Whittier College English Department Fall 2016 Classes & News

Click on any course below for detailed descriptions of Fall 2016 English Department courses.

Click on English News Vol 16, #2, March 2016 for the full “In English” newsletter, edited by Professor Charles Adams, with news and updates about the department’s faculty and students.


ENGL 110, Section 1, Exploring Literature, 1001 Nights and Beyond. (Jonathan Burton)
This section of “Exploring Literature” proposes that a central purpose of literature for both writers and readers has always been to move the imagination in ways that exceed and yet continue to speak to the forms and structures of everyday life. So, for example, literature may create a vision of a world which does not exist but in its beauty or desirability define what is lacking in our experience. Our keynote text, The Arabian Nights (aka The 1001 Nights), testifies to the ways in which literary works can inspire us to be more elastic in our thinking about others, but also confront and challenge us in our easy assumptions about ourselves. Studying the construction, reception and reinterpretation of tales that have circulated across various cultures for thousands of years, from ancient India to the contemporary West, also allows us to consider the boundaries of our imaginations and particularly the ways in which the analytical frameworks that we construct to understand narratives are culturally specific. Thus we will look at how authors from Edgar Allen Poe to John Barth, Assia Djebar, A.S. Byatt and Naghuib Mahfouz have contributed to the tradition of the Arabian Nights in ways that respond both to a long-standing tradition and to the pressures of contemporary culture.

ENGL 110, Section 2, Exploring Literature: Being Human. (Wendy Furman-Adams)

We should treat our minds, that is, ourselves, as innocent and ingenuous
children, whose guardians we are, and be careful what objects and what
subjects we thrust on their attention. Read not the Times. Read the
Eternities. (Henry David Thoreau, Life Without Principle)

I often wonder what Thoreau would say if he were to visit an American college campus in Fall 2016. I wonder if he wouldn’t be shocked at our present-ism, our multi-tasking; our obsession with social media; our constant craving for “connection,” while becoming ever more alienated from nature, from history, from one another, from ourselves. I wonder what he would make of a people, of a culture, so caught up in YouTube and “reality” T.V. that we have no time to read at all–not even the Times, let alone the “eternities.”

Thoreau saw reading as one of the most important activities in human life. Most people, he says, are interested only in things that are “modern” and “practical”–things that either entertain us or that bring us immediate personal gain. But “the adventurous student,” he says, “will always study classics . . . however ancient they may be. . . . We might as well omit to study Nature because she is old. To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit . . . requires . . . the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they are written . . . . The works of the great poets have never yet been read by mankind, for only great poets can read them” (“On Reading,” Walden).

Who are these Poets with the stamina and the commitment to read these trophies of the forum which is the world? They are, more often than not, the English majors. And that is why I love teaching this course for first-year students who are seriously considering–or better yet have decided upon–a major in English.

In a recent essay called “The Ideal English Major,” professor Mark Edmundson writes, “All students–I mean all–ought to think seriously about majoring in English. Becoming an English major means pursuing the most important subject of all–being a human being.” An English major, Edmunson says, “is, first of all, a reader. But there are readers and there are readers.” Some people “read to anesthetize themselves . . . to put a light buzz on.” The English major doesn’t read for escape; she or he reads “because, as rich as the life one has may be, one life is not enough. He reads . . . effectively to become other people,” for “the joy of seeing the world through the eyes of people who–let us admit it–are more sensitive, more articulate, shrewder, sharper, more alive than they themselves are.”

When we see the world through the eyes of Homer, of the biblical Jesus, of Shakespeare, of Virginia Woolf, of Toni Morrison (all of whom we will read in this course), we see, in Edmundson’s words, “that life is bigger, sweeter, more tragic and intense–more alive with meaning” than we had ever thought possible. Reading, he suggests, is nothing less than “reincarnation . . . being born again into a higher form of consciousness than we ourselves possess.”

Deep lifelong reading also gives us the power to speak and write our language rather than merely to “be spoken” by all the clichés and formulas of our limited surrounding culture. It gives us the power to interpret our world, rather than simply live passively in it; to see life as “a work in progress,” in a culture too quick to settle for easy judgments and easy answers. “We’re talking, he concludes, “about a way of living that places inquiry about how to live in the world–what to be, how to act, how to move through time–at its center” (Chronicle of Higher Education, July 29, 2013). That’s the way of living this course is intended to introduce. Welcome to that conversation–and to Being (ever more fully and deeply) Human.

