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200-Level Courses

Below are general descriptions for our 200-level courses except for ENGL 254, which has different topics each semester. H after a number indicates the Honors version. Courses that satisfy VolCore requirements are identified in this way:

AH – Arts and Humanities
WC – Written Communication
GCI – Global Challenges – International
GCUS – Global Challenges – US

ENGL 201 | 207H | British Literature I: Beowulf through Johnson (AH)

This course follows the development of British literature through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Restoration, and eighteenth centuries. It provides an overview of major British texts, authors, schools of thought, events, and literary movements from this time period. Literary works are examined from a variety of perspectives. Historical events, religious practices, the rise of theater, political systems, artistic works and artifacts, social customs, and gender norms will figure into the course’s discussions, with key literary texts serving as the focus of analysis. Authors studied might include Chaucer, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Shakespeare, Milton, Jonathan Swift, and Samuel Johnson.

Note: the Honors section also satisfies the WC category.

Spring 2024 ENGL 201 | 207H | Sex & Gender in Early Britain (AH)

TR 12:55-2:10 | Samantha Murphy

This course examines the development of British literature from Beowulf to the 18th century. While literary works are examined from a variety of perspectives, an overarching focus will be on the interplay of sexuality and gender in building individual, family, and state identities. We will explore the creation of masculinity and monstrosity; the expression of female independence and sexuality through religious practices; household politics and how the roles of husband, wife, parent, and child were negotiated; the fluidity of desire; the idea that anatomy is literally destiny; and how bodies construct and are constructed by the state

Note: the Honors section also satisfies the WC category.

ENGL 202 | 208H | British Literature II: Wordsworth to the Present (AH)

Note: the Honors section also satisfies the WC category.

ENGL 206 | 217H | Introduction to Shakespeare (AH) (WC)

This course invites students into the worlds of Shakespeare: the richly imagined worlds of his plots, characters, settings, and themes; the historical world of early modern England, an era of monarchy and rebellion, religious conflict, global exploration, and debates over gender and sexuality; and the worlds of scholarship that debate Shakespeare’s work and legacy. Working closely with the language of his plays, we will also explore questions about reading fictions, world-making, and theatrical performance in Shakespeare’s time and our own.

Spring 2024 ENGL 206 | 217H | Shakespeare, Justice, and Politics (AH) (WC)

TR 9:45-11:00 | Samantha Murphy

This course is devoted to Shakespeare’s drama. Over the course of the semester, we will delve into the dramatist’s world and work, reading and studying Shakespeare’s plays within their cultural contexts. An overarching focus will be on the relationship between politics and justice in various settings. We will look at household politics and how the roles of husband, wife, parent, and child were being re-negotiated, explore the contentious debate between the system of divine right monarchy and emerging theories of resistance, ask questions about how (and if) God’s mercy can be mirrored in the state, and study the role of individual justice versus state justice in early modern England. 

ENGL 209 | 218H | Introduction to Jane Austen (AH) (WC) (GCI)

This course offers an overview of Jane Austen’s work, its context in Regency England (1810-20), and a study of her writing style during her literary period. We will generally read at least a couple of novels by Austen in parallel with contemporary adaptations of her work in fiction, film, and other genres. We also discuss Austen’s contributions to the “romance” genre and the marriage plot, as well as her trademark realism, her use of satire and irony, her memorable characters, and the role played by women in Regency culture and literary history.

ENGL 221 | World Literature I: Ancient through Early Modern (AH) (GCI)

This course presents works of World Literature from Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance (3000 BCE to 1660 CE). The course emphasizes the literary, cultural, and human significance of selected Western and non-Western great works. The class looks at their cultural/historical contexts and the enduring human values that unite different literary traditions. Special attention is given to critical thinking and writing within a framework of cultural diversity as well as comparative and interdisciplinary analysis.

ENGL 222 | World Literature II: The Eighteenth Century to the Present (AH)

Not offered Spring 2024

ENGL 225 | Introduction to African Literature (AH) (GCI)

This survey of modern African literature looks at a fairly turbulent period in African history—the onset of colonialism followed by the era of decolonization. We explore modifications to traditional arts and Western genres to represent modernizing Africa. We read some literary-critical and historical essays for context as well as representative poetry, fiction, and drama. Where literary texts depart from Western conventions, students are encouraged to investigate the ways a literary text functions as a cultural argument and the ways non-Western cultures tell or dramatize stories. Major authors include Achebe, Mariama Ba, Bessie Head, La Guma, Ngũgĩ, and Soyinka.

