English and Writing Program Course Descriptions - Spring 2020

Spring 2020 Course Descriptions
English Program and Writing Program
Penn State Abington 

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English Major Requirements:

  • ENGL 200 or 201: ENGL 201
  • Medieval through Sixteenth Century: ENGL 400.002 (Nicosia)
  • Sixteenth Century through Eighteenth Century: ENGL 447, ENGL 400.002 (Nicosia)
  • The Nineteenth Century: ENGL 400.001 (Walters) 
  • Twentieth Century to the Present: ENGL 433, ENGL 435
  • Literature, Writing, or Rhetoric: ENGL 050, ENGL 129, ENGL 211, ENGL 212, ENGL 232, ENGL 400, ENGL 412, ENGL 418, ENGL 420, ENGL 433, ENGL 435, ENGL 447
  • Diversity: ENGL 400.001 (Walters)
  • Senior Seminar: ENGL 487W


Writing Minor Courses: ENGL 050, ENGL 212, ENGL 211, ENGL 412, ENGL 418, and ENGL 420

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ENGL 050: Introduction to Creative Writing (GA)

Section 001
Professor Pack

 

ENGL 050: Introduction to Creative Writing (GA)

Section 002
Professor Heise

Want to write, but aren’t quite sure how to get started or what to write about? This course is meant to ignite your interests, hone your skills, and introduce you to the foundational elements of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction so as to set free your imagination. You will learn to craft images, music, lines, and narrative in the poetry we practice. In fiction, you will learn how to create characters, develop themes, modulate tone and atmosphere, plot a conflict, and manipulate setting. And you will learn to translate and reconstruct personal experience, memory, and research into arguments, scenes, and narratives for creative nonfiction. Along the way, our conversations will turn to the writing and revision process, to why one writes in the first place, and to age-old inexhaustible questions, such as, what are the functions and purposes of poetry, short story, and the essay, what is the difference between truth and fact, and what are the ethics of writing about our own lives and the lives of others. In this course, you’re a writer. And that means you will be writing all the time in an exercise of imagination and perseverance. ENGL 50 welcomes all students interested in creative writing: no previous creative-writing experience is necessary.

 

Shakespeare ENGL 129 (GH)

Professor Nicosia

“He was not of an age but for all time!” Ben Jonson, a poet and playwright, wrote these words to celebrate the life and work of William Shakespeare. This course is designed to introduce students to Shakespeare and his world. Students of all levels are welcome and no prior experience is required or assumed. We will read six of Shakespeare’s plays, including some of his most celebrated. As we read these plays, we will analyze their genre, dramatic structure, and language as well as how they engage with social and political issues of Shakespeare’s time and our own. We will consider issues of performance, film adaptation, and publication history through interactive assignments.

 

ENGL 201: What is Literature (GH)

Professor Knodt

What do we mean when we call a piece of writing “literature? Probably most of us think we know what the word means. However, in recent years the lines have blurred between fiction and non-fiction,and new forms like graphic novels have emerged, so we are not certain exactly what “literature” is. A contemporary novelist Francine Prose gives us her take on the advantages of fiction, writing that it “can make us feel exactly what it was like to live at another time, in another culture; it’s easier for a novel than for even the most incisive biography or historical study to make the reader experience the subject from the inside.” In English 201, we will read a variety of fiction, poetry, and drama to try to experience other characters and cultures from the inside. We’ll explore how we, as individual readers from different backgrounds, read literary texts, and how writers may help us to read their texts.

 

English 211W: Introduction to Writing Studies

Professor Cohen

Have you ever thought about how people learn to write? What makes for an effective writing process? Understanding how writing is produced will help you build a writing process you can rely on whether you’re working on a poem or a lab report. In English 211, we will work together as a class to answer two key questions: how do people write and what does writing do in the world. In other words, we will be interrogating research in the field of Writing Studies to better understand the production of texts and the ways that such production is always a social act. By the end of the course, you will understand the foundations of Writing Studies as a discipline – and you will have examined and improved your own writing process!

