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Department of English

Course Offerings: Spring 2011

Below is a list of Current Upper-Division Undergraduate Course Offerings and our Current Graduate-Seminar Offerings.


ENG 263H.0001
Prof Travis Williams
M 4:00-6:45 PM


This Honors course will read widely in the tradition of English Renaissance lyric poetry. Our attention will be exclusively addressed to precise and detailed analytic description of how these poems function: how this collection of words in this arrangement has the effect it does, which could not be replicated by any other collection or arrangement. You will become expert readers of poetic language, and expert users of the Oxford English Dictionary, and of phonetics, etymology, morphology, and metrics as tools of poetic analysis. Required work will include constant attendance, active participation, a weekly response paper, two analytic essays, and a major final presentation to the class.

Professor Williams will sign a curriculum modification form for any English major who wishes to use this course to satisfy the 1500-1660 period requirement.

ENG 302.0200
John Hodgkins
T 7:00-9:45 PM
Providence Campus


For better or for worse, violence and the movies go hand in hand. From the earliest shorts of Thomas Edison to the latest blockbuster by James Cameron, film history is positively suffused with violent imagery, imagery that perennially attracts as many viewers to the theaters as it repels, thrills as many audience members as it repulses. In this course, we will cast a close critical eye on these varying spectatorial responses to cinematic violence, and ask ourselves why we are troubled by, yet perpetually drawn to, certain violent representations. Along the way, we will consider films from various countries and cultures, comprising a range of genres, from crime films to Westerns, from horror to drama, from war movies to action-adventure. Filmmakers likely to be discussed include Luis Bunuel, John Ford, Arthur Penn, Jane Campion, Ari Folman, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino, among others. Each film screened will be paired with relevant essays by such critics and theorists as Ed Guerrero, Stephen Prince, Vivian Sobchack, Linda Williams, Fredric Jameson, Robin Wood, Barbara Creed, and Carol J. Clover.

ENG 304.0001
Prof John Leo
TTh 11:00-12:15 PM


This course covers or refers to a wide range of domestic and international popular film genres from the middle of the last century to the present: noir, the musical, the Western, melodrama, the docudrama, combat and "history" film, horror, erotic (and pornographic, a contested term), to name the most prominent. On the way we’ll also consider film’s changing technologies (e.g. sound, screens, digital) and their impacts on film styles (e.g. special effects), on genres (e.g. war film, animation), and audiences (e.g. blockbusters, niche marketing, Netflix, “new media” and games). These considerations in turn involve us with changing notions of “aesthetics,” “the senses,” and “perception.” Indeed, we will be reckoning all term with film’s technological implications of the past 60 or so years—that “we” (audiences/consumers) are moving from “detached viewing positions” (the 50s-60s movie theater) to the conditions of increasing perceptual “immersion” (3D, subjectivities/bodies “wired” into games).

Of course this concept (or theme) and its stylistic ratchetings are the very stuff of much horror, sci fi or fantasy film, or the war film. Here is the contention behind this course. Understanding the sublime (bodily) fears and pleasures these genres “wrap” onto ear, eye, and skin, sense of smell, and “brain”—how movies work us if you will as “thinking and feeling flesh”—is the wager in this course. Forbidden Planet, Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (both versions), Of Freaks and Men, Matrix come to mind as examples of the kinds of films to expect in this course. (Actual titles selected TBA.) Films whose narratives or generic features turn on oppositions (the Other, multiple schizo-clasms), morphing identities, layered or parallel stories whose “spaces” tease us and tweak our penchant for linear narrative, and the like, also are worth experiencing and investigating, e.g. the Terminator series, Fight Club, Memento, All About my Mother, The World, Mephisto, The Conformist, The Gods Must Be Crazy (first version),

Some related questions: How, for example, do we develop critical tools helping us adequate contradictory perceptions to a given film—that it displays “escapist” (liberal, neoliberal, rightist or neoconservative) fantasies about daily life, on the one hand, and yet socially “engages” with daily life inasmuch that its subtext poses emotionally powerful if also "imaginary" notions of "citizenship" and "nation"? Examples here are Blackboard Jungle, In Another Country, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Imitation of Life (1959).  Why do some audience segments enjoy (some say “wallow in”) “tear jerker” movies and yet denounce “manipulative” movies? The documentaries Atomic Café, Hearts and Minds, Africa Addio and Tongues Untied, are “rhetorically” controversial. So: how does the moving image experience create a greater self-consciousness that is critical and builds a kind of “visual literacy” or “competency”? Our main goals are to enhance and advance both the pleasure and the smart understanding of the moving image experience.