ENGL 226 | Introduction to Caribbean Literature (AH) (GCI)

The course focuses on Anglophone Caribbean literature and popular culture from its beginnings during the era of slavery to the present. We cover a variety of genres including slave narratives, autobiography, memoir, Bildungsroman, fiction, short story, a play, and probably some poetry. We pay attention to themes in the literature including slavery, displacement, migration, romance, the search for identity, the allure of England, American consumerism, and the touristic commodification of the Caribbean. By the end of the course, students will be able to analyze Caribbean texts, situate them in an emergent literary tradition, and explain the larger contexts. Major authors include Equiano, Mary Prince, Claude McKay, Erna Brodber, Kamau Brathwaite, Lamming, Lovelace, and Naipaul.

ENGL 231 | 237H |  American Literature I: Colonial Era to the Civil War (AH) (GCUS)

How did the U.S. and its diverse literary tradition get its start? Why are texts written long before Independence considered “American”? Did Pocahontas really save John Smith from execution at the hands of her father, Powhatan? Why did Black Hawk claim that “land cannot be sold,” and how did an Englishman in his late 30s become the most persuasive rhetorician of the American Revolution? Find out the answers to these and other questions about our national origins as we explore early North American literatures from the period of colonialism until the Civil War. We’ll examine encounters and tensions between Native Americans and the Europeans who arrived on their shores and explore how African-Americans used language to challenge racial oppression. We will grapple with central aspects of Early American Literature, including colonialism, Indigenous sovereignty, religious separatism and Puritanism, American exceptionalism, feminism, revolution and national independence, Enlightenment thinking, Pragmatism, Transcendentalism, Dark Romanticism, slavery, abolitionism, and Civil War. Throughout, we’ll focus on how written texts both established and contested the nation-state, the individual, and the divine.

Note: the Honors section also satisfies the WC category.

ENGL 232 | 238H | American Literature II: Civil War to the Present (AH)

This course traces the development of American literature from 1865 until the present day. Students will read major works of American fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction, examining them from a variety of perspectives and situating them within ongoing debates about the meanings of American cultural history. Authors to be read might include James, Stephen Crane, Eliot, Cather, Faulkner, Hurston, Stevens, Wright, Tennessee Williams, O’Connor, Bishop, Morrison, Ashbery, Barthelme, Wilson, and Harjo.

Note: the Honors section also satisfies the WC category.

ENGL 233 | Major Black Writers (AH) (GCUS)

In this course, we read the beautiful and profound works of the Black American literary tradition as they engage issues of enslavement and freedom, racism and resistance, community and kinship, literacy, love, and citizenship. Moving from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century, our reading might include poetry, slave narratives, autobiographies, short stories, plays, and novels. Paying attention to the historic contexts of these texts, we learn to read and write about the themes that emerge in these literatures. Major Black Writers that we might study include Phillis Wheatley Peters, Frederick Douglass, Nella Larsen, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Yaa Gyasi, among others.

ENGL 251 | 247H | Introduction to Poetry (AH) (WC)

Introduction to Poetry invites you to learn more about the language, history, and analysis of poetry by reading and examining poetry in detail. We will be looking at both classic and contemporary works as we think about form (meter, rhyme, rhythm, and other technical aspects) as well as literary-historical context in order to help us better inform our understanding of the genre. This course prepares students to appreciate poetry as a distinct mode of artistic expression while gaining critical tools for the perceptive reading and enjoyment of poems.

Spring 2024 ENGL 251 | 247H | Women Who Changed Poetry (AH) (WC)

TR 9:45-11:00 | Bess Cooley

Anne Bradstreet was the first published American Poet. Gertrude Stein’s poems and “salons” changed Modernism. Audre Lorde described herself as a “Black feminist lesbian warrior mother” and used poetry for activism. “Lady poets” haven’t just repeated what men have written. They’ve shaped and changed it, even when they weren’t “supposed” to be writing or publishing it. As a class, we’ll explore how women poets fundamentally altered the world and craft of poetry, and read the male poets who were writing with, to, and around them, as well. We’ll focus on both themes and craft in poetry, and write some of our own.

