Graduage Courses Fall 2010

Graduage Courses Fall 2010

Department of English

Graduate Course Descriptions Fall 2010


5300: Medieval Literature

6100: Seminar: Conrad and Greene

5390: Post-Colonial Literature

6100: Seminar: Contemporary Poetry

5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Fiction

6110: Literary Forms, Drama
“Good Stories Going”:  Writing Theatre and Performance

5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Fiction 6110: Literary Forms, Fiction
5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Poetry

6660: Graduate Writing Workshop, Fiction

5740: Grammar in Teaching Writing 6660: Graduate Writing Workshop, Poetry
5830: Multicultural Adolescent Literature 6690: Methods of Teaching College Writing
5970: Studies in English: Gender, Race, and Youth in American Popular Narratives 6760: Old English
5970: Studies in English:Literary Publishing 6910: Research and Scholarship in English Education


English 5300: Medieval Literature
Tuesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 3030
Dr. Eve Salisbury
Fulfills: Ph.D. distribution requirement for medieval literature; M.A.-level elective

Did medieval people stay in one place?  Did they move beyond the city gates, the cloistered abbey, and/or the castle moat?  This course focuses on medieval travel narratives and travel compelled by mercantile desire, exploration, crusade, pilgrimage, and the promise of conquest and monetary gain.  The Travels of Marco Polo, the Book of John Mandeville, theBook of Margery Kempe, Prester John’s letters, Chaucer’s Squire’s Tale, the Romance of Alexander, selections from the Arabian Nights, Middle English romances, Bevis of Hamptonand Floris and Blancheflour, transport us from Mongolia to Africa, from the Middle East to East Anglia, from otherworlds inhabited by dragon ladies and dog-headed men to familiar realms of pilgrims, pardoners, and plowmen.  Literary and literal journeys such as these carry us into the unfamiliar worlds of the medieval imagination to reveal the reciprocal nature of global storytelling.  Waldo’s Medieval Travel Writing database, a collection of manuscripts dating from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, will provide additional resources for our study.


English 5390: Post-Colonial Literature
Thursdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 2037
Dr. Mustafa Mirzeler
Fulfills: Ph.D. requirement for Non-traditional literature; M.A.-level elective

Writing about post-colonialism and literature, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, one of the greatest African novelists, suggests that in moments of change, when new societies arise from the old ones, powerful members of the new society often impose silence on the population by taking away certain human rights, such as the right to organize and the right to express political opinions.  Such acts, however simultaneously give voice to the oppressed population, and this includes storytellers, writers and artists (1998: 26-28).  Political rulers and others have throughout history sought to tame the tongue of the African storyteller and the writers, but success in such endeavors is only sporadically successful, is never long-lasting (Scheub 1996: XV).  The African storytellers fuse ancient ideas, motifs, and images of the past with the emotionally felt experiences of the members of their audiences as they persuasively provide new contexts, meaning, and insights to society’s contemporary problems.  Storytellers and writers work the images of their tradition to transform the tale into a symbol of the collective voice around which the members of the society could be mobilized for social and political change.

This course gives voice to the African storytellers who are seldom heard from outside of their villages as well as the internationally recognized novelists.  Important changes in the lives of the African people came about not only through colonization of the continent, the development of the post-colonial nation states, the introduction of wage labor and modernity, but also by new world order, new forms of political violence and terrorism which have altered the core of the African societies.  In contrast to the changes relating to modern nation states which devalued women’s power and authority, and hindered their mobility, new form of terrorism have increased young men’s power and authority and enhanced their mobility and international networking abilities.  One of the themes that will dominate the class discussion is the impact of the new form of international violence and terrorism which impacted people’s daily lives, altered gender relations, and transformed the meanings of death and violence.  When we analyze the stories of these storytellers and writers, we can see how the narrative of the storytellers gives voice to alternative discourse and becomes an integral expression of the oppressed, serving the imagination and the creation of a new societies and landscapes, engendering new memories from those of the past.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Fiction
Tuesdays, 4:00 - 7:30; Trimpe 1310
Professor Thisbe Nissen
Fulfills:  Ph.D. or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

