Courses

The English Department offers a wide variety of English literature ("ENG") and writing ("WR") courses each term.  Listed below are extended course descriptions for the Department's course offerings for Fall Term 2018.  You can review extended course descriptions for past terms at our course descriptions archive, and can find official English and Writing course descriptions in the PSU Bulletin.  

Before you register, review the Department's course registration policies.  You may also wish to review the Department's Statement on Academic Integrity.  You can find more complete information about course schedules, meeting times, locations, and registration at the Registrar's Course Selection page.   

NOTE: The course descriptions below will be updated periodically with more-specific descriptions supplied by instructors, so check back from time to time for more information.  

Fall 2018 Course Descriptions

Undergraduate English Courses

ENG 204 SURVEY OF BRITISH LITERATURE I
Katya Amato

The plan is to read as much as we can in ten weeks so that by the end of the term you have a working knowledge of the richness and complexity of English literature from Bede's story of Caedmon, the cowherd who sings Creation, to Milton's Satan, "chained on the burning lake." In between, we will pause to take pleasure in monsters and a dragon, warriors, kings and queens, the mysterious Otherworld of the Celts, lovers, poets, essayists, playwrights, explorers, and many others who people our great early literature. Our reading list stretches from the medieval period through the seventeenth century.

Texts: Norton Anthology of English Literature, latest edition, Volumes A and B

 

ENG 300 LITERARY FORM AND ANALYSIS
Josh Epstein    

One of two core courses in the English major, ENG 300 emphasizes the study of literary genres, the concepts and practices of formal analysis, and the writing of interpretive essays. The premise of our course sounds simple, though it often proves deceptively complex: form generates meaning. In other words, literary texts create imaginative space for exploring the complexities of human life—desire and power, nature and culture, meaning and value, identity and otherness, “truth and beauty”—not only through the stories they tell, but through their nuances of form and language. Analyzing these nuances will help us, as engaged and curious readers, to ask provocative questions about works of art, on their own terms and in relation to their cultural and historical contexts. Through the study of poetry, fiction, drama, and film, ENG 300 therefore aims to develop your confidence and skill in reading for detail, asking sophisticated critical questions, and making complex arguments about how a text’s formal construction shapes and enriches its meanings. 

As preparation for ENG 300, the department recommends twelve lower-division college literature credits. I strongly endorse this recommendation. If you have any questions about the course, please free to contact me at jepstein@pdx.edu .

Course texts are listed below (in these editions). In addition to prepared and engaged class participation, assignments will include two essays; D2L postings; a take-home final exam; and a musical playlist designed to accompany our course.

Corey Frost, Broadview Pocket Guide to Writing, 4th ed. (ISBN 978-1554813445).
Ross Murfin and Supryia Ray, Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, 4th ed. (978-0312467548).
Emily Brontë, ed. Linda H. Peterson, Wuthering Heights, Bedford Case Studies, 2nd ed. (ISBN 978-0312256869).
Herman Melville, Billy Budd: A Sailor (Broadview; 978-1554812387).
Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (New Directions; 978-0811216029). 
We will also watch two films: A Streetcar Named Desire (dir. Elia Kazan) and Beau Travail (dir. Claire Denis).

 

ENG 300 LITERARY FORM AND ANALYSIS
Jonathan Walker

As the title for English 300 should suggest, our course of study will concentrate on the major forms that English literature takes, including lyric poetry, drama, the short story, and the novel. Although we will not discuss other prominent forms such as the epic and the essay, we will screen and discuss a film adaptation of a piece of drama. We will analyze both premodern and modern literature originating from England and the United States, ranging from William Shakespeare to Jeanette Winterson.

Without thinking much about it, most of us could differentiate a poem from a play from a novel, but when we examine literary “form,” what is it exactly that we’re looking at? One way of thinking about form is essentially the physical or material shape that a piece of literature takes. By “shape” I mean, at the most basic of levels, the disposition of the text upon the page and the mode or process by which a piece of literature creates its imaginative world. Another word for “form” is “structure,” which involves both the various parts that make up the whole as well as the relationship between those parts. Our job during this class will be to learn the formal characteristics of the literature we read and to analyze it in order to produce and formulate coherent literary meanings.

You will be expected to have read each day’s material carefully, to have ideas and questions prepared when you come to class, and to participate actively in class discussions.

 

ENG 305U TOPICS IN FILM: Classics of Gothic Film
Hildy Miller


Gothic film, like Gothic literature, is a genre positioned right on the boundaries between reason and madness, mind and spirit, self and Other, natural and supernatural.  Always, it reflects what haunts us in some way and, always, it is transgressive.  Often it deals with subject matter that is dramatic, eerie, dark, and gloomy.  Something is always haunting America, with the anxieties of a particular era reflected in our Gothic imagination.  For example, in early American Gothic texts, there was fear of the wilderness with its lawlessness and unpredictability; since 9/11 we've been inundated with zombies, a seeming reaction to the fear of terrorism. In this course we will watch classics of Gothic film starting with the great silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and tracking through the 20th and 21st centuries with films such as Dracula, Rebecca, The Night of the Hunter, Rosemary's Baby, Don't Look Now, The Others, and more.  Through both films and critical examinations of the Gothic, we will explore its conventions and try to arrive at a sense of why this genre endures-and even flourishes-though always responding to changes in prevailing styles of film over time.  No textbooks to purchase.  Questions?  Contact Hildy Miller at milleh@pdx.edu.

 

ENG 305U TOPICS IN FILM: War Culture in Film
William Bohnaker
    

Everyone hates war, yet it remains, perpetually, one of the few constants in human behavior.  War, despite our fervent hopes and efforts, is quintessentially human.  In this course we will examine cinematic and other representations of war, not as battle, but as culture, seeking to understand the causes and consequences of this elemental social practice.  The course will place special emphasis on the analytical strategies of cultural studies.

