Department of English

Fall 2024, 205 Courses


the Anthropocene-Ottum 

According to scientists, historians, and cultural observers, we are living in the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch caused by human activity.  While experts disagree about when exactly the Anthropocene started, it’s clear that we—people—have profoundly modified the atmosphere, ocean ecology, and even the ground beneath our feet.  We’ve changed the planet in ways that imperil our own long-term survival and thriving (not to mention that of countless other species).
What does it mean to live in the Anthropocene?  How should we proceed as a society—and how should we cope, as individuals and as collectives, with feelings of fear, guilt, and frustration?  This section of 205 focuses on the Anthropocene, using literature to examine the challenges we face as a “force of nature.” This course may be especially appealing to students interested in ecology, environmental science, environmental justice, sustainability, biology, conservation and/or animals.











# OwnVoices: Authorial Identity in Young Adult Literature-Austin 

This course will focus on #OwnVoices in young adult (YA) literature. #OwnVoices is a hashtag movement that seeks to center stories of diverse groups by authors from those groups. #OwnVoices moves beyond representation and diversity by asserting that stories from marginalized or underrepresented groups are best told by authors whose lived experience reflects the characters whose stories they tell. We’ll examine stories about and from various identities (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, neurodivergence, etc.). We will also study stories that examine intersectional identities. 








Diversity and Identity-Wyett 

In this course, 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 as well as serves as an elective for the Peace and Justice Studies minor and the Gender and Diversity Studies major and minor. 








Drama & the Moral Imagination-Herren 

This course will survey a wide variety of plays from various times, cultures, and perspectives, beginning in ancient Greece and spanning all the way to 21st century America. We will focus upon plays that wrestle with important moral and ethical dilemmas and engage with significant social issues. Our study of these dramatic works will include reading scripts, watching performances, engaging in critical discussions, and developing careful written arguments 








Hip Hop at 50 & Beyond-Kamara 








Food and Justice: Steckl 

This course uses literature to examine social and political power structures and critically analyze inequality and injustice in the US. This course has an immersive learning component, so we will be exploring the way food, in particular, has been a means of both oppression and liberation for marginalized populations. We will examine the cultural aspects of food in life and literature and work with various community partners to help improve social, health, and economic outcomes. 







Israel and Palestine: Us, Them, & Us -Steckl 

Israel and Palestine has been a place of division and unrest since even before the formal establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. A number of writers have been using literature to capture and share their experience living in a state of protracted conflict and to challenge injustices committed by both their own community and the Other. This course will examine works from Israelis, Palestinians, and Israeli-Palestinians and consider how the ongoing conflict is negatively impacting citizens and how reducing alterity might improve living standards for all parties. 








It’s Just Space -Yandell 

Our focus this semester is “space”: not outer space, but space as we experience it every day—and specifically spatial justice: a way of looking at space from a critical, literary, and moral perspective. We will read a range of short stories (“The Yellow Wallpaper,” “A Clean Well Lighted Place”), plays (Death of a Salesman, True West), poetry (Howl), and a graphic novel (Fun Home) to consider how spaces in literature help us reimagine how we create, interpret, navigate, and even challenge the physical spaces around us. We tend to think about what’s around us as mere space (“just” space), but we benefit from thinking about what make a space “just,” one that supports justice. We will consider signage, theme-park accessibility, architectural designs, and city planning, while asking “for whom are certain spaces made, how do we know, and how can we create spaces of justice around us?” 






Melodrama and Telenovelas-Nieto 


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. 





















Place, Identity and Imagination-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?   










Secret Identities-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. 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. 












“Stay Woke” … and Other Black Expressions for Justice-Nix 


 Currently, the phrase “stay woke” is associated with a political movement in the United States that contests diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Where did this phrase originate? In this course we will examine the social justice foundation of the phrase “stay woke,” and put it in conversation with other phrases originating in Black culture, literature, and history. We will explore the significance of phrases, mantras, mottos, academic terminology, and slogans in Black liberation movements. While analyzing speeches, visual art, music, fiction, and non-fiction, students will develop a consciousness around words and activism. We will look at the evolution of “woke culture” and explore misconceptions, ramifications, social action, and creative expressions of its usage.