Undergraduate Courses Spring 2009

Undergraduate Courses Spring 2009

Department of English

Undergraduate Course Descriptions


4100: Special Topics-Jazz and Civil Rights

5220: Studies in American Literature 
American Literature and Material Culture

4100: Special Topics-Contemporary Middle Eastern Fiction

5320: English Renaissance Literature

4150: Literary Theory and Criticism

5360: Romantic Literature

4420: Studies in Drama 5550: Major Writers
4440: Studies in the Novel
4440: Studies in the Novel

5660: Creative Writing Workshop– Playwriting

4520: Shakespeare Seminar 5660: Creative Writing Workshop–Poetry
4640: Professional Writing 5660: Creative Writing Workshop–Fiction
4720: Language Variation in American English 5740: Grammar in Teaching Writing
4800: Teaching Literature in the Secondary Schools 5820: Studies in Children’s Literature
Folklore and Tales in Children’s Literature

4800: Teaching Literature in the Secondary Schools

5970: Studies in English-Medieval Pulp Fiction

4840: Multi-Cultural American Literature for Children

5970: Studies in English
Language, Gender, and Culture
  5970: Studies in English-Graphic Fiction

English 4100: Special Topics
Jazz and Civil Rights, 1950-1975 
Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:00 - 11:50; Brown 3048
Professor Scott Friesner

Check back for updates or contact course instructor.

English 4100: Special Topics
Contemporary Middle Eastern Fiction 
Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:00 - 5:50; Brown 4030
Dr. Mustafa Mirzeler

The contemporary fiction writers of the Middle East have focused on the construction of the east and the west self and other, and similar dichotomies in a variety of social relations.  The best of these writers bring to life facets of colonial involvement and the boundaries that separate the east from the west, Christians from the Muslims and men from women, while expressing the desire to trespass these boundaries.  How do contemporary Middle East writers imagine these boundaries and how and why do they desire to trespass them?  What has the historical trespassing of these boundaries led to?  Why do women and men always dream about trespassing these boundaries?  What are the frontiers and borders and boundaries, and how do they impact peoples’ lives?

Drawing from diverse contemporary literary and critical theories, this course historicizes and conceptualizes the cultural and social contexts that produce and reproduce, politicize and blur these boundaries.  It positions the political expressions of the boundaries, on the model of self and other, within the overall discussion of power relations, paying special attention to the relationship between a woman’s body, her language, and the sensual desire of males for her body, and between colonial and nation state politics.


English 4150: Literary Theory and Criticism
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00 - 3:50; Brown 4030
Dr. Todd Kuchta

An introduction to the theory and methods of literary criticism. Readings may be drawn from the history of critical theory and from contemporary schools of criticism, such as formalist, marxist, psychoanalytic, structuralist, poststructuralist, postcolonial, and cultural studies.  Strongly recommended for all English majors, especially those planning to pursue graduate study.  This course is approved as a writing-intensive course which may fulfill the baccalaureate-level writing requirement of the student's curriculum.  Prerequisites: At least two upper-divison English courses. Requirements will likely include regular short response papers, two 5-page essays, and a mid-term and final exam.


English 4420: Studies in Drama
Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:00 - 5:50; Brown 4025
Dr. Steve Feffer

The primary focus of this course will be devoted to considering how developments in our contemporary drama have challenged and been influenced by shifting conceptions of theatrical production and performance strategies.  This approach will include an examination of how technology, culture and society have affected drama and theatre as a genre.  Additional emphasis will be placed on the craft of the playwright and a consideration of drama as a unique set of artistic concerns related to structure, style and language.  A variety of instructional methods will be used including lectures, discussions, group activities and presentations, media, and live performances.

The first part of the class will explore how experimentation in drama exposed and expanded the boundaries between the dramatic text and theatrical performance to suggest new possibilities in structure, style and genre.  This first part of the class begins with playwrights that include Ibsen, Glaspell, Brecht, Beckett and the historical avant-garde to demonstrate how early theatrical and avant-garde experimentation has coalesced into a dramatic literature.  Around mid-semester we will consider the plays of writers such as Harold Pinter, Sam Shepard, Caryl Churchill and Maria Irene Fornes where the impulses and themes of the historical avant-garde and modern drama are rewritten into the context and structure of a more contemporary dramatic literature and its unique thematic concerns.

