discuss the various possible origins of the symbol, read the Medieval Romances in which the grail first made its appearance, and watch 20th century films that attempt to capture its mythos. In addition, we’ll explore the connections between the medieval imagination and the 20th century cinema. Students who enroll in this course can expect to do a lot of reading of very old texts and to engage both the texts and films historically and structurally.

Required Texts (subject to change):

  • Romances, Chrétien de Troyes
  • The Holy Grail, Imagination and Belief, Richard Barber
  • The Quest of the Holy Grail (translation of Le Queste del Saint Graal)
  • Parzival, Wofram van Eschenbach
  • Le Morte D’Arthur, Malory:

Evaluation: Weekly written responses alternating with oral presentations, one seminar paper, one creative project.

ENG 430: Topics in European Literature

Prerequisites: 6 hours of literature or permission of the instructor. Satisfies the general education Writing Intensive and Ethics requirements.

Recent offerings:

Modern Drama (Spring 2011, Brucher)

This one-time version of ENG 430 might be subtitled “Ibsen Then and Now.”  A scandal in his own time, Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) has made an indelible mark on almost all European and American drama written since the turn of the 20th century.  In productivity, innovation, influence, and prestige, Ibsen rivals Shakespeare.  This course will explore the startling innovations in dramatic language, character, setting, and structure that Ibsen made to 19th century dramatic literature.  He has been credited with demolishing romantic idealism by staging unseemly material in unconventional ways (the scandal), and with prophesying 20th century collisions among desiring selves, stifling social conventions, and intractable hereditary forces (the legacy).  To contextualize Ibsen’s immediate impact, we will read plays by three of Ibsen’s contemporaries:  August Strindberg (1849-1912), Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), and George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950).  To explore how Ibsen remains our contemporary, we will investigate how his work has been appropriated for post-modernist purposes, often with extraordinary effects; and we will look at several films of the plays.

Likely Plays

  • Ibsen:  Peer Gynt, A Doll’s House, Ghosts, The Wild Duck, Rosmersholm, Hedda Gabler, Little Eyolf, The Master Builder, John Gabriel Borkman.
  • Strindberg:  Miss Julie, The Dance of Death, The Ghost Sonata.
  • Chekhov:  The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard.
  • Shaw:  Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Arms and the Man, Man and Superman.

Avant- garde European Theater (Fall 2009, Billitteri)

Twentieth-century avant-garde European theater, in all its different manifestations (symbolist, dada, futurist, absurd drama, theater of cruelty, epic theater, political theater) rejects the artistic conventions of naturalist and realist drama and all “aesthetic values and materialistic ideals … associated with the bourgeoisie” (Christopher Innis, “The Politics of Primitivism”). Through the shock-effects of their formally innovative gestures, the theatrical avant-gardes successfully sought the politicization of drama as a literary genre, and rethought the boundaries between art and politics, often by way of radical intellectual “assaults” on the aesthetic values and expectations of their audiences. In this class, we will read the most important plays of the European avant-garde and study all pertinent avant-garde theoretical “manifestoes” on the politics of theater that have changed the landscape of twentieth-century European theater.

European Avant-garde Theater (Fall 2008, Billitteri)

ENG 435: The Bible and Near Eastern Literature (Wilson)

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission. Satisfies the general education Ethics requirement.

Recent offerings:

Spring 2011

An exploration of the Bible within the context of other Near-Eastern religious and mythic literature from Mesopotamia and Babylon, Egypt, Canaan, Persia and other cultures that went into the creation of this Hebrew and Christian Bible.  Will include PowerPoint and audio lectures about the archaeology and anthropology of this period so important to subsequent western culture—3000 B.C.-100 A.D. We will focus to some degree on the role of goddess figures in the development of the Bible into the form we find it in today. We’ll approach the Bible as an anthology of fiction, myth, and polemic – sometimes bitter and heated – arising out of specific cultural and philosophical contexts. Finally, the course will suggest that the Bible will become a more humane document when understood as the product of cultural interbreeding and argument.


  • Gilgamesh
  • The Ancient Near East (vols. 1 & 2)
  • The Hebrew Goddess
  • Myths from Mesopotamia
  • The Myth of the Goddess
  • The Bible

Spring 2009

ENG 436: Topics in Canadian Literature (Norris)

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission of the instructor. Satisfies the general education Writing Intensive and Ethics requirements.