 

ENG 306U TOPICS IN LIT: The Graphic Novel
Katya Amato

          "The graphic novel is not literary fiction's half-wit cousin, but, more
          accurately, the mutant sister who can often do everything fiction 
          can, and, just as often, more."               —Dave Eggers

          "Drawing is a way of thinking."               —Chris Ware

We will explore contemporary graphic novels and interpret them with the respect and delight they deserve. The course is not a historical or genre survey, nor are there superheroes. Much class time wil be spent in groups to obtain other people's perspectives, so be sure that you like group work (you will be graded, however, only on your own writing). Attendance is required. Assignments include short response papers, analysis of a panel, a five-page paper interpreting a theme or imagery tying together three of our texts, and a final project (an analytical paper or a sixteen-panel story arc). We will also have a few guest speakers.

Here is the book list:

  • Lynda Barry One!Hundred!Demons ISBN 978-1-57061-459-0
  • Nick Drnaso Beverly ISBN 978-1-77046-225-0
  • David Wojnarowicz 7 Miles a Second ISBN 978-1-60699-614-0
  • Marjane Satrapi Embroideries ISBN 978-0-375-71467-2
  • Chabouté Alone ISBN 978-1-50115-332-7
  • Barbara Yellin Irmina ISBN 978-1-91059-310-3
  • Moebius Inside Moebius Part 1 ISBN 978-1-50670-320-6

For further information, feel free to get in touch with me: amatok@pdx.edu

 

ENG 306U TOPICS IN LIT: Interface Culture: Video Games & Interactive Narrative
Janice Lee

The interface is that fusion of art and technology that attests to the importance of multidisciplinary knowledge and collaboration. Beginning with Vannevar Bush’s pivotal and visionary Memex and traveling through the proliferation of the novel, the personal computer and the internet, this class will explore the reimagination of interactive narrative, in today’s multimodal culture. Topics will include: digital literature, interface design, role playing games and video games (like Dungeons & Dragons and Minecraft), interactive music videos, potential and emergent narratives, and internet memes. Questions we’ll ask include: How do different forms of literature offer different models of consciousness? How do multimedia pieces rely on associative memory and human imagination? What can we glean about phenomenology, our own subjectivities, and writing/reading processes from looking at these texts? What might the future of narrative hold? How do changing technologies influence the way we read and tell stories? Students will look at both creative and critical texts, and work in an online, collaborative atmosphere.

NOTE: Though this is an online course, there will be one synchronous online game lab that students will be expected to participate in.

 

ENG 327 CULTURE, IMPERIALISM, AND GLOBALIZATION
Sarah Lincoln

Though there have been many attempts to identify the start of modern globalization, most agree that its origins lie in the experience of imperial conquest and expansion that began in the fifteenth century. Even now, pundits continue to debate whether to describe today's world in terms of "globalization" or "neo-imperialism," whether what defines our planet today is a utopian model of connection, mobility, and opportunity, or a dystopian structure of domination, infection, and exploitation. Partially, this depends on your position within these structures, but our attitudes and opinions are also naturally shaped by the cultural texts that seek to represent this era: the films, novels, tv shows, and other efforts to make sense of the experiences, structures, and modes of thinking that are shaped by, and help shape, our material relations. In this class, we will work to consider the intersections of globalization and imperialism, and the continued relevance of "postcolonial" perspectives to our current era. Reading novels, films, and theoretical works from Africa, India, the Caribbean and beyond, we will grapple with topics like: economic dependence and domination; education, language, and culture; the environment, climate change, and slow violence; political conflict and the legacies of violence and war; migration and mobility; and the work of art in our time. 

 

ENG 327 CULTURE, IMPERIALISM, AND GLOBALIZATION
Bishupal Limbu

This course is designed to introduce students to the study of literature from places and perspectives that lie outside the Western world. We will situate the texts we read in relation to the history and politics of imperialism and globalization while investigating the meanings that are attached to these two terms. If, in one sense, globalization implies a world of greater connection, what forms do these increasing connections take and how are they represented in the cultural texts of the global South? How can fiction and theory help us understand the effects of domination and the possibilities for resistance? What role does English play as an imperial or global language? How do we read cultural difference or otherness without anthropologizing, exoticizing, or domesticating? We will consider these and other questions by studying the works of writers from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. 

 

ENG 340 Medieval Literature Intro
Christine Rose

Explore Medieval Literature beyond the basic anthologies and the 200-level survey course. We will read a variety of medieval works from a range of genres. Through these texts you will notice both what is "medieval" and what medieval minds considered "literature." We will also examine how one discusses medieval literature critically, and why. While there is no particular unifying theme to this course, some of the readings focus on relationships between secular men and women (gender, romance, love and its complications), and the individual's relationship with his/her God-since religious writing was an integral part of what is both Medieval and Literature during the period 800-1500. From the literature of England, France, Iceland and medieval Europe we will study poetry and prose; plays, saints' lives and courtly love; didactic conduct literature for women; a romance about a cross-dressing knight; and a political/revenge saga. You may be closer to defining "medieval" or "literature" at the end of the class, and you will have discovered why the wealth of compelling material makes the period so rewarding to study. Texts in Mod. English translations, excepting the Middle English play texts (on D2L).

(Fulfills the Pre-1800 requirement for ENG major; counts towards Medieval Studies minor (see History Dept. website)

Texts: Only the editions below are to be used. Other materials available on D2L.
Silence, A 13th-Century Romance, Roche-Mahdi, ed. (Michigan State U. Press) ISBN: 0-87013-543-0 
The Good Wife's Guide, Greco and Rose, eds. (Cornell, 2009) ISBN: 978801474743
The Lais of Marie de France, eds. Ferrante and Hanning (Baker Academic) ISBN: 080102031X
St. Benedict, Rule (Anchor-Doubleday) ISBN: 0385009488
The Death of King Arthur: The Alliterative Morte Arthur, trans. Simon Armitage (Norton) ISBN: 0393073971
The Letters of Heloise and Abelard (Penguin) ISBN: 0140442979
Njal's Saga (Penguin) ISBN: 0140447695
The Life of Christina of Markyate, eds. Fanous, Leyser, Talbot (Oxford UP) 0199556059

 

ENG 343 Romanticism
Alastair Hunt

This course introduces students to the greatest hits and one-hit wonders of British Romantic literature and culture. Romanticism is a broad movement that predominated in the literature of Great Britain in the years between 1789 and 1832. Its key authors are six white Englishmen who invented a new kind of poetry to express distinctly modern experiences of the world of Nature and of the interior depths of the Self. Much of this course will be spent getting to grips with this traditional conception of Romanticism, as displayed in the work of the Big Six, and by the end you will, at a minimum, you will be familiar with some pretty cool poetry.