Requirements include two (possibly collaborative) short papers (4pp.), (un)announced quizzes, occasional in class response papers, mandatory attendance (2 freebie absences OK). No final examination anticipated at this point. Final film titles TBA. Texts TBA but will include most likely Film Theory: An Approach through the Senses.

ENG 305A.0001
Prof Peter Covino
T Th 2:00-3:15 PM


This intensive writing and reading course will help you become more comfortable yet critical of your writing practice, with a goal of making poems that are sophisticated, imaginative, and significant to a larger literary community. We will explore some of the most innovative and exciting poems ever written both in English and many in translation, beginning with some Ancient and Medieval work while focusing on avant-garde and contemporary poetry. Instead of a broad review of literary periods, we will spend concentrated time on a few specific authors from varying eras while paying special attention to issues of generative practice—how the poem is made. In addition to writing/revising your own poems (10 pages per semester), students are required to complete short response papers in which they will respond to changing poetic traditions with a keen understanding of how these trends still influence contemporary practitioners of the art. By the end of the semester, each student is required to complete a small, chapbook size collection/portfolio of poems that should be fully revised. This class is offered in conjunction with the Read/Write series and students are required to attend as many events as possible in order to experience literary performances firsthand.

ENG 305A.0200
Kate Schapira
W 4:00-6:45 PM
Providence Campus


In this class students will both broaden and deepen the ways they write and think about their writing. We'll do this through a number of in-class writing exercises and a number of larger take-home projects,
including a sound project, a collaborative project, and more. We'll read works by Amiri Baraka, Kate Colby, John Cage, C.D Wright, Guillermo Parra and many others.Students will also read critical writing about poetry and poetics, exploring the demands they make of poetry and their reasons for writing it.

ENG 305D.0002
Bob Leuci
T Th 3:30-4:45 PM


Students interested in this course should have taken ENG 205D - Screenwriting. In this class, existing loglines, beat sheets, and working drafts of scripts in progress will be fleshed out to complete screenplays. Particular attention will be given to precision and concision in the language of action; effectively writing natural dialogue while keeping conflict, both direct and indirect, intact; establishing an overall through-line; establishing characters more clearly while limiting exposition; maintaining a fidelity of tone; and overall coherence within the narrative. For students serious about pursuing careers as screenwriters.

ENG 330.0001
Piotr Skuza
T Th 2:00-3:15 PM


ENG/WMS 317.0001
Jenn Brandt
T Th 3:30-4:45


This course, cross-listed in both the departments of English and Women's Studies, pairs together current feminist theory with novels by contemporary women writers from the American continents. Topics covered include construction of the female body, sexuality and desire, motherhood, exile and immigration, and women and work.

ENG 338.0001
Prof Gina Valentino
TTh 12:30-1:45 PM


In this course, students will read, watch and analyze American Indian stories with a focus on novels written by Native people in the United States. This course is designed to serve as an introduction to the cannon of Native American Literature—with particular emphasis on texts written during and since the Native American Renaissance. We will proceed through our texts chronologically, reading works by N. Scott Momaday, D’Arcy McNickle, Leslie Marmon Silko, LeAnne Howe, Sherman Alexie, Joy Harjo, and others. We will work toward an understanding of political histories that contextualize this literature, examine stereotypes of Native Americans as well as the sources of those stereotypes, and investigate the ways that “Indianness” has been constructed both for and by Native people. Additionally, we will examine issues of racial and ethnic identities, explore the role of crossbloods and mixedbloods, study connections between “traditional” and/or religious stories to the retelling of contemporary Native narratives, and engage with Native communities’ relationship to place and land (and the related stereotype of the ecological Indian).  Topics will include pan-Indianism, war and violence, drug abuse, humor, and, throughout, American Indian survival as it contrasts to the most enduring Native myth of all—that of the vanishing Indian.

