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Department of


Current Classes

Lower Division

English 100 Introduction to College Writing

Dr. Dennis M. Clausen

The purpose of English 100 is to strengthen students’ writing skills so they will have a better chance of succeeding at the University of San Diego. Indeed, the course is titled “Introduction to College Writing” because its purpose is to introduce students to the writing standards and strategies they will encounter in all of their college courses.

College administrators and faculty agree that writing is one of the most, if not thee most, important skills that students need to master if they are to succeed in our nation’s universities. The evidence is so overwhelming that some universities already base their admissions policies largely on how well students write, and recently the College Board significantly strengthened the writing requirements in the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The College Board now requires a written essay and an examination on English grammar. Furthermore, the National Commission on Writing (2003) recommended a dramatic overhaul of K-12 writing instruction so students will be better prepared for college writing standards.

Educators have known for some time that writing plays an essential role in discovering ideas, understanding their significances and relationships and, of course, articulating them to inform and influence others. In short, writing is indispensable in the various stages of our attempts to fully comprehend any subject matter or academic discipline. It is not an overstatement to say, “We do not understand something until we are required to write about it.”

On a more practical level, one can easily argue that never before in our nation’s history has there been more demand for our universities to emphasize writing instruction in all academic courses. Seemingly every day there is another newspaper article or report urging greater emphasis on improving the writing skills of our nation’s students. Employers also consistently bemoan the shocking decline in their employees’ writing skills, even as they assert that writing in most businesses and professions is more important today than it was twenty years ago. Indeed, many employers have started to test the writing skills of potential employees before hiring them.

Addressing this problem, the state of California recently revised its entire K-12 writing requirements; the new K-12 curriculums will be more grammar based and more writing intensive. Similarly, the new Scholastics Aptitude Test (SAT) will focus much more on writing skills because studies have revealed that students who write well have a much better chance of succeeding in our nation’s universities.

The message is clear. The computer age has provided all of us with more information than ever before, but we still need writers to communicate this information clearly and persuasively in our nation’s universities, businesses and professional organizations.

English 121: Composition and Literature

Various Instructors

English 121 is a composition course designed to give you practice in developing skills of close observation, investigation, critical analysis, and informed judgment in response to literary texts. Since literature has within it the power to cast new light on our life predicaments and humanity, in a very real way, this course is designed to deepen your understanding of yourself. You’ll get there by developing your ability to read and appreciate literary texts, by challenging yourself to reflect profoundly on human values, by gaining greater sensitivity to language through exposure to its uses in literature, and by strengthening your ability to write clearly and thoughtfully in response to a text.

English 222 Sec. 3 & 4: Poetry

Jericho Brown

The Poetry course, “Movement Since the Moderns,” will explore a short history of the genre in the United States from the 1920s to the present. Students will learn the meanings and uses of poetic terms, as well as the work of major American poets. Each student will have an opportunity to lead class in a discussion of each poet.

Students are expected to attend class having read all required material and prepared to discuss individual responses to the readings. While students may like or dislike a piece, their responsibility is to examine its language and infer what emotions the poet means for the language to incite.

Students will write three papers. The first is a short response to the initial reading; the second, a short explication of one poem written before 1973; the third, a short explication of a poem written after 1973. Students will also memorize and recite the work of poets included in our text. There is a two-hour comprehensive final exam, and students must take thorough notes during the semester to be fully prepared for it.

Text: Nelson, Carey, Ed. Anthology of Modern American Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

English 223: Satire

Stefan Vander Elst

This course deals with satire, primarily in literature, but also when used in audiovisual media such as cartoons and animations. We will discuss the development and evolution of the genre, its methodology and subjectmatter. Starting with Aristophanes and Juvenal in the classical period, through Chaucer's Canterbury Tale and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Don Quixote, Swift's Gulliver’sTravels, and ending with Monty Python’s Flying Circus and South Park, we will talk about how satire has been used to address political and social concerns throughout the ages.

English 223 Section 2 & 3: Writing a Nation

Rubén Murillo

This course examines the role of literature in the formation of U.S. national identity and national consciousness particularly along the axes of race, class, and gender. We will look at notions of space, the homeland, and belonging in relation to the history of U.S. imperialism.