In the last part of the course, special attention will be paid to how contemporary drama seeks to go beyond given theatrical representations to illuminate new conceptions and constructions of history and identity.  Particular attention will be paid to how these ideas of history and identity are expressed thematically through a reconsideration of dramatic structure, style and language, and the implications of these ideas for theatrical performance.  Special sections of this part of the course will include units on the burgeoning hip-hop theatre movement, post-colonial drama, and queer theatre and playwrights such as Brian Friel, August Wilson, Tony Kushner, Suzan-Lori Parks and Anna Deavere Smith and the glam-punk musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  Additional emphasis will be placed on some of the most current plays by contemporary dramatists and their illumination and anticipation of recent societal and theatrical impulses.   Many of the items on this reading list are also on the reading list for late medieval literature for the qualifying exam.


English 4440: Studies in the Novel
Mondays and Wednesdays, 2:00 - 3:50; Wood 2908
Dr. Jil Larson

Studies in the Novel is one of the university’s required baccalaureate writing courses.  These courses give you the opportunity to write intensively within your major and, as such, ENGL 4440 is designed to help you hone the skills you have been developing all along in your English courses.  It will also offer you in-depth study of a single genre, the novel, as well as subgenres within that larger category.  We will read American, British, and international novels that employ a wide variety of narrative techniques and imagine fictional worlds of all sorts.  Your writing will allow you to pursue your own particular interests in this literature and share your discoveries and insights with the rest of the class.  Although the reading list is still in flux, it is likely to include Frances Burney’s 18th century novel Evelina, 19th century novels by George Eliot and Thomas Hardy, and 20th and 21st century novels by Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, or Faulkner, Italo Calvino, Nadine Gordimer, and Kazuo Ishiguro.


English 4440: Studies in the Novel
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:00 - 1:50; Brown 4037
Dr. Jon Adams

The WMU undergraduate catalog describes ENGL 4440 as:

The study of the development and diversity of the novel as a literary form.  Emphasis will be on the novel from the eighteenth- to the early twentieth-century.  Attention shall be paid to the critical and theoretical bases of interpretation.  This course is approved as a writing-intensive course which may fulfill the baccalaureate-level writing requirement of the student's curriculum.  Prerequisites: Two courses that count toward the English major at the 300-level.

We’ll fulfill part of this description by studying theories of the birth and rise of the novel and several early, influential novels.  Many novels that we’ll read, however, will be 20th Century novels, as we explore the influences of critical theory and modernism/post-modernism on contemporary novels.  Requirements: weekly reading responses, two essays, one revision, and a final exam. 

AUTHOR                               TITLE             PUBLISHER             ISBN
Auster, Paul              Oracle Night               Picador                   0312423667
DeFoe, Daniel           Robinson Crusoe        Dover                     0486404277
Didion, Joan              Democracy                 Vintage                  0679754857
Fielding, Henry         Joseph Andrews          Dover                     0486415880
Ford, Ford Madox       The Good Soldier       Dover                     0486419215
Hawthorn, Jeremy     Studying the Novel    Hodder Arnold        0340887877
Hawthorne, Nathaniel   The House of the Seven Gables Dover  0486408825            
Morrison, Toni             Paradise                   Plume                     0452280397
O’Brien, Tim          In the Lake of the Woods Penguin                 0140250948      Pynchon, Thomas     The Crying of Lot 49  HarperPerennial       0060931671
Roy, Arundhati             The God of Small    HarperPerennial       0060977493


English 4520: Shakespeare Seminar
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:00 - 1:50, Brown 4048
Dr. Anthony Ellis

In this course, as we read seven Shakespearean plays, we will investigate their poetry, their social and historical context, and the ways their texts function as guides to performance.  The beginning of the course explores how studying drama differs from reading other literary genres.  We will conduct this exploration via the in-class reading of scenes, consideration of a few key critical texts, and some short writing assignments.  As we move into the plays, we will discuss a number of issues present in the drama involving identity; family and generational succession; marriage and sexuality; race and class; and the exercise of political (often kingly) power.  In many class meetings, we will view clips from filmed versions of the plays, in the interest of comparing a director’s or actor’s interpretation of a given scene with your own.

Although this list may change slightly, I plan to include on the reading list The Two Gentlemen of VeronaAll’s Well That Ends WellHenry VTitus AndronicusAntony and CleopatraCoriolanus, and Cymbeline, as well as a number of secondary readings still to be determined.


English 4640: Professional Writing
Thursdays, 6:00 - 9:20; Brown 1037
Dr. Charlotte Thralls

Professional Writing provides practice in developing the forms and techniques of writing, editing, and researching required in business, industry, and government.  Students should take this course as their capstone experience in practical writing.  Prerequisite: two writing courses.  English 3050 (Practical Writing) recommended.

