Spring 2021 Courses
Below are descriptions of the courses at Penn State Altoona for the coming semester that can count to satisfy the requirements of the English major and minor. Many of them also fulfill requirements of the Secondary Education/English major, the Letters, Arts, and Sciences major, and the Integrative Arts major. Some fulfill general education and B.A. Humanities or Arts requirements. Or you might find them interesting enough to take as electives.
Note: These are not the standard course descriptions you'll find in LionPATH. These were written by the faculty members themselves and will give you a much better idea of what to expect in each course.
*Key to instructional modes (listed at the end of each description):
- CP = In Person
- CM = Mixed Mode
- CR = Remote Synchronous
- CW = Remote Asynchronous
Instructional modes are subject to change; refer to LionPATH listing before registering.
ENGL 050: Introduction to Creative Writing (Davis)
If you like to write stories and poems, then this is the class for you. We'll read the work of some of the best contemporary authors, and then try our hand at the craft. This workshop class will focus on fiction and poetry and will involve a great deal of drafting and critiquing before a final creative writing portfolio is prepared. CP.
ENGL 050: Introduction to Creative Writing (Sherrill)
Two, count ’em two, genres here! We’ll dive first into the spooky world of poetry and swim right through into fiction writing. What’s the difference? Come and see. This class will be about the process of writing, and about you producing poems and stories. I’ll challenge you, work you hard, but make sure you have fun as well. (A Gen Ed—Arts course.) CR.
ENGL 139: African American Literature (Simpson)
What is a “talking book”? What is it that’s “African” in African American literature? What makes it uniquely “American”? What characteristics define this literary tradition, and how have its innovations enlarged the scope and achievement of American letters as a whole? Explore these and other questions as we survey major writers and works in the African American literary tradition. We’ll consider a broad range of oral and written forms, including folk tales, spirituals, rap lyrics, sermons, slave narratives, plays, poems, and fiction. Authors we’ll study include Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Yusef Komunyakaa, and more! (A Gen Ed—Humanities course, and a United States Cultures course.) CR.
ENGL 180: Literature and the Natural World (Davis)
Come read the new and the old, stories and poems about the beginning of the world and the end of the world, told by talking crows and bachelors who go to the woods to live deliberately. Investigate the species these writers name, the topography that shapes their way of seeing the world. Thoreau will be there. Annie Dillard will be there. Whitman will be there. Elizabeth Bishop will be there. And a host of other writers who wanted to save the world, to celebrate the world, to embrace nature in its many and myriad manifestations. (A Gen Ed—Humanities course). CP.
ENGL 183N: The Cold War in Literature, History, and Culture (King)
The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension that existed between the USSR and the United States from about 1945 to about 1990. Its roots lie in conflicting visions about the resolution of World War II, and hostilities grew due to mutually incompatible worldviews about how a polity should be organized, what kind of economy is best, and the individual’s relationship to his or her country. Threats of war between the two countries spilled over into conflicts in proxy countries, in addition to political subterfuge in other areas of the world. The fall of the Soviet Union was such a monumental event that the historian Francis Fukuyama proclaimed it “the end of history.” Even as the United States emerged as the sole global superpower for some of the period between 1990 and today, history—obviously—did not end. We simply stopped paying as much attention to Russia, which reemerged as an oligarchy. As a result, it may come as a surprise how the United States’ relationship with Russia has sprung back into the news—through proxy conflicts in Syria and the Ukraine, or through Russian interference in the 2016 United States Presidential election. What tools do we have to make sense of this complex history and its ramifications in the present? In what ways do the two countries remain at odds, and in what ways might their citizens face similar predicaments? This course will introduce material from a variety of fields: history, political science, literature, film studies, and rhetorical studies. [English majors who complete 183N will receive any level-elective credit. Non-English majors who complete 183N will receive interdomain credit and fulfill a GH or GS General Education requirement. Contact [email protected] with any questions.] CR.
ENGL 194: Women Writers—From Margin to Center (Peterson)
As a cross-listed course, “Women Writers: From Margin to Center” will be part introduction to Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, part literature course. We will read about and discuss feminist ideas and analyze literature through the lens such ideas provide, paying specific attention to women’s place in society, images of women in media, and the way race, class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality intersect with and impact all of these. In the midst of our ongoing discussion of feminist concepts, we will read and write in response to novels, essays, poems, and even fairy tales. Focusing on the question of canon and the nature of academic discourse in literature, we will not only approach texts directly but will learn to engage the critical responses of others to deepen our own interpretations of literary works. Though the literary tradition and experiences of contemporary American women will be our focus, we will also address women’s global and historical struggles for power and equality—as well as their triumphs—working with h literatures (including poems, plays, and non-fiction) that these more distant places and histories have produced. (A Gen Ed—Humanities course, and either a United States Cultures or an International Cultures course.) CP
ENGL 209: Journal or Magazine Practicum—Hard Freight (Lang)
Have you always wanted to see your name on a masthead? Then join the staff of HARD FREIGHT! This 1-credit experiential course offers students hands-on experience in the development and production of the online campus literary magazine. Students will participate on editorial boards, in the advertising and marketing of the magazine, and in coffee-house events created to celebrate the artistic efforts of students on campus. (Students may take this course as many as eight times in their career.) CW.