However, we will also approach the more capacious, nuanced, and at times difficult understanding of Romanticism revealed by recent literary critical research. For it turns out that the Romantic archive includes works by women, working-class, and non-white authors as well as works from non-poetic genres, such as novels, autobiography, essays. And Romanticism engages a greater range of questions and issues than previously thought, including political revolution, human rights, ecology, gender, slavery, the nation, identity, language, and the quality of lived reality itself. 
Ultimately, then, this course is not just a survey of Romanticism, but also an exploration of how Romantic literary texts, as literary texts, make claims on us to think—and re-think—our common-sense explanations and expectations of the world. By the end of the course, you will not only have a better appreciation of your cultural genealogy; you will also be estranged from the obviousness of the present. In the dark times in which we live, this is far from insignificant.

Course fulfills: II. Historical Literacy (new English major requirements); Group C: Period Studies (old English major requirements)

Required Texts:

  • Peter Manning and Susan Wolfson, eds.  The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Vol 2A: The Romantics and Their Contemporaries. 5th ed. New York: Pearson, 2012. (ISBN 9780205223169)
  • Mary Shelley. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Ed. Susan Wolfson. 2nd ed. Longman Cultural Edition. New York: Pearson, 2007. (ISBN 9780321399533)
     

 

ENG 351U African American Literature
Anoop Mirpuri

This course is the first in a three-part survey of African American literature. It will cover a selection of writing by, and about, people of African descent up until the era of slavery and abolition. The course will focus on the emergence of the black literary tradition in the context of the transatlantic slave trade, plantation slavery, and the conquest and colonization of the so-called “new world.” We will focus particularly on the genre of the slave narrative. 

It’s tempting to read slave narratives as simple “testimony” to the experience of enslavement by formerly enslaved people. While slave narratives do provide important and valuable testimony, in this class we will examine the social and historical conditions that gave rise to the genre and shaped its conventions. In other words, as a literature course, we will read slave narratives as complex historical texts and works of art, rather than as authentic representations of the “black experience.” We will examine how slave narratives emerged historically in a context of hierarchical power relations between white editors and black writers, which shaped what and how black writers were able to write. We will examine how established and common sense ways of thinking about race, slavery, and freedom shaped the work of both black and white writers alike. And we will examine how slave narratives abide by, depart from, and/or challenge these common sense ways of knowing.

 

 

ENG 367U Canadian Writers
Susan Reese

I can resist no longer; we are going to focus solely on the work of Margaret Atwood, one of Canada’s most beloved writers. We will read a sample of her short stories in Stone Mattress, then visit her retelling of the Odyssey through Penelope’s point of view in The Penelopiad, then sample a bit of historical fiction in Alias Grace, ultimately ending with her speculative fiction in The Handmaid’s Tale, followed by Oryx and Crake (the first book of her Maddadam Trilogy, so I’ll leave you wanting to read more).

Atwood is a brilliant writer of great vision and depth, with always a twinkle in her eye, and her PhD in History at her beck and call. She has put her talents to good use, representing women as we had not before been seen in print (more on that in class) while providing insightful commentary on society as a whole. This is going to be filled with insight and delight. Please join me.

Required Texts:

  • Stone Mattress
    The Penelopiad
    Alias Grace
    The Handmaid's Tale
    Oryx and Crake 

 

ENG 368 Literature and Ecology
Alastair Hunt

This version of Literature and Ecology will focus on what environmentalist Rachel Carson once called “the problem of sharing our earth with other creatures.” We will approach this issue through closely reading a selection of mostly canonical twentieth- and twenty-first century literary texts from diverse genres (poetry, novel, fable, memoir, non-fiction) and various national Anglophone traditions (American, British, South African). Two sets of questions will guide us. First, to what extent does literature reflect the dominant ways in which human beings have historically related to animals? How does literature explore aspects of our relations to animals that science and law do not? How can literature help us imagine just and sustainable alternatives to the ways we currently live with animals? In what ways do the categories that organize social relations between human beings—race, gender, sexuality, class—intersect with the category of species? Second, what can a focus on animals in these texts teach us about literature? How have writers portrayed themselves and the works they produce as animals? In what ways is the task of interpreting a literary text similar to the task of understanding animals? Students will be responsible for completing weekly reading assignments, actively participating in class discussion, and writing two essays. 

Course fulfills: Electives (new English major requirements); Group E: Elective (old English major requirements); UNST Cluster: Environmental Sustainability 

Required Texts:

  • J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace, Penguin, 1999. (ISBN 0140296409)
  • George Orwell, Animal Farm: A Fairy Tale. Signet, 2004. (ISBN 0451526341)
  • Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, 1968. (ISBN 9781780220383)
  • Helen MacDonald, H is for Hawk. Vintage 2014. (ISBN 9780099575450)
  • H. G. Wells, Island of Dr. Moreau, A Possibility. Penguin, 2005. (ISBN 9780141441023) 
  • Virginia Woolf, Flush: A Biography. Martino Books, 2013. (ISBN 9781614274902) 
  • Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2009. (ISBN 978031669885)

 

ENG 397U: Digital Literary Studies
Kathi Berens

Do computers offer new tools for understanding the human condition? Digital tools for archiving and sorting information are remarkable, but not neutral.  They express ideologies of power and control.  We’ll examine how archives and databases construct knowledge and knowledge communities.  Many early-Web Digital Humanities projects began as efforts by marginalized communities to create their own accessible knowledge repositories.  This impetus is alive in work by feminist, anti-racist, and postcolonial digital humanists working today. We’ll also work with two other key DH principles: “distant reading,” which uses datasets to “read” literary artworks, and “exploratory programming,” in which we’ll write computer programs to make digital art.  No programming experience necessary!  The class is designed for people who haven’t worked with code or software.