This will be a traditional fiction workshop.  Each student will put up at least two pieces to be workshopped during the semester.  Class members are responsible for reading workshop stories and making line notes for the author, in addition to writing a thoughtful and substantive end note.  We learn better how to edit ourselves by carefully and conscientiously editing others.  We’ll dig into the meat of each other’s stories to figure out how they¹re working, how they might work better, and what the author and the class can learn from the effort at hand.  Revision is encouraged.  Discussion of readings in contemporary published short fiction will compliment workshop discussions.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Fiction
Tuesdays, 6:00 - 9:30; Brown 3003
Dr. Jaimy Gordon
Fulfills:  Ph.D. or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

See catalog description or contact instructor.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Nonfiction
Mondays, 6:30 - 9:50; Brown 3003
Professor Richard Katrovas
Fulfills:  Ph.D. or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

This course will take the form of a traditional creative-writing workshop in which student texts are closely critiqued and edited.  Though there will not be a textbook for this course, the professor will assign readings, relative to the critiques of student work, that may be easily accessed on the internet.

Though students may submit either fiction or nonfiction, they are encouraged to offer for scrutiny both fiction and nonfiction texts; indeed, most critiques will center on a semester-long conversation regarding the structural, existential, historical and ethical differences and similarities between the two genres.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Playwriting
Wednesdays, 6:00 - 9:30; Brown 3017
Dr. Steve Feffer
Fulfills:  Ph.D. or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

This is a workshop in the writing, critical reading and presentation of original drama.  We will spend most of our time in class on the presenting and workshopping of your work.  However, we will also have a few classes where a portion of the session will be devoted to playwriting exercises that will help you develop your existing work, start something new, or to integrate into your own writing process.  Additionally, we will have a couple of days of “ice breaking” and additional play development work.  Most weeks you will be assigned readings in contemporary drama for consideration of its structure, style, and theatricality, as well as other elements.  The emphasis in the class will be the process by which your playwriting ultimately is about writing theatre.  To this end: We will work with actors and directors who will assist you with the readings, staged readings or productions of your work—as elaborate or basic as you need—as well as taking part in the discussion of it in order to introduce you to the process by which through performance, drama emerges as theatre.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop, Poetry
Tuesdays, 6:00-9:30; Brown 3002
Instructor: TBA
Fulfills:  Ph.D. or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement


English 5740: Grammar in Teaching Writing 
Mondays, 6:00 - 9:30; Brown 3045
Dr. Ellen Brinkley
Fulfills: Ph.D. prerequisite requirement for English language course; M.A.-level elective

Many English language arts teachers today have had relatively little instruction in grammar, and they are unsure about whether or how to teach it. This course will not provide quick and easy answers, but we will consider grammatical issues as they are viewed by the public and within the profession. We will consider how grammar has been taught historically and examine key research studies that have influenced the teaching of writing and grammar. We will examine NCTE statements and state mandates (MEAP and Michigan English Language Arts Content Standards and Expectations) and explore a range of grammar-related classroom strategies and structures that can support and strengthen student writing. We will learn from each other, and produce position papers, curricular plans, and/or articles suitable for publishing. For more information, contact


English 5830: Multicultural Adolescent Literature 
Tuesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Dunbar 2210
Dr. Gwen Tarbox
Fulfills: Ph.D. distribution requirement for Non-traditional Literature; EE Ph.D. and M.A. in English with an emphasis in teaching distribution requirement for adolescent literature; EE Ph.D. and M.A. in English with an emphasis in teaching distribution requirement for multicultural literature; Ph.D. and M.A.-level elective

This course draws upon a variety of fields – cultural studies, youth studies, and literary history – to explore contemporary multicultural literature about and for young adults.  As part of our discussion, we will ask the following questions:

  • What are the characteristics of contemporary multicultural literature?  Why should it or should it not be studied separately from, say, the Bildungsroman or mainstream adolescent literature?
  • Who are the key critics who write about multicultural literature for or about adolescents?  What are the conventions of critical works that treat multicultural authors, texts, and issues? 
  • What are the themes that have emerged in the last 20 years regarding multicultural literature for or about adolescents?

Participants in the course will discuss, on average, one short novel per week and complete the following assignments:  a semester essay; mid-term and final examinations; a blog entry; and periodic in-class writing assignments designed to encourage reflection on the texts and ideas generated during class discussion. 