Recent offerings:

Three Canadian Poet-Novelists (Fall 2010)

In this course we will be considering the work of Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje.

Reading List (subject to change):

  • Stranger Music Cohen
  • The Favourite Game Cohen
  • Beautiful Losers Cohen
  • Book of Longing Cohen
  • Selected Poems Atwood
  • Selected Poems 2 Atwood
  • Surfacing Atwood
  • The Handmaid’s Tale Atwood
  • Oryx and Crake Atwood
  • The Tent Atwood
  • The Cinnamon Peeler Ondaatje
  • Coming Through Slaughter Ondaatje
  • Running in the Family Ondaatje
  • The English Patient Ondaatje
  • Divisadero Ondaatje

Fall 2008, Norris

ENG 440: Major American Writers

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission. Satisfies the general education Ethics and Writing Intensive requirements.

Recent offerings:

Cather and Fitzgerald (Fall 2010, Jeff Evans)

A rare, in-depth study of two significant, influential American writers who are comparable in many ways. Among other issues, the course will stress the American-ness of their subject matters and treatments and their experiments with narrative technique. Students will have the opportunity to do directed research in appropriate secondary materials as well.

Required Texts (subject to change):

Willa Cather:

  • Song of the Lark
  • My Antonia A Lost Lady The Professor’s House
  • (all Vintage Classics; students are encouraged to find used copies)

F. Scott Fitzgerald:            

  • This Side of Paradise
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Tender Is the Night
  • The Crack-Up (New Directions)
  • The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • (besides Crack-Up, the rest are all Scribner’s)


  • –short response papers (some posted to course conference)
  • –formal papers
  • –Cather panel presentation
  • –Fitzgerald project summary (oral and written)
  • –attendance and participation (please note the strong emphasis in this course on class discussion)

Robert Creeley (Spring 2009, Friedlander)

At the time of his death in 2005 Robert Creeley was one of the most beloved figures in American poetry, admired for his intellectually dynamic, emotionally rich poems and as a living link to the modernist writers of the early twentieth century. His own generation, associated with the “New American Poetry” of the 1950s and sixties, was a countercultural force and Creeley represents the best of that force with his unique combination of experimental freedom and philosophical rigor. His influence on subsequent writers is incalculable.

In this course we will take Creeley’s poetry as the center of a large circle that also includes his collaborations with visual artists and musicians, his criticism, and his experimental prose, looking closely at his work from three perspectives: as formally innovative art, as a record of experience, and as a philosophical investigation into the nature of experience. We will also consider a number of the writers, musicians, painters, sculptors, and thinkers who were important for Creeley. The key text will be his Selected Poems, 1945-2005.

Assignments: Students will write and share brief weekly responses, and have the choice of producing one substantial project or two smaller ones.

ENG 442: Native American Literature

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission. Satisfies the general education Ethics and Writing Intensive requirements.

Recent offerings:

Spring 2010, Lukens

Spring 2009, Yellow Robe

The course will proceed focusing on contemporary Native American writers of the twentieth century. Our focus will be on the literary texts written by Native American writers in the English language, and we will sample sermon, poetry, playwriting, and retelling of the cultural divides. Students will find themselves doing research outside of the usual boundaries of literary study-you will find yourself looking for information in history, ethnography, anthropology, comparative religious study, law and politics. This course is unique in that it will offer a perspective from an Indigenous Tribal writer.
Texts include: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, by Sherman Alexie Where The Pavement Ends, by William S. Yellow Robe, Jr. Love Medicine, by Louise Erdrich

Spring 2008, Yellow Robe

ENG 443: The American Romantics

Prerequisites: 6 hours of literature or permission. Satisfies the general education Ethics and Writing Intensive requirements.

Recent offerings:

Fall 2009, Friedlander

ENG 444 : Contemporary American Fiction

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission. Satisfies the general education Ethics and Writing Intensive requirements.

Recent offerings:

Fall 2010, Kress

Spring 2009, Alex Irvine

Contemporary American Fiction will take an intensive focus on American fiction written since 1950. We will look at the various manifestations of postmodernism on American fiction, as well as the increasingly visible contributions of America’s minority populations. Authors might include (but not be limited to) Ellison, Burroughs, Pynchon, De Lillo, Morrison, Delany, Dick, Spiegelman, Powers, Chabon, McCarthy, Fowler, Erickson, Alexie, Diaz.