ENG 350.0001
Prof Carolyn Betensky
T Th 11:00-12:15 PM


In this course, we will read some of the major theoretical texts that inform literary studies today. We will also acquaint ourselves with some of the important nineteenth- and twentieth-century philosophical, linguistic, sociological, psychological and political texts that spurred so much of what has come to be known as “literary” theory.

ENG 357.0001
Prof Mary Cappello
T Th 11:00-12:15 PM


Literature and Medicine will focus specifically this semester on the history of the anatomy class and dissection in the Western world, with emphasis on the United States. We'll look at the ways in which the human body has been anatomized, studied, sacrilized, epitomized, treated, and transformed into a body of knowledge. We'll explore taboos on looking at the body, or inside of the body, of examining the body of an other or of oneself, opening the body, partitioning the body, and the ethics of the use of the live or the lifeless human body (aka the corpse) in medical education. We'll study the development of a profession that grants its practitioners a specialized relationship to the body, the anatomy class as rite of passage, and, via the history of grave robbing and attendant legislations, discover the ways in which the production of medical knowledge has been gendered, raced, and classed. How does a medical knowledge of bodies depart from and cross over with a literary knowledge of the body? How do writers and doctors produce anatomies and to what end? How does each broach the psycho-social-cultural problems of which the anatomy class is a sign? How do we know if we are in the realm of the grotesque, the pornographic, or the visceral sublime? Whether we are experiencing "fascination" or "morbid curiosity"? We will begin the semester by reading important historical texts alongside theoretical ones, including Jonathan Crary, Thomas Laquer, Michel Foucault, Michael Sappol, and Jonathan Sawday. After establishing the historical context, its vexing questions, implications, and tacit assumptions, we'll turn to a range of literary texts drawn mostly from the nineteenth and twentieth century United States: from Edgar Allan Poe to Charles Chesnutt's Marrow of Tradition to a tour of contemporary nonfiction and memoir, Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face; Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Christine Montross' Body of Work, Mary Roach's Stiff, and related phenomena including the popular interest generated by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula in the nineteenth century, and Gunther von Hagens' bodyworlds exhibits, as well as the television serial, Dexter, in the twentieth. This course requires an annotated bibliography; mid-term and final analytical essays, and will introduce students to the methodologies and critical questions that constitute the, by turns, inter- and anti-disciplinary mode known as "literature and medicine," as well as the work carried out in the name of "medical humanities." In the course of the semester, students will also have occasion to experiment with writing the body against an epistemological grain, and creating counter-cultural literary anatomies.

ENG/AAF 360.0001
Prof Felix Okeke-Ezigbo
T Th 12:30-1:45 PM


One systemic defect exposed by the current economic turmoil - a crisis practically global in scope but accentuated in the United States - is that the West, in the name of civilization, has given so full a rein to Capitalism, that Restraint is sacrificed on the predatory altar of Social Darwinism, that crude instinct to subdue or inveigle the unwary and gobble them up. This mindset is a far cry from Wisdom, without the which, humans become reduced to mere homo erectus, or at best, graceless hominoids without the sapientia tag! What has gone awry and why has the West gone so widely astray? Is this grim situation reversible and is there a possibility of redemption through reorientation? Is rehabilitation and re-humanization yet achievable by re-infusing the “milk of humankindness?”  We shall attempt in this course to resolve these nagging issues and answer the collateral questions, by spiriting to Africa, the original source, and in so doing, hopefully exorcizing our demons through the process of ceremonial re-birth. In exultation, we shall interface the folk life of Africa and immerse ourselves in African folklore, that amazing repository of wisdom, as well as relish  proverbs, myths, chants, legends, songs and apothegms, all this with a view to appreciating Africa’s traditional pattern of humane living, and learning that true Wisdom resides only in righteousness and the cheerful pursuit of the common good, which, incidentally, is conterminous with democracy, a term more abused by the elite than pursued as an ideal social and political principle.

