Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.
Chair, 2011-12: Diana Postlethwaite, 19th-century British literature, literature and film
Faculty, 2011-12: Mark Allister, American literature, environmental literature, American studies; Karen Cherewatuk, Anglo Saxon, medieval literature; Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, creative writing; Jenny Dunning, creative writing; Carlos Gallego, 20th-century American literature, Chicano/Chicana literature; Joan Hepburn, African American literature, drama; Jan C. Hill, writing, journalism; Carol Holly, American literature; Diane LeBlanc, writing; Karen Marsalek, medieval literature and linguistics, Renaissance drama (on leave); Joseph Mbele, post-Colonial literature (on leave spring semester); Jonathan Naito, 20th-century British and Post-colonial literature; Rebecca Richards, writing; Mary Titus, American literature; Mary Trull, 16th- and 17th-century literature; Colin Wells, 18th-century British and American literature
Literature is one of the most compelling ways in which humans have recorded and reflected on their lives, imagined different worlds, and communicated one with another. It offers the pleasures of artistic expression combined with the rewards of empathy and insight, knowledge and inspiration.
Drawing on 1500 years of literature from Geoffrey Chaucer and John Milton to Emily Dickinson, Chinua Achebe and Toni Morrison, the English major encourages students to dig deeply and to range widely, crossing borders and exploring diversity both in content (authors, literary genres and historical periods) and in form (critical and creative approaches).
Students are exposed to a variety of conceptual approaches to literary study. The traditional methodologies of literary history and genre studies remain. But students also learn the cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural methods that are redefining literary canons and strongly influencing scholarship as we move into the 21st century.
As they discuss and write about what they have read, students develop an informed understanding of the force of literary language and improve their powers of communication, analysis, and persuasion. In the department's creative writing courses, students can nourish their own verbal creativity while working with literary forms from the inside.
The English major is easily and frequently combined with other majors, and is compatible with off-campus study. Most courses taken elsewhere can count toward the major as electives.
Some English majors may be headed for graduate programs in literature; some plan to teach; some are creative writers. Others may be preparing for careers that reward strong communication skills, in fields such as publishing, law, business, or community service. Within a framework requiring them to experience multiple approaches to literature, students have flexibility in shaping their course of study to their individual interests and aspirations.
OVERVIEW OF THE MAJOR
Organized around four categories (literary history, cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary, and genre), the English major requires ten courses: English 185, three level II courses in specified categories, and six electives, two of which must be from level III. Among the level II courses, one must be in literature before 1800, and one in literature after 1800.
Many English courses carry general education credit in ALS-L, ORC and WRI. Some carry HWC, MCG and MCD, and EIN credit.
FYW is a prerequisite for all other courses in the department except specified level I courses. While a few courses have additional prerequisites, most level I and level II courses are open to all — majors and non-majors alike — after FYW. Level III courses (numbered 300 or higher) are primarily for English majors and ordinarily build upon prior work. All level III courses require as a prerequisite English 185 and at least one level II course in an area of relevant background as confirmed by the instructor or the department.
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MAJORS
Requirements for the Graduation Major
Level I: English 185 (Literary Studies)
Level II: 3 courses: one from cross-cultural studies, one from literary history, and one from either cross-disciplinary studies or genre.
1800 requirement: Among all courses taken at level II (catagory-specific and elective), one must be in literature before 1800; one must be in literature after 1800.
Six electives, two of which must be at level III.
Requirements for the Graduation Major Plus Communication Arts/Literature (CAL) Teaching Licensure
Eight English courses: English 150, 185, 205, 242, 250, 256, one literary history course, one cross-disciplinary or genre course, and one level III literature elective. Additional requirements: FYW, Theater 100, Theater 120, Media Studies 160. Further courses required in Education Department.
Requirements for the Communication Arts/Literature (CAL) Teaching Licensure
English 150, 185, 205, 242, 250, 256, and one English literature elective. Additional requirements: FYW, Theater 100, Theater 120, Media Studies 160. Further courses required in Education Department.