 

 

ENG 399: Teaching Literature
Hildy Miller

In this course we will look at a variety of theoretical issues and practical strategies for teaching literature at both high school and college levels. Class activities will include readings and discussions, practicing strategies we might use in a literature class, informal writing and a formal writing assignment in which you develop your dream syllabus and describe your teaching literature philosophy. Other English faculty will also join us to share their best pedagogical practices. My goal for the course is that each of you leave at the end of the quarter feeling that you have had the opportunity to ground yourself thoroughly in all things to do with the teaching of literature and that you leave with a clear sense of your own teaching philosophy and approaches. I'll be sharing my best thinking on the topic and the tricks of the trade I've learned over the years-but my goal isn't for anyone to teach as I do, but rather for you to find yourself and your own way in the literature classroom. Questions? Contact Hildy Miller at milleh@pdx.edu.

 

 

ENG 444: 20th and 21st Century British Women Writers
Lorraine Mercer


Fully Online Course

 "Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms."   ~Angela Carter

Re-envisioning Literature: New Versions of Old Genres

In this course we will read six texts by twentieth century British women writers. These texts reveal how these particular writers have re-envisioned traditional narrative structures. From fairy tales to war stories, from non-fiction to gothic, these writers challenge narrative forms in order to explore new stories and new visions of the world.  

Texts:         

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber and Bluebeard
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea, Norton Critical Edition, ed. Judith Raiskin
Zadie Smith, White Teeth
Jeanette Winterson, The Passion
Virginia Woolf, Orlando and A Room of One's Own
Also: supplemental material including articles, poetry and other items provided online
[Please note: you may use any editions of the books, except for Wide Sargasso Sea, which is a critical edition.  We will read and use the supplemental material in class.]  

 

ENG 450: ADV TOP: 18th CENTURY LIT—Enlightenment, Empire, Exoticism
Bill Knight

The British eighteenth century is often thought of as a highly ordered, stately, and (yes) somewhat boring historical and literary period. But this was a time when contact with Asia, Africa, the Americas and the people who inhabited these regions was transforming British sensibilities and radically reshaping literary production. In this course, we will study the excitement, horror, and transfixed fascination generated by the spectacles of enlightenment, colonialism, slavery, empire, and even literary writing itself. We’ll witness a wide array of energized writings across a period in which rationalism and empiricism began to hold sway over the sense of what counted as a “self” and in which colonialism and empire had come to hold sway over what counted as a “nation.” We’ll look at the century’s literary engagements with the East (or the South) and witness the way that these texts testify to the emergence of global empire even as they transform this testimony into aesthetic forms and categories that offered pleasure and diversion to British audiences. Where do these aesthetic transmutations of figures of the East, empire, and the values of the Enlightenment take us? In a very real sense, they point to us, to the emergence of our modern world, and we’ll keep that destination in mind as we look back to this early moment in the emergence of global modernity. Along with the required texts, we will also read excerpts of Arabian Nights, the Qu’ran, and English poetry and prose of the period; and theoretical perspectives from Kant, Horkheimer & Adorno, and Said.  


Required Texts:

Aphra Behn. Oroonoko. ISBN: 978-0140439885

Jonathan Swift. Gulliver’s Travels. ISBN: 978-0141439495

Samuel Johnson. Rasselas. ISBN: 978-0141439709

William Beckford. Vathek. ISBN: 978-0199576951
 
Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. ISBN: 978-0486223056

 

ENG 494: TOP: CRITICAL THEORY AND METHODS—Theory and the Meaning of Life: Biopolitics, Vital Materialism, Animal Studies
Alastair Hunt

"Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it."— Oscar Wilde

What is the meaning of life? This course introduces students to exciting work in recent critical theory that is rethinking both the very concept of “life” and its significance in modernity. We will examine three of the most important versions of what can be called the “turn to life” in theory: biopolitics, vital materialism, and animal studies. 

Under the first heading, we will consider the influential argument, articulated by Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Hannah Arendt, that in the modern age biological life has become the direct object of political power, with governments and businesses taking on the task of managing human beings considered as living organisms rather than subjects. Second, we will examine the innovative claim, forwarded by theorists of vital materialism, such as Jane Bennett, Rosi Braidotti, and Karen Barad, that mere matter itself, rather than being the passive object of human action, has a capacity for agential action that justifies calling it in some sense “living.” Lastly, we will study the work of theorists of animal studies, such as Cary Wolfe, Jacques Derrida, and Donna Haraway, all of whom extend theory’s traditional critique of humanism through an engagement with the heterogeneous multiplicity of living creatures with whom human beings share the earth. 

The basic goal of the course will be to introduce students to some of the most interesting work in critical theory today by, above all, reading the theoretical texts closely as texts. In addition, the course will also consider the implications of these theories of “life” for the study of literature. By the end of the quarter, you may not know the meaning of life, but you will be more aware of some of the most significant techniques by which life today is given the appearance of meaning. 
In addition to completing weekly reading assignments, students will be expected to actively participate in class discussion and to write two theoretical essays. 

Prerequisites: ENG 300. Course fulfils the following requirements: Group A: Theory (old English major requirements)


Required Books:

  • Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Vintage, 1990 (ISBN 978-0679724698) 
  • Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford University Press, 1998. (ISBN 9780804732185)
  • Jane Bennet, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press, 2010. (ISBN 7808223463330
  • Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman. Polity, 2013 (ISBN 9780745641577)
  • Cary Wolfe, Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame. University of Chicago Press, 2013. (ISBN 9780226922416)
  • Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness. Prickly Press, 2003. (ISBN 9780971757585)
     

 

 

Graduate English Classes

ENG 500 PROBLEMS AND METHODS OF LITERARY STUDY
Bishupal Limbu

This course will revolve around three interrelated and overlapping activities that are central to all of the work you do as a student of literature.

