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, Spring 2021:

Williams:

The New Jim Crow, Prison Abolition and Anarchism  

This Literature & Moral Imagination section will focus on essays, poetry, and memoir theorizing prison abolition theory within the context of white supremacy and black anarchism. 

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-16 The New Jim Crow: Prison, Abolition & Anarchism ONLINE NO SET TIMES ONLINE NO SET TIMES 11019

Russell:

ENGL 205 – Life-Changing Journeys 

The course focuses on different kinds of journeys, especially those that transform the travelers: internal and external journeys, time travel, travel as exploration, pilgrimage, quests, travel in outer space, forced journeys, and journeys to freedom. The reading will invite discussion of encounters with racial prejudice and bigotry, cultural and gender conflict, humans’ quests for meaning and purpose, and heroism in the face of fear or death. We will read mostly contemporary fiction, but the course also includes some essays, short stories, and film.

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-19 LIFE CHANGING JOURNEYS ONLINE SET TIMES TR 1:00-2:15 11022
205-01 LIFE CHANGING JOURNEYS ONLINE SET TIMES TR 2:30-3:45 14458

Lam:

Secret Identities

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. Our texts are a mixture of fiction and memoir—imagined narratives, juxtaposed with real-life accounts. We will begin with racial passing, followed by assimilation and biculturalism, and ending with gender-and sexuality-based covering. 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.

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-09 MWF 2:00-2:50 11012

Nieto:

Melodrama and Telenovelas

In this course, we will read contemporary Mexican American women’s literature through the lens of the telenovela—traditionally a Spanish-language serial drama or soap opera—to examine ethical issues concerning race/ethnicity, gender, class, nation, immigration, language, and violence. We will explore representations of “the sensational” and humor in novels and English-language telenovelas as a means of social and ethical critique.

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-03 ONLINE NO SET TIMES ONLINE NO SET TIMES 11006

Battle:

Topic: Slavery and Contemporary Conversations

 

We are the fortunate inheritors of the stories captured by brave African men and women who were reduced to brutes and forced to fatten the bellies and pockets of mere mortals.  But how might we harness these tales to make sense of the social relations of domination and subjection in the current moment?  The abolition of U.S. chattel slavery only occurred in theory.   Since the publication of Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987), scholars in the post-Civil Rights era have turned their attention to the ghosts of slavery in contemporary U.S. society—particularly to the ways in which it has adversely structured the lived experiences of people of African descent in the U.S.  This course will examine this intellectual tradition in an attempt to wrestle with the social and political imposition of Black folks today, in relation to shifting power relations and interlocking forces of anti-Black oppression.  How might one situate in the politics of chattel slavery, the struggle to substantiate Black humanity today, to arrive at nuanced definitions of “Black freedom,” resistance, and compliance, or to add gender analyses to our anti-racist frameworks?   How are we still employing the strategies of resistance of our enslaved ancestors? 

To answer these questions, we will read slave narratives like Incidents in the Life of a Slave GirlThe Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and Twelve Years a Slave, in addition to neo-slave narratives such as Kindred and The Water Dancer.  We will also read contemporary critical discourse that elucidates what some scholars have recently referred to as the “psychic hold of slavery” in Black American life and culture.  

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-27 SLAVERY & CONTEMPORARY CONVERSATIONS TR 2:30-3:45 11015
205-21 SLAVERY & CONTEMPORARY CONVERSATIONS TR 4:00-5:15 13329

Ottum:

Extinction

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.

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-10 MWF 10:00-10”50 11013
205-08 MWF 11:00-11:50 11011

Yandell:

Memory and Morality

“Memory and Morality” will consider the ethical implications tied to memory. At both a personal and community level, our ability (indeed obligation) to remember the past is challenged by multiple factors. We will consider some of the practical ways in which human memory works according to recent brain science (explaining how we mis-remember and forget events), as well as society’s power structures that actively manipulate memory (leading to misrepresentation, denial, and misunderstanding of crucial narratives). Course texts explore a breadth of genres and include Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home, Toni Morrison’s short story “Recitatif,” Ariel Dorfman’s play Death and the Maiden, and Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl.