 

ENGL 212: Introduction to Fiction Writing

Section 001 - TuTh 9:05-10:20am
Professor Heise

Maya Angelou once remarked, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” This course is designed to bring that story out. ENGL 212 / ENGL 412 is a “stacked course,” which means that you can enroll in it at the intermediate (212) or advanced level (412), but whichever level you choose, your goal will be to produce quality short stories or novel excerpts through intensive writing, reading, and workshopping. ENGL 212/412 provides a greenhouse environment in which you can grow and thrive as a writer. To that end, over the course of the semester we will immerse ourselves in writing in ways that will be fun, challenging, and eye-opening. The writing you generate during the semester will form the basis of the workshop – your small community of fellow writers whose work you will learn to read, debate, praise, and critique fairly, informatively, and intelligently. Our workshops will be complemented with discussions focused on the fundamentals of craft, such as character, structure, atmosphere, point of view, figurative language, with the goal of understanding how they mysteriously move us in body, spirit, and mind and with the goal of learning how they can be put together in our own well-crafted writing.

 

ENGL 232: American Literature from 1865 (GH)

Section 001 - TuTh 12:05-1:20pm
Professor Heise

This course is an introductory survey of American literature and literary history from the post-Civil-War period to the present, a sweeping period of political, social, and economic upheavals and crises, and a period of great literary invention. In this course we will move between close textual readings and larger historical and cultural contextualizations as a means of exploring and pluralizing American literature. The many authors we will consider include: Twain, Crane, Barnes, James, Fitzgerald, Larsen, Eliot, Ginsberg, O’Hara, and Morrison. As we make our way through this body of literature, we will address the question of canonicity (what makes a text part of the canon?), as well as aesthetic and political questions about representation, race, gender, and sexuality. Our readings will be shaped by discussions of genre and modes of writing (realism, naturalism, modernism, and postmodernism), which will be shaped in turn by consideration of enduring questions and problems in American culture: the legacies of slavery; the meaning of American individualism; the expansion of social and legal citizenship in the 19th and 20th centuries; the experience of racial, sexual, and gender discrimination and class inequality; the ideology of American exceptionalism; urbanization and suburbanization; the rise of mass culture and mass consumerism in the 20th century. As an introductory survey of American literature, ENGL 232 welcomes non majors: no previous course in literature is required.

 

ENGL 400.001 - Authors and Contexts: The Victorians and Race

Professor Walters

The term “race” was used frequently during the Victorian age. It was in the nineteenth century that the term, with its scientific inflections, truly became--as H.L. Malchow has stated--“reified.” This is certainly one of the Victorian era’s chief ironies, however, as the concept of race—while certainly employed by many—was used with remarkable inconsistency. In this interdisciplinary course, we will study works of mid-to-late Victorian fiction along with primary documents from the era, such as ethnological and anthropological writings. In so doing, we will examine the broad social and cultural impact of scientifically-inflected racial thought. Throughout, we will aim to contextualize and historicize the major discursive shift that favoured racial discourse in the latter half of the nineteenth century. We will also investigate the degree to which racialist thought influenced ideas of individual development since, as the century progressed, racial ideology came to inflect the representation of human consciousness, itself.

 

ENGL 400.002 - Renaissance Literature: Sources and Afterlives

Professor Nicosia

Renaissance literature is alive and well in the twenty-first century. In this class, we will explore the Biblical and classical sources Renaissance writers such as John Lyly, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, Margaret Cavendish, and John Milton drew upon alongside adaptations of their works in verse, film, and drama by Julie Taymor, Phillis Wheatley, Gertrude Stein, and contemporary theater companies. We will pay special attention to how media and performance shape these adaptions. Like all Senior Seminars, this is a writing-intensive course. Students will write and workshop four short essays in different genres which will include a film review and a production design as well as traditional close-reading papers. Building on this work, all students will develop a final research paper through workshops and a class conference.

