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Spring 2010 Course Descriptions

English 100: Introduction to College Writing

Professor 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 122: Comp and Lit for Educators

Professor Deborah Sundmacher

In this course you will hone your skills as a writer and a reader through the personal narrative, close

readings, and a comparative analysis of literature. To this end, we will discuss a cross section of

literature, working toward an understanding of how we are made to hear and see a story. You will

work with small passages of text to develop your skills as a reader; you will develop your analytical

skills through comparative essays; and you will understand how experience shapes nature by writing

your personal narrative.


You will learn to write with clarity and cogency by becoming inquiring and analytical readers of

imaginative literature. As you read, you will develop the critical thinking skills and awareness of text

to understand literature which expresses diverse values and opinions. These skills will be articulated

in well-developed essays.

English 223: Studies in Dramatic Literature

Professor David Hay

This course looks at the genre of dramatic literature. Readings in both classical and contemporary plays will be supplemented with trips to see local theatre productions. Emphasis will be on the structure of dramatic writing and the transfer of text from the page to stage production. There is a particular focus on how plays reflect and inform contemporary culture and the role theatre plays in the lives of a literate, informed, and socially conscious society.

English 223: Nature Quests

Professor Brad Melekian

In this course, we will examine the genre of quest literature, particularly as it relates to the natural world, and the ways in which authors have examined the interplay between the two. We will examine works that combine the tradition of literary nature writing with the tradition of quest literature, studying the perceived power of excursions into nature as a path to personal development, across fictive and non-fictive genres. Questions central to this course: What emotional states drive people to such quests? What questions do such seekers hope that solitary nature experiences will answer? How does the literature that arises from such experiences lead to a better understanding of self, or, conversely, destroy the concept of self? 

How does the solitary quest into an often harsh uncaring natural environment force contemplation on the human condition? We will read works ranging from Henry David Thoreau's account of a solitary life in Walden to John Krakauer's journalistic investigation of the life of Christopher McCandless in Into the Wild.

English 224: Greek and Roman Mythology
Professor Dallas Boggs

In the misty past, when these stories were first shaped and passed down orally from generation to generation, mankind had made very little distinction between the real and the unreal.  Human imagination was vividly alive, unchecked by reason—or by television, or the internet, or even by the written word—so that anyone walking in the woods might see through the trees a fleeting nymph or satyr, or, bending over a forest pool, might look into the face of a naiad.  It was a time when mortals spoke with gods.

This course is designed to introduce up to this fabulous world of the mythic tales of the ancient Greeks and Romans.  We will begin with a sort of survey text called “Classical Myth,” by Barry Powell.  Then we will go back in time to read Hesiod’s “Theogony” and “Works and Days.”  These books were written in the late 8th century B. C. E. and are considered to be among the very earliest recorded stories of Greek myth and Greek life.  We will round off the course with a reading of Ovid’s “ Metamorphoses,” a beautiful rendering of Roman myth completed in the year 8 A. D.



English 225 D/H: Native American Literature

Professor Mary Hotz

In this course we will read and study novels written by Native Americans about Native American experiences. To deeply appreciate and understand Indian cultures at the heart of these novels, some basic knowledge of the tribal histories and mythologies, in addition to crucial moments of Native American history of the last two centuries, will be necessary. Such moments and historical fact figure prominently in Native American novels and inform the actions of the characters within the works we will read this semester. The reading material for the course is structured around what Paula Gunn Allen has termed “the three waves in Native American literature (“Introduction,” Song of the Turtle, 3-17). The first wave of Native fiction (James Welch and Linda Hogan) deals with issues of recovery and identity engendered by the long war and the reservation era. Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the second wave of Native literature (Leslie Marmon Silko) focuses on a sense of renewal and home, a reassertion of Native identity and the incorporation of ritual elements drawn from the ceremonial traditions. Third wave fiction (Susan Power and Sherman Alexie) seeks to articulate Native American identity as constituted by “inclusion, incorporation and transformation of alien elements into elements of ceremonial significance” (Allen 13).


English 225 D: Interracial Subjects

Professor Carlton Floyd

There is a longstanding fascination with sexual relationships across racial lines. Part of this fascination is guided by a deeply seated cultural belief that different races represent different species, that interracial sex is in fact interspecies sex, and that such sex led to racial and species degradation. Today, this fascination is evident in the recent spate of vampire books, films and television shows, such as Twilight, Underworld, True Blood, and the Vampire Diaries. It is also evident, more directly, perhaps, in literature such as Toni Morrison’s Paradise and Nella Larsen’s Passing, and in films like A Patch of Blue, The Lover, Flirting, and Something New. The literature and films explored in this course will range broadly across genres and eras, but our primary focus will be on texts produced from the 1960s to the present day.