ENGL 252 | 248H | Introduction to Drama (AH) (WC)

Humans perform stories to understand themselves and the world they live in. This course introduces students to the pleasures of reading and writing about drama, one of the oldest and most vital literary genres. Students read comedies, tragedies, and other genres from a variety of countries, cultures, and historical periods to experience the history of drama as an international art form. In addition, because drama is designed to be performed as well as read, students view clips from video productions of individual plays. No experience reading or seeing drama is required.

ENGL 253 | 258H | Introduction to Fiction (AH) (WC)

English 253 invites students to read diverse fictional styles and genres published from the eighteenth century to the present. Students will trace how fiction emerges from a cultural and historical context and engages with social debates over gender, race, sexuality, class, economics, religion, philosophy, and the environment, among others. Readings will emphasize the novel but may also include novellas and short stories. While this course focuses on literary analysis, it also encourages students to take pleasure in reading fiction. The class may also address the works’ aesthetic merits and contemporary relevance; fiction as it relates to questions of truth, lies, and plausibility; and the implicit contract between authors and readers.

Spring 2024 ENGL 253 | 258H | Wellness in Fiction (AH) (WC)

MWF 9:10-10:00 & 10:20-11:10 (Honors) | Elizabeth Gentry

English 253, Wellness in Fiction, seeks to explore how fiction of diverse styles and genres published from the nineteenth century to the present intersects with the contemporary understanding of wellbeing. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), neglecting any one of the eight dimensions of wellness—emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social—negatively impacts overall quality of life. How do fictional characters—characters from various cultural, historical, and environmental contexts and with distinct identities in terms of gender, class, race, and sexuality—pursue health and happiness, react to circumstances outside of their control, become their own worst enemies, and remind us all of what it means to be human? Readings will include novels, novellas, and short stories. While this course focuses on literary analysis, it also encourages students to take pleasure in reading fiction and to consider the state of their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their subcultures and communities.

Spring 2024 ENGL 253 | Gothic Fiction (AH) (WC)

TR 11:20-12:35 | Hank Backer

Gothic Fiction will be primarily focused on two separate genres: the gothic novel and the dystopian novel. This class will trace the development of the gothic novel from its origin in Europe to its revival in Southern literature with writers like Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner.

ENGL 254 | Zombies in American Popular Culture (AH) (WC)

Themes in Literature

TR 2:30-3:45 | Carrie Sheffield

There’s no doubt that the zombie has taken over the American imagination over the past several years. From video games, to comic books, to films, zombies are all around us. But where did this fascination come from? How do zombies reflect America’s fears about disease, race, control, and power? How have zombies become a coping mechanism for addressing those fears? This course will begin with a historical examination of the zombie in American history. Beginning with a study of the zombie in Haitian Voodoo and Hoodoo, we will investigate how the fascination with the first black-governed country in the Americas turned the zombie into an undead monster. The course will then move forward into the latter-half of the 20th Century when the zombie shifted from a reflection of the exotic, and also terrifying, racialized Other to more recent manifestations of the “walking dead.” At the core of this course is the zombie as cultural lens. How does the rise of the zombie help us understand our own shifting culture, our own history, and our own fears?


Attendance, two papers, short reading responses, and midterm and final exams

ENGL 254 | Books that Shaped America (AH) (WC)

Themes in Literature

TR 11:20-12:35 | Julia McLeod

This course features readings from the Library of Congress’s list of books that “shaped Americans’ views of their world and the world’s views of America.” Through writings by Benjamin Franklin, Washington Irving, Frederick Douglass, Louisa May Alcott, James Baldwin, Cesar Chavez, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ray Bradbury, and others, we will examine continuing national debates, including: How do we define “American”? What ideals unite us? What is the role of the American citizen? How has our vision of national purpose changed, and how will it be defined in the future? The course meets AH and WC requirements.