 

ENGL 412: Advanced Fiction Writing

Professor Heise

Maya Angelou once remarked, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” This course is designed to bring that story out. ENGL 212 / ENGL 412 is a “stacked course,” which means that you can enroll in it at the intermediate (212) or advanced level (412), but whichever level you choose, your goal will be to produce quality short stories or novel excerpts through intensive writing, reading, and workshopping. ENGL 212/412 provides a greenhouse environment in which you can grow and thrive as a writer. To that end, over the course of the semester we will immerse ourselves in writing in ways that will be fun, challenging, and eye-opening. The writing you generate during the semester will form the basis of the workshop – your small community of fellow writers whose work you will learn to read, debate, praise, and critique fairly, informatively, and intelligently. Our workshops will be complemented with discussions focused on the fundamentals of craft, such as character, structure, atmosphere, point of view, figurative language, with the goal of understanding how they mysteriously move us in body, spirit, and mind and with the goal of learning how they can be put together in our own well-crafted writing.

 

ENGL 418: Advanced Technical Writing

Professor Archer

Building upon the fundamentals learned in ENGL 202C, this course offers students who are majoring in fields related to science and technology the opportunity to further develop their professional writing skills. Students engage in more advanced document design and automation, address specific and real-world problems in a more research-intensive manner, and demonstrate their capacity to effect positive social and environmental change in their communities and in the world at large. This course fosters and promotes independent research and study, and it affords students the opportunity to gain valuable experience writing for the web and presenting orally to professional and corporate audiences.

 

ENGL 420: Writing for the Web

Professor De Piero

Writing for the web isn’t just about putting words on a webpage; it means communicating through images, sound, and video. From audience awareness to audio/visual production, we will study the theoretical and technical aspects of how digital texts are produced, consumed, and distributed across digital spaces. We’ll be recording podcasts, crafting videos, and publishing e-portfolios. And if you don’t consider yourself to be tech savvy, that’s OK: throughout the semester, we’ll be working in close collaboration with the Penn State Media Commons team to learn the “nuts and bolts” of software such as Adobe Spark, Garageband, iMovie, and others.

 

English 433: The American Novel Between 1900 and 1945

Professor Miller

The American Novel Between 1900 and 1945 examines “the shock of the new” when modernism in literature and the arts jolted America, and elsewhere, from the Victorian age to the worlds of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Chopin, Faulkner, Wright, Freud, Einstein, and Picasso, among others. In this course students will read and discuss essential novels in American literature and consider the ways that new subjects of exploration and new forms of expression changed not only what and how people thought and acted but why they had to do so. All this echoes yet today in who we are and want to be as “Americans,” and these novels question anew what it means to be human during turbulent times.

 

ENGL 435: The American Short Story

Professor Knodt

Although many Americans know Edgar Allan Poe as a writer of horror tales, many do not know that he is given credit for inventing the short story! Of course, tale-telling has a long history, but Poe was the first to give it a structure we recognize as a short story. In English 435, we will focus on the development of this very American genre over its 200 years, from its formal beginnings to its artistic refinements over time by artists of many cultures. Students will develop their interpretative skills by close examination of these short selections in class discussions and writing journals, likely being surprised by how much one can say about so little text!

 

English 447: The Restoration and Eighteenth Century

Professor Rigilano

The Neoclassical Era (1660–1776) is often characterized as genteel, sedate, and of limited relevance today: lots of wigs, florid letters, and polite dancing. But if you adjust the perspective just a bit, a very different picture emerges. This course reveals just how strange and exciting the literature of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Britain really is. Writers in this period regularly challenged neoclassical ideals of measure and propriety, and their texts suggest that Enlightenment ideas about nature, identity, sexuality, and even the self are far less stable — and far more radical — than we might have imagined.

 

ENGL 487W: Senior Seminar / Renaissance Literature: Sources and Afterlives

Professor Nicosia

Renaissance literature is alive and well in the twenty-first century. In this class, we will explore the Biblical and classical sources Renaissance writers such as John Lyly, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, Margaret Cavendish, and John Milton drew upon alongside adaptations of their works in verse, film, and drama by Julie Taymor, Phillis Wheatley, Gertrude Stein, and contemporary theater companies. We will pay special attention to how media and performance shape these adaptions. Like all Senior Seminars, this is a writing-intensive course. Students will write and workshop four short essays in different genres which will include a film review and a production design as well as traditional close-reading papers. Building on this work, all students will develop a final research paper through workshops and a class conference.