Please note: the course is set up to provide a separate discussion session for each section and a joint session, on Mondays, where both sections will come together to view and critique films.


English 228:  Modern European Literature
Professor Irene Williams

We will be reading stories and novels by Isaac Babel, Marguerite Duras, Georges Perec, Elfreide Jelinek, and Herta Muller.  France, Russia, and Eastern Europe are the geographical and political settings for these stories.  But of course they are set in the Land of Imagination, a place you may access only by reading.  These writers are all radical and odd; their work is probably unlike other fiction you have read.  This means you will be reading their work and learning how to read their work at the same time.  Emphasis is on careful reading, independent thinking, and focused study and analysis.  

English 228: World Literature: Literatures of the Caribbean Diaspora

Professor Atreyee Phukan

In this introductory course on literatures from the Caribbean diaspora we will focus specifically on the creative ways writers (and other artists) have used enslavement, migration, exile, and multiculturalism to portray the creolization of post-colonial Caribbean cultures and identities. As such, one of our main aims will be to study the radical mixing of aesthetic voices found in works written from the African, East Indian, and Afro-Indian perspectives, using these to subvert the bipolar perception of the Caribbean as either blissful tourist ports or as lawless, chaotic nations.

We will begin with seminal readings from theory to help introduce the histories of slavery and indentureship and the effect these systems have had on modern identity politics in the region. Given the importance of the oral tradition, our examination of the Caribbean aesthetic will include a variety of musical genres (i.e. reggae, chutney, calypso) and their role as social critique. Our exploration of literature from the 20th century will be interspersed with older writings - i.e. by Christopher Columbus, Daniel Defoe, and William Shakespeare - that have needed to imagine and fictionalize the Caribbean during Europe's early encounters with its New World.

In addition to criticism by Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, and Stuart Hall, we will read the fiction of Derek Walcott, Sam Selvon, V. S. Naipaul, Merle Hodge, and Michele Cliff.

English 228: Ancient Literature

Professor Joseph McGowan

reading list:

The Egyptian Book of the Dead, tr. Robert Winston, John Romer, E.A. Wallis Budge (Penguin, 2008)

Myths from Mesopotomia, tr. Stephanie Dalley (Oxford, 2008)

New Oxford Annotated Bible, ed. Michael D. Coogan et al. (Oxford, 2007)

The Prose Edda, Snorri Sturluson, tr. Jesse Byock (Penguin, 2006)

An attempt to trace the earliest origins of human literature and the mythic patterns present from the start: we will look at some lesser-known works from the ancient world, and revisit others seemingly well known, including the first known epic, that of Gilgamesh, the fragmentary Hittite epic of Illuyanka(s), the Akkadian Atrahasis, the Egyptian Book of the Dead (‘The Spells of Going Forth By Day’).  The literature of the Hebrew Bible will be placed in its ancient Near eastern literary context: from the cosmogonic creation epic in Genesis to the prose epics of warriors and kings in Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.  By and large we look at a world before Greece and Rome, its peoples, languages, belief systems; as a contrastive example we will look to the Rgveda and Mahabharata from ancient India, the Avesta of early Persia, and Edda of early Scandinavia for a picture of pre-classical Indo-European belief and myth.


ENGL 280: Introduction to Shakespeare, The Politically (In)correct Shakespeare

Professor Tim Randell

This course introduces students to the plays and poems of William Shakespeare, including the major genres (tragedies, comedies, histories, and romances). What does Shakespeare mean to us today?  Was he, as rival playwright Ben Jonson called him, the "Soul of the age!"  Or, is Shakespeare, as Ben Jonson also wrote, "not of an age, but for all time!"  In this course, we will judge for ourselves some politically (in)correct aspects of Shakespeare’s texts concerning race, class, and gender (among other concerns), and we will consider the adaptability of Shakespeare to subsequent generations, including our own.  In addition, we will explore not only the intrinsic aesthetic and intellectual value of the texts themselves but also the socio-political and cultural forces that influenced Shakespeare and his extraordinary art. 

English 300: British Literature to 1800

Professor Abe Stoll

A survey of major writers and texts in the history of English literature, including Chaucer, Spenser,

Milton, and the rise of the novel.


English 300: British Literature to 1800

Professor 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 310: Dante
Professor 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 318: Development of the English Language

Professor 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 328: Milton

Professor Abe Stoll

He rewrote the Bible, advocated cutting off the king’s head, argued eloquently for a free press and for the freedom to divorce – and yet Milton still made it into the center of the English canon. We will devote the semester to Milton’s uncommon career, both his poetry and his prose. We will begin with Paradise Lost. Then we will follow Milton’s progression from college-age poet, to radical political polemicist, to the blind man who wrote his greatest works.

