English Course Descriptions

Courses fulfilling English Major requirements:

ENG 215: Epic-Heroic Mode

Rather than simply endorsing values held as heroic in their cultures, Homer and Virgil offered critical examination of such values, challenging accepted attitudes toward war, conquest, and empire as they worked toward reformulations of traditional understandings of the heroic. Students explore the dynamics of such critical reflection in the three great classical epics (the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid); they also consider how later writers, in composing their own works, emulated Homer and Virgil.

ENG 335: Medieval Life and Literature

Students undertake investigations in the history of medieval ideas, cultures, and mentalities. The main focus is the study, in modern English translation, of seminal works of medieval literature, philosophy, theology, mystical speculation, ethics, and political theory, drawn from both English and continental traditions.

ENG 336: Literature and Culture of the Renaissance

Students explore major representative works of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature as well as selected influential continental works and major artists and musicians of the period.

ENG 337: Romanticism

Students explore the literature, ideas, and setting of that revolutionary era (late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries) subsequently called the romantic period. They consider how romanticism develops from yet stands over against neoclassicism and how romantic writers anticipate modern concerns. Students read some continental and American works, but their primary focus is on British romanticism.

ENG 338: Literature and Culture of the Victorian Period

Contrary to common misunderstanding, an accurate description of the Victorian era would stress its rebellious, liberal, nakedly honest spirit. Transformed by the intellectual and religious reassessments caused by the theory of evolution and by scientific investigation/criticism of the Bible, the Victorian era witnessed more far-reaching social, economic, and political reform than any period preceding or following it. Students explore the richly diverse literature that reflects the ideals, anxieties, and controversies of this period.

ENG 339: Modernism

In this course we read some of the major British works of the modernist era, a period of great artistic experimentation and innovation. We particularly focus on the relationship between politics and literary production. For example, we explore how the rise of radical feminism and organized labor in Britain in the years before the outbreak of World War One, and the development of Communism and Fascism after it, affected British fiction, poetry, and plays. We also explore the question of why some of the greatest "British" writers of the modernist period were in fact not British at all, but rather Polish, Irish, and American.

ENG 340: Chaucer

Students pursue a close reading of Chaucer's works, excluding the prose and early verse translations.

ENG 341: Shakespeare

This course offers a close study of the texts of selected plays -- comedies, tragedies, and late romances -- together with a more cursory examination of later adaptations, including cross-cultural and cross-genre works, as well as some of the music and visual art that Shakespeare's works have inspired. Students will encounter a variety of critical and scholarly approaches to Shakespeare, including stage history and performance studies.

ENG 343: Milton

Students examine Milton's major works, focusing upon the problem of how the artist and the man endeavored to reconcile two disparate traditions that shaped the Renaissance: Christianity and the classical heritage.

ENG 344: Literature and Culture of the Restoration and Queen Anne Period

In this course, students examine the plays, poetry, fiction, letters, autobiographical writings, scientific writings, newspaper accounts, and visual arts of England in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. During this period, English men and women witnessed continual wars with European powers, nation-shaking political plots and intrigues, a devastating outbreak of bubonic plague, the Great Fire of London, and the first actresses upon the London stage. Politicians and some writers of this age sought, against all odds, to restore stability to society and politics, while other writers and artists celebrated the new cultural freedoms at the royal court, as well as innovations in science, literature, and the theatre.

ENG 345: Literature and Culture of the Enlightenment Period

This interdisciplinary course explores primarily the literature but also the aesthetics, politics, philosophy, and economic theory of a movement that corresponds roughly with the eighteenth century and whose legacy we are still living today. Works by British, continental, and American writers will be considered, and, apart from a central focus on the revolutions in knowledge that characterize this period, literary topics may include the origins of the novel; neoclassical and proto-romantic satire, poetry, and poetics; and comic and tragic drama.

ENG 347: Colonial and Postcolonial Literature

Students explore the development and legacy of British imperialism by reading the work of a variety of major Anglophone (i.e., English-language) novelists, playwrights, and poets. Students also read essays about the colonial and postcolonial conditions by some of the leading thinkers on this subject. Texts include works by authors from India, South Africa, Nigeria, and other postimperial nations from around the world.

WRI 230: Modern English Grammar

Students work to achieve a thorough command of English grammar and syntax so that they can edit well their own and others' expository writing.

Other elective courses offered by the English Department:

ENG 129: Religion in Literature

This course concerns the ways in which authors address diverse religious issues that theologian Paul Tillich called fundamental matters of "ultimate concern". Students read selected plays, poems, essays, short fiction, and novels in which writers wrestle with controversies about science and the spiritual, determinism and free will, humanity and divinity, the sacred and the secular, reason and revelation, nature and the supernatural, and sinful action and authentic existence. Through reading and seminar discussion, students explore how authors adapt religious traditions as they define humankind as homo religiosus, or essentially religious in nature.

ENG 130: Scriptural & Doctrinal Backgrounds to Western Culture

Students undertake a thoughtful primary reading of selections from the Hebrew scriptures and New Testament writings in the King James translation so that they can appreciate this literature for its own sake and be well prepared to understand how later writers were nourished by it and adapted it for their own purposes. Students also study significant developments in Christian doctrine that influenced later writers.

ENG 131: Classical Backgrounds to Western Culture

Students udertake a thoughtful first reading of influential Greek and Latin works in modern English translation so that they can appreciate the literature for its own sake and be well prepared to understand how later writers were nourished by it and adapted it for their own purposes.