As a capstone to your classes (and experiences) in practical writing, this course is designed to help you move to the next level: either a career as a professional writer or a career that requires a high level of communication competence.  The course thus focuses on some of the knowledge and skills you’ll need to make this transition.

Through course projects, for example, you will have an opportunity to

1) Develop Professional Quality Projects that Demonstrate Your Communication Experience and Expertise. Here, you will gain experience with communication strategies (for example, adapting information to readers, using print and digital technologies, designing pages and documents, creating visual evidence and displays), important in workplaces and the professions.

2) Learn What It is Like to Do a Writing Project for a Client. Here you’ll get experience in creating documents for actual organizations.

3) Develop Techniques for Effective Presentation of Your Writing Experience and Competence.  Here, you’ll learn how to create a professional portfolio—in either digital or print form—that synthesizes and articulates your knowledge and skills as a writer.


English 4720: Language Variation in American English
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:00 - 11:50; Brown 3037
Dr. Lisa Minnick

From the catalog: English 4720 is the study of regional and social varieties of American English from sociolinguistic perspectives, focusing on the forces that influence different types of language variation.  It examines issues of linguistic bias and offers a multi-cultural perspective on the role of language in daily life.  Course description, purpose, and objectives: In this course, we will discuss the theories and practices of language variation research, particularly as applied to American English.  In doing so, we will consider approaches to the study of language variation, with attention to key figures, studies, and methodologies.  We will discuss the functions and effects of dialectal variation, and how factors such as geography, ethnicity, gender, social status and other extralinguistic variables interact with language and contribute to variation.  We will also explore how popular perceptions and attitudes contribute to the differential valuation of American English varieties and the effects of these valuations.  Finally, students will learn the skills and practices of linguistic research and language description and apply these skills to original research projects.

Texts: Finegan and Rickford, /Language in the U.S.A./ (Cambridge 2004), and a $10 fee card.


English 4800: Teaching Literature in the Secondary Schools
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00  - 3:50; Brown 3037
Dr. Allen Webb

English 4800 is an exciting and important opportunity for English majors and minors in the secondary eduction curriculum to bring together their work in literature and education courses. The class is the capstone course in the program and often taken soon before intern teaching. English 4800 will ground students in traditional approaches to literature pedagogy while simultaneously focusing on recent waves of reform, reader response, cultural studies, and the impact of the internet. We will use a thematic approach to integrate these approaches as we explore a variety of cultural studies themes in a problem-posing, student-led format.

This course contends that the starting point for curriculum and teaching methodology for teaching literature is addressing what the literature is about, what it means as well as how it means, in historical, cultural and social contexts.

In preparation for the visit of nationally recognized scholar Sheridan Blau in Spring 2009, we will read his thoughtful book on literature instruction, The Literature Workshop enhancing our investigation of close reading, reader response, and discussion leading.

By focusing on difficult and potentially controversial cultural studies curricular themes during the student-led portion of the course, future teachers will gain understanding of issues involved in teaching literature at the secondary level, see the course syllabus at www.AllenWebb.net.

Class will be held in a new, wireless, laptop classroom in Brown Hall specifically designed for English education courses. This room will allow us to integrate technology into literature teaching in a "classroom of the future." Our class will be organized by our on-line syllabus that will also serve as an electronic, hyperlinked, textbook. All students will develop and publish their own teaching website, both a portfolio of work and a real-world working site for future teaching. 

A significant portion of the class will be student-led, as we explore the development of response-based, cultural studies literature teaching within the context of NCTE and the State of Michigan standards, content expectations, and model curriculums. Student groups will select topics addressing current and controversial themes such as literature and the Third World, literature and the environment (global warming?), literature and social class, literature and religion, literature and sexuality, literature and sexual orientation, literature and service learning, literature and the mass media, teaching Native American literature, literature and white priviledge, literature and the Middle East, literature and the Iraq War, etc. Expect to spend an additional twenty dollars on books, packets, and reading materials for each of the student-led units -- this reading will be announced throughout the course.


