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Fall 2014 Course Themes


Dr. Rhonda Armstrong (ENGL 1102GG)

Theme: After the Body

What is the connection between the body and the self? This course will consider that connection as a relationship informed by science, religion, technology, and culture. Students will explore various ideas and theories about when and how the body can be considered separate from the self, when and how technology changes our idea of the body, and how we think about bodies absent the self (i.e., after death). In addition to essays, poems, and short stories, students will read Flannery O’Connor’s novel The Violent Bear It Away, which will serve as a focal point for their final ruminations on the post-body state.


Prof. Valerie Cato (ENGL 1102P)

Theme: You're Scaring the Children: Exploring the Role of the Gothic in Children's Literature

This course will examine some of the reasons why Gothic themes persist in children's literature in spite of objections made by parents and others who act in loco parentis. Over the course of the semester, we will explore how definitions of innocence and childhood have influenced beliefs about the role of children's literature, and how they have contributed to both censorship and support of a body of literature written for children that explores darker themes. Assigned works of fiction for the course will include Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition, Neil Gaiman's Coraline, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's Mirrormask (children's edition), and Chris Van Allsburg's The Widow's Broom. In addition, students will be provided excerpts from non-fictional works that discuss important concepts associated with the Gothic, such as Julia Kristeva's discussion of the abject in Powers of Horror.


Prof. Richard Davis (ENGL 1102F)

Theme: The Magic Storyteller

What is it about stories in whatever form that can affect us deeply, even though we realize they're "the baseless fabric of a vision"? We respond to the hero's dilemma in … well, plug in any film, story, or song that last made you cry, or laugh, or change the way you think about life. The point is, of course, the emotions are real; the cause is fiction. How do the best storytellers make this happen? Here's how we'll find out: we'll read short stories by Flannery O'Connor, John Updike and others; we'll study poems by Wordsworth, T.S. Eliot, and some very edgy modern poets; we'll see two plays: Amiri Baraka's Dutchman and Christian O'Reilly's The Good Father. We'll listen to the lyrics of singer/songwriters, such as Jason Isbell and Leonard Cohen. Finally, we'll read The Hobbit and examine its transformation into film.


Prof. Adam Diehl (ENGL 1102UV, V)

Theme: Good Kids, Mad Cities

Taking its name from Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 album, this course will examine the role of urban living on the development of young people. In Kendrick’s case, "the streets sure to release the worst side of my best" (Lamar 58). By studying and analyzing various literature, films, and K. Dot’s album, we will consider what effects our characters' surroundings have on who they become as adults. The cities we will be visiting, in our imaginations, are Dublin, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Assignments will include a substantial research paper, stemming from the topics inherent in our texts; students should also expect other writing assignments, such as short papers and online discussion posts. ​


Prof. Anna Harris (ENGL 1102PQ)

Theme: From Ain't to Z-Ro: Exploring Identity in the Contemporary South

What is it that distinguishes Southern culture from that of other regions of the United States? What does it mean to be Southern? How do art, film, music, literature, and popular culture inform these parameters? In this course, students will explore various elements of Southern identity—real and imagined—and work to debate the issues they represent. At the heart of class conversations will be a variety of texts, including film, music, and these required books: The Southerner's Handbook: a Guide to Living the Good Life, Cradle SongI Am Not Sidney Poitier, and Same Kind of Different as Me. Writing assignments include a collaborative blog, short reader responses, an expository essay, and a final research paper.


Dr. Christina Heckman (ENGL 1102N, Q)

Theme: Ideas That Changed the World: Satyagraha

In this course, students will trace the influence of satyagraha (Sanskrit, “insistence on truth”) from ancient sources (The Bhagavad-Gita) to social movements of the twentieth century, with a particular emphasis on the thought of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Readings may include selected writings from Gandhi and King; poetry by Rabinda Nath Tagore, the Bengali author who gave Gandhi his title of “Mahatma,” “Great Soul” or “saint;” writings by the American Transcendentalists, especially Emerson and Thoreau; and writings by African-American literary authors such as Lorraine Hansberry and Alice Walker. Films may include Gandhi (1982); Eyes on the Prize; and excerpts from the recent Metropolitan Opera production of Philip Glass’s minimalist opera Satyagraha (1979). Writing assignments will include regular reading notes, a textual analysis responding to a reading, an annotated bibliography, and a major research paper.


Prof. Elizabeth Hegwood (ENGL 1102A)

Theme: Natural Causes: Nature Writing and Narrative

As twenty-first century human beings, we are made increasingly aware of our effect on local and global environments. In this class, we will use different genres to explore not only that issue, but also the extent to which our natural environments in turn shape who we are—both as individuals and as a species. To what extent does our immersion in or avoidance of "the great outdoors" affect our value systems and identities? As we take a look at the crossroads where ecology meets story, we'll examine both scientific and artistic perspectives. Texts will include The Norton Anthology of Nature Writing, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, various short stories and poems by contemporary authors, selections from The Best American Science and Nature Writing series, and the films Chinatown and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Writing assignments will include reading responses, an analysis paper, and a research paper.


Dr. Todd Hoffman(ENGL 1114XX)

Theme: Psycho-Killer, Qu’est Que C’est?