The English Department awards distinction on the basis of a student’s overall record in the department and on the quality of a written project – critical or creative – submitted by the candidate in his or her senior year. To be a candidate for departmental distinction, a student must have completed a minimum of seven graded courses in the major, six of which must have been taught by St. Olaf College faculty. The combined GPA of all graded courses in the major taught by St. Olaf faculty must be 3.5 or higher. Such students may apply in the fall semester of their senior year. Students interested in distinction should obtain guidelines from the Department Distinction Coordinator and find a supervisor in the English Department before applying.
Special programs include semester and full-year study in England at Oxford, Lancaster, and East Anglia; study in Scotland at Aberdeen; semester and full-year study in Ireland at Trinity College, University College Dublin and University College Galway; Interim study in the Caribbean and in Ireland; semester and Interim study at the Newberry Library in Chicago; Urban Teaching semester in Chicago; Interim theater study in London; internships in writing. (See INTERNATIONAL AND OFF-CAMPUS STUDIES for further information.)
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GRADUATE AND PROFESSIONAL STUDY
Students planning on graduate study in English should take the graduation major and additional courses for a total not to exceed 14. Specific programs should be planned with the student’s academic advisor. At least two foreign languages should be included, one of which should be French or German. In recent years, English majors have been accepted for graduate study in literature (at Berkeley, Chicago, Princeton, Toronto, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin) and in writing (at Boston University, George Mason, Iowa, and New School University).
Most level II courses (numbered in the 200s) are open to all students without prerequisite beyond FYW. Level III courses (numbered in the 300s) are primarily confined to the major, demand control of methods and of basic factual and theoretical knowledge appropriate to English studies, require more advanced work, assume more preparation, and pursue subjects in greater depth than do Level II courses. Level III courses are open to students with the stated prerequisites.
Courses in writing provide the opportunity for students, whether beginning or experienced writers, to develop their own work in a variety of modes including poetry, journalism, creative nonfiction, drama, and fiction for both beginning and experienced writers.
Students examine various heroic and trickster figures as manifested in post-colonial literature from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean, both oral and written, and seek to understand what basic human needs and realities these figures express and fulfill. Counts towards ARMS major and concentration. Counts towards Africa & the Americas concentration.
This course introduces students to poetry from a range of perspectives including, but not limited to the poet's life; the application of categories of analysis such as race, gender, and nationality; poetry as literary craft; and the aesthetic appreciation of poems. To experience the literary medium of poetry in the fullest sense, students are required to write about, memorize, orally interpret/recite, and compose their own poetry.
This course introduces students to literary analysis through dramatic texts and performance. Activities may include trips to see local productions, student in-class performances, staged readings, and viewing filmed productions. Plays are drawn from varied genres, two or more historical periods, and both traditional and experimental approaches.
As they read a variety of mostly contemporary literature from English-speaking countries around the world, students learn strategies of critical analysis and interpretation. They also practice and develop skills in writing and oral communication. This course is required of those beginning the English major. It is not recommended for general education students. Prerequisite: FYW.
Focusing on global literatures in English and/or multicultural literatures within a single nation, this topics course examines literature as a human expression that embraces both commonality and difference within and across cultures. This course also employs critical approaches specifically designed to address cross-cultural literary issues. It may be repeated if topics are different. Prerequisite: FYW. Click on course title in the class and lab for more information about the course for that term.
Students explore the histories, cultural patterns, religious practices, key institutions, gender issues, narrative styles, and the significant contributions to our nation of an array of racial and multicultural groups. Such diverse writers as Leslie Silko, Chaim Potok, Amy Tan, and Toni Morrison raise questions about voice and identity, both individual and collective. Prerequisite: FYW. Counts towards ARMS major and concentration. Counts towards American studies major and Africa & the Americas concentration.
Students explore African literature as it has evolved from oral traditions like folktales and epics into fiction, poetry, and drama in written form. Topics studied might include literature of particular geographical areas, such as East Africa, a genre such as poetry, or the influence of western literature on that of Africa. Authors studied may include Chinua Achebe, J. M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Arthur Nortje, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and Alex La Guma. Prerequisite: FYW.