Tentative Text List:

Abdel-Fattah, Randa.  Does My Head Look Big in This?  New York:  Scholastic, 2007.  ISBN:  978-0439922333. 
Alexie, Sherman.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.  New York:  Little, Brown and Co., 2007.  ISBN:  978-0316013697. 
Alvarez, Julia.  Before We Were Free.  New York:  Laurel Leaf, 2002.  ISBN: 
Beah, Ishmael.  A Long Way Gone:  Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.  New York:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007.  ISBN:  978-0374531263.  
de la Peña, Matt.  Mexican WhiteBoy.  New York:  Delacorte, 2008.  ISBN:  
Hidier, Tanuja Desai.  Born Confused.  New York:  Scholastic, 2002.  ISBN:  
Kass, Pnina Moed.  Real Time.  New York:  Graphica, 2004.  ISBN:  978-0618691746.  
Myers, Walter Dean.  Monster.  New York:  Amistad, 2001.  ISBN:  978-0064407311.  
Na, An.  Step from Heaven.  New York: Penguin, 2001.  ISBN:  978-0142500279.
Yang, Gene Luen.  American Born Chinese.  New York:  Square Fish, 2007.  ISBN:  


English 5970: Studies in English
Gender, Race, and Youth in American Popular Narratives 
Wednesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 4035
Dr. Ilana Nash
Fulfills: Ph.D. distribution requirement for Modern American literature (American II); M.A.-level elective

This course will focus on the subject of “coming of age” in American narrative culture of the late 19th through late 20th centuries.  We will consider such questions as what it means to be American, and how the coming-of-age process parallels our ideals of national identity; how the maturation process is influenced by ideologies of gender, race, and age; and how Americans’ ideas of youth and adulthood have changed over time.

To address these questions, we’ll combine literature, popular fiction, history texts, film, and television.  Students will read selections from Mark Twain, Booth Tarkington, J. D. Salinger, Louisa May Alcott, Richard Wright, and Sandra Cisneros, among others.  Our visual texts will include seminal films and television series such as Rebel without a CauseThe Patty Duke ShowFreaks and Geeks, and many others, including little-known gems from bygone eras.  Students will have the opportunity to write an original research paper focusing on any aspect of age, race, and gender, as studied in the course.


English 5970: Studies in English
Literary Publishing 
Mondays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 4030
Professor Jay Nicorvo
Fulfills: Ph.D. or M.A.-level elective

Not since the days when a German goldsmith and printer revolutionized publishing—and helped usher in the Renaissance by unknowingly improving upon a system of moveable type that had existed since the Eleventh Century—has the activity of producing material for distribution to the public been so drastically altered by a technological advance.  As the printed word makes way for the pixelated word, literary publishing faces another reinvention, if not another renaissance.  But just like the photograph didn't put an end to the canvas—despite the death knells—neither will the screen spell doom for the page, even if it ultimately improves upon it.

In this class, we will explore the inseparable history and technology of literary publishing.  We will practice the trade of publishing and the craft of editing.  You will each subscribe to one literary magazine and make a presentation on it; likewise with a few titles from one independent press.  You will write a medium-length research paper on a historic aspect of literary publishing, such as: BÏ Shçng and his movable-type press made from Chinese porcelain in the 1040s; the publication of Lolita by Olympia Press (the publisher that would later publish Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto) and the subsequent copyright lawsuits that lasted decades; Lawrence Ferlinghetti's launching the publishing arm of City Lights; Barney Rosset and the obscenity trials of Grove Press; the Woolfs' founding of Hogarth Press.

You will write and revise a few book reviews and submit them to literary journals.  You will come up with a business plan for a press or print magazine, complete with budget.  You will take an open-book copyediting and fact-checking exam.  Using the WordPress platform, you will each launch an online literary magazine consisting exclusively of public-domain content.  Required books (or, when available, online subscriptions!) are The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition; the CLMP Literary Press And Magazine Directory 2009/2010 and Pocket Pal: A Graphic Arts Production Handbook, plus a course packet and handouts.


English 6100: Seminar
Conrad and Greene 
Mondays, 4:00-6:20, Brown 4035
Dr. Jill Larson
Fulfills: Ph.D. distribution requirement for Modern British or M.A.-level elective

In this seminar, we will study one British novelist from the late-nineteenth / early twentieth century, Joseph Conrad, and one mid-twentieth century British novelist, Graham Greene, for whom Conrad was important and influential. Both writers were concerned with complex ethical questions, and Greene’s novels are theological as well as philosophical in focus.  That said, the novels of Conrad and Greene have also been enjoyed for their exciting plots and world-wide settings, which include (besides Great Britain) Africa, South America, Indonesia, and Mexico.