English 4800: Teaching Literature in the Secondary Schools
Thursdays, 6:00 - 9:30, Brown 3045
Dr. Karen Vocke

English 4800 is a capstone course which considers fundamental questions of why and how to teach literature; we will also focus on recent waves of reform, reader response, cultural studies, and the impact of the internet. Using both reader response and cultural studies approaches, we will examine the ways that culture and literature intersect to inform--and transform--our practice. We will use a thematic approach to explore a variety of themes in a problem-posing, student-led format.  Of special emphasis in this section of 4800 are the following: examining the reading process–how effective readers engage texts and use strategies to make the most of their reading experiences; understanding the history, current state, and influence of the English literary canon; examining issues of censorship, and designing curriculum and lessons sensitive to students of diverse abilities and backgrounds.

Technology projects in this class include digital storytelling and podcasting. Guest speakers will include area teachers and administrators. For additional information, contact Dr. Karen Vocke at Karen.Vocke@wmich.edu


English 4840: Multi-Cultural American Literature for Children
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:00 - 5:50, Brown 4025
Dr. Elizabeth Amidon

Course Description:

This course focuses on developing an understanding of American cultural diversity through multicultural oral and written literature for young people.  Attention will be paid to developing criteria for selecting and evaluating literature which reflects our multi-cultural heritage, provides positive vicarious experiences, and explores universal values, and to achieving balance in selecting such literature for elementary and middle school classrooms and libraries. 

This course fulfills a General Education requirement in Distribution Area III - The United States: Cultures and Issues.

Required Texts:

Because this course covers a wide variety of materials that have not been brought together in any one textbook, you are expected to raid area bookstores and libraries for your weekly readings.

There is no required text book for this class; we will create our own text. 

There will be additional novels required for this class.  You will get a specific list as each assignment is given.


There will be a series of Short Papers (or homework assignments) to be handed in on the various topics presented during the course of the semester. 

There will be a major project and a group report.  You will have a wide variety of topics and formats for presentation to choose from for these assignments. 

Major Project (your choice of a research paper, annotated bibliography, or thematic unit/lesson plans) should be approximately 10-12 pages.  You will be encouraged to choose and investigate a topic that appeals to you.  The format for presenting your research may be varied.


English 5220: Studies in American Literature 
American Literature and Material Culture 
Thursdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 2048
Dr. Katherine Joslin

This is a course in American fiction at the turn into the twentieth century with an emphasis on material culture.  Often we view realist and naturalist novels with human culture in mind, considering such issues as race, ethnicity, social class, or gender.  But in this class we will focus our attention on the objects that are being  invented, produced, manufactured and distributed in the newly industrial era when  ‘things’ came to define the culture of the United States.  We continue to live in a culture based on the consumption of goods and the idea of ownership.  And most of us make a fetish of the objects we own.  In this class, we will discuss the nature of the things we desire and consider how things may come to own us.

The emphasis on material culture promises to give us a fresh way to literature.  As background we will discuss chapters from such late nineteenth-century studies as Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class and Jane Addams’s Spirit of Youth and the City Streets, and we will look, as well, at twenty-first century ‘thing theory’ including Bill Brown’s book,  A Sense of Things.  Over the semester, we will read short stories and novels by such writers as Mark Twain, Henry James, William Dean Howells, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris, and Upton Sinclair.  The course will require two papers and a final and will rely on your careful preparation for class discussion.


English 5320: English Renaissance Literature 
Wednesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 3048
Dr. Margaret Dupuis

This course takes a look at various genres of writing from a 150-year period (1516-1666), including literary and non-literary texts (a distinction that would have been meaningless at the time).  These works reflect the social and religious upheaval of the period.  Beginning with Sir Thomas More’s Utopia and continuing with works by Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, Donne, and Milton (among others), this course examines writing practices of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  As we read we will pay close attention to the metaphors that created and reflected the cultural transformations that took England from being a Catholic nation under Henry VIII through the Protestant reformation and civil war to the reign of the Stuart king, Charles II.


English 5360: Romantic Literature 
Mondays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 3003
Dr. Christopher Nagle

This new incarnation of the department’s core Romanticism course spans the broad range of rich literary offerings produced in Britain from approximately 1780-1830 and will feature the use of electronic resources while exploring non-traditional approaches to the teaching of a traditional literary period.  We will encounter a broad survey of widely diverse readings from across the genres of British Romanticism—poetry, prose fiction, essays, life-writing, and the visual art created to illustrate some of these literary texts—representing the contributions of both canonical and non-canonical figures.  All of the "Big 6" male poets will be present (Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats) as well as the essential voices of women writers such as Charlotte Smith, Mary Wollstonecraft, Hannah More, Helen Maria Williams, Mary Robinson, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Maria Edgeworth, Mary Tighe, Sydney Owenson, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, and Felicia Hemans.  For graduate students considering this exam area, advanced undergraduates considering graduate school, and anyone wishing to be prepared for teaching Romantic literature, this course will provide a thorough survey of material essential to the field in the 21st century.