ENG 445: The American Novel

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission of the instructor. Satisfies the general education Writing Intensive requirement.

Recent offerings:

Fall 2010, Alex Irvine

Readings from the major American novelists: Stowe, Melville, James, Twain, Dreiser, Wharton, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Cather, and Faulkner, among others. Focus on thematic, technical, and narrative developments in the 19th and 20th century American novel.

Fall 2009, Jeff Evans

The class will examine closely themes, attitudes, and techniques that contribute to the development of the American novel of the 19th and 20th centuries.  The classes will emphasize discussion and class participation.  Particular attention will be paid to narrative techniques.  The emphasis throughout is on close analysis of the texts.

Sample Texts:

  • Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Norton Critical)
  • Stephen Crane, Maggie:  A Girl of the Streets
  • Willa Cather, My Antonia (Houghton Mifflin)
  • William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (Vintage)
  • Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (Vintage)
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (Dell)
  • Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (Harper)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Love of the Last Tycoon (Scribners)
  • Henry James, Portrait of a Lady (Norton Critical)
  • Harold Frederic, Damnation of Theron Ware
  • Additional Text:  Hibbard & Holman, A Handbook to Literature (on library reserve)

Fall 2008, Jeff Evans

ENG 447: American Drama

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission of instructor. Satisfies the general education Ethics and Writing Intensive requirements.

Recent offerings:

Muticultural American Playwrights (Spring 2011, Yellow Robe)

This course will examine the diversity of contemporary dramatists.  Playwrights included are Suzie Lori Parks, August

Wilson, Jose Rivera, Henry David Hwang, Phillip Kan Gotanda, Anna Deavere Smith, and William S. Yellow Robe, Jr.  This is a hybrid course and a majority of the course will be conducted on-line.

Spring 2010, Brucher

A study of 20th- and21st-Century American dramatists, including O’Neill, Hellman, Williams, Miller, Albee, Shepard, Mamet, Henley, Wilson, and Baitz, among others. We’ll read the drama as an art that tests assumptions about American history, culture, and character, and about material and spiritual dreams. Some attention will be paid to film versions of several of the great plays (e.g., O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire, and Miller’s Death of a Salesman; some attention may be paid to contemporary televison drama (e.g., The Wire). Satisfies the General Education Ethics and Writing Intensive Requirements. Grades are based on an oral presentation, two short papers, a longer project, and a final examination. Performance may be substituted for some written work.

Spring 2008, Brucher

ENG 449: Contemporary American Poetry

Prerequisites: 6 hours of literature or permission. Satisfies the general education Writing Intensive requirement.

Recent offerings:

Spring 2011, Moxley

American poetry written after World War II (1945—>)include Beats, Black Mountain, New York School, San Francisco Renaissance, Deep Image, Language poetry, Aleatory practices and so on… The radical poetic responses that emerged in the postmodern era were various and intellectually exciting. In this course we will read these innovative poets and learn about the aesthetic, social, and cultural foundations of their poetics. If you write poems in free verse, with jagged, enjambed lines, you were—whether you know it or not—influenced by this period. A great class for writers and future scholars of poetry, as well as for all those who enjoyed ENG 222 but longed to read more contemporary poets. If there’s time, we’ll try and make it all the way to the present. Also, expect a tie in with the New Writing Series, and class visits by the poets who come to campus.

Evaluation: Bi-weekly poetic and/or critical responses. One research paper of 10-12 pages. Respect for the circumstance, attendance, and a good faith effort at participation in discussion.


  • Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology. Edited by Paul Hoover.
  • Photocopied essays, poems. Internet resources: sound files, poetry sites.

Spring 2008, Norris

Many poets will be studied, including Robert Creeley and Frank O’Hara.

Required Texts:

  • Contemporary American Poetry, ed. Poulin Jr. and Waters
  • Selected Poems, Robert Creeley
  • The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara
  • Howl and Other Poems, Allen Ginsberg

Evaluation:  Three papers, attendance.

ENG 450: Cultural Borderlands in Contemporary American Literature

Prerequisite(s): 6 hours of literature or permission. Satisfies the general education Cultural Diversity & International Perspective and Writing Intensive requirements.