ENGL 211W: Intro to Writing Studies (King)
In this course, students will learn about the history of “rhetoric and composition” instruction in the United States and its evolution into “writing studies”; track keywords in writing studies, with an emphasis on “style”; investigate research methods and contemporary debates in writing studies; conduct an ethnography of a practicing writer; and learn about how writers practice their skills in a variety of workplaces outside of the academy. Our primary texts will be Joyce Kinkead’s Researching Writing, Paul Heilker and Peter Vandenberg’s Keywords in Writing Studies, William Strunk and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style, Arthur Plotnick’s Spunk and Bite, and Sarah Glidden’s Rolling Blackouts, with other essays and guest speakers to supplement our studies. ENGL 211W is a required course for the Professional Writing minor. Please contact [email protected] with any questions. CR.
ENGL 212: Introduction to Fiction Writing (Sherrill)
In this course we will identify and explore the fundamentals of Fiction Writing from the ground up: fear, hope, rage, lust, love, want, need, honesty, and dishonesty. Along the way, we’ll develop skills in narration, plot development, characterization, etc. Telling stories is one of the ways we carry our humanity from generation to generation. Creating compelling and entertaining stories is the artist’s challenge. This class is about Art; the art of looking at the world around us and rendering that vision, with bravery and honesty, in words. (NOTE: This course meets concurrently with ENGL 412; students who qualify for Advanced Poetry may contact Professor Sherrill at [email protected] for more information.) CR.
ENGL 223N: Shakespeare: Page, Stage, and Screen (Stoyanoff)
This course will explore the relation between literary analysis and both film and theatrical performance by asking students to approach a limited set of plays from multiple perspectives, using texts, film, and theatrical performance to integrate these methodologies. Students will work closely with Shakespearean texts, practice textual and poetic analysis, and will also examine critically different forms of performance: film and live theatre. In particular, the course will explore the interrelation of these elements, revealing a deeper imaginative understanding of works that continue to influence English-speaking literature and culture.CM.
ENGL 237N: Reading and Writing Documentary Poetry (Davis)
Poetry presents a unique way to discover the human voice within the headlines. This course will guide you through the process of creative writing as one way to better understand and explore current events and the stories we hear from history. We will both read and write in the tradition of "poetry of witness," also known as documentary poetry. Using visual images from print journalism, historical texts, or documentary films as a starting point, in this class we will discuss and practice how to identify topics that interest and how to best engage the world around us through poems. We will also look at the work of poets who have done documentary poetry well and will practice a variety of simple yet effective methods to build the bridge between the poetic, the personal, and the political on the page. CP.
ENGL 250: Peer Tutoring in Writing (Lang)
Students enrolled in this course will study theories of peer tutoring in order to prepare to work as paid writing consultants in Penn State Altoona’s Writing Commons, located in Eiche 127. Our primary textbooks will be A Tutor’s Guide: Helping Writers One to One, ed. Ben Rafoth; Leigh Ryan and Lisa Zimmerelli’s Bedford Guide to Writing Tutors; and Harry Denny’s Facing the Center. Much of the course will focus on the practice of tutoring by shadowing current writing consultants and reviewing each other’s writing. If you are contemplating graduate school, a career in education, or employment as a professional writer—or if you are simply a strong writer and would like to help others—consider taking this course. ENGL 250 counts toward the English major and the Professional Writing minor. (Instructor’s signature required for enrollment. If you have questions or wish to enroll, contact Jeannette Lang at [email protected]. CM.
ENGL 262: Reading Fiction (Rotunno)
Have you ever wondered why some novels have been termed “classics” and how writers make fiction that moves you? If so, this course is the one for you. To answer those previous questions, we’ll be reading stories about outsiders and exploring novels and stories ostensibly “outside” the high art canon—such as, children’s literature, graphic novels, and some supernatural tales—as well as fiction that simply forces us outside our typical ways of thinking and reading. Gaiman tells us that “Written stories and oral stories both offer escape—escape from somewhere, escape to somewhere.” In this class, we will escape TO somewhere challenging, exciting, and outside the norm. That journey will take us deep inside of the question “what makes fiction work”? The answer might have as much to do with the reader as the fiction and thus this course is designed to exercise and stretch your fiction reading skills. This course will be taught so that students can have classroom experience but they should also know that they will, at least one day, be on Zoom. (A Gen Ed—Humanities course.) CM.