During the second half of the semester participants will work with a new experimental "virtual world" (currently in its 2nd stage of development) that promises to expand vastly the possibilities of both creative and critical engagement with an early 19th-century "national tale," Sydney Owenson’s /The Wild Irish Girl/.  This electronic media resource, /Inismore/, will complement our reading of the novel by bringing together a host of interdisciplinary contextual materials to enrich our understanding of this challenging and important work.  Additional virtual resources we are likely to utilize include the Blake hypertext archive, the Romantic Circles hypertext edition of the /Keepsake for 1829/, and Laura Mandell's Poetess Archive.  For those who are still less tech-savvy, you can rest assured that our primary texts will be available in traditional print form, most of them included in the anthology which will serve as our core text.

This 5000-level course will be conducted seminar-style, which means that the emphasis will be on shared class discussion and other forms of collaborative learning, with brief supplementary mini-lectures introduced when necessary.  Students will be expected to make at least one presentation during the course of the semester (including a written as well as an oral component), to write at least one short response paper and one longer final essay, and to contribute actively to class activities every week without exception.


English 5550: Major Writers 
Tuesdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 3003
Dr. Elizabeth Bradburn

This intensive study of Milton’s works in poetry and prose will give students a chance  to learn about the historical development of authorship as a concept; the intellectual heritage of the Renaissance and the Reformation; European thought on the verge of the Enlightenment; literary history and genre theory; the background of American literature and early American Protestant culture; the relationship between literature and politics; the history of individuality; and poetic technique. The Riverside Milton will be our textbook, but most readings will also be available online. Course requirements include weekly response essays, an oral presentation, and final research paper.


English 5550: Major Authors 
Eliot and Hardy 
Wednesdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 3002
Dr. Jil Larson

This course offers you the opportunity for in-depth study of two important and fascinating Victorian novelists.  We will begin by reading several novels by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), along with biographical and critical material that will help us understand her writing within an historical and cultural context.  Informed of this context and its developments by the late-Victorian period when Thomas Hardy began publishing his fiction, we will turn to Hardy’s novels (with some attention to his short stories and poetry as well).  Besides considering the career and preoccupations (both aesthetic and thematic) of each writer, we will discuss Eliot and Hardy in relation to one another and to Victorian fiction more broadly.  Questions about gender, evolutionary theory, pressures of social and economic change, ethics, and narrative method will shape as our discussion as will the questions and interests of the class participants.


English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop–Playwriting 
Mondays, 6:00 - 9:30; Brown 2045
Dr. Steve Feffer

“The theatre. The theatre. What book of rules says the theatre exists only within some ugly buildings crowded into one square mile of New York City? Or London? Or Paris? Or Vienna? You want to know what theatre is? A flea circus. Also opera, also rodeos, carnivals, ballets, Indian tribal dances, Punch and Judy shows, a one-man band—all theatre. Wherever there’s magic in the air and make-believe, there’s theatre… Donald Duck, Ibsen, the Lone Ranger, Sarah Bernhardt, Lunt and Fontaine, Betty Grable, Rex the Wonder Horse, Eleanora Duse—all theatre. You don’t understand them all. You don’t like them all. Why should you? The theatre’s for everybody; you’re included, but not exclusively. So don’t approve or disapprove. It may not be your theatre. But it’s theatre for somebody, somewhere.”

—The above speech comes from the 1950 film All About Eve, in which the actor Gary Merrill speaks these lines to an aspiring actress, though he could very well be speaking to those of you considering English 5660.

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 own 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 play development work. 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 2048
Dr. William Olsen

This class involves extensive criticism of student poems, in a traditional workshop environment.

The workshop will also serve as a forum for discussions of aesthetics. Students may be encouraged to work with models, and the class will involve the reading and discussion of at least three books of contemporary poetry.

English 5660: Creative Writing Workshop–Fiction 
Tuesdays, 6:00 - 9:30; Brown 3002
Professor Don Lee

This course will be run as an advanced workshop in writing short stories.  Each student will present three short stories in class.  Literary fiction only, no genre work, i.e., science fiction, fantasy, detective fiction, horror, romance, young adult fiction, children's literature, etc.  Our aim will be to transcend formulas and strive for invention in narrative, language, and structure.


