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 as well as the Writing and Digital Media minor. Many of them also fulfill the requirements of the Secondary Education/English major and the Multidisciplinary Studies major. Some fulfill requirements for the Women’s Studies minor and/or general education and B.A. Humanities or Arts requirements. Or you might find them interesting enough to take as electives.
Spring 2024 Courses
ENGL 50: 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 producing poems and stories. I’ll challenge you and work you hard, but make sure you have fun as well. (A Gen Ed—Arts course.)
ENGL 50: Introduction to Creative Writing (Jabbeh Wesley)
This is a class where learning is fun, where you will work on your own writing in a circle of student writers, where the major text is your own work. The course will focus on two genres of the creative process: poetry and fiction writing. It is a student-centered workshop or seminar course that will both inspire you and help shape you into a better writer. The course should test your ability to make words do what no words have ever done before. You will be required to come up with your own original poetry and one short story while at the same time critiquing fellow students’ poetry. There will be immediate feedback, mentoring, and tutoring. You will have a new opportunity to see writing as craft and as art by carving up your own images, using all of the tools you need to write with the passion that makes good literature enjoyable. (A Gen Ed—Arts course.)
ENGL 104: The Bible as Literature (Jabbeh Wesley)
English 104 is a course that examines the literature of the Bible as literature and not as religious text. We will therefore study the language, thought, images, and structures of the Bible as a book that has arguably proved the central text of Western literature. We will study specific books of the Bible not as a religious text, but as literature, looking at the aesthetics of its language as if we were reading a novel or a book of poetry, exploring the various ways in which the Bible uses storytelling through non(fiction) and poetry as narrative tools. As a class, we will work together to actively explore the ways in which the Bible has shaped the literature of English-speaking cultures around the world. We will read portions of the Old and New Testaments as students learn to read critically and to interpret the Bible as they would any other work of literature. This is going to be a very fun experience as we bring old biblical literature to life in the 21st century. Come with a critical eye to piece it all together. We will also learn about the historical construction of the Bible, some history of its translation, and contemplate the competing versions of existing Biblical texts. If you ever had a need of critiquing the Bible as fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or even history, this is your course. Come, let’s debate, learn, laugh, and marvel at language and literature in its finest form. Because reading the Bible as literature requires critical engagement with different international cultures from different historical periods, you should have fun engaging another world right from our classroom. (A Gen Ed—Humanities course, and an International Cultures course.)
ENGL 180: Literature and the Natural World (Simpson)
This course is an introduction to literature about the natural world. Students will practice the methods of ecologically oriented literary analysis (eco-criticism) and they will learn to contextualize the major historical periods, movements, and arguments for the necessity of literature about the natural world as it intersects with environmental studies. We will read poetry, stories, and nonfiction accounts of our human relationship with the more-than-human world. (A Gen Ed—Humanities course).
ENGL 209: Journal or Magazine Practicum—Hard Freight (Murphy)
Have you always wanted to gain editing experience, organize an open mic, and 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 arts 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. (Mode: Hybrid [in-person and web]. Students may take this course as many as eight times in their career.)
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.)
ENGL 225N/WMNST 225N Sexuality and Modern Visual Culture: Sex Sells ... So What, Exactly, Are We Buying? (Rotunno and Page)
Our world bombards us with images, and we contribute to that barrage each time we post a picture. This class will engage you in vital discussions about those images as well as those that came before us and continue to shape what we see and create today. At its core, this class will be driven by our discussion of visual presentations that use “sex” to “sell” us a story; that story might be about what family is or should be, about what political activism looks like, about how a society thinks about love, beauty, hate, even its future hopes or its present fears. To spur those discussions, we’ll offer you readings by and about artists and their subjects—both fictional and real—and a rich, diverse historical background in visual representations that reflect how Western society, from the mid-19th-century to today, has viewed itself through the lens of sexuality, which always intersects with race, gender, gender identity, and class. For example, the terms “feminist” and “homosexual” were invented by the Victorians and reflect profound shifts in conceptions of identity. Another 19th-century invention was the idea of the literary and artistic “avant-garde” as a minority contingent with politically and/or aesthetically advanced views. These ideas of minority culture were deeply enmeshed with one another and still have effects on our world today. Discussions of these ideas then, hopefully, can help us all navigate the flood of images that today’s media presents as well as the self-images we cast into the world. (An Interdomain (N) Gen-Ed Humanities and Arts course)
ENGL 227/WMNST 227: Introduction to Queer Theory—Seeing Medieval Masculinities (Stoyanoff)
In this course, we will first learn what Queer Theory is and how it is applied to a number of other disciplines. After we have established this context, we will specifically use Queer Theory as a lens to read medieval English texts – mostly medieval romances and other Middle English poetry and drama. Doing this work, we’ll need a working understanding of the sorts of masculinities available to men in the Middle Ages. The practice of chivalry dominates the various romances of medieval English literature, popularly stereotyped as the knight in shining armor saving the damsel in distress. Yet this particular type of masculinity is not the only one available to the various male and even at times female characters in Middle English romances. This course aims to unsettle preconceptions of medieval masculinity by reading a number of Middle English romances using gender and queer theoretical approaches. In so doing, it will provide students an opportunity to discover the multi-faceted nature of medieval English masculinity and how elements of it have influenced our current understanding of masculinity. (A Gen Ed—Humanities course and a United States Cultures course)
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. The instructor’s signature is required for enrollment. Email Professor Sherrill at [email protected].)
ENGL 469: Slavery and the Literary Imagination (Petrulionis)
For many Americans, nostalgia has unfortunately substituted for history when it comes to the subjects of slavery and the ensuing Civil War that was fought to end it. As a nation, we have generally been more comfortable either forgetting or re-inventing the past rather than educating ourselves and honoring the many real heroes of this era. Focused as it is on a historical reality, this course necessarily combines literature, culture, and history. We will read a variety of works depicting the ways in which America’s writers have transformed the horror and injustice of slavery into their written words. Readings will include narratives of formerly enslaved people such as Henry Box Brown, Harriet Jacobs, and Frederick Douglass; political propaganda of abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison and Henry David Thoreau; proslavery apologists such as South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun; poems, novels, and stories, including gothic landscapes and sensational accounts of mutineers and rebels, by many authors, possibly including John Brown, Edgar Allan Poe, Pauline Hopkins, Charles Chesnutt, Louisa May Alcott, and Herman Melville; and a twentieth-century Nobel Laureate’s imagining of slavery’s tragic and irrevocable disruption of one family’s life (Toni Morrison’s Beloved). As you’ll learn, the story of American slavery is not only one of trauma but also one of extraordinary courage and even triumph. Along the way, we’ll be reading the contemporary memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me.
(Note to ENGAL majors: this course fulfills either the post-1800 literature course requirement or the diversity course requirement. If your degree audit shows either of those requirements unfulfilled, you need this course!)