(If the students showed good signs of mending - and the Feds wouldn’t erupt on us - they could be let into the simple secret of seeing spirits with the naked eye.)

ENG/AAF 362.0001
Prof Gitahi Gititi
T Th 9:30-10:45 AM


The course is a hands-on engagement with some of the notable poetry and drama by African Americans in the post-niggertude era, under the assertive rubric of a burnished Afropolitan aesthetic. Accordingly, our interest shall be focused on soulfulness of quest and audaciousness of utterance, not on the correctness and academicism of grammarians.

ENG 363.0001
Prof Karen Stein
T Th 5-6:15 PM


Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison is one of the preeminent writers of our time.  She challenges us to re-think our deeply held beliefs about ourselves and our values, as she examines the tangled and complex issues of race, gender, and class in the context of American history and culture. Her powerful novels require readers to participate in unraveling their multi-layered meanings. The novels and non-fiction essays address central issues of human relationships: friendship, love, betrayal, and the ways that language works to promote or impede our mutual understanding.

Morrison’s career—as teacher, editor, social commentator, and primarily author of superbly crafted fiction—encompasses a project of total cultural renewal. She re-imagines and reaffirms the lives and
history of African Americans from the earliest days of slavery up to the present, while avoiding stereotypes or oversimplification. Her work is influenced by and responsive to texts ranging from the Old
and New Testaments, to Greek and Roman classics, to African myths and religious traditions, to contemporary writers. She employs African and Western literary traditions and conventions for both
structure and critique, rewriting some of the “master narratives” of American culture and history.

This course will explore Morrison’s works in the context of African American history. Course work will include quizzes, class discussions,  group projects and a final paper.

Required books:
Toni Morrison The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Beloved, Jazz, Love, A Mercy
Karen Stein Reading, Learning, Teaching Toni Morrison


ENG 363.0200
Prof Gitahi Gititi
T 7:00-9:45 PM
Providence Campus


In this course we will examine the myriad ways in which African American authors have chosen to blur or erase the "color line." We'll begin in the 19th century but most of our attention will be on 20th and 21st century representations of racial passing, performance, hybridity, and ambiguity. Authors will include Charles Chesnutt, James Weldon Johnson, Toni Morrison, Nella Larsen, Danzy Senna, Andrea Lee, and Percival Everett. We'll supplement this reading with critical texts as well. Several formal essays, an oral presentation, and participation in class discussion are required.

ENG 367.0001
Prof Peter Covino
TTh 3:30-4:45 PM


We will explore the thematic and stylistic interrelationships and the historical legacy of some of the most important literary epics ever written, including Homer’s The Iliad, Virgil’s The Aeneid; Dante’s Inferno, sections of Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the Modernist epic William Carlos Williams’ Paterson. The course will offer an in-depth exploration of various innovations and conventions of the epic—such as epic similes, digressions, catalogues, the use of prayer and invocation, the role of God(s)—and will focus on how and why this originally oral tradition continues to impact us as one of the most sophisticated and challenging literary genres. Students will routinely be asked to offer close readings of key passages in order to explicate moments of textual complexity and interpretive interest. Responses will be supplemented by consideration of important critical theories related to the study of the epic as suggested by Aristotle, Walter Benjamin, Gyorgy Lukacs, Mikhail Bakhtin, Northrop Frye, John Freccero, and Albert Ascoli, among others. When applicable, the enduring influence of the epic in art, film, and in contemporary culture will also be considered. We will devote focused attention to how issues of integrating history, cultural myths, and imaginative discourses are enhanced by poetic strategies and, when appropriate, divergent theories of translation.

ENG 368.0200
Barbara Silliman
W 7:00-9:45 PM
Providence Campus


This course on the Bible as Literature—as opposed to Literature of the Bible—investigates uses of biblical texts by Mark Twain and by contemporary author Robert Coover, who in his fictions makes ample use of passages from both the Old and the New Testament.  Among the questions this course asks will be the relation between the nature of "revelation" and the diversity of its interpretation and recording, i.e., myth-making.