Recent offerings:

Spring 2009, Bishop

This course explores the psychic middle ground where tensions and ambiguities involving personal identity, allegiance and the nature of belonging play out. The tenacity of cultural distinctions, the deep hunger of people for roots, and the claims of competing communal narratives will be explored in fiction and nonfiction from contemporary writers whose native cultural traditions strongly inform their work.

ENG 451: Chaucer & Medieval Literature

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission of instructor. Satisfies the general education Ethics, Western Cultural Tradition, and Writing Intensive requirements

Recent offerings:

Fall 2011, Harlan-Haughey

This course introduces Chaucer in his literary and cultural settings.  No previous knowledge of Chaucer or medieval literature is required. Chaucer, a diplomat, spy, courtier, tax official, war hero, parliament member, and, on the side, poet, began to be considered the “father of English poetry” before he was entirely cold in his grave. Why is his writing still riveting after six hundred years? It’s not just his massive influence on this language and its literature; what he wrote was funny, fierce, thoughtful, political, philosophical, and, oh yes, notoriously bawdy. We’ll read some of Chaucer’s brilliant early work, and then dig into his two greatest achievements: the epic Troilus and Crisyede, and The Canterbury Tales, his oft-censored panorama of medieval English life. We will read about contemporary English life and politics as well as salient secondary criticism in order to come to a more intimate understanding of the many currents of literary and political life acting upon his work. We will read Chaucer exclusively in Middle English, which will prove surprisingly easy and pleasant.

ENG 453: The Works of Shakespeare

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission of instructor. Satisfies the general education Ethics and Writing Intensive requirements.

Recent offerings:

Fall 2010, Brucher

We’ll read 14 or so plays by Shakespeare, exemplifying the various periods of his career and modes in which he worked–comedy, tragedy, history, and romance.  Class discussions will try to illuminate the expressive range of Shakespeare’s language, the significance of the dramatic forms he used, and the social, political, and intellectual structures that shaped his work.  We’ll pay some attention to performance issues.

This version of 453 will emphasize several Roman plays, including Julius Caesar and Antony & Cleopatra, several “problem” plays, including Hamlet, Measure for Measure, and All’s Well That Ends Well.  Other texts will likely include The Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It, Richard the Third, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, and The Winter’s Tale.

Spring 2010, Norris

Readings in the plays of Shakespeare, with some additional attention to his sonnets and narrative poems.

Fall 2008, Brucher

Spring 2008, Brucher

ENG 455: 18th Century Fiction, Satire, & Poetry

Prerequisites: 6 hours of literature or permission. Satisfies the general education Ethics and Writing Intensive requirements.

Recent offerings:

Fall 2009, Rogers

Focusing on the cultural context of Restoration and eighteenth-century British literature, this class will explore the legitimation of emotion and of individualism during the period. The course will take up the question of gender and genre, and introduce major authors and issues, modes of satire and of sentiment, and developments like the rise of the novel. Readings from such authors as Aphra Behn, Margaret Cavendish, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Johnson, Ann Radcliffe, and Jane Austen.

Required texts: To be selected.

Evaluation: Several short papers/presentations, a research paper, a midterm, and a final.

ENG 456: The English Romantics (Brinkley)

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission. Satisfies the general education Ethics and Writing Intensive requirements.

Recent offerings:

Spring 2010

The works of the major Romantic poets including Blake, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, and Keats, with some attention to their critical writing. Focus on close reading of texts as well as on developing a sense of the historical and intellectual context of Romanticism.

Spring 2008

ENG 457: Victorian Literature and Culture

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission of the instructor. Satisfies the general education Ethics requirement.

Fall 2008, Wilson

Victorian Romanticism and the Visual Imagination:

  • The Eighteenth-Century “Grand Tour”: Roman ruins and the British sensibility.
  • The English garden: From Versailles, to the Picturesque, to Burke and the Sublime.
  • Rousseau and Blake.
  • Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough.
  • Horace Walpole and the gothic and the pagan.
  • Wordsworth, “Tintern Abbey,” Preface to Lyrical Ballads, 1800.
  • William Blake.
  • Paintings of Joshua Reynolds, John Constable and William Girtin.
  • The 1840s: the emergence of photography, especially in the work of Henry Fox Talbert.
  • Ruskin’s Modern Painters.
  • Paintings of J. M. W. Turner.
  • Dickens’s Pickwick Papers.
  • The Pre-Raphaelites—in poetry and art—with an emphasis on D. G. Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Algernon Swinburne, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, and J.W. Waterhouse.