ENGL 110, Section 3, Exploring Literature, Asian Literature. (Tony Barnstone)
This is an introductory level course in East Asian literature—specifically, the literatures of India, China, and Japan, from ancient to modern. Students will get a general introduction to Asian philosophies and religions and a rip-roaring survey of the best poems, essays, and fiction from this 3000-year old tradition. This is an ENGL 110 course, so students who take this will have done the prereq for upper division literature classes, many of which cover the COM2 (writing intensive) graduation requirement. In addition, the class involves a certain amount of creative writing, so that it will also cover the Creative Arts requirement.

ENGL 120, Sections 1 and 2, Why Read? (Scott Creley)
This course will examine poetry and fiction from multiple era and multiple disciplines ranging from ancient era to contemporary Post-Modernism with an emphasis on the journeys these characters make in the face of adversity. We’ll study the adventures of Beowulf and Gilgamesh and compare them with the perspective of creatures who appear to be monsters. This course will seek to see what lessons heroes and monsters can teach the modern world and examine where we find our heroes and monsters in today’s literature and culture.

ENGL 120, Sections 3 and 4, Why Read?, Life During Wartime. (Scott Creley)
War seems to be omnipresent in human history. However it changes its clothing, it seems to be a similar entity across time and geography. Why is this? What causes conflict? Why does it seem so inevitable? This course examines great literature through the lens of individuals trying to live their lives during modern conflicts. These conflicts serve as arenas to examine human nature at its best and worst. By adopting this viewpoint as we study texts we are able to examine our own lives with greater complexity. This course studies Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, David Benioff’s City of Thieves and war-themed poetry collections by Tony Barnstone (Tongues of War), and Brian Turner (Here, Bullet). This course will take the truths and philosophies present in these texts and apply them to the conflicts of today and yesterday in search of an understanding that might make our era a better place to live.

ENGL 201, Introduction to Journalism (Joe Donnelly)
This course will introduce students to the enduring elements of journalism across the media spectrum. We will learn the basics of reporting, interviewing and writing in the service of compelling, community-based journalism. Students will get hands-on, practical experience going out into the field with the goal of publishing meaningful work
ENGL 202, Writing Short Fiction (Michelle Chihara)

This course is an introduction to writing prose fiction. We will cover a range of literary techniques and writing styles, with a focus on open-minded exploration and careful attention to craft.

The very ambitious purpose of this partially team-taught course (required for all English majors) is to introduce you to the major themes and writers in British literature from its beginnings, in the seventh century, until about 1785–in sequence and, insofar as time allows, in context. We’ll begin with Beowulf and selections from The Canterbury Tales, the two most important (and utterly contrasting) works of the English Middle Ages, moving on to selected texts from the Renaissance, Restoration, and Eighteenth Century–ending with Samuel Johnson on the threshold of the Romantic Age. We will attempt to define some of the continuities and discontinuities in British literature, as well as to develop a clear sense of the movements and ideas that shaped its first 1000 years. In the second semester of the sequence–English 221–you will become acquainted with the second half of the story: British and American literature from about 1789 to the present. By the time you have completed the sequence, you will be ready for the study in depth provided by our 300-level courses, and should have some idea of the areas you will want to explore most fully. All majors or prospective majors should take the sequence during their sophomore year. All English majors sophomore and above who need the class should go to see Dr. Furman-Adams–or even just turn up on the first day with an add sheet–if the course is full. Sheets will be signed regardless of the size of the class.

INTD 290 A: Classical Greece and Rome (Wendy Furman-Adams and David Hunt)
This course provides a remarkable grounding in the humanities by taking us back to the beginnings of Western civilization in ancient Greece and Rome. The time period covered is roughly the ninth century B.C.E. to the fourth century of the common era: the so-called “classical” period. It is classical because so much about our shared culture derives from this period, and because we return to it over and over again as a touchstone for our own efforts (out of the flux and multiplicity of life) to create something that is beautiful, good, and true. As we explore classical Graeco-Roman civilization, we will engage with a history at least as bloody, uncertain, and cynical as that of our own time. But we will also find some of the world’s most remarkable writers–among them Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, and Augustine–seeking wisdom and solace in the composition of works that still possess their edge and relevance.


ENGL 290, Section 1, Digital Textuality (Anne Cong-Huyen)
What are digital texts beyond the ubiquitous e-books? This course examines the history of experimental literature in the 20th century by exploring algorithmic literature, hypertext fiction, electronic literature, and navigable narrative. We will take a project-based approach to the study of such digital texts, and students will “get their hands dirty” in the process of generating, remixing, and producing speculative readings of a hypertext reading list that spans different languages, the Americas and the Anglophone world, print and digital forms. We’ll explore the long history of hypertext, from Modernist literature, to the Oulipo in the 1960s France, and to avant garde video games of the present.