(NOTE: Students can also participate in this course entirely on Zoom.)
ENGL 297: Special Topics in J.R.R. Tolkien (Petrulionis)
“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit” ... thus begins one of the most popular children’s tales ever, which provided the seed for a much grander story of heroic self-sacrifice, ultimate friendship, and world upheaval. If you enjoyed the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, here’s a chance to dig into the books you’ve planned to read but never got around to. In addition to The Hobbit, we’ll read the entire epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings; excerpts from the mythical lore of The Silmarillion; and other tales written and translated by the esteemed literary critic and legendary “architect of Middle Earth,” J. R. R. Tolkien. CM.
ENGL 412: Advanced Fiction Writing (Sherrill)
This advanced fiction writing course will meet concurrently with ENGL 212. (Students may take this course twice in their career. Instructor’s signature required for enrollment. Email professor Sherrill at [email protected].) CR.
ENGL 430: The American Renaissance (American Romanticism) (Petrulionis)
So called the “American Renaissance” because of the flourishing of the arts and literature that took place during these years, this class focuses on the literature produced in America between roughly 1830 and 1865, an era that gave rise to many of our country’s first “classic” authors: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Herman Melville. Yet few of these now famous men earned their living primarily as an author. Instead, bestselling writers like George Lippard, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Susan Warner, Frederick Douglass, Fanny Fern, and Louisa May Alcott, among others, wrote gothic, sensational, sentimental, children’s, and reform works that were enormously popular in their day—and then faded from view when 20th-century critics banished them as too “imaginative” or “domestic” and therefore unimportant. Romantic authors in the antebellum U.S. wanted to develop a distinctly American literary culture, but they lived in a nation conflicted on every side: Slavery, an imperialistic war with Mexico, “the woman question,” the rise of industrialism and “wage slaves,” liberalization of religious institutions and beliefs, and “manifest destiny” as politically sanctioned genocide of native peoples. We will read and assess novels, stories, poems, speeches, and essays as we examine what it meant to be an American writer during these turbulent years of literary experimentation, geopolitical expansion, impending Civil War, and social and political tension. CM.
ENGL 442: Medieval English Literature (Stoyanoff)
When you hear medieval literature, you likely imagine knights, ladies, kings, peasants, the DARK AGES, warfare, plague, and a number of other characteristics that come straight out of a Renaissance Festival ad. While some of these things listed above are indeed elements of the Middle Ages in England, the literature is remarkably more varied and, well, interesting. Most of the issues that affect us today were also issues then. From nationalism to gender and sexuality issues to race to even climate change, there are poems, prose, and drama from the Middle Ages that address these issues. In this course, we will begin as early as 800 CE with the beginnings of literature in English (Old English), reading Old English elegies and perhaps some excerpts from Beowulf. We will briefly explore the Anglo Norman (Old French) period of medieval England then before reading a variety of texts in Middle English. Students will be asked to engage the texts in the original Middle English language, but not to worry – there will be sufficient help both in the marginal glosses of the texts we will use and in class meetings. Through reading these texts, we will learn both about the people and cultures of this period as well as about ourselves and the US in the twenty-first century. Students will be expected to engage texts in traditional literary analysis as well as through a sampling of theoretical approaches via literary theory. Most texts will be available online or provided via Canvas. CR.
Also of Interest to English Majors:
CMLIT 011: The Hero in World Literature (Sam Findley)
This course takes the theme of the hero as a means to explore world literature over a vast expanse of time and geography: Gilgamesh (2000BCE) to Batman (now). However, instead of beginning with a theory of the hero, we’re going to embark together on a semester whose mission is the discovery, by reading these stories, of what-it-means to be a hero. You might say, then, that we are ourselves questing heroes in search of this particular truth. Call me Don Quixote; you can be Sancho Panza. CM.
CMLIT 106: The Arthurian Legend (Brooke Findley)
Where did the legend of King Arthur come from? Why has his story appealed to people in so many time periods (medieval, Victorian, modern) and across so many cultures (Celtic, French, English, German, Japanese)? Was there a historical Arthur? These are a few of the questions that we’ll address in this survey of Arthurian legend and literature from its medieval origins to the present day. We will discuss chivalry, courtly love, the Holy Grail, politics, gender, and religion. We'll also make some brief forays into Arthurian art and film. CP.