ENGL 356: U.S. Literature 1900-1940

Professor Dennis Clausen

This class will analyze the development of American fiction and poetry from 1900 to 1940 and beyond. 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 in the twentieth century. The course will also address the technical development of the American short story, novel and poetry as works of art.

English 357W:  Modern U.S. Voices

Professor Irene Williams

We will be reading the autobiographical literature of Allen Ginsberg, Anne Sexton and James Baldwin, all three vigorous, rowdy, outspoken writers of the mid-twentieth century.  Ginsberg’s and Sexton’s poetry and their prose about the craft of writing, and Baldwin’s essays about writing and politics, all challenge readers to think about what a piece of writing is and what it does or may do to the reader who pays close attention.  Also, complementary readings in scholarly literature about reading and modes of analysis (Barthes, Iser, Sontag, Eliot, Stevens, Robert Morris, others).  Emphasis is on close reading and independent thinking.  Students will learn to appreciate the intricate construction and formal qualities of the literature and to investigate what the literature reveals about the world in which it was made. 


ENGL 366: European Literature

Professor Joseph McGowan

reading list:

Ivo Andrić.  Na Drini ćuprija/The Bridge on the Drina (U. Chicago Press, 1977) [

Günter Grass.  Die Blechtrommel/The Tin Drum (Everyman’s Library, 1993) [1959]

Ryszard Kapusćinski.  Imperium (Vintage, 1995)

Primo Levi.  Il sistema periodico/The Periodic Table (Everyman’s Library, 1996) [1975]

Rebecca West.  Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (Penguin, 2007) [1941]

Also films from: Andrei Tarkovsky (Zerkalo), Elem Klimov, Patrice Leconte, others.

An attempt to locate major works of European post-WWII works (fiction and non-fiction) within broader cultural contexts (historical events, artistic movements) and controversies; a focus will be on the diversity within a broader postmodern European Community.


English 368: Modern British Literature

Professor Atreyee Phukan

This upper-division course will offer a survey of modern British literature, with emphasis given to recent fictions which represent the cultural diversity that is an outcome of Britain's historical role as an imperial center. Several readings from literary theory will inform our examination of the thematic and stylistic trajectory seen in writers from the Modernist period to the Post-colonial. A few of the authors we will read from are: Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Angela Carter, Buchi Emecheta, and Caryl Phillips.


English 372 Sec. 1: Film Noir

Professor 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, The Big Sleep, Scarlet Street, Out of the Past, They Live by Night, The Third Man, Night and the City, The Lady from Shanghai, The Night of the Hunter, Kiss Me Deadly, Night Moves, Chinatown.  


English 376: Poetry

Professor Margo Wilding

Students will study collections of connected poems (for example, those by Updike, Marie Howe, Fanny Howe, Rita Dove, Stephen Dunn, and Frank Bidart) in the interest of writing a series of poems linked by theme, form, or both. Coursework will present exercises in a number of forms (ghazal, prose, pantoum, sonnet, free verse, etc.).  Students will explore strategies for linking poems to one another by employing, for example, repetition, thematic links between prose poems; poems that reference historical or literary subjects, or poems linked by opposing themes and/or forms. Students will produce several visual projects to display their work, including a simple broadside; a one page, folded book; and a final chapbook.  Final project will consist of a series of hand made books (at least 10 copies).  Basics of simple sewn or stapled bindings and methods for construction will be discussed and demonstrated to prepare students for final project.


ENGL 376: Screenwriting and Literature

Professor 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 and Literature,” 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 other assignments, but the major requirement will be for each student to produce an 80-page motion picture screenplay.


(Please note that the class will be primarily limited to English majors who have completed English 375.)


English 494W:  Jane Austen.

Professor Cynthia Caywood

This seminar will be devoted to examining the extraordinary work of one of the English language’s greatest novelists.  We will read and study all six of her novels (Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion.) We will also consider her critical reputation, the rise of Austen studies in the twentieth century, and her current worldwide popularity in film, television, pop culture and fan fiction.  Students will do a variety of assignments, ranging from journaling to research based essays. The course fulfills both the W and the pre-1900 distribution requirements.


English 494 Sec. 3: Narrative: Theory & Practice

Professor Fred Robinson

A study of how narrative techniques shape the about-ness of narrative.  How a story is not a vehicle for a statement of meaning, but is itself a complex language of meaning.  We will focus on a poetics (or formal classification) of narrative voice put together by the instructor, but also read some essays by writers/theorists.  Our method will be to read short stories, two novels (Morrison’s Sula and Carol Shields’ The Stone Diaries), and narrative poems by James Tate and do two kinds of writing: 1) analyses of the narratives we read, and 2) pieces of narrative that the students will create, using particular techniques of voice.