The journey to inner nature, the landscape of the mind: The “aesthetic” end of the century: Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, and Aubrey Beardsley: decadent and perverse? Does Freud belong here? Using the resources of the Web and the technology of WebCT and PowerPoint, we’ll explore, first, the creation of the Eighteenth-century platform from which the British romantics launched their verbal and visual pyrotechnics, and then explore the Victorian reaction in image and word to the romanticism of Blake, Keats and Wordsworth and their view of the natural world.

ENG 458: British Modernism

Prerequisites: 6 hours of literature or permission. Satisfies the general education Ethics and Writing Intensive requirements.

Recent offerings:

Fall 2009, Cowan

Readings from British fin de siecle and modernist writers such as Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, D.H. Lawrence, Wilfred Owen, Edith Sitwell, H.G. Wells, Rebecca West, Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf. The course studies the evolution of British modernism from its roots in the late nineteenth century through and beyond its climax in the early 1920s.

ENG 459: Contemporary British Literature

Prerequisites: 6 hours of literature or permission of the instructor. Satisfies the general education Writing Intensive and Ethics requirements.

Recent offerings:

Fall 2010, Billitteri

Readings from contemporary British writers such as Auden, Orwell, Beckett, Pinter, Spark, Lessing, Stevie Smith, Murdoch, Dylan Thomas, Seamus Heaney, and Hugh MacDiarmid. Studies the various traditions that have emerged since the advent of modernism and their place in the English tradition. Examines the concepts of “modernism” and “postmodernism,” in particular.

Fall 2008, Cowan

The course begins with a review of modernism and its place in the English tradition. It will continue with a consideration of postmodernism and the various trends in English literature since the 1930’s. Readings will include fiction, drama, poetry, and essays. The course involves reading and writing about literature.

ENG 460: Major British Authors

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission. Satisfies the general education Ethics and Writing Intensive requirements.

Recent offerings:

William Blake (Spring 2009, Brinkley)

Blake wrote to transform vision. The course will explore Blake’s transformation. Most of the course will be devoted to a close reading of Blake wonderful, unfinished epic The Four Zoas, a poem that he thought could open the prison doors and set the prisoners free. The class is an experiment: we will try to see how Blake’s poem might do that.

Text: The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David Erdman, with a commentary by Harold Bloom (Anchor Books).

ENG 465: The English Novel

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission. Satisfies the general education Ethics requirement.

Recent offerings:

Spring 2011, Neiman

Although this course focuses on the nineteenth century novel, we begin with a poet, William Wordsworth, who famously denounced the day’s “frantic” novels in his preface to Lyrical Ballads.  This sets the tone for the course, which explores the novel’s “rise” to legitimacy in the nineteenth century, a rise that required the de-legitimization of some of the day’s most popular novels.  Over the semester we explore how and why some novels were privileged as cultural and aesthetic forms.  In so doing we will consider issues such as:  how rises in literary rates and changes in technology affected and influenced both the kinds of novels that were produced and the terms by which novels were critiqued; how Britain’s rise as a colonial power factored into the novel’s rise; and interrelationships between gender and subgenres, such as “sensation” literature.

Our primary texts will be novels, but they will also include essays by nineteenth century cultural critics such as William Hazlitt and Mathew Arnold.

Spring 2010, Rogers

Focusing on the eighteenth century, this class will explore the development of the novel by reading a sequence of works in their historical and cultural contexts. We will consider such topics as individualism, realism, gender, genre, canonicity, and colonialism. Evaluation will be based on a reading blog, short papers, research paper, presentations, midterm, and final.

Required Texts (subject to change):

  • Behn, Oroonoko
  • Defoe, Moll Flanders
  • Richardson, Clarissa
  • Fielding, Tom Jones
  • Burney, Evelina
  • Radcliffe, Mysteries of Udolpho
  • Austen, Pride or Prejudice (or another Austen novel)
  • Austen, Northanger Abbey

Spring 2009, Jacobs

This offering of The English Novel focuses on the nineteenth century. During this period, England was transformed from a largely agrarian and rural nation to a major industrial and colonial power, with accompanying shifts in literacy levels and reading preferences, class relations, family structures, and gender roles. We’ll consider how the novel, as the dominant literary form, raised questions about these social changes and sought solutions to resulting social problems. But we’ll also look at classic works of fantasy and horror, showing another side of nineteenth-century imaginary life. Students who have taken 465 with Professor Rogers, with an emphasis on the eighteenth century, may take this course under an alternate number. Contact Professor Jacobs to arrange.

