ENGL 293 - Topics in American Literature
Prerequisite: Completion of the FW requirement. Studies in American literature, supported by attention to historical contexts. Versions of this course may survey several periods or concentrate on a group of works from a short span of time. Students develop their analytical writing skills in a series of short papers. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.
Winter 2019, ENGL 293A-01: Topics in American Literature: Urban, Rural, Frontier: Constructions of Space and Place in 19th-Century American Literature (3). What significance does the notion of "place" hold in America's imagination? How has that conception of place and space consolidated over time? Students of America's history, for instance, learn how Manifest Destiny was a nineteenth doctrine that justified the United States' expansion westward, but what goes into realizing such a monumental task? Infrastructural developments such as the transcontinental railroad, of course, realized this vision in a material sense, but even before this, much was done to imagine and reimagine the space of the Americas as available for the taking. While the nation expanded west, its metropolitan spaces also witnessed massive growth as a result of industrialization. The goal of this course is to examine how writers and other artists imagined these changing spaces and landscapes throughout the 19th century. Writers we cover include: Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Pauline Hopkins, Sarah Orne Jewett, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Harriet Jacobs, Thomas Nelson Page, Frances Harper, Charles Chesnutt, and Frank J. Webb. (HL) Millan.
Winter 2019, ENGL 293B-01: Topics in American Literature: The American West (3). The American West is a land of striking landscapes, beautiful places to visit, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, and stories that have had a huge impact on the USA and the world, such as Lewis and Clark, the Oregon Trail, Custer's Last Stand, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and Cowboy and Indian adventures galore. This course studies some of these Western places, stories, art works, and movies. What has made them so appealing? How have they been used? We study works by authors such as John Steinbeck, Frederic Remington, Willa Cather, Wallace Stegner, and Cormac McCarthy, plus movies with actors like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Brad Pitt, to see how Western stories have played out and what is happening now in these contested spaces. (HL) Smout.
Winter 2019, ENGL 293C-01: Topics in American Literature: Protest Poetry (3). What kind of work can poetry do in the world? Students in this class study poetry from the Civil Rights Era, poetry about environmental crisis, and other kinds of verse that try to change minds and hearts, including protest poems, prayers and curses, and poetry in performance. For experimental credit, students also put poetry into action, first by collaboratively organizing a benefit event for the Rockbridge Area Relief Association, then by creating activist projects for causes of their own choosing. (EXP) Wheeler.
Winter 2019, ENGL 293D-01: Topics in American Literature: Stanley Kubrick & Stephen King (3). This course explores and juxtaposes the novels and films, epic ambitions, dark visions, and cultural rivalry of two of the most popular, influential, and original narrative artists of 20th- and 21st-century America. We closely study most of Kubrick's thirteen feature films, and a representative selection of King's extensive oeuvre, and contextualize these primary texts with relevant biographical, theoretical, and cultural frameworks. Together these primary and secondary works allow us not only to gain a greater appreciation for these artists' individual achievements and larger lifework but also to scrutinize the limitations of expansive ambition in the age of corporatized mass art. (HL) Adams.
Winter 2019, ENGL 293E-01: Topics in American Literature: Introduction to Graphic Novels (3). This course briefly explores early works in the graphic novel form before shifting to a central focus on 21st-century publications from a range of presses outside of U.S. mainstream comics. Students also read a range of literary theory on the formal qualities of graphic novels and then apply those theories to the analysis of selected works. (HL) Gavaler.
Winter 2019, ENGL 293F-01: Topics in American Literature: 19th-Century American Gothic Literature (3). Ghosts? Curses? Institutions in varying states of decay? What comes to mind when you think of the word "gothic"? What makes a literary work "gothic," and what differentiates European and American gothics? Why was an appeal to gothic themes an important element during the nineteenth century in the United States? And how did this literature interface with other leading intellectual and artistic movements of the century? Starting from these questions, this course centers recurring themes in nineteenth-century American Gothic literature—such as the fraught divide between rationality/the irrational; puritan anxieties and guilt; fear linked to the unknown, which was often manifested in unexplored territories and frontiers; and serious looks at the unsettling depths of the human experience that challenged ideas about civilized society. Many of these themes were either direct or indirect responses to what was happening at the time: frontier clashes with, and genocide of, Indigenous peoples, slavery, and industrialization. Writers we may cover include: Washington Irving, Charles Brockden Brown, Catherine Maria Sedgwick, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Jacobs, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Charles Chesnutt, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. (HL) Millan.
Spring 2019, ENGL 293-01: Topics in American Literature & Culture: Films of Alfred Hitchcock (3). Prerequisite: Completion of the FW requirement. Not open to students who have taken a similar course as ENGL 272 or 372. This course presents an intensive survey of the films of Alfred Hitchcock: it covers all of his major and many of his less well-known films. It supplements that central work by introducing students to several approaches to film analysis that are particularly appropriate for studying Hitchcock. These include biographical interpretation (Spoto's dark thesis), auteur and genre-based interpretation (Truffaut), psychological analyses (Zizek & Freud), and dominant form theory (hands-on study of novel to film adaptations). (HL) Adams.
Fall 2018, ENGL 293B-01: Topics in American Literature: The Literature of the Beat Generation (3). A study of a particular movement, focusing on the ways in which cultural and historical context have influenced the composition of and response to literature in the United States. This course examines the writings of such authors as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Anne Waldman, Amiri Baraka, Bob Dylan, Gregory Corso, and Gary Snyder, who wrote starting in the mid-1940s, continuing through later decades, and becoming loosely known as the Beat Generation. What cultural, literary, historical, and religious influences from the U.S. and other parts of the world have shaped their work? What challenges did their boldly different writings face, and how did their reception change over time? What are their themes? Their notions of style? What have they contributed to American (and world) life and letters? The goal of this course is to lay a strong foundation from which such questions can be richly addressed and answered. (HL) Ball.
Fall 2018, ENGL 293A-01: Topics in American Literature: Introduction to Literary Editing (3). An apprenticeship in editing for one or more students with the editor of Shenandoah, Washington and Lee's nationally prominent literary magazine. This is a course for anyone interested in editing literary journals, writing for the literary community (blogs, news releases, two book reviews, features, business correspondence) and how both print and on-line journals operate. Often a stepping stone to a publication career, the course involves an introduction to the creation, design and maintenance of WordPress web sites, as well as a survey of current magazines. The course also offers opportunities for each student to practice generating and editing his/her own texts and those of his/her peers. Each student oversees one facet of the journal (Poem of the Week, blog, submissions management, contests, social media), and each makes a presentation to the class on the nature and practices of two other current literary journals. Students work in pairs toward an understanding of the role journals play in contemporary literature and engage in peer editing. (HL) Staff.
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