English 298. Experimental Courses
History of English
How did English get to be the way it is–with its “horrible” spelling system, its strange irregular verbs, and its litany of borrowed words? This course is a linguistic introduction to the history and development of the English language, from Germanic, to Anglo-Saxon (Old English), to Middle English (Chaucer’s tongue), to Early Modern English (Shakespeare’s), to the language we know today. We focus on both the language’s outer history (the historical events and cultural developments that shaped it) and its inner history (specific linguistic changes such as the Great Vowel Shift and Grimm’s Law). Along the way we will learn about the comparative method for historical reconstruction, and practice it using data from different stages of English.
Literature of 9/11
Many claimed that “everything changed” after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Does American literature and culture reflect this change? How have authors and artists represented and responded to those attacks and their aftermath? To answer these questions, we will create a broad vista on the last eight years. We will analyze novels, poetry, graphic narratives, memoirs, music, films, television, advertising, and civic memorials to situate the events of that day in context. In addition, we will use recent studies in literary criticism, philosophy, and history to develop a theoretical framework for our investigation.
In an electronic age, what does it mean to be literate? This course explores that question by focusing on the act of writing as a personal and social act. Through a workshop format, students will have the opportunity to hone their writing and editing skills in multiple genres and multiple media. Our topics will include present-day literacy and its relationship to computers; the apparent decline of literacy; information excess; and cyber culture. The course includes the completion of an electronic portfolio.
Lena Dunham, Monica Ali, David Sedaris, Louise Erdrich, Adrienne Rich, Gillian Armstrong, Yusef Komunyakaa, Linda Hogan, Louise Gluck, and Walter Mosely are among the creators populating this course. How do the gender representations that we “read” in literature and film impact and/or reflect cultural expectations of gender? How has friendship, love, and community involvement been contrived by conformity to residual prescriptions of gender identity? We’ll discuss these ideas through reading texts and researching the social dynamics that produced the gender identities constructed in some poems, novels, short stories and films. Students will write 3 five-page papers and complete several one-page discussion guides as well as actively participate in class discussion for a successful course grade. Because course discussion is an integral part of this class, size is limited to 35.
Century of War: British Literature and Culture, 1901-2012
All countries define themselves through the stories they tell about the past. In this course we will explore the place of war in Britain’s stories about itself from 1901 to the present. The course will include a mix of genres, ranging from the poetry of the First World War to memoirs, fiction, and drama that engage with some of the most important issues that define our world today. We will talk, for example, about what literature has to say about the way we remember wars, but also what we forget, such as Britain’s violent relationship with Ireland; about the different experiences of war for soldiers and civilians, particularly women and the colonial subjects of Britain’s former empire; about post-traumatic syndrome in individuals and nations; about what happens when war takes place at home and the “soldiers” don’t wear uniforms. Over the century film, radio, TV, and the internet have played an increasingly large role in the ways we experience and understand war, and throughout the course we will ask how these media intersect with literature in the creation of British war culture, even in peacetime.
As speakers of English, we can all confidently agree that some collections of words (e.g., “Walked I dog the” or even “I walked quickly the dog”) just don’t “sound like” English sentences. But how do we know that? In this course, we will take an analytical approach to the study of English sentence structure. Instead of learning “rules” of grammar by rote, you will become familiar with basic grammatical concepts and elements of sentence organization, and then use those concepts to analyze the way that sentences are assembled from their component parts (like morphemes, words, phrases, and clauses). Although we will focus on Standard American English, we will also occasionally discuss concepts like standards, dialect, style, and register as they apply to our study of standard sentence formation.