English 223: Big Books

Irene Williams

MOBY DICK by Herman Melville and THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY by Henry James

Only two books to read, but they are long and time-consuming. The men who wrote them were daring. Perhaps you are too! These are stories you will never forget, partly because of the serious work you will put into reading and writing about them; partly because the stories themselves are so remarkable, engaging, and strange.

At the center of one of the stories is a whale, the world of whaling, a ship full of sailors, and the Great Melville Declaiming. At the center of the other is a young woman; her friends, enemies, and relatives; and the men who love or desire her. In his novel, the Great Henry never declaims; he investigates endlessly. Some will be invigorated, some exasperated, by these writers’ attentiveness to nuance and detail. Both men are gloriously long-winded and terminally analytical. Melville is meditative and lyrical; James writes with a microscope.

If you want to build your stamina as a reader and thinker, and to experience pride of accomplishment, take this course.

English 223: Literature of Travel

Dallas Boggs

It probably goes without saying that when we travel, we cross physical borders, encountering, as we do, new faces, new customs, new languages, even new foods. But we travelers find ourselves crossing mental and psychological frontiers, as well. We must, for example, find ways to cope with these new, alien worlds into which we have plunged ourselves. With all of this in mind, our course will study the development of travel writing as a distinct genre by looking at the work of a number of travel writers, including Paul Theroux, Jan Morris, Beryl Markham, and William Least Heat Moon. We will investigate, among other things, such ideas as why people feel compelled to write about their travels and how writers portray differences among people and places. We will also try to figure out what changes occur in the mindsets of travelers when they cross those physical and mental boundaries into uncharted territory.

English 224: Detective Fiction

Timothy Randell

This course explores how British and American writers have used the detective genre to investigate political and social realities and the ways we know them. This question (not so much “whodunit?” as “how-know-it?”) increases in urgency as the detective genre changes during the transition from the modern to the postmodern period. We will focus on the material forces and the political and social discourses that construct identities of race, class, gender, and nation by which we know ourselves and our world. Authors will include E. A. Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Susan Glaspell, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, and Walter Mosely (among others).

English 224 Section 3 & 4: Living Metaphors

Carlton D. Floyd

Does it matter if we see love as like a red rose or as a battle field? Is life a game or a stage upon which one plays a role? Does time march, fly, or drag on and on? Do we exist in communities or contact zones? Can we imagine better metaphors to live by than the ones in current circulation? This course is based on the premise that metaphors are central aspects of language and thought that create and reflect how we experience and understand the world, and that we can create or use different metaphors when we want to live by different metaphors. We will look at the metaphors that we live by drawing on scholarly work from a variety of disciplines where metaphor theory has made inroads, including but not limited to law, education, psychology, communications studies, media studies, ethnic studies, gender studies, cultural studies, as well as literature and composition. Metaphors We Live By, by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, and a course pack of short stories, poems, and articles are our primary texts.

Engl. 225 D/H: American Short Stories

Mary Quinn

This course is designed to immerse students in a particular literary genre: the short story. We will read a varied selection of stories by writers living in the United States and its territories, beginning with stories by several early masters of the form and then focusing on stories written in the last thirty years or so. You will learn much about reading a short story through your close reading and writing about the stories we are reading and discussing in class. You will be writing daily in a reading journal, and then consolidating some of this work into a final formal paper.You will also have the chance to write a very short story of your own in order to learn about analyzing stories by trying to write one. In each class we will discuss two or three short stories you will read and write about in your journal before coming to class. In class we will also work with your reading journals, reading from them and writing in them. Midterm and final exams.

English 225: Poverty and the Poor in the U.S. Literature

David Cantrell

In this course, we shall be interested in how literature represents poverty and the poor in America. Our interest in an economic condition of deprivation is therefore inseparable from questions about the persons who suffer it, and these in turn require considerations of race, gender, and class—of social identity, or nonidentity, in its fullest sense. How, then, do literary text think with and across these categories as they confront the persistent and complex reality of the peoples who live on the margins of American society? Some of the authors we shall read include Rebecca Harding Davis, Herman Melville, Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, James Agee, Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Wright.