We will explore the richness and diversity of literature through in-depth reading, discussion, and writing about these texts.  Through close reading, you will gain an understanding and appreciation of fiction in general, and of our writers' use of material from the Bible in particular.  Focus will be on authorial strategies and themes explored.  History, geography, and ancient myths will be introduced as they impact on the texts at hand.  Furthermore, you will learn the appropriate terminology as tools for textual and critical analysis.  Finally, through this experience you can develop or refine the capacity for self-expression and communication.

ENG 376.0001
Prof Carolyn Betensky
T Th 12:30-1:45 PM


Covers sensation novels by such noted authors as Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and Charles Dickens, as well as novels by less well-known authors such as Ellen Wood. Literary texts put in
conversation with Victorian, European, and American texts from different disciplines that address ideas of sensation and
sensationalism, as well as with contemporary theoretical and critical writing.

ENG 376.0200
Abbott Ikeler
Th 7:00-9:45 PM
Providence Campus



ENG 381.0200
Barbara Silliman
Th 4:00-6:45 PM
Providence Campus



ENG 385.0001
Prof Jennifer Jones
TTh 12:30-1:45 PM


This course gives students the opportunity to study women writers at an inception point of modernity – the period around 1800.  We will focus on such major concepts and issues as gender; sexuality; friendship; the politics of reform and radicalism; print culture; canon formation and reformation; historical periodization; education; aesthetics; and literary form.  Genres will include prose, poetry, drama, and the novel.  Authors to be studied may include Charlotte Smith, Mary Wollstonecraft, Joanna Baillie, Helen Maria Williams, Dorothy Wordsworth, Mary Robinson, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Emily Brontë, and Charlotte Brontë.

ENG 396.0001
Prof Martha Rojas
TTh 3:30-4:45 PM



ENG 446.0001
Prof Gina Valentino
TTh 2:00-3:15 PM


This course is a critical and historical survey of the development of modern drama in the United States. Plays for this course include Long Day’s Journey Into Night, A Raisin in the Sun, Zoot Suit, and Wonderland.
The goals of the course are to:

  • Introduce major forms of modern drama that occurred in the U.S. during the 20th and early 21st centuries.
  • Understand and analyze a play within broader social, philosophical, and historical contexts.
  • Recognize influences of artistic forms on contemporary cultural productions.
  • Identify directional and production choices that constitute an interpretation of a play.
  • Develop personal preferences regarding drama in the U.S.
Along the way, we will map trends in literary criticism, acquire literary terminology in order to speak and write intelligently about drama, and learn from Brecht why it is absolutely crucial to keep one’s passport current.

ENG 482.0001
Andrea Yates
W 4:00-6:45 PM


In this course, we will problematize the concept of the “American Enlightenment.” How can we understand a movement that privileges reason and rational thought in the context of witch trials, slavery, and Native American massacre? In order to fully appreciate this problematization we will chart the legacy of American Enlightenment thought and writing by following two trajectories: one from the witch trials in Salem, to the anti-Communist fervor in the 1950’s to contemporary understanding of “witches” as representing a variety of racial, religious, or immigrant others; another of captivity narratives, beginning with women’s Indian captivity tales and continuing to more modern understandings on “victim’ and “captor.”

ENG 482.0200
Jonna Iacono
M 4:00-6:45 PM
Providence Campus


This course considers the writing of some of the most cited but least read authors in our contemporary discourse, the "Founding Fathers," otherwise known as American Enlightenment Authors. Reading these "forefathers" (Franklin, Jefferson, Madison) in the context of their
era's literary, political, and intellectual concerns, and alongside lesser known writers, such as Phyllis Wheatley, Judith Sargent Murray, and Olaudah Equiano the course will ask students to rethink the familiar narrative of the American Enlightenment as a few men benevolently birthing not only a nation, but liberty and justice for all. Instead, we will read the American Enlightenment in all of its revolutionary complexity as an Enlightenment of exclusion as much as equality; of racial violence as well as religious toleration; of sentiment and sympathy, not simply the logic of the market. In addition to reading a wide range of primary texts, we will read
scholarship about the period, its authors and literature.

