Graduate Courses in Literature and Rhetoric/Composition | Department of English

Graduate Courses in Literature and Rhetoric/Composition

Fall 2023 Graduate Course Descriptions

For the complete listing of graduate courses offered in the English Department, please see The Graduate Bulletin.

For course times and places, please see the University online schedule.


Fall 2023

ENG 601 English Studies: Contents, Methods, Bibliography

Wednesday, 6:30–9:20

Dr. Jennifer Keith

This course introduces graduate students to graduate-level research in the field of English Studies. We will survey the variety of subjects included in English studies, examine several theoretical approaches to texts, and explore research methods in the discipline. Assignments will include analyzing and practicing research skills and academic writing, especially as demonstrated in conference papers and journal articles.


English 642-01. The British Imperial Imagination: Colonialism and Conscience. 

Thursdays 6:30-9:20

Dr. Chris Hodgkins

In this seminar we will explore the literary origins and development of the “imperial imagination” for the British Empire—and of the anti-imperial conscience that from the Empire’s very beginning questioned or opposed and sought its end. We will read some of the texts—historical and fictional—that enabled the English to imagine, and to attack, their rights of possession and control over whole peoples and continents. Historical/contextual readings will include the writings of Columbus and Las Casas, whose glittering and bloodstained accounts of conquest made Spain’s the original “evil empire” in the eyes of Protestant England; sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English exploration narratives from Hakluyt’s Voyages and Discoveries and Purchas’ Hakluytus Posthumus, which promoted Britain’s “Reformed empire” as a necessary counter to tyrannical Catholic power; correspondence and documents of those involved in the “planting” of Virginia and the marriage of Pocahontas; various seventeenth-century attempts to revive the imperial legend of Sir Francis Drake; and satiric and anti-imperial writings of More, Daniel, Herbert, Swift, and Johnson, including Johnson’s writings on the American Revolution which brought the First British Empire to an end. Fictional, poetic, and dramatic works will include some of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Arthurian chronicles, More’s Utopia, excerpts from the epics of Spenser and Milton, Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and The Tempest, selected poetry by Daniel, Drayton, Donne, Jonson, Herbert, and Marvell, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and excerpts from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. As a prologue to the course, we will read Kipling’s 1888 elegy to high imperialism, “The Man Who Would Be King,” and as an epilogue, Waugh’s “A Handful of Dust” (1934).

Critical and scholarly readings will include work by James Axtell, Homi Bhabha, J. Martin Evans, Mary C. Fuller, Stephen Greenblatt, Linda Gregerson, Kim Hall, Richard Helgerson, Winthrop Jordan, Jeffrey Knapp, Joan Pong Linton, Bruce McLeod, Louis Montrose, Anthony Pagden, David Quint, Edward Said, Debora Shuger, and Susan Wiseman. 

During the semester seminar members will present one or two (depending on graduate status) brief written critical responses to readings, one 10-15-minute oral report, and one critical-interpretive seminar paper of 15-20 pages for group workshop near the semester’s end. Rare and out-of-print course readings will be available on Canvas and/or through a photocopied course packet.


English 664: Topics in Post 1800 Literature: Teaching the U.S. Literature Survey

Thursdays 3:30 – 6:20

Dr. Karen Weyler

This course will study both pedagogy and the American literature survey. The survey of U.S. Literature, sometimes labeled “American Literature I” or “Major American Authors,” is one of the most frequently taught English courses across the U.S., serving both English majors and general education students. What are the purposes of the survey? How should we organize it? Which texts and authors should we

teach? And how might we teach such a course? This course will investigate these questions, providing both a graduate-level foundation in American literature to 1865 through extensive readings in primary texts and an introduction to pedagogical practices in literature courses.


ENG 706: Terms in Gender and Sexuality Studies

Dr. Jen Feather

Topics in Gender and Sexuality Studies: Most Glorious, Peerless, and Maiden City of Venice

Fulfills a pre-1800 requirement

Fulfills a theory requirement

Fulfills a WGSS requirement


“Affect,” “abject,” “agency,” these are just some of the terms key to the contemporary study of gender and sexuality.  We will explore these terms as they relate to English depictions of Venice in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. How do the frameworks of the past inform our understanding of theoretical concepts in gender and sexuality studies? How do culturally specific ideas of the body, empire, and difference shape our theoretical perspectives?  Through a range of texts including drama, travel and historical narratives, prose and political speeches and letters, we analyze how historical differences undergird theoretical paradigms.  For instance, how does the early history of British colonization inform post-colonial frameworks?  How do premodern medical regimes shape our understanding of feminist concerns? Coursework will include presentations and final projects determined in consultation with Dr. Feather. 



21st-Century American Fiction and Material Ecocriticism

Mondays 6:30 PM – 9:20 PM

Dr. Christian Moraru

This is a graduate seminar that focuses on recent American fiction, principally on the novel of the (“new”) contemporary period. In our class, we will address the fluid, geocultural and historical dynamic of the contemporary and the postmodern. We will examine how, stylistically, thematically, and historically, postmodernism gradually has been fading away and contemporaneity has come to designate the decades after the Cold War or, according to some, even the interval since September 11, 2001. Understood as a period, then, contemporaneity is postmillennial and, in that, post- postmodern also. Moving beyond periodization, we will historicize the material under scrutiny here by dwelling on a distinguishing, thematic and stylistic feature of this body of work, namely, on its profound interest in material environments, more specifically, in the world of material objects as loosely and sometimes controversially defined by Object- Oriented Ontology (OOO) an various “new” materialisms.