ENG 151: Introduction to Fiction

Modern symbolism in literature is a tool for considering and communicating the antitheses and tensions of human living. Students compare various uses of the literary symbol in selected pieces of fiction.

ENG 155: Introduction to Reading Poetry

Students familiarize themselves with the craft of reading poetry so that they can know how a poem means--that is, how specialized use of verbal symbols in a verse medium communicates meaning.

ENG 210: Autobiography & Biography: Selves and Others

Both autobiography and biography have connections with religious writing (confessions and saints' lives) and often remain strongly religious in nature. Students read selected autobiographies, and "autobiographical fictions" in order to explore opportunities, choices, and problems that authors face in composing those spiritual and ethical reflections that distinguish the effort to tell a person's life.

ENG 223: Survey of American Literature

Students trace developments in American literature from the early to the contemporary period, considering the literature in the context of American culture. By focusing on prominent authors, students explore the meaning of terms such as Puritanism, rationalism, transcendentalism, realism, naturalism, and modernism.

ENG 240: Traditions of Work and Service

Through studying literary and other art works, participants in the course develop an understanding that those ideals of work and service which they have espoused in becoming Warren Wilson students received significant definition in the culture of the nineteenth century. Readings and visual arts works will familiarize students with the diversity of opinion and with the (sometimes heated) debate concerning both work and mission that were major aspects of intellectual discourse more than a century ago.

ENG 250: Introduction to Classical Theatre

This course, which surveys Western drama from the ancient Greeks through the eighteenth century, focuses on character, dialogue, plot, symbolism, language, and other aspects of dramatic literature. We also consider drama in its historical, religious, and political contexts, and some consideration will be given to dramatic theory, dramatic innovation, and the modern performance of classical plays. Students are encouraged, but not required, to perform a scene from one of the plays we read.

ENG 251: Introduction to Modern Theatre

This course surveys major works of modern (early and mid-20th century) and contemporary (post-1970s) drama, with an interdisciplinary focus on literary issues and theatre history. Plays from Europe, America, and Africa are considered. We begin with Ibsen's invention of modern drama and, during the semester, may cover such topics as theatre of the absurd (Eugene Ionesco's "The Lesson"), gender (Caryl Churchill's "Top Girls), gay identity and AIDS (Tony Kushner's "Angels in America"), race (Amiri Baraka's "Dutchman"), apartheid in South Africa (Athol Fugard's "Master Harold and the Boys"), and much more. We view brief video clips for many of the plays so that we may discuss the work of literature in production. Students are encouraged, but not required, to perform a scene from one of the plays we read.

ENG 254: Gender Issues in the 19th Century

This course concerns the controversial redefining of gender roles, for both women and men, which took place in the nineteenth century. In order to explore the cultural concerns about gender that perplexed and sometimes polarized society, students will read a variety of literary works and cultural documents as they assess the complex matrix of cultural attitudes out of which evolved those dominant conceptions of manhood and womanhood that determine common modern constructions of gender.

ENG 265: The Novel

Each year the course focuses on a different topic within the study of the novel. Students explore historical development, cultural contexts, major authors, and principal forms. The course may be repeated for credit under different topics.

ENG 270: African-American Writings

Students undertake an introductory study of selected African-American writings (verse, drama, fiction, and non-fiction prose) from colonial times to the present.

ENG 273: Literature by Women

This course focuses on English-language poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction prose by women and examines the aesthetic, social, and historical contexts in which these writings took place. Our readings stretch from the Middle Ages to the present and represent writers primarily from England and the United States, but also from several other countries around the world.

ENG 279: Literature and Philosophy

This interdisciplinary course will explore mutually illuminating works of literature and philosophy. Readings are divided into eight topics: Platonic Idealism, Enlightenment Rationalism, Religious Faith, Marxism, Nietzschean Thought, Feminism, Psychology, and Existentialism. Philosophical expositions will be read as well as works of fiction, poetry, and/or drama that explore the guiding ideas of each of these topics. A major aim of the course is to enrich the understanding of both literature and philosophy by engaging with texts from each of these disciplines in a way that transcends the traditional boundaries between the fields.

ENG 290: Shoah and al-Nakhba: Literature of Holocaust & Occupation

The modern literature of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples explore and transmit a natonal narrative and cultural memory that place at the center a catastrophic historical event, for Israelis, the Shoah, or Holocaust; for Palestinians, al- Nakhba or "The Catastrophy" of 1948. This course will explore representative works of literature (poetry, fiction, essay, memoir) from each tradition, in modern English translation.

ENG 291: Modern Israeli and Palestinian Literature

This course presents an introductory survey of representative works of modern and contemporary Israeli and Palestinian literature, from c. 1948 through 2001, in the original English or in English translation. We'll focus particularly on the short story and the novel; somewhat less on essays and verse. We will locate our close reading of texts within the history of conflict in the region, addressing such matters as the role of imaginative literature in the formation and interaction of conflicting national narratives. Reading assignments for this course can be lengthy, especially when the class is studying a novel.

ENG 330: Linguistics & History of the English Language

Students approach language as a medium for thought and expression. They begin the survey with the sounds of language (phonology) and proceed to consider the makeup of words (morphology), the structure of sentences (grammars, both traditional and modern), the meaning of meaning (semantics), the relationship of language of mind (psycholinguists), and other matters related to language and communications.