The course assignments will build toward a long research paper suitable as a capstone project and as a writing sample for applications to graduate programs. Enrollment will be capped at 18 to allow for a writing-intensive experience. We will spend some class time on how to formulate a research question, to carry out serious research in scholarly databases and indexes, and to build strong arguments in dialogue with other critics. Occasional workshops focused on students’ critical writing will be a part of the course.

Sample readings (likely to change):

  • Charlotte Bronte, Villette (Penguin)
  • Lewis Carroll, The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland
  • Charles Dickens, Hard Times
  • Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton (Oxford)
  • Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge (Broadview)
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula (Broadview)
  • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Evaluation: A 10-12 page research project, carried out over the course of the semester. Related assignments will include a pre-proposal and annotated bibliography, a review of literature, a draft version of the essay, and a revised draft. There will also be a number of informal writing assignments. Regular attendance, active participation in discussions, and serious attention to classmates’ work will be expected of all members of the class. I will give quizzes only if it seems that a fair number of people need motivation – beyond the pleasure of the books – to keep up with the reading.

Spring 2008, Rogers

ENG 467: British Drama (Brucher)

Prerequisites: 6 hours of literature or permission. Satisfies the general education Ethics and Writing Intensive requirements.

Recent offerings:

Fall 2009

ENG 467 offers reading and discussion of plays by British dramatists, from the 17th century to the present.  This version of the course offers a comparative study of comedies of manners and social life.  This means that the course is mostly about courtship, predation, and dynasty building or, put another way, sex, money, and power.  Noting how the playwrights manipulate dramatic conventions will reveal relationships among types of comedy, ideas, and social contexts as well as among writers.  The course stresses literary analysis, but we’ll read with performance in mind.

Possible Texts:

  • Caryl Churchill, Plays, One
  • Patrick Farber, Closer
  • Oliver Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer
  • Scott McMillin, ed., Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Comedy
  • Thomas Middleton, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside
  • William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
  • George Bernard Shaw, Plays
  • Tom Stoppard, Arcadia (Faber & Faber).
  • John Millington Synge, The Playboy of the Western World

ENG 470: Topics in Literary Theory & Criticism

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature or permission of instructor. Satisfies the general education Writing Intensive requirement.

Recent offerings:

Philosophy of Art (Spring 2011, Jacobson)

This course will challenge us to consider the significance of artistic practice in and for human life.  A central theme of our study will be the role that art and language (as a possible form of art) play in our relationship to mortality–our own and that of others. We will make a close study of some of Heidegger’s later works that focus significantly on the “work” of art and of language, as well as of sections of Being and Time in which Heidegger discusses our experience of “being toward death.” Readings from Rilke and Derrida will bring us deeply into the interplay of language, art, and death, and matters of human meaning more broadly. Students will have the opportunity to do independent work on particular artists and artworks.

Readings may include selections from

  • Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought
  • Heidegger, Being and Time
  • Rilke, “Duino Elegies”
  • Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
  • Derrida, The Gift of Death
  • Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind
  • Derrida, Truth in Painting

The Master-Slave Dialectic: Theorizing Domination, Desire, Recognition, and Knowledge after Hegel (Spring 2010, Steve Evans)

In this seminar we’ll study Hegel’s famous theory of the “master-slave dialectic” from a variety of standpoints. We’ll begin with Hegel’s own arguments, in The Phenomenology of Spirit and elsewhere, concerning “the struggle to the death for recognition” and the division of labor and enjoyment that it inaugurates. The scandalous writings of the Marquis de Sade will serve as a kind of counterpoint to Hegel in this initial exploration. We’ll turn next to the distinctive interpretations of Hegel’s key concept offered by four major figures in the tradition of Critical Theory—Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Adorno—paying special attention to the way that class and gender hierarchies structure the possibilities for political, ethical, and psychological experience in capitalist democracies. To conclude, we’ll take up a thread that begins with Alexander Kojève’s celebrated lectures on Hegel and Marx in Paris between 1933-39 and extends to such theorists—many of whom were in Kojève’s audience—as Georges Bataille, Simone de Beauvoir, Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, and Roland Barthes. We’ll pay renewed attention to the connection between power and knowledge in this final section, using the “university” as a test case for questioning the persistence of the master-slave dynamic in contemporary education.