English 225: Modern U.S. Literature

Joseph Jeon

This lower-division course covers twentieth-century American literature in a series of snapshots. Of particular concern is the friction produced by the constraints and restraints imposed on individual consciousness in modern life. You will read about obsessions and compulsions that leave characters struggling (mostly unsuccessfully) to find autonomy against social, cultural, and ideological forces that often seem insurmountable. The chosen texts balance the concerns of different ethnicities and genders, but they all grapple with this central problem. In addition, this course emphasizes critical thinking. Students will be active participants in class discussions. In addition they will be responsible for two papers, a final exam, and two short oral presentations. Class participation will also count toward the student’s final grade.

English 228: World Literature

Vivienne MacAdam

Readings from around the world representing different cultural, ethnic and aesthetic points of view. May include Ben Okri, Njabulo Ndebele, Nuruddin Farah, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Naguib Mahfouz.

English 228: Greece and Rome

Joseph McGowan

An introduction to classical literature in translation, and an overview of the history, culture and life of classical antiquity. In addition to the Greek peoples (Mycenaean, Athenians, Spartan, Boeotian, etc.) and Italic (Roman, but also Etruscan, Oscan, Faliscan, Umbrian, etc.), we will also consider the neighboring peoples, allies and opponents, of the great Mediterranean civilizations. Their conceptions of literary form and style and subject will be a primary focus, though emphasis will be placed too upon their philosophical schools, art, architecture, politics, and imperial ambitions. In short, we will try to fill in as complete a picture of the classical world as is possible in one term.

English 228: World Literature

Joanne Spiegel

English 231: Children’s Literature

Lisa Smith

English 280 Section 1 & 2: Introduction to Shakespeare

Abraham Stoll

An introduction to the plays of William Shakespeare, covering the major genres. This course is required for English majors, and satisfies the core curriculum requirement for literature.

Upper Division

English 300 Section 1 & 2: British Literature to 1800

Cynthia Caywood

This course presents a survey of English literature from the seventh century (Caedmon) to 1800, including texts representative of the Old English and Medieval periods, the Renaissance, and the 18th century. Topics will include the evolution of the language and the development of literary/poetic form as well as historical and cultural contexts. Texts and writers usually include Beowulf, Chaucer, the Pearl Poet, Langland, Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Pope, Swift, and others. (every semester)

English 304W: Advanced Composition

Vivienne MacAdam

English 310: Dante

Eren Branch

Dante’s Divine Comedy is as complex, as accomplished, as poignant, and as startling as any poem ever written. It has been translated hundreds, maybe thousands, of times, and yet even today contemporary poets continue to create new translations of this poem and to allude to it and incorporate it into their own work. Why has this poem been so important over the centuries to so many people – to other writers and also to visual artists, composers, and just everyday people?

These questions will frame our course as we read the Comedy from literary, historical, and biographical perspectives. Along the way, we will explore some of the particular challenges facing translators of the poem and we will experience a few of the literary and visual and musical works that continue to enter into conversation with Dante’s poem.

English 314: Chaucer

Stefan Vander Elst

This course offers an in-depth look at the works of the medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400). Widely credited with reviving English as a literary language after a long period of Latin and French domination, Chaucer compiled an extensive and varied body of works. We will discuss Chaucer’s writings from his earliest poems to his last and greatest work, the Canterbury Tales. We will devote special attention to Chaucer’s use of continental literary traditions; we will see how works such as Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, the Romance of the Rose, and Boccaccio’s Decameron influenced Chaucer, and helped him create a truly English literature of wit and learning.

English 318: Development of the English Language

Dallas Boggs

This course will trace the historical development of the English Language from its Indo-European roots to the contemporary dialects of American English. By the end of the semester, students will have mastered the fundamentals of language study and introductory linguistics and developed the ability to describe and analyze language. Particular emphasis will be placed upon phonology, morphology, syntax, grammar and semantics, with additional focus on dialect, language contact and change, and theories of language acquisition.

