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Graduate Course Descriptions Fall 2009

With the instructor’s permission, a limited number of undergraduates with a GPA of 3.5 or higher may
enroll in graduate courses, which have ENG-L (except L501 and L502), ENG-W or CMLT-C designations at the 500 and 600 level.

ENG- L 502 – Contexts for the Study of Writing (4 cr.) Instructor: Rebecca Brittenham
Class Number 27251 W 5:30-8:00 P
Topic: Literacy and Community

In this introduction to scholarship in the field of composition/rhetoric, we will study how literacy is shaped by a variety of culturally determining factors such as ethnicity, class, religion, and geographical location. For instance, we will study the forms of literacy that might be valued in a Bedouin household or a Mexican-American community in Chicago as compared to those privileged in an Amish community or those favored in the corporate community of Bank of Canada. Even as standards and definitions of literacy often provide the basis for a shared community identity, they can also pose formidable obstacles to individuals trying to join a new community or trying to communicate between communities. By studying the cultural mechanisms of literacy across these comparative contexts, we can begin to identify the specific ways in which they determine community relations, shape the education of children, regulate access to knowledge and power, and become tools for progress or obstacles to social change. In this context, we will analyze the degree to which academia also functions as a community, prizing some kinds of literacy and excluding others. Finally, we will consider the impact of technology in reshaping community boundaries and challenging cultural standards of literacy.

ENG-L 653 – American Literature 1800-1900 (4 cr.) Instructor: Jake Mattox
Class Number 27252 T 5:30-8:00 P
Topic: “I say again: You must have confidence”: Optimism and Fear in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Culture

From Thomas Jefferson just prior to the turn of the nineteenth century to Theodore Roosevelt at its close, many in the U.S. celebrated the optimism associated with the expanding nation and its capacity to foster different aspects of “Progress.” These included a commitment to the Enlightenment ideals of rationalism and reason, assurances of the moral justifications of Westward expansion and the displacement of Native Americans, confidence in the growth and democratic potential of a free-market economy, and celebration of the possibilities of a unified postbellum nation taking a global leadership role after the Civil War.

This course will investigate how the literature of specific periods of the nineteenth century presented and interrogated such optimistic claims and their consequences. From the gothic novels of Charles Brockden Brown circa 1800 to Charles Chesnutt’s critique of northern paternalistic racism in 1899, from Herman Melville’s ironic exploration of the contradictions of the market economy to Mark Twain’s satire of science, technology, and the colonizing project, many writers challenged bold pronouncements about the exceptional promise and accomplishments of the young nation. Rooting our study firmly in the history of these periods, we will consider the literary strategies of investigation as well as the ideological stakes involved. In addition to well-known authors such as Twain and Melville, course readings will likely include works by abolitionist and proto-feminist Lydia Maria Child, Black journalist and antislavery advocate Martin Delany, and Mexican-born María Amparo Ruiz de Burton. In our readings of this literature, we will also consider recent approaches in the field of American Studies and draw upon Cultural Studies insights, critical race theory, and Marxist literary theory.

ENG-W 511– Writing Fiction (4 cr.)
Class Number 24778 M 7:00-9:30 P Instructor: Kelcey Parker

This semester students will read and write stories in realist, fabulist, and formalist modes.  In doing so we’ll question assumptions about representation and reality, and explore the possibilities of art in general and short stories in particular. This is a writing workshop, so a significant portion of the course will be devoted to reading and discussing one another’s work. We’ll have weekly exercises to practice a variety of techniques, and students will write and revise 30-35 pages of original work.