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English Freshman Course and Intensive Descriptions Spring '20

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

I. Introduction to Literary Study

English 170

English 170, Approaches to Literary Studies, 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.

Each section explores a central issue, such as “the idea of a literary period,” “canons and the study of literature,” “nationalism and literary form,” or “gender and genre” (contact the department office for current descriptions). Assignments focus on the development of 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. Students should not take 101 and 170 during the same semester.  Note that English 170 does not fulfill the Freshman Writing Seminar requirement. 


Ms. Kane           TR        12:00-1:15         CLS

Approaches to Literary Studies

Topic for 2020b:  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.


Ms. Vestri            MW      1:30-2:45           CLS

Approaches to Literary Studies

Topic for 2020b:  Romantic Selves. This course will take as its focus key works that characterize the period known as British Romanticism: William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Mont Blanc,” Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and John Keats’s Odes. Common to these texts are questions about the subject and the self: How do we define identity? What directs one’s place within the natural and social worlds? What is the nature of consciousness and self-construction? Our course will attempt to answer such un-answerable questions with two primary objectives in mind. On the one hand, we will cultivate facility with the terms of literary analysis, developing comfort with using the vocabularies, and implementing the conventions, of both prosody and narratology. On the other hand, we will develop some familiarity with major approaches to literary studies that have sprung up over the past century, including semiotics, formalism, deconstruction, new historicism, feminism, ecocriticism, and queer theory. Students will be challenged to approach each literary text through multiple critical lenses—including their own.