Undergraduate Courses Summer 2010

Undergraduate Courses Summer 2010

Department of English

Undergraduate Course Descriptions Summer 2010

Summer I


English 4720: Language Variation in American English
Mondays -Thursdays, 12:00 - 1:40; Brown 3030
Dr. Paul Johnston

In this course, students learn about the variation in English in North America, and why it exists: the factors, geographical, social, and ethnic that cause dialects to form, to spread, to be sustained or to die out over time, and that a sociolinguistic view, paying attention to how social groupings in American society work and interplay with each other, is necessary for talking about dialect intelligently. We shall also examine the methodology used in studying dialects; the educational implications of dialect variation; and the techniques writers use in representing different dialects in literature, as well as "hot topics" such as language in the African-American community, multilingualism in America, and gender similarities and differences in language forms and use. Students will be expected to take an essay midterm and final and to do one project of first-hand investigation of dialect variation.


English 4790: Writing in the Secondary School
Mondays and Wednesdays, 6:00 - 9:20; Brown 3037
Dr. Allen Webb

Teaching writing can empower secondary students to trust and value their own words and voice, to inquire more deeply into knowledge and ideas, to be creative, to better understand themselves and the world around them, and to speak out clearly and cogently to others on topics that matter. 

Facilitating the power of writing will be the focus of this section of English 4790 Teaching Writing in the Secondary Schools. Future teachers will write about their own experiences learning to write, learn about leading writing workshops, effective ways to improve student writing, and make it meaningful. We'll focus too on writing in the digital age and using new tools for revision, collaboration, and publication, including blogs, wikis, and nings.

Class will be held in a new, wireless, laptop classroom in Brown Hall specifically designed to prepare future teachers for the "classroom of the future." You'll enjoy this class and learn a great deal about possibilities for teaching writing.


English 5550: Major Authors
Filming Jane Austen
Mondays and Wednesdays, 6:00 - 9:20; Brown 3002
Dr. Christopher MacLean-Nagle

This course will explore the various ways in which Jane Austen can be considered as a cinematic novelist, and how the experience of the film adaptations of her works has influenced the way we read her novels.  To this end, rather than confining our attention to thematic and contextual elements of her fiction, we also will emphasize (among other things) the visual and auditory dimensions of Austen's work and the difficulties of translating Austen’s inimitable style into a different medium.  By doing so, we should be able see her own artistic practice anew, and to engage in productive new readings of major films adapted from her fiction and from her life.  The point of the latter will not simply be to assess “fidelity to the original,” however tempting that exercise might be.  Rather, we will work diligently to take the film adaptations of Austen’s novels as serious works of artistic and cultural production in their own right, and on their own terms.  Ultimately, we will seek a kind of dialogical engagement between film and fiction, exploring the ways in which each illuminates the other.

We will begin by reading a generous selection of Austen’s remarkable letters, thus preparing the way for two recent biopics exploring important moments in her life.  Due consideration of her fiction will follow, accompanied by multiple adaptations of the novels, including several looser, non-traditional reworkings (possibilities include: Bride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Clueless, The Jane Austen Book Club, Lost in Austen).  Much of our inspiration will come from the recent collaborative volume, The Cinematic Jane Austen, which will help to bring up to speed those who have had little or no exposure to the formal analysis of film or to film theory; no such expertise is required, although enthusiastic immersion in the world of Austen *is*. 

Course requirements likely will include outside screenings of films for class, a cluster of short response papers, one longer final paper (8-10p for undergrads, 15-20p for grads) that engages in substantive, comparative analysis (e.g., of multiple filmic adaptations of a single novel or of formal strategies shared by adaptations of different novels), and possibly a short class presentation.  If you have questions or would like a list of the required texts, please contact Prof. Nagle: christopher.nagle@wmich.edu.


English 5970: Studies in English
American Expatriate Writers 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:00 - 6:20; Brown 3002
Professor Richard Katrovas

A nation built by immigrants and slaves, America is populated primarily by hyphenated citizens, though many of us are a blending of ethnicities and races. How many among us when asked, “What are you?” answer that we are a half or a quarter Irish, say, or Italian or Chinese, or an eighth or even a sixteenth German, African, Greek, Arab or Indian? How many of us proudly claim to have Native American ancestors? However, when we are abroad, no matter our ancestry, we are Americans. Abroad, our national identity trumps ethnicity and race.