The history of British colonization of America, Africa, Asia, and Australia coincides with the history of the novel's emergence as the major literary genre in English. This course examines this parallel history by considering the ways in which the colonial experience has been represented in novels from the 18th century to the present. We will read six novels, tracing this development in America, Africa, and Asia, and discuss the novels both in relationship to the development of the novel in general, and to their place in colonial or postcolonial history. Offered during Interim.
Students encounter literature from former British colonies and from other countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Primary attention is given to literatures in English, but the readings may include some translations. The course examines diverse cultural expressions and the historical and cultural contexts of the works read, including the relationship between oral and written literature and between indigenous and foreign elements. Prerequisite: FYW. Counts towards Africa & the Americas concentration.
Students will study selected writers of the Eastern Caribbean islands of Barbados, Trinidad, Saint Lucia and others. The study of literature is supplemented by guest lectures and speakers, as well as field trips to sites of cultural and environmental interest. Accommodation includes stays in private homes. Prerequisite: FYW. Offered in alternate years during Interim.
These courses trace the process of literary change during a selected period of approximately one hundred years, providing an experience of chronological breadth and textual variety. Students examine the development of styles, conventions, and forms within a particular national literature or across two or more national literatures. Examples of possible topics include Declarations of Independence in American Literature; Literature of the Atlantic Triangle, 1650-1800, 20th-Century British and Irish Modernism. May be repeated if topics are different. Prerequisite: FYW. Click on course title in the class and lab for more information about the course for that term.
Students explore poetry and prose from the earliest periods in the development of the English language and literature -- by Caedmon, the Beowulf poet, Chaucer, Julian of Norwich, Malory, Spenser, Shakespeare, Lady Mary Wroth, Donne, Milton -- and investigate how literary conventions and social history interact. From sermons to sonnets, students examine 1000 years of literary history and ultimately follow the voyage of English from Britain to the Americas. Prerequisite: FYW.
Students study literary developments from the mid-17th to the mid-19th centuries. Topics examined include the influence of the Puritan Revolution on literature; satiric modes practiced by Dryden, Pope and Swift; the rise of the novel; the Romantic movement; Transcendentalism; and the development of American identity as seen in writers such as Franklin, Fuller, and Douglass. Prerequisite: FYW.
Students study modern Irish literature in four distinct Irish settings (ancient city, coastal village, urban capital, lake-country town) where this literature was written. James Joyce's Dubliners put Dublin on the map; Irish men and women, some of whom students meet on the trip, continue to write engagingly about modern life in a variety of locales. Readings, discussion, and cultural experiences (including theater, museums, and excursions by van) provide the basis for daily journal entries and several short papers. Prerequisite: FYW. Offered in alternate years during Interim.
A study of the Arthurian legend, from its Celtic origins through the classic medieval romances of Chrétien and Malory, to the Victorian adaptations of Tennyson and the Pre-Raphaëlites, to contemporary novels and film. The course focuses on the myth's characteristic forms and ideas: the errant knight's adventures, the grail quest, and triangulating desire and adulterous love. Prerequisite: FYW. Counts towards medieval studies major.
Students read and discuss children's literature from a variety of cultures and time periods. Beginning with world folklore and children's classics as background, students explore an array of picture books, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction that exemplifies the best in fantasy, science fiction, and realism for children and young adults. Special emphasis is given to two relatively new subgenres: multicultural literature and the contemporary problem novel. Prerequisite: FYW.
Students study individual texts as well as the development of women's literary tradition(s). How do women writers conform to and/or challenge the dominant paradigm for female identity, women's social roles and women's literary practice? Topics may include women's autobiographies, women writers and the land, contemporary women's fiction, and major women writers. Prerequisite: FYW. Counts towards medieval studies major.
Students learn about and analyze the English language, beginning with the building blocks of language: morphology, syntax, semantics, and phonetics/phonology. Students also explore the ways humans acquire language, social and geographical influences on English, and major changes during the history of the English language. The course serves as an introduction to the linguistics concentration, and fulfills the linguistics requirement of the Communication Arts and Literature license. Prerequisite: FYW.
Students explore the works of major authors writing in English from around the globe, as well as their historical, social, and geographic contexts. Prerequisite: FYW. Click on course title in the class and lab for more information about the course for that term.
