Capstone Courses Fall 2024

ENGL 508: Contemporary Literary Theory - Animal Studies

Instructor: Phillip Drake
26522 | TuTh 9:30-10:45 AM | Wescoe 4037 - LAWRENCE

This course examines animals in literature along with the emergence of animal studies as a field of inquiry. Embodying a complicated set of interdisciplinary tools and perspectives, animal studies scholarship prompts exploration into the lives of animals, focusing particularly on interactions between human and nonhuman animals. These bodies and relationships provoke complicated and often uncomfortable questions that challenge conventional understandings of a host of issues, including kinship, care, embodiment, individuality, power, precarity, death, extinction, and living well. Furthermore, interactions between human and nonhuman animals often intersect with constructions of gender, race, class, ethnicity, and sex, inviting consideration of justice and social awareness at various scales, from the body and household to the nation and globe. In addition to covering a diverse range of literature, we will explore various disciplinary (literary, anthropological, biological, ethological, psychological, etc.) and theoretical (queer, postcolonial, feminist, existentialist, poststructural, posthuman, ecocritical, etc.) lineages that animate (and are animated by) multispecies studies.

Close up of tiger's eye

ENGL 521: Epic: Heroes, Gods, and Rebels

Instructor: Sarah Van der Laan
28210 | TuTh 11:00-12:15 PM | Wescoe 4076 – LAWRENCE

Epic has lain at the heart of the European literary tradition for twenty-seven hundred years. The most prestigious and the most ambitious of literary genres, epic explores human nature, promotes and questions political ideals and social principles, defines nations and communities, and examines the nature of heroism. Through stories of human heroism and super-human adventures, epic poems ask what it means to be human, how to find meaning in mortality, and how to live within—or overturn—power structures and the rulers who manipulate them. Epic endures because it offers its readers tools for living. In this class, we will encounter four of the greatest European epic poems, culminating in the greatest English epic: Homer's Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, Dante's Inferno, and Milton's Paradise Lost.

Black and white Dore illustration from Milton's Paradise Lost

ENGL 551: Fiction Writing II

Instructor: Adam Desnoyers
27061 | TuTh 1:00-2:15 PM | Wescoe 4023 - LAWRENCE
21403 | TuTh 2:30-3:45 PM | Wescoe 4023 – LAWRENCE

This course is an intensive exploration of the ideas and techniques of fiction writing within the form of the short story, with primary emphasis on the careful analysis and discussion of student works-in-progress. We will read a variety of published stories each week and discuss narrative structure and style, imagery and metaphor, use of scene and exposition, dialogue, and the various points of view. Requirements: Students will attend class regularly and participate actively in discussion. They will produce three short stories of their own during the semester, which they will submit to the class to be workshopped. They will also provide critiques for their peers’ stories as these are workshopped. Lastly, students will revise their own stories for inclusion in their final portfolio.

Pages of open books

ENGL 552: Poetry Writing II

Instructor: Megan Kaminski
26524 | MW 12:30-1:45 PM | Wescoe 4021 – LAWRENCE

Instructor: Brian Daldorph
21157 | M 4:10-7:00 PM | Best 310 - EDWARDS

English 352/552 gives you the opportunity of writing your own collection of poems over the course of the semester, and working closely with other writers. We will study some of the classic forms of poetry, including sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, drawing on examples by famous and lesser-known poets. Much of class time will be spent “workshopping” student poetry, with the focus on learning together in a writing community. You will write 8 critiques of the work of your peers over the course of the semester. You must submit a short portfolio of poems at midterm, then a longer portfolio of poems (approx.. 15) at the semester’s end.

Close up of fountain pen drawing ink curves on paper

ENGL 570: American Fascist-Takeover Novel

Instructor: Joseph Harrington
26525 | TuTh 11:00-12:15 PM | Wescoe 4020 – LAWRENCE

Ever since the birth of the Republic, Americans have worried that a tyrant or oligarchy would bring our democratic “experiment” to an end. US writers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have explored this anxiety in the form of speculative novels that imagine a takeover of all or part of the United States by an authoritarian, especially fascist, regime. We will read and examine seven of these dystopian tales, as well as writings about actual historical fascism in Italy, Germany, and the United States. By studying fiction, we can gain a better understanding of the relation of literature to political culture in the modern U.S. and help us put our current uncertainties and anxieties into historical perspective.

Men marching on steps carrying American flags

ENGL 580: Neurorhetorics

Instructor: Sean Kamperman
26526 | TuTh 2:30-3:45 PM | Wescoe 4020 – LAWRENCE

How does the human mind work? What are its powers and limitations? The disciplines that seek scientific answers to these questions—cognitive neuroscience, psychology, neurobiology—have greatly advanced our understanding of human thought, affect, and behavior. But like all science, neuroscience isn’t carried out in a cultural vacuum. The values of the scientists who do this work, the language they use to describe their findings, even the machines they build to access the brain’s circuitry are influenced by the cultures they grow up and live in. In short, the cultural, social, material, and communicative processes whereby we come to know about the brain determine, in part, how we think about brains—and, by extension, how we think about ourselves. Are you neurotypical or neurodivergent? Mentally well or mentally ill? More of a right-brained or a left-brained kind of person? In a society obsessed with science, health, and personal achievement, such questions increasingly define us. In this class, we will explore how public figures from scientists and surgeons to artists and activists make meaning about the brain through a variety of media: memoirs, graphic novels, scientific reports, and films, to name a few. We will engage these texts with particular attention to their rhetoric. How do claims about the brain normalize certain ways of behaving, thinking, and being in the world?

Black and white scans of human brain

ENGL 598: Rhetorics & Politics of Horror

Instructor: Pritha Prasad
21185 | MW 12:30-1:45 PM | Wescoe 4037 – LAWRENCE

In this seminar, we will discuss and interrogate the ways horror has been used in film and television to forward political and cultural commentary, particularly surrounding identity and power (i.e. race, gender, class, nation, and dis/ability). We will cover a range of historical and contemporary examples of horror film and television, focusing specifically on subgenres like racial horror, feminist horror, body horror, and psychological horror. We will supplement and contextualize our analyses of these texts with interdisciplinary readings from film and media studies, rhetorical criticism, critical race theory, feminist and queer studies, and popular culture studies. What makes something “scary,” and how might dominant fears and anxieties be underpinned by gendered, racialized, sexualized, and/or ableist cultural narratives? As a genre that uniquely relies upon the creative, multimodal use of visual, aural, spoken, and textual elements, what kinds of “arguments” does horror make about culture, politics, society, and history? Throughout the semester, students will be required to complete regular reading and viewing assignments, as well as a series of writing assignments, including a final analytical research paper.

Black and white photo of woman staring up staircase, looming human shadow