  • Interpretation. Keywords: argument, evidence, analysis, criticism, context, theory
  • Writing. Keywords: logic, rhetoric, grammar, style, purpose
  • Understanding. Keywords: ideas, concepts, theory, philosophy, criticism

We will approach these activities using three “case studies”: Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Coetzee’s Disgrace. (I presume most students will be familiar with at least one of these texts, but it is okay if you will be encountering them for the first time.) These novels offer many avenues for interpretation and have attracted a substantial amount of criticism, some of which we will study in preparation for our own work. We will also read theoretical essays (by Butler, Hall, Hartman, Said, Williams, and others) that shed light on the questions that animate literary study and the methods critics have devised to think about literature and the world that surrounds us.

 

ENG 500 PROBLEMS AND METHODS OF LITERARY STUDY
Christine Rose

"It is an article of my faith that scholarship and criticism should be fun for the practitioner. Else why forgo the rewards of indolence?"—S. Schoenbaum, Shakespeare and Others (1985)

This is a course introducing you to the profession of English studies and will help you to practice advanced study in English. The course will acquaint you with: how to do academic research; varieties of professional critical discourses; scholarly practices; and professional academic writing. Our studies include utilizing a research library for academic research, as well as examining the varieties of academic research, editing, bibliography, textual scholarship, reading critical articles analytically, and the preparation of scholarly documents. We will examine the construction and history of critical discourses, and write annotations, precis, proposals, abstracts—as a way of preparing research for the final project—an annotated bibliography. We will have conversations about Critical Theory; about actually reading widely in primary texts. Why does an M. A. in English matter? We will use The Wife of Bath’s Tale (Chaucer), Frankenstein (M. Shelley), and Pale Fire (Nabokov) as fodder for discussions of critical theory and editing.
 

 

ENG 509 ADVANCED COLLEGE COMPOSITION TEACHING: Teaching Technical Writing
Sarah Read

This 1-credit course introduces students to the theory and practice of teaching introductory technical writing. This course is required of GTAs teaching WR 227. It is also open to all graduate students interested in gaining a foundation for teaching technical writing in the future. 

 

ENG 507 SEM: The Sublime
Bill Knight

The sublime remains a crucial category of aesthetic experience, but its meaning has changed significantly in the past 350 years. It has veered wildly between associations with grandeur, ecstasy, divinity, vastness, power, fear, trauma, spectacle, transcendence, and the unrepresentable, always preserving a kernel of concern for the very nature of the aesthetic encounter: what is truly at stake when we come into contact with the forces and intensities of literature, art, or music? This seminar proposes that the significance of the sublime itself remains yet undetermined and vital, and that the question of culture today remains intimately linked to the shifting status of the sublime. Together we'll embark on a survey of various meanings, functions, and contexts of the sublime, tracing the concept across literary, artistic, philosophical, ethical, and political works. Though we can only begin to uncover its many modes, we'll consider the sublime through the following topics, though these will lead us to others- our aim will be to survey the sublime expansively: 

1.    The Longinian sublime and the 17th and early-18th centuries 

2.    The Romantic sublime 

3.    The Gothic sublime: Terror, Horror, and Trauma 

4.    Race, Colonialism, and the (Post)Colonial Sublime 

5.    The Sublime, Ethics, and the Other  

6.    The Sublime and Politics: the Crowd, Empire, the Multitude 

7.    The Environmental Sublime 


We'll continually refer ourselves back to our contemporary moment, asking how each of the modes we consider still persist and work to create value and meaning in aesthetic experiences as we know them today (particularly in relation to new social configurations, new modes of consumerism, and new technologies). We'll also look outward to other modes and examples of the sublime, and the final project for the course will ask students to write about (outside) work(s) of their choice in conversation with the ideas we'll develop through our readings over the course of the term. 

The course's readings will include works by Behn, Buber, Burke, Elias Canetti, Derrida, Amitav Ghosh, Paul Gilroy, Hardt and Negri, Kant, Levinas, Longinus, Lyotard, Toni Morrison, Sianne Ngai, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, and Wordsworth, among others. Each week we'll examine both literary and critical works. Students will offer one presentation and will write a seminar paper.   

FULFILLS PRE-1900 REQUIREMENT FOR MA IN ENGLISH

 

Undergraduate Writing Classes

WR 213 INTRO POETRY WRITING
Janice Lee

“To imagine a language is to imagine a way of life.”—Wittgenstein

In this class we will explore the practice of writing poetry as an experience that not only includes putting words to the page, but also listening, observing, paying attention, feeling, moving, walking, forgiving, and sensing. Students will be introduced to the methods of crafting poetry and explore basic techniques for developing a sense of language, meter, sound, imagery, and structure. Our work will be guided by writing exercises and readings by diverse contemporary authors, as well as peer workshop. Throughout, we will explore what it means to articulate via language, to be challenged by language, to recreate intimacy with language, and to see differently because of language. Students will also increase their skills and confidence by taking creative risks in a community of supportive writers.    

 

 

WR 227 INTRO TECHNICAL WRTG
Garret Romaine

WR227 introduces you to the world of technical communication, which is a different style and voice from other writing. You will progress through a wide variety of typical technical writing projects, such as formal and informal reports, memos, letters, proposals, and procedures. The goal is to keep building up to a formal report that you can include in your portfolio. By the end of the term, you will develop the ability to summarize key points and provide the reader with important information up front. You will learn some tips and tricks built into your word processor to make technical information easier to understand, and you will gain insight into the organization of information. You should come out of this class with some good samples and templates that you can use later in your career. 

Recommended: Wr 121 or Freshman Inquiry.

 

 

WR 228 MEDIA WRITING
Eben Pindyck

An introductory course in media reporting and writing. Focus on identifying newsworthiness, writing leads, constructing news stories, interviewing, and attributing quotes. Students learn to gather local news and writing some stories on deadline.

Expected preparation: Wr 121 or Freshman Inquiry. May be repeated once for a total of 8 credits.