American literature acquired many of its more salient features through the expatriate experience, American writers living abroad, usually but not exclusively in Europe, sometimes isolated though more often in colonies within major European cities. What compelled so many of the major American writers of the 19th and 20th centuries to forge careers on foreign soil?

Reading and discussing some of the classics of the past 150 years, poetry and prose, we will seek to understand better why many of the most important American writers fled America. 

Each week each student will compose one or two well-crafted paragraphs in response to particular topics centered on our readings. Class discussion will be spirited and, I hope, fun. There will be a relatively easy final exam.

We will center our conversation on such expatriate American writers as Mark Twain, Henry James, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison.


English 5970: Studies in English
New Play Project
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:00 - 10:00; Gilmore Theater Complex 1119
Dr. Steve Feffer

Now in its seventh year, the Western Michigan University New Play Project has developed and presented almost seventy plays over five summers to standing room only audiences in the York Arena Theatre. Twelve-fifteen short plays will be competitively selected to be developed for a public staged reading in the York in a class with a company of actors and directors from the Theatre Department. Each play will receive two weeks of rehearsal for the script-in-hand reading. Additionally, while the playwrights are not in rehearsal on their own plays, they will serve as dramaturgs, stage managers, and, sometimes, actors on the other readings. Other classroom activities include workshops on other ways that plays are made and activities that examine the new play rehearsal process

Summer I. Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:00 AM - 11:50 AM, with public readings and rehearsals Thursdays 8 pm - 10:00 pm.

All interested playwrights or creative writers or theatre artists—graduate and undergraduate—should submit two copies of a completed short play (10-30 pages, standard play format) to the mailbox of Steve Feffer in the English Department office on the sixth floor of Sprau Tower by 5 PM, Friday, March 13. Between 12 and 15 plays will be selected from among these submissions. The selected playwrights will then be enrolled in ENGL 5970.

Please note: Playwrights currently enrolled in 3680 or have only taken 3680 (and not 5660 or another New Play Project) are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED by the professors to submit a ten minute play.

The course will be team taught by Prof. Mark Liermann, Theatre Department, and Dr. Steve Feffer, English Department.

The course will provide the unique opportunity for playwrights, actors, directors, and dramaturgs to explore the process by which new plays are developed and produced through the rehearsal process, as well as through full company classroom discussions, readings, and devisings. Plays from the New Play Project have gone on to publication and further local, regional and national productions.

For more information please contact Dr. Steve Feffer at Steve.Feffer@wmich.edu.


Summer II

English 4440: Studies in the Novel
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00 - 5:20; Brown 3017
Dr. Cynthia Klekar

This course studies 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 students’ curriculum.


English 4800: Teaching Literature in the Secondary Schools
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6:00 - 7:20; Brown 3037
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.

A variety of technologies are examined in this class: digital storytelling, website creation, wikis, webquests, and podcasting, to name a few. Guest speakers will include area teachers and  administrators.

For additional information, contact Dr. Karen Vocke at Karen.Vocke@wmich.edu


English 5970: Studies in English
The Coming-of-Age Novel
Mondays and Wednesdays, 6:30 - 9:00; Brown 3010
Dr. Gwen Tarbox

This course draws upon a variety of fields—childhood studies, cultural history, and literary studies—to trace the evolution of the Bildungsroman from its18th-century European origins through to its present-day manifestations in American and British literature.  Readings will include excerpts from such early texts as Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, Fielding’sTom Jones, Douglass’ My Bondage and My Freedom, Dickens’ David Copperfield, Brönte’sJane Eyre, and Alcott’s Little Women.  In addition, we will read these texts in their entirety:

  • Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (1908)
  • James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
  • Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
  • JD Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
  • Julian Barnes, Metroland (1980)
  • Alison Bechdel, Fun Home:  A Family Tragicomic (2006)

Assignments will include a blog entry, a semester essay and a final examination.


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