ENGL 103 Spring 2013 Themes
ENGL 103, the third in the FWP course sequence, invites students into an in-depth textual and rhetorical exploration of themes across genres. Each FWP instructor offers a unique theme. Below is a list of the courses offered for Spring 2013.
Download a list of Eng 103 courses for Spring 2013 [pdf]
The Rhetoric of Bob Dylan
In this course we will examine the rhetorical influence of Bob Dylan, an artist considered by many to be the most important songwriter in American history. While his songs are the primary body of work we will examine, we will also explore his poetry, his painting, and his acting and soundtrack writing from Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), Masked and Anonymous (2003), and his Academy Award winning soundtrack work in the movie adaptation of Michael Chabon’s novel Wonder Boys (2000). Using Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968 – 2010 (2010), we will analyze writing about Dylan, his work, his message, and his meaning.
Irish Short Fiction, 1914 & 2012
Jan Armon, Ph.D.
Students will move between stories from a new anthology, Silver Threads of Hope, edited by Sinéad Gleeson, and from James Joyce's 1914 classic collection of stories, Dubliners. Other genres from Ireland include poetry on Drexel's databases, and essays from The Irish Times. By studying the literature of this complex land, students will learn a bit of Irish culture and, hopefully, have fun reading. Assignments will blend critical thinking with creativity. Note: Silver Threads of Hope, which is printed in Ireland, will be available at Drexel’s bookstore in March, or through Amazon with a 3- to 4-week wait.
Honor Across the Globe (ESL)
As Joseph Addison stated, “Better to die ten thousand deaths, than wound my honor.” This course will examine the novel The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and other short stories and poems to examine the theme of honor. We will study honor and honorable people that span countries from Afghanistan to the United States. We will examine strategies about how writing can be vivid and engaging and intertwine those strategies into our own personal writing.
Innovators of Modern Literature
This course focuses on groundbreaking fiction, poetry, and drama from the late 1800s to the 1900s. We will read works that break the accepted conventions of their time both in the style of writing (free verse, stream of consciousness, metafiction, etc.), and in the subject matter (a study of the mundane, anti-heroism, urban influences, etc.). Some of the authors include Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Margaret Atwood, David Hwang, David Ives, and more.
Readings in Macbeth
Ben Jonson anticipated Shakespeare’s dazzling future when he declared, "He was not of an age, but for all time!" in the preface to the First Folio. In this course we’ll be focusing on Macbeth, one of his most fascinating works, one of the most relevant to our world today, and arguably one of the greatest works in all Western literature. We’ll read through the play, see different cinematic versions, and speak directly to those who have put the play onto the stage.
Generators/ Technology and Lit
Valerie Booth, Ph.D.
This course probes the question of how humanity’s production and use of technology has generated some of the most enduring themes in literature. Glancing back to Blake’s “dark satanic mills” and forward to cyberpunk (Snowcrash), contemplating ethical issues posed by nuclear bombs (Copenhagen) and those posed by the creation of robots (Asimov), students will read prose, poetry and drama generated by the influence of, and reaction to, technology.
Appearance and Reality
The question “what is real?” is an old theme in literature. One way we explore what is real and what only appears to be real is to pursue philosophical questions pertaining to materialism and idealism. Does reality exist in the material world? Or does reality exist in a spiritual or ideal realm? Can the real exist in both places at the same time? In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Phil K. Dick explores questions surrounding what makes something human as opposed to artificial. The poetry of Rumi has been interpreted by critics as suggesting that the material world might be best understood as a metaphor for truer spiritual reality. In this class we will explore what these and other works suggest about the nature of appearance and reality and what the various answers to these questions says about ourselves and how we understand our lives.
Chronicles from the Road
Many writers have taken to the road in order to further their craft. For some, the road served as a panacea for their intellectual and creative hungers, while others traversed different landscapes to acquire a perspective of the history and culture of both America and the global community. In this course, Paul Theroux’s The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road and Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams: A Novella will be used to explore why exploration is such an important part of the human condition and embedded in the world of literature.
Surrealism and the Arts
Sharon Brubaker (Sections 155 and 166)
Surrealism is a term many use, but few understand. This class will discuss surrealism as presented to the world in the 1920’s. Andre’ Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto and novel Nadja, along with poetry by various surrealist writers will be read. "Un Chien Andalo", a film by Spanish director Luis Buñuel and Maya Deren’s film "Meshes of the Afternoon" will be studied. An overview of the painting, plastic art, and music the time will also be included. A trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art is planned to coincide with the discussion of surrealist painting.
Drexel, Diversity, and You (ESL)
Sharon Brubaker (Section 320)
This class will explore diversity, using as a focus Edwidge Danticat’s Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work and Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic. Supplemental texts/readings will come from: Native American Sherman Alexie, Dominican Juno Diaz, African American Suzan-Lori Parks, Irish playwright Martin McDouagh, and lesbian Paula Vogel. Exploration and discussion of diversity will include race and ethnicity, but will in addition look at gender, family, geography, religion, and other issues as they arise from class discussion. Drexel prides itself on being culturally diverse, has this always been the case?
Self, Gender, Power, Sexuality
This course will look at the complex interrelationships that impact the shaping of personal and social identity with respect to the interaction of gender, sexuality and power in the formation of the self and its position in the larger community. Our study will span works of short fiction, poetry, and drama with a goal of finding larger connections while exercising critical thinking and reading skills through close examination of texts, motifs, and literary elements. Major works will include Antigone, A Doll’s House, Cathedral by Raymond Carver, and A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner.
Heroes and Villains
This course will study the dynamic of the hero and villain across a variety of graphic novels. What makes a character a hero or a villain? And when do they cross that invisible line into the murky gray area of moral ambiguity? How do they coexist? What exactly is an antihero anyway? Texts in this class will include Animal Man: The Hunt, Extinction, Fables: Legends in Exile, Saga, Scalped: Indian Country and Uncanny X-Force: The Apocalypse Solution along with readings made available by the professor.
Marriage: A Changing Institution
Students will achieve Course Outcomes by using the terminology, rhetorical strategies and practical approaches of writing analytically about “Marriage”. The historical evolution of marriage, and contemporary issues are explored including: love, DOMA, the "business" of marriage, infidelity, divorce, courtship, and Internet influences. Students will also read a variety of marriage-related articles from scholarly and general texts. Students will also be expected to analyze at least two marriage-related films. Authors include Chitra Divakaruni and Stephanie Coontz.
Mirrors and Manifestos
Kevin Cooney, Ph.D.
In manifestos, writers argue for their theories of what literature should be. In this course we will use each writer’s manifesto to judge his or her poems, short stories, and novels. Through these writers’ theories we can consider questions like the following: What message should a work of literature have? What is the relationship between beauty and character? Is poetry better defined as “powerful feelings…recollected in tranquility” or a tight pair of pants? The three novels we will read are Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.
Mortality and the Human Spirit in Literature
Hazel Cooper-Watts, Ph.D.
The thematic focus will be on the literary interpretations of the death of man through the centuries. Excerpts of plays, essays, short stories and poetry will be read. Sophocles’ Antigone and Oedipus Rex will serve as a foundation. The death of the tragic hero Beowulf; the tragedies of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth; the Victorian era; Hawthorne and Poe will be represented.
Exploring Humor Across Genres
Ingrid Daemmrich, Ph.D.
Why do we laugh? What do we laugh about? We will analyze collaboratively a wide variety of humorous expressions, ranging from such traditional literary genres as comic poems, narratives, and comedies, to the visual and digital genres of cartoons, comics, videos, films and Web-based social media. Students will also generate their own creations to amuse classmates. Specifically, we will explore how Lewis Carroll’s ever-popular Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass inspired an astonishing array of genres, ranging from John Tenniel’s illustrations to cartoons, narratives, plays, films, graphic novels and games.
Freedom of Speech
We will explore the act of artistic creation, especially in light of oppression. Examining pranktivism through Banksy's Wall and Piece and the documentary "Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry," the effects of religious oppression in Brian Evenson's The Open Curtain, state censorship in the not-film "This is Not a Film," and the burden of mental illness through various short stories will help us to explore the question of whether we are truly free.
This course allows the students to determine their own themes from the readings and to make any thematic connections among them that become apparent through discussion and study. We will read Shakespeare's The Tempest and invariably talk about "nature versus nurture," the use and abuse of power, and colonialism. We'll read some Faulkner, some Hemingway, some Whitman, Ambrose Bierce, Katherine Mansfield, Jack London, Stephen Crane, Salinger, among others, and talk about war, the individual in opposition to society, self-interest versus responsibility to a greater good, and other topics that come up through the works.
Soundtracks and Background Music
Maybe you’re listening to music as you read this – or someone in the next room is and you can hear it through the walls. Maybe you’re in a quiet library and everybody around you is plugged into earbuds…
In this course, we will look at individual songs/lyrics, but we’ll also explore how music functions as atmosphere and captures the spirit of a time or situation. Our texts will include poetry, short fiction, and essays—music that is soundtrack or background for your life will become a text for our course, too. Readings will be drawn from The McSweeney's Book of Poets Picking Poets and the work of authors such as Thom Jones, Rick Moody, and Zadie Smith.
Exploration of Young Love in Literature and Film
This course will examine the notion of young love in literature and film. Many of our beliefs about love derive from literature, theater, poetry, music, and movies as well as from our own personal experiences. Through fiction, essays, articles, and film, this course will explore how representations of young love are portrayed in text, narration, images in books, and film. Love, budding affection, and romance are all common themes in many beloved works of fiction. From Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet to other cherished and celebrated couples in literature from Lancelot and Guinevere to Tristan and Isolde to Paris and Helena of Troy to Orpheus and Eurydice to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy to modern day romances like Noah and Ally from The Notebook, Ron and Hermione from the Harry Potter books, and Bella and Edward from the Twilight series, many of these love stories have made the transition from best-selling novel to high-grossing Hollywood films. Most recently, author Nicholas Sparks capitalized on this trend and had excellent success with several of his book-turned-blockbuster works such as The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, and The Lucky One which all center on the notion of young love. This course will analyze the theme of young love in books, essays, articles, and films.
The Essay (ESL)
Although it has been around since the 16th century, when it was invented by Michel de Montaigne, critics have enjoyed proclaiming the essay dead. However, it has survived. From the more traditional or starchy book review, with its adherence to a formal structure and distance, to the personal essay, where the line between fiction and non is sometimes hard to find, the essay has continued to find its place. In this class will analyze the form, considering how it differs from both so-called “straight” journalism and fiction. We’ll begin by looking at the work of some of the masters of the genre—John Didion, John McPhee and Annie Dillard, among others. In addition, because this is a section designed particularly for non-native speakers, we’ll look at the popularity of the form to outsider or immigrant writers, where understanding, using, sometimes manipulating the English language is an integral part of their understanding of what it means to assimilate.
The Gothic and the Sublime
Anne Erickson, Ph.D.
Through texts with antiquated or aging edifices, with secrets, haunting, and supernatural beings aplenty, the Gothic Sublime uses terror and fear to create a powerful moment that allows confronting the past and crossing boundaries. Working with theorists of the sublime like Kant and Burke, we will study works by Austen, Radcliffe, Stevenson, Stoker, and Gaiman, among others, to investigate the power of this literature. We will analyze common themes, explore the role of horror and violence in the gothic, and determine the impact this literature has both for writers of the time and for the legacy to literary studies.
Redemption and Rebuilding (ESL)
“For you, a thousand times over.” This phrase symbolizes love and loyalty. What happens, though, if the love is not returned or the loyalty is betrayed? In this section of English 103, we will explore the themes of redemption and rebuilding. We will attempt to answer the question: How does one redeem or forgive oneself after committing a variety of sins? Our texts will include the novel The Kite Runner and the memoir A Long Way Gone, in addition to short stories and poems.
Crimes and Misdemeanors
This course will examine narratives that focus on misbehavior ranging from the mildly unethical to the deeply criminal, and on individual or societal attempts to redress such wrongs. We’ll read a hard-boiled detective novel by Ross Macdonald, a David Mamet play about scamming salesmen, and a series of short stories with themes of transgression, guilt, innocence and justice.
Exploring Love & Loss
Despite the differences in the cultures and traditions of poets such as Sappho and Ono No Kamachi, the emotions of falling in love remain constant. We will also observe the multitude of manners in which hearts are broken and the individual experience of loss in the stories and plays by writers such as Donald Margulies, Raymond Carver and John Fante.
Valerie Fox, Ph.D.
This course will explore journey motifs in fiction, poetry, and other genres. The motif is broad enough to include many major styles and types (spiritual journey, coming of age, etc.) that will be discussed in detail. There will also be a unit on travel writing. Goals include practicing literary analysis and comparing the treatment of the theme in different genres and eras. Major texts include [four paths] by Rose Hunter and The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice by Nathan Leslie.
Conflict and Resolution
Fictional characters and situations are always surprising us as they mirror the comedy and drama of real life. They pose problems that need to be solved and individuals in search of answers to fulfill their lives---be it from love and acceptance or fear and loneliness. In this course, your own personal goals may become clearer and more reachable as you follow our characters in their search for viable answers to life's mysteries. As we read and study the dramas of Tennessee Williams and Henrik Ibsen, the stories of Shirley Jackson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Franz Kafka, etc., and the poetry of William Blake, Thomas Hardy, Walt Whitman, and so many others, your possibilities are limitless.
Ted Fristrom, Ph.D.
Civilization may have survived the prediction of the Mayans, but many other doomsayer predictions might still come true. In this course we will rhetorically analyze literature and film about the social, political and environmental issues that may bring us to the brink. Which do we find persuasive and why? Potential authors include Cormac McCarthy, James Howard Kunstler, Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler.
Globalization or Americanization (ESL)
In this course, we will take “Globalization,” referred to as “Americanization” by some people, as our theme and as our field of research. It has been chosen as our theme because, through the process of increased global connection and interdependence, the world has been transformed and has experienced both positive and negative effects. Throughout the semester, we will critically read and discuss how, as a superpower, America affects the cultures of the world, how global citizens think about such influences, and what kind of effects globalization has had and will have on the world. You will also learn to write effective argumentation that integrates the course readings, class discussions, and your own research and that, while recognizing other points of view, leads to solid, informed conclusions. Authors include Anthony Giddens, G Pascal Zachary, and Martha Bayles.
Strangers & Feeling Strange (ESL)
A tiger with goats for parents! Parents with a flying son! Where do you belong? And who do you belong with? In our course, we will be using short works of fiction, poetry, and drama by some of the most well-known writers of the 20th century (including Kurt Vonnegut, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and William Carlos Williams) to explore what it means to be a stranger in an entirely new place, and what it means to have home feel all at once entirely unfamiliar.
Women: Family, Love, and Loss
In this course, we will read the works of selected writers that explore the societal expectations of dutiful daughters, devoted mothers, supportive wives, and loyal lovers. We will discuss behavioral change in gender roles; dating and mate selection; love and intimacy; communication and conflict; and divorce and remarriage. Our course title, then, will also refer to the economics of love that prevent women from pursing independence, sexual freedom, true love, careers, and desired lifestyle. Selected authors include Geoffrey Chaucer, Edith Wharton, Zora Neale Hurston, Binnie Kirshenbaum, Lily Tuck, and more.
Coming of Age
In this 103 (fully online) course, we will explore the sometimes unbearable difficulty of growing up; its challenges, its dramas, its episodes that render us euphoric and miserable, sometimes in the same day. In the course of growing up, we might face other challenges that make us—our struggles and triumphs—less ordinary. In the novel, Motherless Brooklyn, and the anthology, Writes of Passage-Coming of Age Stories, as well as supplemental short readings from authors such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Joyce Carol Oates, and Lorrie Moore, we will delve into the drama and occasionally see ourselves.
Braving the Elements: The Rhetoric of Weather in Literature
Rebecca Ingalls, Ph.D.
Across works of literature, across centuries, weather works rhetorically to create chaos, bring people together and drive them apart, inspire communities to start again, and always, always remind us that there are larger forces at work that humans can only begin to understand. In this course, we will do literary and rhetorical analysis of weather in Junger’s The Perfect Storm, and in myriad other literary texts by heavy-hitters like Tolstoy, Chopin, Chekhov, Shelley, Pushkin, Hughes, and Longfellow. We will ask, how are these writers using the elements to persuade us to think, feel, act, and live?
Crazy, Stupid, Love
In this class, we will turn our attention to short fiction, poetry, and plays in order to explore the crazy, stupid things people do when they are in relationships. We will examine questions such as: why do most people save their most extreme behavior for those they love the most? We will read about different kinds of love—including the love between young couples, spouses, siblings, parents and children, even a woman and her car—through the works of authors such as T.C. Boyle, Mary Gaitskill, Raymond Carver, Barbara Hamby, David Ives, and Edward Albee.
In the same ways that dreams can illuminate aspects of our lives previously hidden to us, magical realism in literature can enhance our understanding of reality as well as offer important social criticism. While magical realism is most commonly associated with South American fiction, elements of surrealism and fantasy can be found in more current works, as well. We’ll be studying poems and stories by well-known authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Italo Calvino, and Franz Kafka, as well as up-and-coming writers, such as Karen Russell.
Our Relationship with Nature
This course will focus on our relationship with nature and the Earth. Using essayists, poets, novelists, and naturalists, the class will start by reading creation myths and stories, and look at human awareness towards nature both historically and thematically through contemporary times. Students will look at their own views in regard to their relationship with nature and the natural world. This course will cover writers such as early explorers of North America, William Wordsworth, Henry David Thoreau, Annie Dillard, Gary Snyder, and Leslie Marmon Silko as well as other writers within this context.
Memory of the ‘Old Country’; Experience of the New
This course focuses on texts written by immigrants, emigres and expatriate. By doing so the course will ask what role memory of the "old country" plays in these texts as well as how the author's home grown perspective influences their perception of where they are now. Authors will include Vladimir Nabokov, Elizabeth Bishop, Charles Simic, and Paul Auster.
Civilization and Its Misfits
The Heroic Journey/Dangers of Adolescence; Life in the Midst of Death; Power and Powerlessness. We will be analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating short stories including A & P and Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?; poems including Musee des Beaux Arts and The Waking; plays including "The Piano Lesson" and "A Doll's House"; and excerpts from the graphic novels Old Father, Old Artificer and Here My Troubles Began.
Relationships Across Cultures (ESL)
How are loving relationships—both familial and romantic—impacted by changes in time and place? Do our own cultural perspectives free us, or blind us to others in some ways? This course looks at contexts and characters that cross cultural boundaries. In reading this literature, we seek to explore the “lens” other cultures provide to understand those around us. Key readings include short stories by Indian-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri, (Interpreter of Maladies) a novel by Japanese-American Julie Otsuka, (The Buddha in the Attic) and short essays by Haitian-born Edwidge Danticat (Create Dangerously).
The Relationship Between Satire and Culture
Satire, at its rawest, is a literary form used as a moral corrective to expose human folly and depravity; as a result, it mirrors its culture and transcends it. Why do we return to the work of the great satirical writers? We will take a look at the history of satire from the Romans to the moderns in essays, short stories, short novels, and its pop culture manifestation in television shows ("South Park", "Colbert Report"), stand-up comedy, and time permitting, films. Two texts we will discuss are Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders.
Crazy Ladies: Hysteria in Lit
Hysteria has been defined as a psychological disorder whose symptoms include conversion of psychological stress into physical symptoms such as volatile emotions, and overdramatic or attention-seeking behavior. The word comes from the Greek hystera (womb) from the notion that hysteria was peculiar to women and caused by uterine disturbances. Over time, the pathology of depression has changed to be less gender-specific; however, literature about women and mental illness is abundant. This course will look at the ways in which female mental illness is discussed in popular culture and how those notions inform feminism and our current understanding of women in society. Major Texts: Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, The Hours by Michael Cunningham (and other selected readings and articles).
Literature of Conscience
Deirdre McMahon, Ph.D.
Because books can shock, terrify, amaze and bewilder us, they can make us reconsider or re-imagine our beliefs, even redefine who we are and the way we want the world to be. Our course looks at writing as sources of entertainment and forms of political activity. Analyzing across genres, we will investigate literary texts such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and Athol Fugard's Master Harold... and the Boys as arguments that comment upon and influence the social and artistic controversies of their day.
Does apocalypse refer to the end of the planet, or perhaps the end of humanity? Can it be contained in a single building? In pursuit of the answers to questions like these we will analyze themes of apocalypse in literature and popular culture. In this class we will watch films and read High-Rise by J.G. Ballard, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and excerpts from World War Z by Max Brooks. We will discuss the use of apocalyptic stories as a form of rhetoric. We will also analyze different kinds of apocalypse dealing with technology, religion, natural disasters, aliens, pandemics, social unrest and zombies.
Personal Costs Of Social Resistance
While convictions of individual conscience are forces that can transform societies, often the early rebels can be ambivalent about the challenges and costs of resisting mainstream social values and norms. The costs of resistance may vary depending on a person's power and/or powerlessness --- perceived or real---within the cultural, economic or social structure. This power may be influenced by gender, age, class, skin color sexual orientation, religion or any other combination of social constructs. Analyzing across genres, we will examine works like Athol Fugard's Master Harold and Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried.
Marianallet Mendez, Ph.D.
This course aims to help you understand your inner self and the identities you embrace/reject. Definitions of culture, identity formation, and individual and group identity will be examined to help us analyze the whys behind our own selves, and hopefully will increase our awareness and understanding of those others around us. Readings include works by B. Ehrenreich, E. Hall, S. Hall, B. Hooks, D. Haines, P. Klass, S. Lawler, J. Martin & T. Nakayama, J. Martinez, T. Nance & A. Foeman, G. Pagnucci & N. Mauriello, D. Phillips, Samovar et al., R. Spellers, A. Tan, B. Tatum, and J. Warren.
This course will use the experience of foreign lands, histories and culture to study literature. We will use Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat's book, Create Dangerously as an anchor and study several of the authors she mentions in her book, some Haitian and some from other countries. "Create Dangerously" refers to the situation in which many writers find themselves when subject to despotic governments, but all writers who choose significant subject matter must take personal risks. Another text written by Haitian authors that we will read is How To Write An Earthquake, which is an anthology created in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. There is a possibility that a one-week, optional add-on trip to Haiti might occur at the end of the course, but at this point the trip has not yet been approved, and is only an idea. You do not have to go on the trip to take this course.
Consumer Culture and Identity (ESL)
Our course will examine two brief novels and some short fiction as we consider the sublime and bizarre omnipresence of consumer culture in our daily lives. From a girl who repeats the name of an automobile in her sleep in DeLillo’s White Noise, to a black man who finds himself begrudgingly living out the roles of Sidney Poitier’s most famous characters in Percival Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Poitier, we will encounter characters who simply cannot escape from consumer and pop culture, as we hone our abilities as critical thinkers who analyze the literary and rhetorical aspects of various works.
Belonging in the New World (ESL)
Reading some modern and classic poetry and prose, our focus will be on race, identity, and coming of age, especially related to loyalty to one’s family and assimilating into a new culture. We will discuss the recurring theme of “love and belonging” through reading Seedfolks by Paul Fleishman, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, a graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang and excerpts from plays by Shakespeare. These multi-ethnic stories will serve as models for you to tell your own stories.
Pornography of War
Chris Nielson, Ph.D.
The idea that war is eternal, unavoidable, heroic, economic—and therefore ultimately meaningful—might be one of our most pernicious delusions, argues Norman Roessler in his introduction to Mother Courage. He further claims that such misconceptions would go not only for those who validate war but also for those who oppose it. To believe that antiwar ideas can be derived from stories or depictions of war might very well be the ultimate illusion in the Western imagination. We’ll investigate his argument to determine whether or not discourse on war, even the most antiwar, ever rises above what he calls “pornography” of war: prurient, without major redeeming elements. Mother Courage, Water by the Spoonful, Slaughterhouse-Five, and assorted poems and short stories will be discussed as well as war’s manifestation in popular culture and its impact on veterans in Drexel’s Yellow Ribbon Program.
Architects of Society (ESL)
This class will explore societies and the ingredients needed to create a perfect one (a utopia) or an undesirable one (a dystopia). We will discover worlds and societies as they could be, and more importantly, as they should be. By reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and The Giver by Lois Lowry, we will explore the unintended consequences of our societal choices. We will also work from Plato’s Republic in our own efforts to design the perfect society.
Great! Great? (ESL)
Are the “great books” of American literature all that great? In this class, we’ll endeavor to find out. We’ll split up and tackle a few dozen novels, and as a class we will take apart America’s greatest short stories. We’ll crack them open and see how fiction works. We’ll podcast. We’ll create our own critical and creative works. The list of novels will include Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
’Mirror, Mirror on the Wall’: Body as Self; Body as Other
Emilie Passow, Ph.D.
What do we see when we gaze into the mirror? Our face or full body to be sure, but our physical
reflection can evoke many questions: What does our face/body signify to us? To others? In what contexts? Is there anyone else we see when we look at ourselves? How are our responses conditioned by cultural standards of beauty and desirability as well as cultural attitudes towards deviations? What happens when there are serious disparities between what we see and what we would like to see? Major texts include poetry from the anthology Articulations (edited by Jon Mukand), short stories by Chekov, Bradbury, and Dubos, essays by Oliver Sacks and Lucy Grealy, and Ursula Hegi's novel Stones from the River.
Identity, Immigration, and International Relocation (ESL)
Students will develop their skills in literary analysis, discussion, and written response as they compare and contrast the journey of immigrants assimilating to America and struggling with questions of personal and cultural identity to their own thoughts and feelings about identity and studying in America. Students will read about and discuss the different aspects found in Crossing into America: The New Literature of Immigration a collection of short stories and poems such as a) reception in the U.S. b) language acquisition c) reasons for coming to the U.S. d) struggles with identity. Students will also read the novel The Kite Runner and compare the immigrant experience depicted in film to the literature.
The End of the World
As we have all discovered over the past few months, any imagined global cataclysm is a window into humanity’s most primal fears and most important priorities. This course will explore a small sampling of the myriad ways that we as human beings have envisioned our own destruction, with an eye toward the larger philosophical, political, and psychological implications of these works. Readings range from speculative nonfiction by writers like Alan Weisman and Jared Diamond to fictional works by writers like Cormac McCarthy and Margaret Atwood, as well as films, songs, graphic novels, and religious texts.
Using Tom Sawyer as a core text, we will examine how children learn about and experience the Native American figure--the “noble savage"--in literature, and how cultural appropriation has infiltrated their lives. Then, by moving through texts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we will see how Native American stereotypes have been removed, changed, exacerbated, and/or enforced. Titles include Little House on the Prairie, The Indian in the Cupboard, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Texts will be supported through shorter works and film. Our inquiry: Are these stereotypes real or fantasy?
Don Riggs, Ph.D.
Words suggest details, on the basis of which readers imagine larger, more extensive realities. Writers like Raymond Carver, in Cathedral, play with suggestion of far more “reality” than they actually show explicitly. Poets like Rita Dove, in her Sonnet in Primary Colors, suggests the personality of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo through her paintings, evoked in the poem. Kafka’s The Hunger Artist is visualized by artist R. Crumb in comic-book form, showing one way of visualizing the story. Our goal is to see how words can suggest sensory images and the ways in which literature complements visual media.
Language & The Comedy of Errors (ESL)
Metaphor, Pidgin, Malapropisms, Idioms, Slang, Lacunae, etc. — liminal spaces between standard and non-standard language, between high culture and low culture, transgressive and tragic-comic — and the linguistic home of the international (ESL) student. This course examines the various and humorous ways language consistently gets “lost in translation” yet paradoxically illuminates key elements of native and non-native cultures. Major texts include David Henry Hwang’s Chinglish, and the American Idioms Dictionary.
Diversity, Shared Experiences
Donna Rondolone, Ph.D.
In this course, we’ll explore how we see the world and each other. Through works composed by such authors as James Joyce, James Baldwin, Mary Robison, Ray Bradbury, August Wilson, Langston Hughes and Charles Bukowski, we’ll discover how diversity inflects the notion of “the human condition,” and the possibility—even the inevitability—that we are more alike than unalike in spite of cultural and social differences. This course will continue to develop your rhetorical skills, including critical thinking, active reading, using research to support your own ideas, taking an essay exam, and correct citing of sources.
Power and Powerlessness
Gail Rosen, Ph.D.
Through short stories, and a few plays and/or films, this course will focus on the way power and lack of power affects our lives. We will read works that focus on lack of power due to gender, race, economic and social status. We will read works by Junot Diaz, Raymond Carver, James Baldwin, Joyce Carol Oates and others. We will also examine the way film and other adaptations of these works highlight their themes.
The Great War in Words
Sheila Sandapen, Ph.D.
The “Great War” (1914-1918) set the stage for great social turmoil, political upheaval, and the advancement of technologies that helped defined the 20th century. We will examine the rhetoric of how this war was characterized then and now through speeches, film, newspaper articles, and literature. We will also analyze the rhetoric behind some of the myths that surround the “war to end all wars”. Primary text is the Longman Anthology of British Literature.
Strangers in Strange Lands
This course will look at adventurers, cosmonauts, aliens, outsiders, immigrants, and time-travelers as we consider how tales of strangers in strange lands satirize or examine human behavior and society and help us to see the world with fresh eyes. We may explore Boulle’s Planet of the Apes, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Lem’s The Futurological Congress, Woody Allen’s Sleeper, as well as other stories, essays, excerpts, nonfiction, comic books, movies, and television.
Writing About Music
This course focuses on understanding the creative process, as we analyze stories, poems, and essays about music, as well as song lyrics. We will discuss form and content and explore how stories are told in different media. This course will help students to think and write critically about the art that inspires them. Texts will include excerpts from John Darnielle’s Master of Reality novella from the 33 1/3 series; lyrics by Bob Dylan, Ben Folds, and B.B. King; poems by Walt Whitman, Frank O’Hara, and T.S. Eliot; and stories by James Baldwin and Joyce Carol Oates.
Transformation, Adaptation, and Preservation (ESL)
In this section of ENGL 103 we will examine narratives, poetry, and drama related to various aspects of life of immigrants in America. We will discuss several topics, including identity shift, cultural adaptation, generation gap, food, traditions, and language preservation. Comparing your own experience of coming to America to the journey of immigrants depicted in two books, Crossing into America: The New Literature of Immigration and Simply Maria or The American Dream, you will continue to develop your critical thinking, active reading, and skills in rhetorical analysis.
Privacy and Culture
The private, the secret, the intimate, the public: where are the lines between these ideas? How are these lines constructed? How are these lines challenged? Where do they overlap? Can there be different types of privacy? This course will examine how understandings of privacy are constructed through the texts we read and watch. Using Garret Keizer’s new book Privacy, Molly Peacock’s book The Private I, and a selection of short works of literature across genres, we will develop a more nuanced understanding of privacy and be more prepared to enter ongoing conversations about privacy in our culture.
The Pain, Pleasure and Absurdity of Comedy
In these sections of English 103 students will explore the close connection between comedy and human pain. Students will also investigate the ways comedy writers and performers combine the logical and the illogical to create a version of the world that is "funny." Readings include the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman, the reverse-chronology play Betrayal by Harold Pinter as well as studies of the role of humor in social and work life. For their major project, students will be encouraged to write an original work of humor.
Twice Told Tales
Robert Wetherill, J.D.
Good writing requires disciplined revision, but what happens when creative writers revise each other’s work, by retelling the same story or theme, or even reshaping a work from a secondary character’s point of view? In this class we will read stories that get told twice, first by their “original” author and then by a twentieth-century adaptor, asking how historical, political, national, gender factors influence the way each writer tells or retells that story. Readings will include: Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Shakespeare’s King Lear, and Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, as well as John Donne’s poetry and Margaret Edson’s Wit.
Race, Class, Urbanism & the Promise of ‘Clybourne Park'
Vincent Williams, Ph.D.
One of the more textured conflicts in Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal 1959 play, A Raisin in the Sun was the debate over whether the African-American Younger family should integrate the all white Chicago enclave of Clybourne Park. Over fifty years later, as public schools close, crime soars and revitalization efforts often displace long time residents, the debate over access to the urban space continues. In this section, we will grapple with that issue, using Hansberry’s text, along with supporting work like Bruce Norris’ 2010 quasi-sequel, Clybourne Park and Mary Patillo-McCoy’s study of Chicago’s black middle class, Black Picket Fences.
Poker: America’s Game?
In this class we will explore the literature of poker, contemplating the relationship between America and the game it bore. We will think about how selected texts celebrate and challenge certain American ideals, such as free will and self-reliance, and ask ourselves what these texts tell us about, as John Lukacs puts it, “the game closest to the Western conception of life”. Readings will include David Mamet’s House of Games, Katy Lederer’s Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers, Paul Auster’s Music of Chance, and short stories and essays from the anthology Read ‘Em and Weep.