 

 

WR 300 TOP: COMMUNITY RHETORIC & LOCAL ADVOCACY
Kate Comer

Improve your writing while exploring your local communities. This course considers big questions -- What constitutes a community? How do they work? -- through grounded, local research -- What does that look like? How does it work? It offers a balance of theory and practice, including the opportunity to pursue your own research. Examine strategies of community advocacy, and consider the role of writing in public action. Hone your skills in critical analysis, active listening, and ethical representation. Practice composing in multiple genres and media. Grow your flexibility and facility as a writer.

Notes: This course welcomes students from outside the English major and will be useful for various fields. It is not a service-learning class, nor are students required to become an active member of any group(s) they study. But they are encouraged to develop projects that connect them with local communities they’d like to know better.

 

 

WR 301 CRITICAL WRITING IN ENGLISH
Sarah Lincoln

"There is no document of culture that is not at the same time a document of barbarism."
    -Walter Benjamin, 1940

The course provides a rigorous introduction to the methods, approaches and questions necessary for advanced scholarly work in English, including close reading, historicism, research and argument, and writing: consider it boot camp for English majors! This is not a survey of theoretical perspectives, though we will read and discuss some important examples of literary theory along the way. Rather, the class prepares you for upper-division scholarship by asking what it is that we "do" as readers and critics--what English is "for," why literature matters, and how encounters with the strangeness of literary language reflect and model other sorts of strange encounters. A careful reading of J.M. Coetzee's 1980 novel Waiting for the Barbarians serves as a basis for our broader consideration of the ethical and political significance of reading, interpretation, and translation; we will also put the novel in dialogue with other works of literature, including Camus's "The Guest"; Dorfman's Death and the Maiden; Kafka's In the Penal Colony; DH Lawrence, "Snake"; and Cavafy's "Waiting for the Barbarians; along with theoretical perspectives from Derek Attridge, Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault and others. As a Writing Intensive Class (WIC), the course will also focus on the strategies, conventions and techniques of scholarly writing. Reading and responding to other students' work; drafting, revising and polishing written assignments in response to feedback; and improving grammar, style, clarity and argument will all form part of your work in the class. 

Required Texts

J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (Penguin Ink)
Ariel Dorfman, Death and the Maiden (Penguin)
The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th Edition (MLA)
Graff and Birkenstein, They Say/I Say, 3rd Edition

 

 

WR 301: CRITICAL WRITING IN ENGLISH
Kate Comer

Consider WR 301 your formal introduction to English Studies. While you no doubt have a variety of experiences studying “English”—and your enrollment in this class demonstrates your interest in that subject—the odds are that you’re relatively new to the disciplinary conversation. In this class, we will hone your critical writing skills while considering these questions: What is English Studies?

What do we do? How do we do it? and, of course, Why? Class readings and projects reflect the diversity of our discipline(s); they will help you enrich your textual analysis through contextual research. This process will foster your ability to read carefully, think creatively, and write well within and beyond English Studies.

 

 

WR 312: INTERMEDIATE FICTION WRITING
Alex Behr

In this writing-intensive course, you will craft short fiction and further your personal writing goals. We will look at traditional short story forms, flash fiction, and hybrid writing. As fiction writers, we’ll read exemplary short stories and connected texts, such as essays on the writing craft, and write focused responses to them (these responses may include examining social justice elements, comparing the lyrical elements in an author’s poetry and fiction, or evaluating an author’s use of irony and absurdity). We will write in class, responding to the readings or other creative prompts in journals. These prompts will help inspire two original short stories, which will be workshopped in small groups. Each group member will be responsible for reading and responding to the stories before class. We’ll revise with an approach not on “fixing problems” but on breaking open the story to see what can change. Students will be encouraged to attend and respond in writing to one literary reading in Portland. The final portfolio will include the focused responses, writing journals, critiques of others’ stories, story drafts, and a final revision of one of the stories workshopped. Attendance and participation are vital parts of the workshop experience, as is respect for classmates’ imaginations and writing approaches. 

Required texts (in addition to a PDF of hybrid writing, essays, and recent short stories, available on D2L when the quarter begins):

  • The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, 2nd ed., edited by Joyce Carol Oates (Oxford University Press)
  • How Fiction Works, 10th ed., by James Wood (Picador)
     

 

WR 323 WRITING AS CRITICAL INQUIRY
Amy Harper

Course Objective:  In this class we will learn what it is to be a writer.  We will explore genres of writing, draft work, reflect upon work, and have the opportunity to peer-review work.  Please save all notes, blog entries, journaling, drafts, source materials, peer reviews, and papers to include in a portfolio. The end result should be a complete portfolio of work to share.

 

WR 410 TOP: Literary Agents & Acquisitions
Kerry Sparks

An introduction to the role an agent plays in the publishing ecosystem. Course will discuss a range of issues including project selection, submitting to publishers, negotiation, contracts, subsidiary rights including translation and film, publication, publicity and marketing, and long-term author career planning from the perspective of agent. Additionally, we will discuss what the career path of an agent might look like opposed to that of an editor and how to prepare for either pursuit. We will discuss potential financial models for becoming an agent, the benefits and drawbacks of a high-risk/high-reward career, and what steps one can take early on.

 

WR 410 TOP: Literary Magazines
Thea Prieto

This course introduces students to the local and national world of literary magazines. Students will gain industry experience by reading and discussing Portland Review’s annual fiction, nonfiction, and poetry submissions. Students will also expand their publication resumes by writing literary reviews and essays for Portland Review’s blog. By analyzing Portland Review’s editorial process and the practices of other national journals, this class will promote ethical insight in the field of literary publishing.

Portland Review has been publishing exceptional prose, poetry, and art since 1956. The journal is produced by the graduate students in Portland State University’s English Department, and for over sixty years Portland Review has promoted the works of emerging writers and artists alongside the works of well-established authors, such as Ursula K. Le Guin, William Stafford, Brian Turner, and Lidia Yuknavitch. To learn more about the history of the journal, please visit portlandreview.org/about.