Among the primary texts we’ll likely read are Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit, Sade’s Justine, Nietzsche’s The Genealogy of Morals, Adorno’s Minima Moralia, Lacan’s The Other Side of Psychoanalysis, and Barthes’s The Neutral.


This course can be taken for graduate-level credit with the permission of the instructor.

Ethics and Fiction (Fall 2009, Miller)

Is there something it would be unethical to write? To read? Can writing or reading make you a better person? A worse person?

Plato believed that literature could not provide us with any kind of knowledge and, worse, that it was a threat to philosophy and virtue.  Other philosophers have argued that literature is itself a kind of philosophy, and as such makes claims —  ethical, political, and aesthetic — which cannot be conveyed except by means of imaginative literature.  We will begin by exploring this dispute, paying particular attention to ethical criticism, the idea that along with literary values, ethical values should inform our evaluation of a text.  We will consider whether there Are there ethical limits on what counts as art (did a book like American Psycho go “too far”?). We will explore the question of whether a human life be considered a work of art. Along the way, we will consider what we are doing when we interpret a text.  How can one text result in different, and often conflicting, interpretations, and is there such a thing as “the correct interpretation.” If not, then should we formulate rules to guide our various interpretive practices?  Are these ethical rules?  What is the relationship between this meta-interpretive project and developing answers to our substantive philosophical questions? We will read Plato, Nietzsche, Derrida, Borges, Tolstoy, Hesse, Woolf, Akutagawa, Yoko Ogawa, Martha Nussbaum, Richard Posner and others, and watch the films The Five Obstructions and Rashomon.

ENG 471: Literature, Gender, and Gender Theory

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature. Satisfies the general education Writing Intensive requirement.

Recent offerings:

Fall 2010, Neiman

Introduction to gender theory and issues of gender as reflected in the reception, interpretations, and transmission of literary texts. Emphasis on cultural assumptions surrounding gender, which involve both women and men.

ENG 480: Topics in Film

Prerequisites: 6 hours of literature, permission of the instructor. Satisfies the general education Writing Intensive requirement.

Recent offerings:

Theory and Practice in American Film Genres (Spring 2011, Jeff Evans)

This special topics course allows study of a subject not otherwise covered in our curriculum. We will first read in (film) genre theory. We will then study one American film genre—probably the Western—in close examination. We will proceed to other American film genres such as film noir, hardboiled detective, and screwball comedy. Coverage will include social, economic, and political rationale for genre viability as well as technical and thematic characteristics. Our theoretical perspective will include the inception, solidification, and hybridization and revising of film genres.

Text: Probably the latest edition of Barry Grant, Film Genre Reader

Camden Film Festival (Fall 2010, Brinkley)

Attendance is required throughout the entire Film Festival in Camden and Rockland. This includes films screenings and events beginning Thursday evening through Sunday evening.

Camden Film Festival (Fall 2009, Brinkley)

American Fiction and Film Noir (Spring 2009, Jeff Evans)

A study of film topics at a more advanced level than ENG 280. Specific topics vary from year to year but might include study of a major director(s), of a national cinema, of certain film genres, of aspects of film theory, or of women in films.

Texts studied in this particular version of ENG 480 have included:


  • Jim Thompson, Pop 1280
  • James M. Cain, Postman Always Rings Twice
  • Kenneth Fearing, The Big Clock
  • Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest
  • James Crumley, Wrong Case
  • James Ellroy, Black Dahlia



  • Roman Polanski, Chinatown
  • Billy Wilder, Double Indemnity
  • John Farrow, The Big Clock
  • Rian Johnson, Brick
  • David Lynch, Blue Velvet
  • Lawrence Kasdan, Body Heat
  • Quentin Tarentino, Pulp Fiction

Camden Film Festival (Fall 2008, Brinkley)

ENG 481: Topics in Women’s Literature

Prerequisite: 6 hours of literature. Satisfies the general education Ethics and Writing Intensive requirements.