While this is not a methods class, a number of pedagogically oriented topics such as early language acquisition theories and bilingual concerns will be addressed.

English 326: Literature and Culture in Renaissance England

Abraham Stoll

This course combines historical and cultural texts with several major works of literature from the English Renaissance. The semester will be divided into three major themes: chastity, conscience, and subjectivity. We will examine how these concepts mattered in the period by reading philosophy, theology, and popular texts. And we will connect these ideas to works by Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Margaret Cavendish and others.

English 342W:Romanticism

Barton Thurber

English 344W: Victorian Studies

Sr. Mary Hotz

We will explore the literary history of the Victorian era as an expression of (and participant in) broader political, cultural, and intellectual developments of this crucial period. Drawing on readings from a wide range of forms, genres and disciplines, we will examine several quintessentially Victorian issues and describe the ways these issues make themselves felt within literary texts. In particular, the relationship of Victorian culture to social relations will be a primary focus for the course. Further, we will analyze and write about Victorian literature through a variety of aesthetic, ideological and theoretical approaches. Analyses of literary criticism invite students both to formulate and assess the arguments of others and to present their own questions and answers about the literature under discussion.

English 352D/Ethnic Studies 494: African-American Literature and Culture in the Nineteenth Century

David Cantrell

This course examines African-American writings both in their relation to literary and other texts of a dominant “white” culture and in their relative autonomy from that culture. The first half, on antebellum writings, will closely examine the self-conscious relations of African-American writers to a literature and culture that can neither acknowledge nor ignore their active social presence. If this self-consciousness appears in the official narratives of “America” as the pressure of untold stories, then the stories that African-Americans would tell of the nation are themselves constrained by these more authoritative discourses, against which they must incessantly contend. As this contention especially determines the slave narratives that we shall read—all of these writers are aware of larger narratives and conventions (i.e., gothic, sentimental) governing their own—so discursive struggle itself becomes the object of critical reflection: African-American writing constantly remarks and implicitly revises the very conditions of its possibility and impossibility. These acts of commentary, revision, critique, and parody—of signifyin’—allow it to imagine possibilities for individual and collective life other than those which the segregated nation would permit; and it is towards these new possibilities of emancipated literary and social form that the course will finally tend.

English 356: U.S. Literature 1900-1940

Dennis Clausen

This class will analyze the development of American fiction and poetry from 1900 to 1940. The emphasis will be on poems, short stories and novels, although occasional films and essays will also be used to reinforce major themes and issues in the course. Various interdisciplinary approaches—especially from history, philosophy and art history—will be used to give students a broader sense of the development of the history of ideas that provides the foundation for American literature.

The course will focus on various tensions that develop early in our nation’s history, and how they are reflected in our art, culture and literature from 1900 to 1940. The course will also address the technical development of the American short story, novel and poetry as works of art.

English 357W: Stein & Faulkner

Irene Williams

This is a chance to study the works of two important U.S. writers of the twentieth century, Gertrude Stein and William Faulkner.

Stein lived and wrote in Paris for most of her adult life. Her early writings were so strange and unexpected that she could not find a publisher for them. She had the means to self-publish her work and she did. This very same work that was mocked and derided during her lifetime has influenced writers, readers, artists, and musicians for over a century, and continues to do so. Be prepared to be confused, even frustrated, often delighted, as you struggle with Stein’s idiosyncratic writings. If you do not resist her altogether, she will change the way you think, read, and write.

Faulkner was living in Mississippi while Stein was in Paris. His stories and novels are also odd and difficult, but they are more conventional than Stein’s. We recognize them as stories and novels, and appreciate them for satisfying us more and more as we read and reread them. Yet they too are mysterious to many readers; bizarre; compelling; haunting.

Both writers produced work that is challenging to read and satisfying to study. Choose this course for the fun of the challenge. Your own work of reading and rereading, reflection and analysis, patient scholarship and writing will help you appreciate the complexities of this literature.