 

 

WR 410 TOP: Digital Marketing for Writers
Bryan Schnabel

Once upon a time content providers could rely on good writing skills, decent word processor skills, and domain knowledge of the subject they were documenting. These things are still needed. But now a content provider must additionally know content strategy, how visitors will be driven to the content, how the content’s relevance and success will be measured, the part of the customer journey the content will influence, the content’s role in the user experience, how the content will play in social media, and so much more. In short, content providers must know how to navigate the digital marketing universe.

Course outcomes:

  • Understand Digital Marketing, and the content provider’s role in it
  • Be able to articulate why the website is the hub of the digital marketing world
  • Understand the role of the CMS (Content Management Systems)
  • Be able to provide content for, and understand the workflow of a Marketing Automation
  • Be able to provide content for, and understand the workflow of a CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
  • Understand SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and the impact content has on its success
  • Distinguish between organic traffic, direct traffic, referral traffic,
  • Understand PPC, and the impact content has on its success
  • Understand backlinks, and the impact content has on its success
  • Understanding the Customer Journey
  • Understanding performance marketing
  • Understanding IOT
  • How to optimize UX and CX as a content provider
  • Articulate Blogging for Business
  • Understand Social Media and the content provider
  • Understand Analytics and the role of the content provider
     

 

 

WR 425 ADVANCED TECHNICAL WRITING 
Sarah Read

This course is a survey of topics and practices that are central to the contemporary profession and academic field of technical communication, including writing user documentation, technical style, project management, usability testing and design.  Students can expect to complete several writing projects suitable for a portfolio, including a collaborative project. Preferred, but not required, preparation is WR 227 or WR 327.

 

 

WR 426 DOCUMENT DESIGN
Tracy Dillon

Technical writing encompasses all elements of documentation production: mastery of the software tools used to create documentation, and control of design and layout.  Words and the way you present them in a final document are fundamentally equal.  The rhetorical choices you make as a writer traditionally include consideration of argumentation, audience analysis, persuasive power, and ethical execution.  Technical writing consists of those elements as well as aesthetic considerations traditionally associated with art and graphic design.

This quarter, we’ll focus on “documentation design for technical communicators.” A series of assignments tasks you with applying theoretical knowledge of design principles and elements in the creation and critique of technical documents. 

 

WR 456 FORMS OF NONFICTION
Justin Hocking

In this wide-ranging, interdisciplinary course, we will explore various forms of creative nonfiction, including personal & lyric essays, graphic narrative/comics, memoir, true crime, oral history, writing about visual art & literature, and literary journalism, with practice writing in each. We will also investigate the permeable boundaries between these and other literary forms, with a focus on the braiding of the personal and the political, the creative and the critical. Individual classes will contain lively discourse and dynamic writing experiments designed to enhance students' literary craft skills and their ability to move nimbly across a variety of nonfiction and poetic forms. The schedule also includes a field trip to the Portland Art Museum and visits from guest writers and visual artists.

The tentative reading list includes (but is not limited to) the following works:

Miller, Brenda and Paola, Suzanne. Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Nonfiction
Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
Imarisha, Walidah. Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption
Radkte, Kristin. Imagine Wanting Only This: A Graphic Memoir

 

 

WR 463 BOOK MARKETING
Robyn Crummer-Olson

The objective of this course is to understand the role of marketing and publicity in publishing and to obtain the necessary skills to create sales materials, a marketing and publicity plan, and a press kit. Your goal is to end the course able to create book marketing and publicity campaigns and materials that are directly applicable to a career in book publishing.

 

 

Graduate Writing Courses

WR 507 MFA FICTION SEM: The Unknown
Leni Zumas

This MFA fiction seminar considers mystery, doubt, uncertainty, concealment, and the distinction between perceiving and knowing. How might a practice of "unknowing" deepen and complicate our writing? What kind of energy lies in the half-seen, the denied, the inexplicable? How do withholding and revelation operate in narrative structure? What happens when a writer speaks back to the "official story," the dominant text? How can techniques of defamiliarization (or what Russian critic Viktor Shklovsky called "making strange") spark fresh and thrilling possibilities in our work? Where can wondering, wandering, and crookedness bring us that the straight and well-lit road cannot? 

Assignments will include weekly reading notes, brief writing exercises, and a final project. Writers of all genres are welcome, and we'll be reading poetry and essays as well as fiction.

Required texts:

Maud Casey, The Art of Mystery.  978-1555977948
Jenny Erpenbeck, The Book of Words (trans. Susan Bernofsky).  978-0811217064
John Keene, Counternarratives.  978-0811224345
Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star (trans. Benjamin Moser).  978-0811219495
Layli Long Soldier, Whereas.  978-1555977672
Hilary Plum, Strawberry Fields.  978-1944380038
Gabriela Torres Olivares, Enfermario (trans. Jennifer Donovan).  978-1934254653
Virginia Woolf, The Waves.  978-0156949606

This course satisfies the Seminar and Elective requirements for the MFA in Creative Writing.

 

WR 507 MFA NONFICTION SEMINAR: Forms of Nonfiction
Justin Hocking

"Tell all the truth but tell it slant."
    —Emily Dickinson

In this wide-ranging, interdisciplinary course, we will explore various forms of creative nonfiction, including personal & lyric essays, graphic narrative/comics, memoir, oral history, writing about visual art & literature, and literary journalism, with practice writing in each. We will also investigate the permeable boundaries between these and other literary forms, with a focus on the braiding of the personal and the political, the creative and the critical. Individual classes will contain lively discourse and dynamic writing experiments designed to enhance students' literary craft skills and their ability to move nimbly across a variety of nonfiction and poetic forms. The schedule also includes a field trip to the Portland Art Museum and visits from guest writers and visual artists.

Students will be invited to co-create a final reading list. The tentative reading list includes (but is not limited to) the following works:

Miller, Brenda and Paola, Suzanne. Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Nonfiction
Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
Imarisha, Walidah. Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption
O’Malley, A.M. Expecting Something Else
Radkte, Kristin. Imagine Wanting Only This: A Graphic Memoir

 

 

WR 507 MFA POETRY SEMINAR: Prosody—The Writer's Ear
Ed Skoog

“We know our own rhythms. Our rhythms are more recognizably ourselves than any of our forms.”—Muriel Rukeyser, The Life of Poetry

This fall term’s Prosody Seminar: The Writer’s Ear will be of interest to students in the poetry, fiction, and nonfiction strands who want to explore and develop a keener ear for using rhythm and sound to create meaning. 