Our reading list will most likely include Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), Lord Jim (1900), Nostromo (1904), The Secret Agent (1907), and Greene’s Brighton Rock(1938), The Power and the Glory (1940), The Heart of the Matter (1948), The End of the Affair (1951), and A Burnt-Out Case (1960).  We will also read some travel writing, short fiction, and biographical and autobiographical material.  This course should appeal to students of the novel and narrative theory, to fiction writers, and to anyone interested in twentieth-century history, culture, and literature, especially those of you studying for the Modern British doctoral exam.


English 6100: Seminar
Contemporary Poetry
Tuesdays, 6:30-9:00, Brown 4025
Dr. Nancy Eimers
Fulfills: Ph.D. requirement for contemporary literature and M.A.-level elective

History has to live with what was here,
clutching and close to fumbling all we had—
Robert Lowell

This is a seminar on contemporary poetry, in particular, a poetry that engages with a larger world, attempting what Muriel Rukeyser called "a music like the music of our time."  We'll look closely at ten or eleven collections of poetry published since 1945, including work by Muriel Rukeyser and Adrienne Rich, Lowell's History, Merwin's The Lice, collections by Allen Ginsberg, Eavon Boland, C. D Wright, Marvin Bell and, most recently, Khaled Mattawa'sToqueville.  How do we talk about "what is here"?   What might constitute a "music of our time"?  I hope we'll have many interesting talks about these and other things during the course of the semester.  Each student will be responsible for a class presentation, a weekly response paper (one page, informal), and a final paper.  There will also be the option of writing "influence" poems in lieu of one or two of the response papers.


English 6110: Literary Forms, Drama
“Good Stories Going”:  Writing Theatre and Performance 
Tuesdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 4002
Dr. Steve Feffer
Fulfills: M.F.A. or Ph.D. in Creative Writing Forms requirement

 “The theatre itself is much less high-minded than those who keep a watchful eye on its purity; the stage has always cheerfully swiped whatever good stories were going.”
                                                                                    -- Philip Pullman

This semester’s forms class in drama will focus on theatre and performance that is created, developed, written and staged from existing materials.  These performance texts may include (though are certainly not limited to) stage adaptation of existing literary works, documentary theatre, collage, translation, re-assemblage, non-fiction performance and autobiographical work.  The purpose for this exploration is one that I believe will be of interest to those working as playwrights, and for those in any genre who have wished to experiment with playwriting and/or discover how the dramatic form may inform their current artistic practice, especially in regards to narrative, corporeality, hybridity, voice and language.  However, I also believe that working with texts from existing materials can be a very efficacious way to consider and reconsider some of the assumptions about one’s work in her or his own genre.

Our class will consider how creating texts from existing materials, such as adaptation or the transposition of recognizable works from one medium to another, establishes an increased awareness of a genre’s role in the use of point-of-view, a change of frame or context, a shift in ontology, or the move from real to fictional (and vice-versa).  Additional emphasis will be placed on the creative and interpretive act of appropriation and salvaging,such as reenvisioning old stories so that they speak to a new audience, contest the values of prior work, or pay homage to an established text.  We will also consider the ways that our intertextual engagement with existing materials can highlight or illuminate the palimpsestuous nature of memory and literary creation for artist and audience.

The nature of our study will be three-fold.  We will read widely (or look at video where available) in contemporary dramatic writing and performance texts that are examples of the exciting work being done in these areas:  These will include playwrights, performance artists, or theatre companies such as Tony Kushner, Len Jenkin, Anna Deavere Smith, Lisa Kron, Charles Mee, Moises Kaufmann, Suzan-Lori Parks and The Wooster Group.  We will do a series of shorter writing exercises to experiment with some of these dramatic forms.  And lastly, each writer will develop one of these shorter pieces, or some other work of his or her interest, into a longer more developed piece (of one act length or the equivalent, and longer for playwriting students [details of this TBA]).