English 358D: US Ethnic Literature

Rubén Murillo

This course will look at representations of violence in U.S. Ethnic Literature. We will read works by African-American, Chicano/a, Asian-American, and Native-American writers to examine how they render manifest the history of state violence against their respective communities in an effort to dispel racial stereotypes.

English 372: Film Noir

Fred Robinson

A study of a style of film that emerged, in the U.S. of the 1940s, from the experience and aftermath of war. It is marked by crime and by the attempt to “solve” it in a time of moral disequilibrium, with its persistent instability, blurred boundaries, and ambiguous characters, all wrapped in a shadow atmosphere. We will note the origins of noir in German Expressionist film and touch on recent examples of the style, but our focus will be on the world and style of the1940s: conflicted, tough-guy cops, detectives and villains, dark cities, and women who will either kiss or shoot you, or both. We will also study the cinematic ways in which this world is evoked: shifting points of view, sharp angles and unsteady framing, low lighting and deep focus, and, of course, night. Students should realize that almost all the films will be in black and white.

Films (subject to change)The Maltese Falcon, Dead Reckoning, Scarlet Street, Out of the Past, On Dangerous Ground, The Third Man, Night and the City, The Lady from Shanghai, The Night of the Hunter, Kiss Me Deadly, Chinatown, Devil in a Blue Dress, The Talented Mr. Ripley.

English 375: Introduction to Creative Writing

Gail Perez

This course gives students the opportunity to write in several genres--poetry, fiction, performance/drama and autobiography. We will learn technical aspects that define these genres, but we will also explore what they have in common, and how skill in one often transfers to another. Undergirding the class will be an emphasis on performance--how a sense of story and dramatic action permeates many kinds of writing. While we will not cover popular genres such as Science Fiction or fantasy, the ability to tell a story or to invoke character driven action are skills that will carry over into any kind of writing that students wish to pursue. Please expect to write a lot and to read young contemporary writers who can teach us about the current literary scene.

English 375: Introduction to Creative Writing

Margo Wilding

USD Undergraduate Bulletin description: A workshop on imaginative writing, with examples drawn from literature.

In spring, 2009, we will read contemporary American fiction and poetry in the service of investigating current voices and as examples for class assignments. We will practice writing fiction, poetry, and performance works in a variety of forms. This class focuses particularly on writing practice, writing workshop, and revision. Students will create a final portfolio selected from what has been produced during the course of the semester.

English 376: A Look at the Poetry of Late

Jericho Brown

In the Advanced Creative Writing Poetry course, students will generate new work while helping to engender in one another new ideas about writing. As there is a profound relationship between reading poetry and writing it, we will read, discuss, and even recite the work of several poets whose example might lead us to a further honing of our craft. We will read each other's work, giving and receiving the kind of feedback that binds any community of poets. We will also make use of writing exercises that keep our ears open and our fingers moving.

Each student will have at least three poems workshopped. In each workshop, we will read and discuss students’ poems in order to examine the relationships between the poet's intentions and ideas and the phrases and images used to embody them. Students will also write two personal essays discussing their poetics and a review of a volume of poetry.

As we explore the genre in the United States, students will learn the meanings and uses of poetic terms, as well as the work of major American poets. Each student will have an opportunity to lead class in a discussion of each volume.

Students are expected to attend class having read all required material and prepared to discuss individual responses to the readings.

English 376: Screenwriting and Literature

Dennis Clausen

To understand the craft of screenwriting, students must learn to look at literature in an entirely different way. Literary techniques that are often on the fringes of more traditional literature courses that focus on ideas, themes and/or issues take on a whole new meaning. To the screenwriter, structure, foreshadowing, plot, sub-plot, dialogue, character development, dramatic conflict and many other techniques are indispensable tools the writer must master to create a compelling story that holds the viewer’s interest. Structural issues, especially, are paramount concerns for any successful screenwriter. Indeed, many screenwriters insist that the 3 most important elements in a screenplay are STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE.

English 376, screenwriting, will focus on a variety of literary genres as models of effective storytelling. Films, short stories, novels and plays will all be used in the course, albeit the emphasis will be on how the writers approach the craft of storytelling, not how these works contribute to the development of literary history or the history of ideas.

