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

Graduate Courses in Literature and Rhetoric/Composition

Spring 2024 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.

ENG 642: Topics in Pre-1800 Literature: The Search for Happiness

Dr. Jennifer Keith

Thursday, 3:30–6:20

Fulfills the pre-1800 requirement


Changes in the history of happiness continue to have far-reaching consequences, from the American Declaration of Independence to today’s Self Care. This course explores one of the profound changes in the history of happiness through the lens of British literature (although some attention is given to literature from the early United States and France). Put briefly, from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, Britain and several other Western nations experienced a transition that challenged the dominant culture’s expectation that happiness could, at best, be enjoyed only after death. Such a challenge would give way (sporadically and unevenly) to the expectation that happiness could, and even should, be pursued in this life. Early feminist and anti-slavery writers leveraged western European universalist assumptions promoting earthly happiness in order to redefine happiness in the interest of individual human rights. But the attention to earthly happiness also took other turns, from dizzying, even Luciferian, exercises of imagination to anguishing introspection (the search for happiness could lead to unhappiness).

Members of the class will be asked to enlarge the course’s focus by bringing their areas of interest and specialization to our discussions. In addition to examining critical and cultural contexts, we will read works by Henry Vaughan, Katherine Philips, John Milton (portions of Paradise Lost), Mary Astell, Marie Catherine D’Aulnoy (“The Isle of Happiness”), Samuel Johnson (The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia), John Marrant, Olaudah Equiano (The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African), Phillis Wheatley Peters, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Mary Shelley (Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus). Assignments will include oral presentations and individual final projects with critical and pedagogical elements.

ENG 664: Topics in Post-1800 Literature: Poetry, Crisis, and the Public Humanities

Dr. Anthony Cuda

Monday, 5:30-8:20

Fulfills the post-1800 requirement


Fierce debates about poetry played a foundational role in the development of English departments and in the disciplinary study of literature. And those same debates informed the evolution of the modern university, which finds itself in the midst of crisis once again. What insight can poetry offer? As a largely nonnarrative form, poetry is uniquely suited to explore moments of crisis and extremity, turning points and upheavals of the sort that actually gave birth to the humanities. In this seminar, we’ll focus our attention on tools specific to interpreting and teaching poetry, and we’ll investigate how this explosive genre contributed to historic debates about science, neoliberalism, and professionalism that still occupy humanities scholars and students everywhere. We will also focus on the relationship between poetry and the emerging field of public humanities, whereby scholars and students seek to make meaningful contributions to public discourse and to convey the value of their work to an increasingly skeptical audience. Students will compile a public humanities research and resource archive; develop collaborative plans for public humanities venues in North Carolina; and mount an end-of-the semester symposium to share their research findings.

ENG 688: Feminist Rhetorics and Pedagogy

Dr. Heather Adams

Tuesday, 3:30-6:20

Fulfills the rhetoric and composition requirement

Carries a WGSS Marker



This course will take a slow and careful approach to examining feminist rhetorics, studying (and practicing) feminist rhetorical arts, and considering feminist approaches to teaching (in classroom and public contexts). Our collective work will be to ask, recursively:


· How do we understand feminist rhetorics as a site of coalitional possibility?

· What practices and large- and small-scale interventions do rhetorical feminists invite?

· How do rhetorical feminists prompt us to teach and think about ourselves as scholar-teachers?


A large portion of our study will focus on rhetorical listening (Ratcliffe; Ratcliffe and Jensen) and feminist rhetorics (Glenn) as major contributions to contemporary rhetorical theory and practice that prompt ongoing questions and uptakes (e.g., Faris, Glenn and Adams, Oleksiak, Smilges). We will become students of rhetors and thought leaders past and present as we make sense of how theoretical contributions encourage us to shape the pragmatic work of writing, speaking, and teaching. In this course, we will situate our study in the context of deep divides (social, political, experiential, cultural, etc.), the concerns of our anthropocene age, and the devaluation of historical perspectives. Because “our” public responses to such contexts frequently lead to division, rhetorics of blame, and a lack of imagination, we will use the course to meditate on how we leverage rhetorical arts toward collective accountability, strategic coalition, and hopefulness.


Experiential Format

The course will meet at the same time as an undergraduate section of ENG 272: Big Questions in Diversity and Equity—What Is Justice? taught by Dr. Jen Feather. This intentional scheduling overlap will enable occasional opportunities for us to explore course themes in conversation or through engagement with ENG 272 students. As an experiential (and experimental) aspect of ENG 688, this format asks ENG 688 students to think critically and collaboratively with Drs. Adams and Feather as we labor to bring student-centered innovations to our graduate and undergraduate programs.


Note: those enrolled in ENG 688 may be asked to participate in several low-cost, web-based “Calling in” lectures (labs optional) created by activist and thought leader Loretta J. Ross (depending on schedule of programming announced in early 2024).


Readings Being Considered*

*This list is still under development, so please consider it as providing a glimpse of possible assigned readings.


Ahmed, Sara. Complaint! Duke UP, 2021.

Chávez, Karma. The Borders of AIDS: Race, Quarantine, and Resistance. U Washington P, 2021.

Glenn, Cheryl. Rhetorical Feminism and This Thing Called Hope. Southern Illinois UP, 2018.

hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Routledge, 1994.

Kendall, Mikki. Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot. Penguin, 2021.

McKittrick, Katherine. Dear Science and Other Stories. Duke UP, 2021.

Moraga, Cherríe, and Gloria Anzuldúa, eds. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. 4th ed. State U of New York P, 2015.

Nelson, Maggie. On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint. Graywolf P, 2022.

Ratcliffe, Krista. Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2006.

Ratcliffe, Krista, and Kyle Jensen. Rhetorical Listening in Action: A Concept-Tactic Approach. Parlor P, 2022.

Royster, Jacqueline Jones. Making the World a Better Place: African American Women Advocates, Activists, and Leaders, 1773-1900. U of Pittsburg P, 2023.

ENG 706: Topics in Gender and Sexuality — Materialist Feminisms [cross-listed as WGS706 Postcolonial Feminism]

Dr. Neelofer Qadir

Wednesday, 5:30-8:20

Fulfills the post-1800 requirement or literary theory requirement

Fulfills a WGSS requirement


In this course, students will develop a deep understanding of materialist feminisms through a study of postcolonial, Black, and Third World feminist theory, criticism, and creative practice. Through a focus on histories of slavery, indenture, colonialism and their afterlives (nuclear militarism; incarceration and deportation; coerced/forced labor), we will trace how theorists and writers/artists respond to archival silences and specters to produce material (bodies of work) that is materialist (responsive to the dynamics of property, labor, and class that foregrounds their relationships with formations of genders and sexualities). Rooted in feminist social movements from Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific ocean worlds, we will think globally, genealogically, and dialogically, through the protests and demands of feminists in these communities and how, through both theory and creative praxis, they advocated for themselves and built solidarities locally, regionally, and internationally.

Coursework includes rotating discussion facilitation, a collaborative writing assignment, and individual final projects (creative, or critical) determined in consultation with Dr. Qadir.