ENG 485.0001H
Prof Naomi Mandel
T 4:00-6:45 PM


This class on focuses on the work of contemporary novelist Bret Easton Ellis. Born in 1964 and a national bestelling author before he graduated from college, Ellis has been hailed as timely and significant and dismissed as substanceless and derivative. His work has been ignored by the literary establishment but is widely taught in the U.S. and in Europe. His novels command both a cult following and critical attention.

We will read each of Ellis's novels: Less Than Zero (1985) and The Rules of Attraction (1987) established this young author as the representative voice of Generation X; American Psycho (1991) is one of the most controversial novels of the last quarter century and a cornerstone text in contemporary Blank Fiction and the Contemporary Extreme; Glamorama (1999) presaged many aspects of our 21st century world including global terrorism, virtual identity, and reality TV. Lunar Park (2005), centers on a partially-fictionalized Bret Easton Ellis, whose idyllic suburban family life is threatened when a copycat killer, inspired by American Psycho, stalks Ellis and his family. We will also read Ellis's most recent novel Imperial Bedrooms and his collection of short stories The Informers (1994). In addition to these primary texts, we will read scholarship about Ellis and his work and view film adaptations of his novels.

PLEASE NOTE: This course is cross-listed with the Honors program. Non-Honors Program students must have a G.P.A. of 3.2 or higher to enroll in this course

This course is eligible for M.A. program credit (post-1914; U.S.)

ENG 486.0001
Prof Jennifer Jones
T Th 11:00-12:15 PM


This course gives students the opportunity to engage in concentrated study of two key women writers in England during the period around 1800, both of whom were published and widely read in their own periods and continue to have strong effects in, around, and on the contemporary world in which we currently live: Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen.  We will study major works of both authors and situate these works historically, politically, culturally, and critically.  Readings by Wollstonecraft may include Original Stories from Real Life: With Conversations Calculated to Regulate the Affections and Form the Mind to Truth and Goodness, Mary: A Fiction, A Vindication of the Rights of Man, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, The Wrongs of Women; Or, Maria.  Readings by Austen might include Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion.


ENG 540.0001
Prof Martha Rojas
T 11:00-1:45 PM



ENG 560.0200
Prof Stephen Barber
Th 7:00-9:45 PM

Providence Campus



ENG 590.0001
Prof Valerie Karno
T 7:00-9:45 PM


This course is designed to introduce you to the ways in which the terms, study, and reception of visual culture have impacted the dominant modes of analyses in American Studies. The course is divided into roughly 8 sections, each functioning to show the ways in which visuality has affected the production and study of American culture. We will start by looking at the ways in which differing theories of vision and the image have been promulgated, to contrasting ends. Then, with a heightened understanding of the terms and history behind optics and the study of visual culture, we will then explore the relationships between photography & 19th century America, imagism & the beginning of American cinema, spectacle & US Imperialism, Whiteness Studies and Critical Race theory, television & citizenship, and museums and the construction of US historic display. If time allows, we will also alight upon the connections between fashion and/or digital nationalism.

This course will fulfill both the 1800-1914, and post-1914 requirement.

ENG 601.0001
Prof Peter Covino
W 7:00-9:45 PM


Poetry as prophetic utterance, as communication of otherness, as sacred fragment and (re-) constituted song…poetry as humorous disjunction, and psychic displacement, as a turning away from the known or quantifiable—as artistic expression that rejects any type of mediation and chronicles, through its sounding, its syllables, and even the silences that which challenges, provokes, and produces available joy and/or haunts us, often simultaneously, or all at once…. Students will work arduously to write publishable poems and establish a personal theory of poetics by considering principles of thematic and stylistic unity and/or disunity, audience response, and even anti-and ultra-artistic principles. We will consider work written in English and in translation, selected from specific collections of poetry from such canonical writers as Sappho, Dante, Rimbaud, D.H. Lawrence, Frank O’Hara, and contemporary writers such as Paul Mudoon, Rae Armantrout, and others to be determined. New and revised poems and frequent short writing assignments required. Students not interested in writing creatively may substitute a longer critical essay, instead of a manuscript of poems.