Intensive practice and readings in prosodic and other poetic techniques will include examination of texts from Hesiod to Vi Khi Nao, using an ear and an eye to discover how we make memorable speech, and what happens when we hear or read it. Students will also explore the methods and techniques (not limited to meter and rhyme) the writer receives or deduces from earlier literature, and those a writer way invent or uncover through new analogies. 

Goals:

  • Proficiency with scansion (identifying the prosody of a line and the overall patterns and tendencies of a poem, and their significance).
  • Technical proficiency in the craft of iambic pentameter and other traditional forms, to demonstrate understanding of their possibilities and limitations.
  • An advanced perspective on prosody, including historical and contemporary positions towards prosody, including resistance and critiques.
  • An advanced perspective on the line.
  • An advanced perspective on poetic syntax. 
  • Exploration of connections between prosody and the materiality of poems (including but not limited to handwriting, typography, recording, visual art, etc)
  • Significant development in the relation of traditional prosody to one’s own creative work. 
  • This seminar will allow for intensive readings and discussions and research into these questions, connecting to exploratory exercises in verse and in prosen.

Required Texts:

  • Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters, ed. Annie Finch
  • Art of Syntax, Ellen Bryant Voigt
  • Art of the Poetic Line, James Longenbach
  • The Old Philosopher, by Vi Khi Nao
  • House of Lords and Commons, by Ishion Hutchinson
  • Forest Primeval, by Vievee Francis
  • The Pesthouse, by Jim Crace

 

WR 510 TOP: Literary Agents & Acquisitions
Kerry Sparks

An introduction to the role an agent plays in the publishing ecosystem. Course will discuss a range of issues including project selection, submitting to publishers, negotiation, contracts, subsidiary rights including translation and film, publication, publicity and marketing, and long-term author career planning from the perspective of agent. Additionally, we will discuss what the career path of an agent might look like opposed to that of an editor and how to prepare for either pursuit. We will discuss potential financial models for becoming an agent, the benefits and drawbacks of a high-risk/high-reward career, and what steps one can take early on.

 

WR 510 TOP: Portland Review
Thea Prieto

This series of courses is intended to provide graduate students with the editorial, publishing, and marketing skills necessary to run an international literary journal. By participating in Portland Review’s publication process and understanding the practices of a journal over sixty years old, students will gain practical experience in the field of literary publishing. This course is the first of three Portland Review classes, which combined with the publishing (winter) and marketing (spring) courses will collectively satisfy four units of graduate elective credit.

 

WR 510 TOP: Digital Marketing for Writers
Bryan Schnabel

Once upon a time content providers could rely on good writing skills, decent word processor skills, and domain knowledge of the subject they were documenting. These things are still needed. But now a content provider must additionally know content strategy, how visitors will be driven to the content, how the content’s relevance and success will be measured, the part of the customer journey the content will influence, the content’s role in the user experience, how the content will play in social media, and so much more. In short, content providers must know how to navigate the digital marketing universe.

Course outcomes:

  • Understand Digital Marketing, and the content provider’s role in it
  • Be able to articulate why the website is the hub of the digital marketing world
  • Understand the role of the CMS (Content Management Systems)
  • Be able to provide content for, and understand the workflow of a Marketing Automation
  • Be able to provide content for, and understand the workflow of a CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
  • Understand SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and the impact content has on its success
  • Distinguish between organic traffic, direct traffic, referral traffic,
  • Understand PPC, and the impact content has on its success
  • Understand backlinks, and the impact content has on its success
  • Understanding the Customer Journey
  • Understanding performance marketing
  • Understanding IOT
  • How to optimize UX and CX as a content provider
  • Articulate Blogging for Business
  • Understand Social Media and the content provider
  • Understand Analytics and the role of the content provider

 

WR 523 MFA Core Workshop in Nonfiction: The Hidden City 
Paul Collins

Sometimes the most compelling settings are hidden within your own city, in the interplay of little-noticed businesses, unusual urban spaces, and unsung citizenry. In this course we'll workshop writing and discuss authors that explore the overlooked settings of city life.

Texts:
Portlandness: A Cultural Atlas—David Banis and Hunter Shobe (2015)  (978-1632170002 )
Gone to New York—Ian Frazier (2005) (978-0312425043)
Talk Stories—Jamaica Kincaid (2001) (978-0374527914)
My Kind of Place—Susan Orlean (2004) (978-0812974874)
Tenements, Towers, and Trash—Julia Wertz (2017) (978-0316501217)
 

 

WR 525 ADVANCED TECHNICAL WRITING 
Sarah Read

This course is a survey of topics and practices that are central to the contemporary profession and academic field of technical communication, including writing user documentation, technical style, project management, usability testing and design.  Students can expect to complete several writing projects suitable for a professional portfolio, including a collaborative project. This course is a required core course in the MA/MS in Technical and Professional Writing. 

 

WR 526 DOCUMENT DESIGN
Tracy Dillon

Technical writing encompasses all elements of documentation production: mastery of the software tools used to create documentation, and control of design and layout.  Words and the way you present them in a final document are fundamentally equal.  The rhetorical choices you make as a writer traditionally include consideration of argumentation, audience analysis, persuasive power, and ethical execution.  Technical writing consists of those elements as well as aesthetic considerations traditionally associated with art and graphic design.

This quarter, we’ll focus on “documentation design for technical communicators.” A series of assignments tasks you with applying theoretical knowledge of design principles and elements in the creation and critique of technical documents. 

 

WR 563 BOOK MARKETING
Robyn Crummer-Olson

The objective of this course is to understand the role of marketing and publicity in publishing and to obtain the necessary skills to create sales materials, a marketing and publicity plan, and a press kit. Your goal is to end the course able to create book marketing and publicity campaigns and materials that are directly applicable to a career in book publishing.