Graded class requirements: attendance, weekly reading journals, weekly quizzes, research presentation, two essays.

ENGL 254 | Staging Revolution: Hamilton and Other Plays of Rebellion and Resistance (AH) (WC)

Themes in Literature

MWF 10:20-11:10 | Kristina McCue

Beginning with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, this course considers how drama and theater can express the aspirations of a group of people –  or even one person – seeking to break with established power. During the semester, students will work with plays from around the world and different eras: resistance to apartheid in South Africa, uprising against communist tyranny in Romania, and rebellion against the British Empire in Ireland, among others.


The course requirements focus on short scene analyses and a final comparative essay, as well as two unit tests.

ENGL 254 | Climate Fictions (AH) (WC)

Themes in Literature- Science, Literature, and the Environment

TR 9:45-11:00 | Mark Tabone

This course focuses on science fiction that examines humanity’s relationship to nature and the environment. We will look at works from the twenty-first century genre known as “Cli-Fi” which speculate about possible future effects of anthropogenic climate change. However, we will also look back through literary history to examine the influence of science, the Enlightenment, industrialization, romanticism, and the Judeo-Christian and Buddhist traditions on the ways we think, imagine, hope, fear, and write about the environment. Using fiction as our guide, we will discuss the current state of our changing environment as well as the ecology, science, technologies, worldviews, and developments that led to this point in history.


Attendance, two papers, short reading responses, in-class writing

ENGL 255 | 257H | Public Writing (WC)

In our lives, we occupy multiple public communities beyond school—social, professional, political, online, service, faith, and others. We engage both as readers and writers with numerous public texts to help us understand and respond to these communities and the issues that affect us. In this course, you will both analyze and produce public writing for various “rhetorical ecologies”—interconnected webs of communicative situations. You will gain a thorough understanding of how people respond to public issues by rhetorically analyzing how events unfold through public texts as well as by evaluating the genre conventions of these texts. Then you will craft your own rhetorically-minded public writing to inform and persuade others to take action.

ENGL 263 | 277H | Introduction to Creative Writing (WC)

English 263 offers an introduction to creative writing with an emphasis on composing fiction and poetry. We will study successful models of stories and poems, learning a vocabulary for discussing the craft of writing. Assigned readings (from contemporary authors) will stimulate discussions and provide models for what creative writing is and can be. Low-stakes writing exercises will give us a chance to try out the techniques we are learning to observe and describe. Formal responses to our peers, analysis of readings, and presentations will help us sharpen our analytical and formal writing skills

Spring 2024 ENGL 278H | Law and Literature (AH) (WC)

Honors: Themes in Literature

MWF 9:10-10:00 | Lisi Schoenbach

Law and Literature are two subjects that have long had, in Richard Posner’s words, “a misunderstood relation,” and this course will begin to address some of their key connections and misunderstandings. Though we will read a few of the literary works most noted for their reflections on the law and legal questions (including Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” Kafka’s The Trial, and Melville’s Billy Budd), we will also consider legal theory, philosophy, and seminal legal opinions such as Brown v. Board of Education. This course will serve both as an introduction to law and humanities scholarship and a chance to reflect on how literary texts construct different understandings of the law through their various approaches to concepts such as duty, norms, contracts, justice, and fairness. Requirements will include short response papers, presentations, and a final research paper.

ENGL 281 | Introduction to Film Studies (AH)

This course introduces students to the critical skills necessary for understanding and analyzing narrative cinema. Students will watch selected world cinema features and learn how to “read” images as film-texts. The course will emphasize specific aspects of film style and narrative form through analysis of scenes from films screened each week and from a range of outside examples. Relevant historical and cultural background will also be used to inform readings of movies shown. As they learn the vocabulary of filmmaking and film criticism, students will also be asked to consider the politics of image-making and the power of cinema.

ENGL 295 | Writing in the Workplace (WC)

This writing-intensive course focuses on workplace communication and professionalism. In this course, students analyze the rhetorical elements of workplace texts, as well as the rhetorical situations in which they are created and read, so they can produce professional communications that respond appropriately to a variety of workplace situations and audiences. By emphasizing the importance of audience and contextual awareness, this course prepares students to communicate with professionalism in their future workplaces.