English 5740: Grammar in Teaching Writing 
Tuesdays, 6:00 - 9:30; Brown 3037
Dr. Ellen Brinkley

English teachers have traditionally been thought of as grammar police, ready to fine those who break the grammar “laws.” But many English language arts teachers today have had 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 Dr. Ellen Brinkley (387-2581, ellen.brinkley@wmich.edu).


English 5820: Studies in Children’s Literature
Folklore and Tales in Children’s Literature 
Mondays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 3017
Dr. Judith Rypma

This course examines the origins and socio-cultural development of folktales, their evolving roles in youth literature and culture, and scholarly methods of folkloric studies.   We will also explore not only oral tradition and its contemporary manifestations, but theoretical approaches to folktales (Marxist, Feminist, Archetypal, Psychoanalytical, etc.).   Readings will include numerous anthology and picture book versions of tales from around the world, as well as novels such as DeerskinBeastThe Princess and the Hound,  Magic Circle, EnchantmentStraw Into Gold, Princess Ben, etc.


English 5970: Studies in English
Medieval Pulp Fiction 
Tuesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 3048
Dr. Eve Salisbury

“Pulp fiction” (not the movie!) is typically used to define a genre of creative writing produced in the 1930s and 40s on inexpensive “pulp” paper and marketed to an American audience eager for science fiction fantasy and luridly wrought, escapist action-adventure.  In this course we study some of the “pulp fiction” of the Middle Ages, creative work produced on vellum or parchment (okay, not so cheap) and “marketed” to an audience eager to read about exotic other worlds, illicit and occasionally alien sexual encounters, magical transformations, quests for meaningful objects, menacing villains and monsters, and heroic rescues of one sort or another. Works studied here include the Roman de la Rose, Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, PercevalTristan, the Breton lais in Middle English, the romances of Sir Gawain, and other tales of daring-do, all of which point to a distinctively vivid medieval imagination. 

English 5970: Studies in English
Language, Gender, and Culture 
Tuesdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 3048
Dr. Lisa Minnick

This course explores historical and contemporary theories about the interactions among language, gender, sexuality, and culture, while considering methods used to explore these relationships and the politics and ideologies that influence academic as well as popular thinking about them.

English 5970: Studies in English
Graphic Fiction
Thursdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 4002
Dr. Gwen Tarbox

We are living through a ‘golden age’ of comics and graphic novel production.  Works by creators such as Jeff Smith (Bone) and Art Spiegelman (Maus) now adorn museum walls, and the graphic novel sections of Barnes and Noble and Schulers Books are filled with avid readers.  Macbeth and Beowulf have been rendered into graphic novel form; non-fiction texts, including the 9-11 Commission Report, have enlivened political debate.  The challenge for scholars of traditional, prose-based literature involves gaining an understanding of the medium, learning the technical vocabulary for analyzing it (for instance, the terms ‘comics,’ ‘graphic novels,’ ‘graphic fiction,’ ‘manga,’ and ‘sequential art’ co-exist uncomfortably in scholarly discourse), and developing a set of interpretative stances that take into account the interplay of text/image.

We’ll begin the semester with a unit on the history of the comics in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, culminating in an examination of Michael Chabon’s work of fiction about a comic book composition team, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, followed up by The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist – the comic book referenced in the prose text. 

Next, we’ll study visual theory in greater depth, using Carroll and Tenniel’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass and Talbot’s Alice in Sunderland as primary texts upon which to practice.  Finally, we’ll embark upon a thematic survey of many of the key author/illustrators of contemporary graphic fiction.

Assignments will include a mid-term, a final, a presentation, and a semester paper.  The reading load will be significant, and – sadly – the cost of texts will be greater than they would be in a traditional prose-based course.   Here is a tentative list of required texts (in addition to the ones mentioned above):

Primary –  Fun Home by Bechdel; Ghost World by Clowes;Pyongyang by Delisle; A Contract With God by Eisner; The Sandman, Vol.1 by Gaiman, et al; Music for Mechanics (L& R, Book 1) by the Hernandez Bros.; Incognegro by Johnson & Pleece;Chiggers by Larson; The Complete Persepolis by Satrapi; Out From Boneville by Smith; Maus I and II by Spiegelman; Blankets by Thompson; Jimmy Corrigan by Ware; American Born Chinese by Yang.

Secondary –  Picture This by Bang; The Ten-Cent Plague by Hajdu; Understanding Comics by McCloud; Faster Than a Speeding Bullet:  The Rise of Graphic Novels by Weiner, et al. Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean by Wolk.


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