ENGL 290, Section 2, Quaker Campus (Joe Donnelly)
Students who work on the production and writing of the Quaker Campus can claim credit for their work through this course, so long as they are also enrolled in a journalism course. The course is to be taken only as Pass/No Pass.

Additional Information: Co-enrollment with ENGL 201: Introduction to Journalism required.

ENGL 305, Screenwriting (John Bak)
This one semester class will teach students how to write a full‑length feature screenplay. It will treat screenwriting as the latest expression of a longstanding storytelling tradition and it will make extensive reference to the works of modern‑day screenwriting analysts such as Blake Snyder, Michael Hauge, Viki King, David Trottier, and Linda Seger.
Students will formulate their individual story ideas and develop them through a complete story outline, treatment, and a first draft of a full‑length feature script from 90 to 129 pages long. They will sharpen both their introspective and their research abilities as they create their stories. Students will look inward to see how they can use their own life experience to inform the lives of their characters, and they will research outward to place their stories in convincing contexts beyond the realm of what they have experienced directly. Internet, library, and personal interviewing skills will be developed further in this course. Most classes will be divided into two parts. (1) Imparting information ‑‑ covering the basics of screenwriting: story structure, plot, character development, setting, and use of images, language and dialog. (2) “Workshopping” student projects: brainstorming story ideas, researching the ideas, discussing outlines, treatments, and first drafts. Cross listed with FILM 305 (you take one or the other, not both!)
ENGL 310, Linguistics (Sean Morris)
“‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”

Lewis Carroll invented half the words in “Jabberwocky” himself, yet you still know how to say, correctly, “That mimsy rath loves to see a gimbling tove,” even if you don’t know what you mean. How is this possible? And how can we understand people who say, “This man is a tiger,” or “That course is a bear”? While we’re at it, where do different languages come from in the first place? And why is it so hard to learn a new one when you didn’t have any trouble learning the first? Does someone who speaks another language think differently? And what’s with English spelling? How come “knight” and “bite” rhyme, but “police” and “ice” don’t? Want to know? Tune in to English 310 and find out!

ENGL 324, Chaucer (Sean Morris)
You’ll get all your favorite Canterbury Tales in this class—the Miller, the Wife of Bath, the Pardoner, the Nun’s Priest—and many, many more. Who knew life was so much fun in 1398? But wait! If you order now, you’ll also get Troilus and Criseyde and a dream vision or two. Add your own pilgrim to the gang, learn to read Middle English, battle for the Canterbury dolls, and find out why Chaucer is to blame for all the Valentine’s Day hullabaloo. (Yes, he really is.) Need I say more? Be there, or be “wood”! (It rhymes with “load.”) All readings will be in Middle English—but don’t worry! I’ll show you how. So pick up your satchel, mount your palfrey, and join the pilgrimage… This course is also linked with the January travel course, The Canterbury Pilgrimage. If you are planning to take that course, you should also sign up for this one!

ENGL 328, Shakespeare (Jonathan Burton)
Have you ever noticed that the various portraits of Shakespeare don’t really look like the same guy? There’s the fellow with the sunken eyes and bulbous forehead; there’s the dapper one with the fancy silk collar; and let’s not forget the dude with the earring. In this introduction to Shakespeare studies, we will acknowledge multiple visions of Shakespeare by approaching his works with three interanimating methodologies. We will first examine the language of the poetry, familiarizing ourselves with Shakespeare’s idiom before engaging in close readings of the plays’ rich, figurative language. Next we will consider the plays in their historical contexts, concentrating on issues of monarchy, gender, and English nationhood. Finally, we will approach the plays as performance-scripts, confronting various dilemmas of theatrical production raised by Shakespeare’s plays from the 16th through the 21st centuries. Assignments will combine expository and creative writing as well as student performances and a trip to a local production.

English 332: Nineteenth Century British Novel (Or, Love and Money: How is a Victorian Novel Similar to Reality TV?, or How to Read Novels with Ridiculously Long Titles) (Andrea Rehn)
We will attempt to answer these and other serious literary questions through a survey of representative (that is, long) novels by major British novelists from Austen to Hardy. This period is known as the great flowering of the realist novel, a form that points our attention toward the interplay of personal identity, or “character,” and society at large. In addition to this attention to historical and social context, we will discuss Victorian reworkings of the familiar “marriage plot” in terms of narrative structure and prose style. In short, we’ll be discussing love and money.