Students will be expected to participate fully in our discussions of the art of storytelling as it pertains to the various literary genres, especially films. There will be oral reports and a major examination, but the major requirement will be for each student to produce an 80-page motion picture screenplay.

(Please note that the class will be limited to English majors who have completed English 375 and are recommended by a member of the English Department faculty.)

English 380/Art History 394 Section 4: Theories of Word and Image

Joseph Jeon

This is an upper-division, theoretical course that examines how we see and how we talk about what we see. We will consider a broad range of visual objects, ranging from artistic media (paintings, sculptures, films, photographs) to social phenomena (race, gender). We will pay particular attention to the ways in which seeing is ideologically coded and clouded. Contemporary theory has complicated linguistic textuality, so much so that the presumption that language is fundamentally indeterminate has become somewhat commonplace. Though much attention has been given to the theoretical complexity of the word, interest in the complexity of the visual image has emerged only recently, particularly in the rise of Visual Culture as a scholarly discipline. Perhaps this is because we tend to regard seeing as a somehow passive or immediate in a way that reading is not. The maxim, seeing is believing, for example, leaves interpretation entirely out of its calculus. This course will treat acts of vision and envisioning in opposite terms: as active, contextualized, and ideological.

English 420: Shakespeare and Film

Peter Kanelos

Four-hundred years ago, William Shakespeare penned his plays for a diverse, popular audience—however sophisticated his language, however penetrating his portrayal of the human experience, Shakespeare never lost sight of himself as one whose primary purpose was to entertain. Yet Shakespeare’s work has for centuries become increasingly the province of “high art” and elite audiences. In our own times, however, we have seen a reversal of this trend. As Elizabethan theater collides with the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries’ dominant art form—film—we see Shakespeare reclaimed for and by popular audiences. Yet the transition from stage to cinema has been complicated and problematic. Each attempt to bring Shakespeare’s work to the silver screen must address vexing questions: What should the goals of a filmmaker be? Allegiance to a “Shakespearean” vision? Novel approaches to the text? Should the film preserve the play, interpret the play, replace the play? In this course, we will investigate the ways in which Shakespeare is adapted for and appropriated by modern cinema. We will look at the challenges that directors and actors face in translating Shakespeare to film. To this end, we will watch films, critique, compare, analyze, and argue over what we see. Moreover, we will ourselves become filmmakers…

English 494: The Bible as Literature

Joseph McGowan

In Western late classical and post-classical literature the Bible is the source par excellence of allusions; a reading of any Western literary canon is all the richer with a knowledge of these Scriptural allusions. But the Scriptures are a part of Western and world literature too, participating in essentially all the major genres (poetry, prose narrative, spiritual autobiography, epistolary and historical narrative, tragedy, gnomic and apothegmatic literature). The course will follow a manifold approach: a reading of the Scriptures as literature, as literary types (Genesis and Exodus alone are grand narratives epic in scope), and as source texts (for allusions, adaptations, commentary, among many other uses). The rendering of the Bible into English will also be a focus: from the earliest versions of the Psalms in early Old English and the West Saxon Gospels to the King James Bible the Scriptures have always been translated into English. A focus too will be the relationship between writers in English and Biblical text and narrative. Opportunity will arise to consider also biblical and literary hermeneutics, especially the use of tropological and typological readings of the Bible in English literary tradition. Readings will focus on the King James and NRSV versions of the Bible in English, with recourse to earlier versions.

English 494: Beauties and Beasts

Carlton Floyd

This course examines representations of beauty and beastliness with a focus on fairytales. Our early work in the course will provide some historical contexts for our key concepts, including some time spent with classic versions of fairytales. Most of our texts have been produced in and after the twentieth century, and a number of them are revisionist renderings of these classics, however. We will examine both print materials and film. Our objective will be to discern how, why, and to what ends representations of beauty and beastliness function, and what they reveal about our views, values, and interests.

Texts may include: Geoff Ryman’s Was, Ian McEwen’s Atonement, Gregory Maguire’s Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Wicked, and versions of King Kong, Beauty and the Beast, The Princess Bride, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty