Department of English

ENGL 205: Lit. and Moral

EOAs part of the Core Curriculum's Ethics / Religion and Society Requirement, Literature and the Moral Imagination is required for all undergraduate students. In broad terms, ENGL 205: Literature and the Moral Imagination focuses on personal and social ethical issues in literature. Individual sections feature specific topics.

Literature and the Moral Imagination Course Descriptions, Fall 2020:

ENGL 205 Focus on Politics and Empathy
Instructor: Austin

Our section in particular will focus on Politics and Empathy-- that is, we will be investigating how literature can help us to develop empathy and understanding, particularly literature that deals with highly-charged, often political topics and experiences. Have you ever read or watched something about a group of people and gained a new understanding of them? Well, that's the goal of the course: to explore how literature can foster empathy and understanding of people who are different from us. 


ENGL 205 Focus on Identity, Place and Imagination
Instructor: McCarty

This course is designed to be an introduction to literature with a focus on the short story and the novel. We will be reading two novels and a combination of short stories, poetry, nonfiction, and critical essays. This course allows students to study elements of literature, to interpret selected texts, to consider viewpoints of literary critics, and to form and support critical arguments, both informally in class discussion and formally in essays. The course aims to enhance the student’s ability to enjoy and interpret the works we read. This course will operate as a discussion rather than a lecture—so students will need to keep up with the reading and come to class prepared to contribute.
The theme for this course is Identity, Place, and the Imagination. This semester we will explore how writers perceive and portray the interplay between these three elements. We will consider the possibilities that writers of place provide as they attempt to reimagine the human role in the ecological narrative. We’ll ask the following questions, and more: What does it mean to have a sense of place? Do we still have a sense of place? How does displacement, either figurative or literal, affect our identity? How does place inform a person’s or a culture’s identity, and what role does the imagination play in the creation of both place and self? How do the stories we tell affect the actions we take? Do our dominant narratives encourage or discourage a sense of alienation or interdependence? How might the imagination help us to see our part and to feel at home in a world that may not feel like home? 


ENGL 205 Focus on Threatened, Endangered, Extinct
Instructor: Ottum

Got a favorite dinosaur?  How about a favorite endangered animal?  Most of us are introduced to extinction at a pretty young age—long before we’re able to grasp its complexities.  To be fair, the big picture is mind-blowing: Earth has sustained five mass extinctions in its 4.6-billion-year history.  This is heavy stuff.  

So, too, is the fact that we are currently in the midst of a sixth mass extinction.  With species disappearing at an estimated 100 times the normal background rate, many experts worry that we’re in danger of entire ecosystems collapsing.  (It’s not just polar bears and other mammals: we’re talking plants, sea creatures, insects, and even microorganisms). 

While the global loss of biodiversity might seem like a scientific issue, the matter of how we classify threatened species is deeply cultural.  So, too, are the choices we make about habitat preservation and other responses to environmental change.  In this section of ENGL 205, we’ll explore the cultural politics of extinction and the discourses surrounding it.  Some of the questions we’ll explore include: 

  • how do media shape our sense of which species are “worth” preserving? Of which potential losses are most “urgent”?  Most “tragic”?
  • can art “speak for” nonhuman animals? Should it?
  • is our job to “manage” species whose habitats or food webs we’ve destroyed?
  • who should decide which threatened species we prioritize? Should ecological factors be the only consideration in our deliberations?
  • how has extinction shaped our thinking about humans as a species?

Readings for this course will include creative works, popular nonfiction, and academic texts: expect to read a lot.  No background knowledge about the course topic is necessary—only open-mindedness, and a willingness to tackle some challenging ideas.


ENGL 205 Focus on Alternate Historical Fiction
Instructor: Steckl

This course uses alternate historical fiction--text and television in which one slight alteration in a historical event leads to a drastically different United States--to explore real and imagined American culture. Examining social power structures, interactions among minority and majority populations, and the implications of acting on self-interest, students will reflect, discuss, debate, collaborate, and critically analyze topics such as race relations, religious plurality, and immigration. 


ENGL 205 Focus on Secret Identities
Instructor: Lam

What is identity? Can a person have more than one identity, and, if so, is one of those identities more authentic than the others? How do people construct identities? When and how and why do we hide certain identities and adopt others instead? What are the potential consequences of such masking? What are the potential consequences of  unmasking? 

In this section of ENGL 205, we will explore these and similar questions, using popular U.S. literature from the past 100 years. By analyzing identity in these works, this course aims to provide greater insight into the construction and presentation of identities in society. It does so in the hope that, by recognizing and appreciating the diversity of identities surrounding us, we can better understand the people we encounter, better hear their stories, and better share our own.


ENGL 205 Focus on Familial Obligations
Instructor: Cline-Bailey

In addition to improving reading comprehension, writing and oral presentation skills. Students will 1) describe and examine the multifaceted character of society and how the inclusion of different perspectives can influence on one’s world view, 2) examine the diverse, complex, and interdependent nature of people while focusing on perspectives on familial obligations. Section 12 TR 8:30-9:45 CLINE-BAILEY


ENGL 205 Focus on Land and Character
Instructor: Williams

Through novels, short fiction, poetry and photographs we will investigate the ways that land shapes the lives that people live.


ENGL 205: A Focus on Mental Illness
Instructor: Prues

This course explores how some aspects of mental illness – from Unipolar and Bipolar Disorder to Major Depressive Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder to Schizophrenia and PTSD -- manifest themselves in literature and film. Ultimately, this course will challenge, clarify, and destigmatize presumptions about mental illness, including how such afflictions affect family and friends as well.


ENGL 205 Focus on Passing and Performing Identity
Instructor: McFarlane Harris

In this course, we will read fiction and graphic novels that investigate the phenomenon of racial passing in the United States, whereby “black” persons light-skinned enough to appear “white” cross the color line to live as white people. Along the way, we will read a smattering of historical sources and cultural theory on the social construction of race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, religion, etc.


ENGL 205 Focus on Apocalypses and Revelations
Instructor: Nieto

In Literature and the Moral Imagination: Apocalypses and Revelations, we will read apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction to examine what these texts reveal about society, history and the present, the human condition, and human nature. Specifically, we will focus on how the thematic concerns of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction offer insight into current events, such as the COVID-19 outbreak and human reactions to the pandemic, and comment on issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and class in our contemporary society. 


ENGL 205 Focus on Resist, Reshape and Retell
Instructor: Todd

Our focus in this course will be how various stakeholders in literary works (characters, authors, and, yes, we the readers) resist, reshape and retell the ideas that the works bring to the fore,” under the course title Resist, Reshape and Retell.


ENGL 205 Focus On: Power of Storytelling
Instructor: Wyett

This course constitutes the literature component of the Ethics/Religion and Society focus of the Xavier core curriculum. We will read, write about, and discuss a variety of literary texts with an emphasis on thinking critically about their social and ethical implications, understanding them not only in terms of our own perspectives but also in relation to the times and places for which they were produced. In specific, we will focus on representations of marriage, sex, and the family in several genres of writing produced in a variety of historical contexts. Some issues we will discuss include how the concepts of duty to family and specific roles within the family are defined and how these definitions determine the function, or dysfunction, of the family unit as a whole. We will also consider the relation of the family to other social and cultural institutions and beliefs.