Students examine a limited number of plays (eight or nine) in order to concentrate on how to read the plays well and how to respond fully to both text and performance. Students attend live performances when possible and view productions on video. The course, designed especially for non-majors, includes some consideration of historical context and background as well as practice in how to write about the plays. Prerequisite: FYW.
This course focuses on verbal folklore: narratives, songs, and shorter forms such as proverbs. It explores their intrinsic qualities as literary creations and also the ways in which they operate together in combination or in dialogue. The folktale and the epic, for example, incorporate a variety of these forms, such as the proverb, the song, or the riddle, to form a complex whole. Prerequisite: FYW.
Interdisciplinary 258 Theater in London (Abroad)
Students study drama and theater through the reading of dramatic criticism and plays, attendance at approximately 20 performances, group discussions, guest lectures, and tours. London, the theatrical center of the English-speaking world, enables students to experience a wide variety of theatrical performances ranging from traditional to modern. Excursions to Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, and Canterbury offer additional perspectives. Offered during Interim.
In addition to the traditional practices of literary study, cross-disciplinary courses include materials from at least one other academic discipline, requiring students to compare and combine disciplinary perspectives in literary analysis. Examples of courses taught under this heading might include Literature and Politics; Religion and the Novel; Philosophical Approaches to Literature. May be repeated if topics are different. Prerequisite: FYW. Click on course title in the class and lab for more information about the course for that term.
Students examine literary works, forms, and movements as part of a larger cultural history. Each offering of this course emphasizes a different historical issue or period. Students consider the extent to which literary texts are produced by common cultural and historical conditions and how literature shapes the historical accounts we inherit. Recent offerings include "Romanticism," "'50s Beat Literature," and "Writing America: 1620-1800." Prerequisite: FYW. Click on course title in the class and lab for more information about the course for that term. Counts towards medieval studies major.
This course examines aspects of theater production in New York City. Students meet artists, directors, producers, critics, and scholars skilled in the areas of performance and important to the critical reception of poetry and drama. They also tour relevant sites, developing skill at analyzing and evaluating artistic excellence. Specifically, students consider three aspects of theater: written drama, play production, and review writing. Offered in alternate years during Interim. Prerequisite: FYW. Counts towards ARMS and American studies majors and ARMS concentration.
Students explore the complex relationships between literature and film. How do we translate the verbal into the visual? What can novels do that films cannot and vice versa? Subject matter includes both classic and contemporary fiction and film. Prerequisite: FYW. Counts toward film studies concentration.
Through nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, students explore the complex relations between humans and the "natural" world. Students consider questions such as: What does it mean to have connected to a landscape? What is a sense of place? Students also reflect about how they and the writers they read put landscape and experiences into language. Prerequisite: FYW. Counts towards American studies major. Counts toward environmental studies major (all tracks) and concentration.
These courses emphasize the study of literature united by specific or shared formal elements rather than by theme, topic, historical period, or national origin. The genre studied may be broad, such as narrative fiction, or narrowly defined, such as the elegy. The course focuses on the study of literature through a critical exploration of form. May be repeated if topics are different. Prerequisite: FYW. Click on course title in the class and lab for more information about the course for that term.
Students learn the techniques of screenwriting, including how to write a treatment, to create backstories, and to break down scenes. Each student produces and revises a narrative screenplay. Prerequisite: FYW. Counts toward film studies concentration.
Students explore specific periods in British literature and examine the relationship between literary texts and movements and their particular cultural, political, and historical contexts. Each offering of this course examines a different literary era and emphasizes specific literary and historical issues. Prerequisites: English 185 plus one additional course of relevant background. Click on course title in the class and lab for more information about the course for that term. Counts towards medieval studies major.
Students explore specific periods in American literature and examine the relationship between literary texts and movements and their particular cultural, political, and historical contexts. Each offering of this course examines a different literary era and emphasizes specific literary and historical issues. Prerequisites: English 185 plus one additional course of relevant background. Click on course title in the class and lab for more information about the course for that term. Counts towards American studies major.