For questions or more information, please email Dr Steve Feffer at


English 6110: Literary Forms, Fiction
Wednesdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 3002
Dr. Jaimy Gordon
Fulfills: M.F.A. or Ph.D. in Creative Writing Forms requirement

See course catalog or contact instructor.  


English 6660: Graduate Writing Workshop, Fiction
Fridays, 4:00 - 6:30; Brown 3048
Professor Thisbe Nissen
Fulfills: Ph.D. or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

This will be a traditional fiction workshop.  Each student will put up at least two pieces to be workshopped during the semester.  Class members are responsible for reading workshop stories and making line notes for the author, in addition to writing a thoughtful and substantive end note.  We learn better how to edit ourselves by carefully and conscientiously editing others.  We’ll dig into the meat of each other’s stories to figure out how they¹re working, how they might work better, and what the author and the class can learn from the effort at hand.  Revision is encouraged.  Discussion of readings in contemporary published short fiction will compliment workshop discussions.


English 6660: Graduate Writing Workshop, Poetry
Mondays, 7:00 - 9:20; Brown 3017
Dr. Nancy Eimers
Fulfills: Ph.D. or M.A.-level CW workshop requirement

Muriel Rukeyser wrote that "All things change in time; some are made of change itself, and the poem is of these. It is not an object; the poem is a process." Ideally, our workshop will be a place to consider the poem as it is poised between what was intended and what might possibly be. Our task as a workshop will be to help instigate that change, or help the writer to imagine her/his way to the poem's next, ever more crucial version.


English 6690: Methods of Teaching College Writing 
Tuesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 3045
Dr. Charie Thralls
Fulfills: Teaching component for Ph.D. and M.A. students

Participants in this course will learn and share strategies for teaching first-year composition.  We will consider a range of theoretical frameworks and practical strategies for college composition courses.  Writing and research for this course will center on building a personal teaching philosophy and a set of usable strategies and plans for future teaching situations. 

Course activities will include reading responses, presentations, classroom assessments, and the creation of lesson plans and a teaching portfolio.  Instructors who are teaching college-level writing are the primary audience for this course, but any individual interested in college-level writing courses (whether currently teaching or not) is welcome.


English 6760: Old English 
Wednesdays, 4:00 - 6:45; Dunbar 2205
Dr. Jana Schulman
Fulfills: Ph.D. English Language requirement; M.A.-level elective

In this course students learn the fundamentals of Old English grammar and language, read and translate prose and poetry that bring to life the Anglo-Saxon period, and examine the historical and cultural forces that shaped the language and literature.

This course is a prerequisite for English 6100, offered in the spring, which is a translation and discussion seminar.  The topic for this course is not yet determined, but previous ones have included Beowulf (Spring 2003), Anglo-Saxon Heroic Literature (Spring 2005), Law and Literature in Anglo-Saxon England (Spring 2006), Death in Anglo-Saxon England/Old English Literature (Spring 2007), Monstrosity in Anglo-Saxon England (Spring 2009), and Education and Translation in Anglo-Saxon England (Spring 2010).

Doctoral students who take the year-long sequence and complete each semester with a grade of “B” or better may use this to fulfill their foreign language requirement.


English 6910: Research and Scholarship in English Education 
Thursdays, 5:30 - 8:00; Brown 3045
Dr. Allen Webb
Fulfills: Ph.D. English Education and M.A. in English with an emphasis in teaching required class; Ph.D. and M.A.-level elective; pedagogy elective

English 6910 is a perfect course for any English department graduate student wanting to think carefully about their own teaching and to consider research, writing and publishing about the classes that they teach. It is a required gateway course for students focusing on English education.

The emphasis in the class will be on how to engage in observation and research on your students and your own teaching. The class will involve significant freedom for teachers to examine their approach or approaches to teaching composition, creative writing, literature, culture, the use of technology, and any and all aspects of English. We will study the process of classroom research, look at outstanding examples of published classroom research, engage in significant conversation about our own teaching, and design qualitative research projects, usually focused on classes that the students in the course themselves are currently teaching. We will address how to write up such observations and present them at professional conferences and publish articles about our teaching in journals for secondary and college English teachers.


Note: Readers should consider all course descriptions and booklists to be tentative and are encouraged to confirm all times and locations before attending class.


Department of English
6th floor Sprau Tower
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5331 USA
(269) 387-2572 | (269) 387-2562 Fax