English 131 — Composition: Exposition
Taught: Autumn 2013 – Spring 2014
Theme: Transitional Spaces
Description: Life—like writing—is marked by transitions. Some of which may be observed with rituals, e.g. the satisfactory completion of a course of study at university culminates in graduation, while others occur with less fanfare but may be no less important. The liminal (a word derived from the Latin limen ‘a threshold’) exists in time (the period between night and day that we call ‘twilight’ or ‘dusk’, for instance), space (the seashore marks the boundary between the sea and land), and may be embodied in a living (or imagined) being (seals, for example, occupy both land and sea while the Borg from Star Trek occupy a space between human and machine). Similarly, at present, you exist in a liminal state between unfledged writer and someone capable of producing more sophisticated writing. In this course, we will explore various aspects of liminality by reading, analyzing, and considering several texts before embarking upon your own writing.
Course Texts: "The Value of Science" by Richard Feynman, "Leave Your Name at the Border" by Manuel Muñoz, "Monster Culture (Seven Theses)" by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, and "The Best of Both Worlds" Star Trek: The Next Generation."
English 111 — Composition: Literature
Taught: Autumn 2014 – Spring 2015
Theme: Heroic Readings
Description: From Odysseus and Wonder Woman to King Alfred and Mae Jemison, heroes—whether fictional or real—are sources of perennial fascination. Told in diverse genres, their stories offer fertile ground for critical exploration. Held up for admiration, emulation, and inspiration, heroes and their tales offer a glimpse into the cultural concerns of the society that produced them. In this course, we will read a selection of texts produced by the different peoples inhabiting the British Isles and Iceland during the earlier Middle Ages to gain insight into what constituted a hero—whether spiritual or secular—for these societies while considering what connections might be made with contemporary American culture and its heroes. Along the way, we’ll delve into some secondary scholarly material to acquire necessary historical context in addition to developing useful skills in genre and textual analysis.
Primary course texts: The Voyage of St Brendan, trans. J. F. Webb, Hrafnkels saga freysgoða, trans. T. Gunnell, The First Branch of The Mabinogion, trans. S. Davies, Beowulf, trans. S. Heaney.