Recent offerings:

Rebecca West (Spring 2010, Cowan)

Hailed by literary scholars and Time magazine as the “woman of the century,” British writer Rebecca West (1892-1982) was a leading modernist author, feminist, and journalist.  George Bernard Shaw said of the 18-year-old journalist, “Rebecca West could handle a pen as brilliantly as ever I could and much more savagely.”

West’s fiction and journalism survey many social and cultural events of the twentieth century. These include women’s suffrage, socialism, war, feminism, communism, and treason. Her early work about World War I, The Return of the Soldier (1918), was the first “war novel” by a woman.  She also covered the Nuremberg War trials for the New Yorker. Her later novels about family life in Edwardian England have been celebrated as “magic realism” in a British guise.

Both West and her works resist categorization. This course will use a generic and a feminist lens to examine West’s works and the challenges they pose to critics and scholars. For example, we will look at West’s magnum opus, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, about her travels through Yugoslavia in 1939 as a sui generis feminist work that draws on the conventions of travel narratives as well as the epic tradition.

Her works have elicited controversy from readers, scholars, and politicians.  The controversy that she has created will be part of our subject. The emphasis will be on literary works, but we will use West’s literary essays and political journalism to contextualize these works.  Works will also include The Judge, an early novel about woman’s suffrage and sexual harassment; Harriet Hume, called a “London Fantasy,” a political satire about the romance between a psychic piano player and a member of Parliament; and The Birds Fall Down, a spy novel about a Russian double agent told from the perspective of a young girl;  We may also look at dramatic and film versions of her works.

Spring 2008, Steve Evans

In this seminar we will explore a wide variety of women’s poetry of the 1970s with a focus on the dynamic tensions that existed in this tumultuous decade between feminism and avant-gardism. Our overall objective will be to understand the historical horizons within which something that has come to be called a “feminist avant-garde” (re-)emerged in this decade. We’ll pursue our objective by looking at how aesthetic, political, and cultural contradictions play out in the works of particular poets both well and lesser known. We will also study the specific means of cultural production and circulation that characterized the moment, paying special attention to the small presses and magazines, the poetry readings, and the reading groups that brought poetry before new audiences. Because “gender” is a relative term, our investigations into the shifting meanings of “femininity” will involve us equally in an exploration of how “masculinity” was constructed, critiqued, and transformed in this period.

Required Texts: Specific texts to be determined, but authors likely to be covered include Bernadette Mayer, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Susan Howe, Nicole Brossard, Jayne Cortez, Rosmarie Waldrop, and others.

Evaluation: Frequent brief writing assignments, presentations, and class participation, plus a final paper or project to be shaped in consultation with instructor.

Note: The seminar may be of especial interest to students who plan to be in Orono in the summer of 2008, when the National Poetry Foundation will host a five-day conference on the Poetry of the 1970s. For more information, contact Professor Evans.

ENG 496: Field Experience in Professional Writing (Peterson)

Prerequisite: ENG 317, 9 hours of writing and permission of instructor. Satisfies the general education Capstone Experience requirement.

ENG 496 is an experiential learning course in which students receive academic credits for doing workplace communication tasks. A student chooses his/her placement in consultation with the instructor and with the approval of the sponsor. Most students enroll for 3 credits. However, students should note that ENG 496 can be repeated for up to 6 credits, and variable amounts of credit can be arranged.

To earn 3 credits, students are required to spend 12 hours per week at their sponsored placements. In addition, they write a weekly journal, assemble materials for a portfolio/writing sample, attend technology workshops and seminars, meet with the coordinator when required, and write a final report.

ENG 499: Capstone Experience in English (Jacobs)

The senior capstone requirement applies to all students in all concentrations. Any one of the following courses or experiences may be used:

  • ENG 395 and one semester of tutoring in the Writing Center.
  • 400-level literature course in which a student writes a seminar-level research paper.
  • ENG 402 and the approval of a final research/editing project.
  • ENG 405, ENG 407 or ENG 408 and the approval of a finished manuscript.
  • ENG 496 (at least 3 credit hours of field experience).
  • Approval of an Honors thesis with a topic in an area of English studies.

Students completing their Senior Capstone Requirement must also register for the zero (0) credit hour ENG 499. This is an accounting mechanism for Student Records to track the completion of the Senior Capstone Requirement.

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