Questions we will ask include (but are not limited to): If a computer read 1000 novels in a few seconds, what would it tell us about them, and about ourselves? What is the relationship between gender and definitions of morality? How does living in the world’s first industrialized nation transform human relations? What counts as education and who should get it? What is the purpose of marriage? What is work, who engages in it, and what is it for? How do international geopolitics affect individual life choices? What is the best way to respond to blackmail? How do we (and should we) differentiate between private matters and public ones? What is the place of sexuality among our life choices? How do novels influence what we believe and how we live? How do we choose what we read (and does it choose us)?

Books may include: Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, George Eliot, Middlemarch, Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure,
Rudyard Kipling, Kim.

ENGL 353, James Joyce (dAvid pAddy)
In the year 1999, millennial fever seemed to make people go list crazy. Everywhere we were being asked about the greatest songs of all time, the best TV show, and even the best novel of the twentieth century. In poll after poll, two books rose to the top of that last list: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and James Joyce’s Ulysses. Given that far fewer people have probably read Joyce’s book than Tolkien’s trilogy, what does this say about the significance attributed to Ulysses? This class will give you a chance to see what all the fuss is about. The course provides an intensive study of the writings of Irish author James Joyce, one of the leading figures of European modernism. In addition to reading about Joyce’s life, his relationship to Ireland and his historical era, we will read three of his four major works: Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and the aforementioned Ulysses. We will also take a look at samples of Joyce’s final work, Finnegans Wake. Given the length and difficulty of Ulysses, most of the semester will be devoted to the careful reading of that text. Come and join us if you are ready to delve into some of the most incredibly challenging but rewarding literature, and learn the importance of the word “Yes!”

ENGL 355, Contemporary Drama (Jonathan Burton)
Drama and theatre have always been anxious forms; writings from Aristotle, Plato, and Horace make claims about the impact of theatrical expression on the life, mind and morality of its practitioners and spectators. Theater, many argue, is dangerous. As a result, one of the areas of greatest interest in contemporary drama has been metadrama, plays interested in the possibilities and responsibilities of playwright, actor, and audience. In contemporary drama, we find find actors breaking through fourth walls, plotlines penetrating narrative frames, playwrights staging themselves and their audiences in powerful and compromised positions, and performers performing performance. If that last phrase seems dizzying, hang on to your hats, these are plays designed to unsettle you. This course is paired with Theater 340.

ENGL 362, American Realism and Naturalism (Charles S. Adams)
This course will examine American fiction of the period roughly between the Civil War and World War I. The title comes from two related American literary movements that many of the writers of this period are associated with (whether they knew it or not). As we might expect in a country traumatized in many ways by the horror of war and the heritage of slavery, our authors may all too often find that the optimism of the romantic “transcendentalists” is perhaps misguided, especially the optimism about the capacities and possibilities human beings. Death destruction, and suicide, and lots of it. We find writers taking a new look at social, philosophical, political, moral, and aesthetic issues in the light of the experiences of the war, the development of the frontier, industrialization, and the increasing voices of women and African Americans. Among a variety of possibilities, we will probably consider Davis, Jackson, Howells, Crane, Chesnutt, Twain, James, Gilman, Norris, Chopin, and Wharton. The reading load will be pretty substantial—these are the American “Victorians,” so (setting aside some important ideological and cultural concerns) if you know something about the traditions of fiction in the U.K. of the period concerning length, you know something about those in America.

ENGL 377, Autobiography and American Culture (Charles S. Adams)

In the last few decades, autobiography has been increasingly recognized as a literary form of considerable significance. It has been around a long time, but we have only really just started to try and understand it. This course starts from the premise that autobiography has been particularly important in American literary culture. We will read a variety of texts from writers with very different conceptions of how one should approach one’s own life history. Because the course is paired with Religion 321, Religion in America, with Professor Joe Price we will certainly focus on texts that have a spiritual dimension. We have not determined exactly which ones we will do yet, but in the past I have looked at people like Bradford, Franklin, Jefferson, Edwards, Knight, Rowlandson, Jacobs, Douglass, Whitman, James, Adams, Malcolm X, Kerouac, Rodriguez, Angelou, Kingston, Conroy, and a variety of others (these are just examples, not a reading list). This should suggest the wide array of interesting things one can find in the American version of the genre. And we live in the age of Facebook, etc., where we all do autobiography all the time. I is reasonable to wonder why.We will do a little theory as well to try to figure out how it all works. This course may be of special interest to students with interdisciplinary interests in history, psychology, and related fields. Enrollment in both classes required.

