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English Freshman Course Descriptions Spring '19

Course descriptions from the English Department to supplement the information in the college catalogue.

I. Introduction to Literary Study

English 170

Entitled “Approaches to Literary Studies,” English 170 is designed as an introduction to the discipline of literary studies.  While each section has a different focus (see descriptions below), they have a common agenda: to explore the concerns and methods of the discipline.  Topics range from specific critical approaches and their assumptions to larger questions about meaning-making in literature, criticism, and theory.  Assignments will develop skills for research and writing in English, including the use of secondary sources and the critical vocabulary of literary study.

As an introduction to the discipline, English 170 is recommended, but not required, for potential majors.  It is open to first-year students and sophomores, and others by permission. Although the ideal sequence of English courses for first-year students interested in majoring in English is English 101 in the Fall and 170 in the Spring, 101 is not a prerequisite for 170.  First-year students wishing to take English 170 in the fall semester must have AP English credit. The English department does not recommend that students take 101 and 170 during the same semester.  Note that English 170 does not fulfill the Freshman Course requirement.


Mr. Antelyes          MW     12:00-1:15

Approaches to Literary Studies

Topic for 2019b:  Changing the Subject

Questions about the nature of subjectivity have become central to contemporary literary studies.  What is the relation between the subject of the work of literature and the subjectivity of the author who produced it?  How is that subjectivity constituted by and encoded in literary form?  How have specific subjectivities, as well as subjectivity in general, been conceptualized in literary history, criticism, and theory?  This course will consider such questions, and their implications for the study of literature generally, by focusing on current areas of contention over the claims of subjectivity, such as gender, sexuality, race, postcoloniality, and postmodernity.  Works may include Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (gender and sexuality); Gayl Jones’s Corregidora (race); Nicholson Baker’s

The Mezzanine (postmodernity); and Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North (postcoloniality).  In addition to placing these texts in their historical and cultural contexts, we will explore a variety of critical perspectives, including semiotics, feminism, psychoanalysis, and cultural studies.


Ms. Kane                TR        12:00-1:15

Approaches to Literary Studies

Topic for 2019b:  Journeys of Transformation

The course investigates the journey as a representation of fundamental change. Not only a plot of movement through space, the journey acts as a figure for transformation in or disruption of physical, emotional, and spiritual states of being, in individuals and groups.  We will focus on the status and function of the journey as a determinant of bodily character, identity, genre, plot, and history. Each unit will also address a philosophical framework, an interpretive issue, or an analytical practice important to literature as a discipline.  Students will develop their skills through class discussion, short, directed assignments, and longer essays, including a research essay and an annotated bibliography. Primary texts will include Christine de Pisan’s allegory City of Women, the verse romance Gawain and the Green Knight, Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoir Maus, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original pulp Tarzan, Colson Whitehead’s  recent novel The Intuitionist, selections from Harriet Jacobs’ memoir  Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.    

      ENGL 170 is not a writing intensive class, in that we will not focus on student writing during class time.  The class does require college-level grammatical and writing abilities, and a desire to delve into theories of interpretation about texts.

English 174 - 179 – Special Topics

Courses listed under these numbers are designed to offer to a wide audience a variety of literary subjects that are seldom taught in regularly offered courses.  The courses are six weeks in length, and the subjects they cover vary from year to year.  Enrollment is unlimited and open to all students.  Instructors lecture when the classes are too large for the regular seminar format favored in the English department.  These courses do not satisfy the First-year Writing Seminar requirement.  These courses are ungraded and do not count toward the major.   They may be repeated. 


Mr. Kane             TR        10:30-11:45

Poetry and Philosophy: The Ancient Quarrel.  When Plato famously banished poets from his ideal Republic, he spoke of an ancient quarrel between poetry and philosophy. That argument has continued, in various forms, down to the present, culminating in Heidegger's notorious question, “What are poets for?” This six-week course looks at a number of key texts in this contentious history, along with exemplary poems that illustrate the issues. Writers include Plato, Aristotle, Dante, Shelley, Wordsworth, Wilde, Eliot, Blanchot, Derrida, and others.
No specialized knowledge of poetry or philosophy required. 
The class is ungraded.  2nd Six Weeks.