This course will examine and pursue a definition of the psycho-killer (and not just the serial killer) from several angles: as a pathological individual, as a type, as an obsession in popular culture and as a general concept. In the process of defining this term, we will reveal deeper-seated issues that trace onto the concept of the psycho-killer, affording us opportunities to consider larger philosophical, social, cultural or political topics.  Among the questions we will consider: What does the psycho-killer reveal about human psychology?  In so casually taking life, seemingly free of moral restraint, does the psycho-killer make problematic our moral, religious, legal or existential foundations?  Is the psycho-killer evil, amoral or evil because he’s amoral?  In what way does the psycho-killer disclose large-scale social anxieties?  How does the psycho-killer expose tensions in American culture, tensions concerning gender or class relations, anxieties about identity, or social inequalities?  What does science have to say about the psycho-killer and what are the consequences of its findings?  To begin exploring these questions, we will examine depictions of the psycho-killer in a variety of milieus.  We will listen to numerous popular songs about psycho-killers and consider how they represent the subject through music.  We will examine literature and film: considering the manner in which the psycho-killer is represented, the psychological portrait of these characters and their metaphorical associations. But we will extend the concept into the social realm, and consider historical figures and even governments from the perspective of mass killing or serial killing.   What happens when an entire institutional mechanism or even the State itself takes on the qualities and behaviors of the psycho-killer?  Finally, we will consider the psycho-killer from the perspective of neuroscience, which more and more reveals a physiological basis to serial killers and therefore raises the difficult questions concerning individual responsibility, justice and punishment.


Dr. Michele Kelliher (ENGL 1102E)

Theme:  Proper Ladies and Manly Men: Redefining Gender Norms

This course will focus on changing concepts of propriety.  We will begin by surveying some of the historical, philosophical, and religious underpinnings of many of our inherited concepts of proper behavior for men and women as well as the gradual evolution of well-defined gender norms.  After examining briefly how many of our ideas of proper behavior and social convention, of masculinity and femininity, were intertwined early on with our understandings of morality and virtue, we will then examine some of the conventions of proper behavior as evidenced in eighteenth and nineteenth century conduct books, in popular journals, and in works of fiction.  Additionally, we will consider the consequences historically of non-conformity, of impropriety, of thwarting social convention.  Turning our attention to the twenty-first century, we will consider which behavioral norms never seem to change, which strike us as outdated and old-fashioned, which reflect our modern multicultural society.  Further, we will focus on how our traditionally prescribed rubrics of femininity and masculinity govern our attitudes toward marriage and family life and often dictate educational opportunities, work place choices, and social discourse and interaction.  Is it as hard as ever to break through these confining strictures of conformity?  How do these often arbitrary “rules” of proper behavior govern our lives and inhibit our freedom?  Or do they?  Writing assignments will include expository and reader response essays and a major research paper.  Required text:  Literature and Gender by Wiegman and Glasberg. 


Dr. Wesley Kisting (ENGL 1102U, UU)

Theme: Literature is an Argument; Language is Power

In this course, we’ll explore how literature and language affect our relationship to our world—specifically, our experiences of freedom and power. We will consider how words directly affect one’s ability to think and act freely, resist coercion by others, and acquire authority or respect by convincing others to take one’s views seriously. Our three main literary texts—Frederick Douglass’s Narrative, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and David Mamet’s Oleanna—each explore the interactions between freedom, language, and power. As we analyze each author’s views, we will situate them in discussion with contemporary debates about these issues in a variety of fields, including history, sociology, education, and cognitive science. In the process, we will learn how to read and analyze different kinds of texts, identify the complex web of values that underlies most debates, conduct research, formulate a precise and persuasive argument, and incorporate examples from literature to advance that argument. Ultimately, you’ll feel much better prepared for the rigors of college studies, see greater benefit in reading literature, and understand why trying to avoid reading and writing not only seriously hinders your personal and professional success, but also threatens your freedom.


Prof. Logan Wheeler (ENGL 1102K)

Theme: Literature and Society of New Orleans

In this section of ENGL 1102, we will explore the culture of the Crescent City, its marginalized nature, the diversity of its voices, and its uniqueness compared to the rest of the United States. This City that Care Forgot has become the epitome of the melting pot—an idea we generally apply to the US as a whole. But this "melting pot" is separate from that homogenized society that is the United States.  It cannot be defined as American, because it does not fit the American mold. In Why New Orleans Matters, author Tom Piazza writes, "New Orleans has a mythology, a personality, a soul, that is large, that has touched people around the world. It has its own music (many of its own musics), its own cuisine, its own way of talking, its own architecture, its own smell, its own look and feel." We will study New Orleans, its literature, and culture because New Orleans does matter. Studying the diversity of the voices within the city and the differences between the city and the rest of the United States will help us to understand and accept differences in our own culture that we encounter every day.  We will look at the history and perspectives of outsiders in George Washington Cable's Old Creole Days and Lafcadio Hearn's Inventing New Orleans and compare those perspectives to those of insiders in Poppy Z. Brite's Liquor and sketches of the city from My New Orleans and French Quarter Fiction: The Newest Stories of America's Oldest Bohemia. We'll consider issues ranging from food, sexuality, religions and mythologies, race, class, language, politics, history, and the attitudes about the issues that make New Orleans the city it is today.


Dr. Marie Drews (ENGL 1102B, D)

Theme: TBD


Prof. Sigrid Fowler (ENGL 1102J)

Theme: TBD


Dr. Duygu Minton (ENGL 1102 BB, FG)

Theme: TBD


Prof. Paul Sladky (ENGL 1102AB)

Theme: TBD


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