The context of this largely post-postmodern turn to “objectualism,” or to the reality and agency of surrounding objects, is, on both sides of the Atlantic, the spread of what I define as an art of hyperpresence. In polemical response to both postmodernism’s ironic, intertextually deferred mediation of the world and to the “post-truth era of counterfactual relativism and populist demagoguery, this art zeroes in, simply speaking, on that which asserts itself as powerfully and shockingly present, incontrovertibly here, “in your face,” and more often than not in the modality of a deep, planetary crisis. This art—an art of what is—sets out to capture what is “true” and undeniably so in its raw, palpable existence, be it a historical event, a scientifically proven fact, a result of national elections, an environmental phenomenon, a rock, or a tool, especially as they undergo some kind of breakdown or emergency, do not work as they used to, or fail to perform a vital function or human expectation. This is when what is swings into overwhelming presence, when it steps forward and calls on us, alerting and “orienting” us to its being-there rather than “withdrawing,” as some speculative realists posit.

These objects all are, as the same thinkers would insist, existents that proclaim their presence, truthfulness, and ecological leverage oftentimes independent of the human subject’s ability to represent, interpret, and otherwise rationalize such entities’ “hereness” and meaning through discourse. Therefore, this swing into self-presentation of an entire world or worlds, rather, is also a symptom of the crisis of humanism, of its anthropocentric worldview, and in particular of postmodernism’s “constructionist” response to existence. The postmodern lessons have not been forgotten, and so the shift away from the postmodern marks no uncritical return to empiricism or naïve realism. However, this crisis bodes well for a posthuman and possible post-postmodern decentering of Anthropocene ontology and epistemology, as it does for a more democratic, less hierarchical—and therefore “flat”—aesthetics for which the human is just one object and aesthetic actor among countless others.

Novelists discussed include Ruth Ozeki, Ben Lerner, Colson Whitehead, Jennifer Egan, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Nicole Krauss, among others. We will also read theory by Jane Bennett, Karen Barad, Graham Harman, Sarah Ahmed, and other new materialists, queer phenomenologists and ecocritics, and speculative realists. This course has a strong professional development component, with emphasis on advanced research, graduate writing, and publication. Individual presentations; midterm (5-6-p.) and final (20+-p.) papers.


ENG 742-01:  Studies in Rhetorical Theory and Practice (WGS)

Theme/focus: Social Movement and Social Justice Rhetorics

Tuesday, 6:30-9:20 pm

Instructor: Dr. Nancy Myers


Whether your interest is art, activism, or/and rhetoric, this course is for you. Social Movement and Social Justice Rhetorics examines the verbal and non-verbal rhetorical strategies of groups and individuals attempting to effect social change and the counter-strategies of those who oppose them. Analyzing specific social movements and social justice activists’ efforts as case studies, we explore how, in each situation, these rhetors attempt to transform perceptions of social reality, alter the self-perception of protestors, legitimize their movement/agenda, prescribe courses of action, mobilize for action, and sustain their movement. Alternately, we examine the social oppression and counterattacks that warrant these proposed and demanded social changes. The course includes three projects: 1) an entry for the class Encyclopedia of Social Justice Rhetors, which examines the multiple rhetorical strategies of your chosen activist; 2) a short paired presentation on different types of rhetorical strategies employed in activist rhetorics; and 3) an examination of a social movement that you choose, its motives and methods, and its rhetorical activism (i.e., the rhetorical techniques the movement uses, from songs and slogans to television and Twitter). All readings are attached or linked in Canvas.


747 – Teaching College Writing

Dr. Risa Applegarth

Wednesdays – 3:30-6:20

***All new TAs should enroll for this course


*Summer 2023*


ENG 675 Scholarly and Critical Writing for the Profession: Leading a Writer’s Life 

Dr. Heather Adams and Dr. Jen Feather

Synchronous, online class—10:10 am -12:10 pm M-Th

Second Summer Session—15 June – 20 July

WGS Marker  


George Orwell called writing a book “a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness.” Alice Walker considers writing differently, sharing that it “permits me to be more than I am. Writing permits me to experience life as any number of strange creations.” No matter what you think of writing, it can—and likely will—be part of your professional life. This course will engage scholarly perspectives on the process of writing and its various published products while at the same time considering how we structure our lives with the professional activity of writing in mind.  Through a combination of workshops, guest lectures, collaborative projects and daily writing, this course will not only analyze scholarly perspectives on writing but engage students in considering how their own writing and the professional life they construct participates in the wider profession.  It also enables a space for the valuable work of building a writerly community. Together, we will ask questions such as: What practices do we employ to produce scholarly writing?  How do these practices contribute to and challenge current professional norms?  What sorts of practices might we adopt to create a vibrant and supportive professional community?