ENG 605.0001
Prof Travis Williams
Th 4:00-6:45


You will read widely in the tradition of English Renaissance lyric poetry, become expert in precise analytic description, gain familiarity with criticism of the tradition, and learn about the cultural and historical contexts of lyric production. Weekly response papers, a final paper proposal, and a longish (20-25 pp.) final paper will be required.

For the purpose of distribution requirements, this course falls under the category of "British/World literature" and will satisfy the "literature before 1800" requirement.

ENG 625.0200
Prof Jean Walton
M 7:00-9:45 PM

Providence Campus


"Can a film project serve as a cohesive agent and catalyst for change within a community, and at the same time serve as a means of communication with government? What is community organizing? What role can film play in participatory democracy? Does controversy lead to violence?"  (NFB, 1968)

In this way, Canada’s National Film Board summed up the key questions motivating its revolutionary and provocative “Challenge for Change” program, a movement that transformed the face of political documentary through the 1970s.  Seeking to put the power of the media in the hands of the people, the NFB sent “social animators,” trained in the radical community organization skills of Saul Alinsky, across Canada to instruct local citizens in the use of film and video as a means to bring their political concerns to public (and state) attention.

Considered by some to be a definitive turning point in the democratization of documentary media, the Challenge for Change program produced nearly 250 films and videos, raising crucial questions about state sponsorship, participatory governance, and the relationshipbetween the moving image and social change.

To see a book trailer for the most recent critical assessment of Challenge for Change, click on this link:

This course will offer graduate students an in-depth exploration of the aesthetic, political, and theoretical questions posed by a project such as the Challenge for Change program.  We will screen many of the films from the project, learning about the range of social issues they covered, and familiarizing ourselves with the critical debates in documentary studies raised by this unique period in media history. But although the Challenge for Change program will receive our in-depth attention, we will also visit its antecedents, such as Dziga Vertov’s experiments in Soviet Russia of the 1920s, its contemporary cousins, such as the Third Cinema movement of Solanas, Gettino, and Espinosa, and its present day descendants in the world of citizen media as practiced through the internet.

Requiring no previous experience in Film or Media Studies, this course will offer students an immersive learning opportunity, as we grapple together with some of the most compelling questions around citizenship, media, and utopian projects for change.  The course is meant to serve as one possible entryway into the vast discipline of film and media studies, and will complement any twentieth-century graduate research agenda, be it literary, theoretical, or film oriented.  It may also be of interest to students working on “social problem” literature of the Victorian era; pre-cinematic technologies of immersion and social consciousness; governmentality and citizenship; utopian models of democratization; and the activism of identity politics.

This course may fulfill one of the following course requirements: coverage of a “tradition outside the major Anglophone national literatures” or “alternative tradition or emerging area of study with in them;” or an elective in film.

WRT 524.0001
Prof Libby Miles
M 4:00-6:45 PM


(Catalog description: Traces the origins and influences on current writing instruction, beginning with the composition treatises of the 19th century and concluding with an analysis of contemporary practices. May include archival research.]

This course will function as an introduction to the field of rhetoric & composition, as seen and experienced through various educational contexts. In a slight departure from the course description, we will explore writing theories and pedagogies by moving back and forth between different historical contexts and our current educational practices.

Along the way, we will read about the exigence of the Morrill Act, the GI Bill, and Open Admissions in shaping the field into what it is today. We will go back in time to rural classrooms, to institutions serving historically under-represented populations, to the elite colleges, and to the legacy of the Land Grant. We will pause for a while in the 1980s, grappling with the different iterations of the “process movement,” and then we will move into the present to discern what “post-process” has brought to the conversation. We will look at specific activist rhetorics and community literacy programs, each inscribed in particular historical and social moments.

Your written projects in this class will include analyzing educational artifacts, designing assignment sequences, presenting materials during class discussions, composing exploratory papers from materials found in the National Archives of Composition & Rhetoric, writing a seminar-length paper at the culmination of the term, and sitting for a practice “comprehensive” exam with questions related to this course.

Teaching experience, although not necessary, will be helpful. Learning experience, however, is a must.