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
05 -17 TR 1:00-2:15 11020

Rozzi:

Stranger than Fiction 

We will read literature in which real world events shape the stories authors tell. Along with learning the ways authors draw from their lives, we will focus on why they modify, transform, and reinvent some elements when creating fictional worlds and in the retelling of factual events. We will do this primarily through discussion, so keeping up with the reading of our four novels is crucial. In exploring how these authors use imagination to address the moral and ethical dilemmas of their times, hopefully, we will be able to stimulate our own moral imaginations in the end.

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-31 STRANGER THAN FICTION TR 2:30-3:45 15761
205-29 STRANGER THAN FICTION TR 4:00-5:15 15759

Wyett:

DIVERSITY AND IDENTITY

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 how identity is constructed by and through factors such as gender, class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, religion and age as well as the intersections of these social categories. We will also consider how these categories shape power relations between individuals and groups, the relation of the individual to society, and how much of our identity formation entails assimilating to dominant cultural norms and expectations. Consequently, this course fulfills the Diversity Curriculum Flag and serves as an elective for the Gender and Diversity Studies major and minor. Readings include, Ryka Ayoki, “The Gift”; Tillie Olsen, “I Stand Here Ironing”; Toni Morrison, “Recitatif”; Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, “The Finkelstein 5”; Danielle Evans, “Snakes”; and Octavia E. Butler, The Parable of the Sower.

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-24H DIVERISTY & IDENTITY MWF Online set times 9:00-9:50 14082
205-02 DIVERSITY & IDENTITY MWF Online set times 11:00-11:50 11005

Reinstatler:

Fear and Madness

In this discussion-based course we will analyze the horror genre in film and literature through a mostly psychoanalytic critical lens; though we will dabble also in feminist theory and critical race theory.  Initially, we will dissect how narrative works and learn about common structures such as "the hero's journey" and "the final girl," which will lead us into children's ghost stories and folklore.  From there we will explore archetypes, the shadow and darkness within us all, and the collective human imagination and consciousness.  The syllabus rounds out with the Gothic, urban legends, and zombies, all the while investigating how mental illness is represented in media and how women and minorities are portrayed in the horror genre.  The central text is the groundbreaking graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by acclaimed author Grant Morrison and artist Dave McKean.

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-28 Fear and Madness WF 3:00-4:15 15758

Todd

Resist, Reshape, Retell

 

Our focus in this section of Literature and the Moral Imagination will be the way literary texts inherently reflect or interrogate ethical or moral action, and how various stakeholders in literary works (characters, authors, and, yes, we the readers) “read” the world around them and resist, reshape or retell what they see. How do authors/characters/readers deal with challenges to their beliefs? Or challenges to social norms, or competing values? The course is designed to provide opportunities for us to examine these questions, and to assess how the knowledge, beliefs and values we bring to literature affect our understanding of the works we read. 

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-12 Resist, Reshape, Retell ONLINE NO SET TIMES ONLINE NO SET TIMES 14460
205-14 Resist, Reshape, Retell ONLINE NO SET TIMES ONLINE NO SET TIMES 11017

Steckl:

Alternate America:

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. 

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-26 ALTERNATE AMERICA ONLINE NO SET TIMES ONLINE NO SET TIMES 11004
205-20 ALTERNATE AMERICA ONLINE NO SET TIMES ONLINE NO SET TIMES 13052

Food & Justice:

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-05 FOOD & JUSTICE TR 1:00-2:15 11008

TBA:

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-12 ONLINE NO SET TIMES ONLINE NO SET TIMES 14460
205-14 ONLINE NO SET TIMES ONLINE NO SET TIMES 11017
205-16 ONLINE NO SET TIMES ONLINE NO SET TIMES 11019

Hamilton:

I need a Hero:

If everyone is 'the hero' of his or her own story, despite having very different approaches to life, then why in literature are readers often able to easily identify the hero of the story? Alternatively, what does it suggest to readers about literature (and about life) when a text presents no clear hero, or that role in a text is disputed? Examining changes in literary portrayals of heroism over time also raises questions about how our own lived 'heroics' may be viewed by future generations. By studying texts from Classical to contemporary, we will refine our understanding of and engagement with the societal role of hero, in both private and public spheres."

Section Meeting Dates Meeting Times CRN
205-04 ONLINE NO SET TIMES ONLINE NO SET TIMES 11007