ENGL 385, Celtic Literature. (dAvid pAddy)

The Celts continue to hold an astonishing power over us to this day. You may find yourself strolling through a bookstore, CD shop, New Age boutique, or even a stationary store, and you might find a strange variety of objects labeled “Celtic.” But what might this mean? What is Celtic? Who are the Celts? (Or should the question be reserved solely for the past tense?) This semester we will examine the history and legacy of the Celts. Covering an impossibly large span, we will begin by reading about the earliest archaeological records and move on through to the present day. How much connection there is between the original Celts of mainland Europe and the people now congregating at the fringes and extremities of Britain is still a source of scholarly debate, but, in this course, we will accept the term as it applies to the literature of Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Brittany. The course schedule will be divided in two halves. In the first, we will examine the origins of the Celts, and read samples of the earliest surviving literature of the British Isles, with a focus on the Irish Táin and the Welsh Mabinogion. In the second half, we will look at Celtic revivalism, from the novel uses made of the Celts by the Romantics to their appropriation by modernist and postmodernist writers. By the end of the semester, we may hope to have some sense of the complex set of concepts, histories and literatures that we have come to call Celtic.

ENGL 390, Money and Progress: Economic Writers in Context (Michelle Chihara)
This course is designed as a course in intellectual history and critical analysis. It will focus on exposing students to a selection of important figures in the development of economic thought, writers who were also historians, moral philosophers, political scientists and storytellers. Through this experience, students will not only improve their understanding of what we mean when we say “the economy,” but will also gain a unique appreciation of how our contemporary capitalist system evolved into its present form. While this course will not teach empirical or quantitative analysis, students will gain a unique understanding of certain important roots of contemporary society and modern economic ideas.
This is not a course in the philosophy and methodology of economics, but the course will consider the evolution of this enormously influential body of thought in its historic context. As with the qualitative analysis of any text, we will open up the ideas in question to theoretical and philosophical scrutiny. Inevitably, a one-semester course will leave out many major thinkers and important topics in the history of economic thought, however, students will be encouraged to suggest and explore other thinkers and other models of thought.
I am very much hoping that I will have both English majors and economics and business majors in the class!! This is a version of a fairly standard class in many economics majors across the country, although obviously I will teach it somewhat differently, based on my own background. We will all enrich each other’s journey.

ENGL 400, Critical Procedures (dAvid pAddy)
Reading a novel, poem or play may seem a fairly basic skill to you by now. But how do you go about making an interpretation of a literary text? What kind of questions should you be asking? How do you find meaning? How do you know if your interpretation has any validity? Throughout this course we will encounter an array of critical essays by literary and critical theorists who have raised difficult questions and offered compelling ideas about how to approach a literary text. Reading literary theory can feel a bit like reading philosophy, sociology, psychology, or something from a number of other fields, and it is indeed a multidisciplinary means of thinking about what we do when we read, talk and write about literature. In this way, literary theory informs the practical work of literary criticism. Many of these theories are difficult if not mind-boggling, but they can help you become a more thoughtful reader, careful critic, and, perhaps, sophisticated teacher of literature. In addition to reading primary documents of major literary theory, we will also discuss practical aspects of research and argumentation. The writing of the Paper in the Major and delivery of the senior presentation for this course will enable you to put some of the theories into practice. Practicing such theories in your own writing and responding to what other critics have said can help you learn what literary scholars do and may

ENGL 410, Senior Seminar: Edgar Allan Poe (Charles S. Adams)
I have been thinking about Poe recently, for reasons that are unclear but must be meaningful. So, I thought it was time to offer a course to try to really understand the guy. Genius? Con man? Madman? Everything that can said about a person probably ahs been said about Poe. But his importance is not questioned. He pretty much invents the detective story. He certainly refines and defines the horror and gothic. His poetry strongly influences the later “symbolists.” Some even credit him with articulating the principles of the short story in general. He writes fiction, poetry, and journalism. He performed his work live. His contributions to literary theory are still of significance. Senior English majors only. Seems worth knowing more about! Instructor permission required.

ENGL 420: Preceptorships (Various Faculty)
This course is for advanced students who will act as assistants to faculty in some of the courses above. See individual faculty members concerning what might be involved. Instructor permission required.






Leave a Reply