This course focuses on important issues, images, authors, and modes in an intensive study of racial and multicultural literature in the U.S. The scope of the course can include racial portraiture, sexual politics, field and factory experience, color and class status, and church and family institutions. Authors include such writers as Frederick Douglass and Maxine Hong Kingston. Prerequisites: English 185 plus one additional course of relevant background. Click on course title in the class and lab for more information about the course for that term. Counts towards ARMS and American studies majors and ARMS concentration.
Students study individuals or groups of authors, looking at themes such as the individual as cultural hybrid, the place of politics in literature, ethnocentrism and imperialism. They examine the formation of literature from the clashes of culture, and the relationship between non- traditional literary forms and traditional European aesthetics. Prerequisites: English 185 plus one additional course of relevant background. Click on course title in the class and lab for more information about the course for that term.
This class focuses on defining, classifying, analyzing, interpreting, evaluating, and understanding literature. Students study both practical criticism (discussion of particular works or writers) and theoretical criticism (principles and criteria appropriate to literature generally). The course introduces a broad range of critical theories and provides an historical overview of the subject. Prerequisites: English 185 plus one additional course of relevant background.
Students consider in depth some of Shakespeare's most popular plays and also explore some of the less-frequently studied classics. Students examine a wide range of genres and types of plays, view recorded productions, and attend performances when available. Prerequisites: English 185 plus one additional course of relevant background.
Students examine the work of a major British author. Through attention to life experiences, cultural contexts, and the impact of history, the course offers students a complex understanding of a major author's literary achievement. Recent authors have included Milton, Dickens, George Eliot, Joyce, and Woolf. Because such study is intensive and requires background, students should have prior exposure to the author studied. May be repeated if topics are different. Prerequisite: English 185 plus one additional course of relevant background. Click on course title in the class and lab for more information about the course for that term. Counts towards medieval studies major.
In the first part of this seminar, students examine, on the basis of common readings, some broad literary topic. In the second, they undertake individual research projects, share and respond to each other's work-in-progress, and present their completed project to the seminar. May be repeated if topics are different. Prerequisites: English 185 plus one additional course of relevant background. Click on course title in the class & lab for more information about the course for that term. Counts towards American studies major.
This course examines Milton's works through the lens of ethics, using readings in ethical theory to better understand both the ethical issues and the works themselves. Students participate in a series of trials and panels designed to explore in depth issues of censorship, individual liberty, and the role of civil governments. Prerequisite: English 185 plus one course of relevant background; completion of BTS-T or permission of instructor.
Students analyze from a broadly cultural view the political, religious, and intellectual debates of Chaucer's day as reflected in his greatest work, the Canterbury Tales. Students examine the Canterbury Tales through the lens of ethics, using readings in ethical theory to better understand moral questions, Chaucer's poetry, and ourselves -- as interpreters of literature and moral agents. Prerequisite: English 185 plus one course of relevant background; completion of BTS-T or permission of instructor. Counts towards medieval studies major.
In the first part of this seminar, students examine, on the basis of common readings, some broad literary topic. In the second, they undertake individual research projects, share and respond to each other's work-in-progress, and present their completed project to the seminar. May be repeated if topics are different. Prerequisites: English 185 plus one additional course of relevant background.
How do we create poetry, fiction and nonfiction that engages the reader and effectively communicates deeper meaning? In this course students develop a broad foundation of strategies underlying good creative writing. Risk taking and experimentation are encouraged. Students practice "the practice" of creative writing through extensive exercises. Students also read examples of contemporary poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Prerequisite: prior or concurrent enrollment in FYW.
The personal essay may contain rumination, memoir, anecdote, diatribe, scholarship, fantasy, and moral philosophy. Students read and write about the personal essay from its origins to the present day as well as craft their own personal essays. Readings range from founding father Montaigne to classic practitioners Charles Lamb and Virginia Woolf; students also explore International essayists such as Wole Soyinka and American voices from Thoreau to Annie Dillard. Offered during Interim.
Students critically examine a variety of national, metro, and local media. Students then learn to write their own news copy, including hard news, features, editorials, arts and entertainment reviews, sports, business, and travel stories. Students also learn UPI/AP style copy editing and proofreading, important skills for students applying for internships and print media jobs. Prerequisite: FYW.
From the intimate personal essay to more externally driven literary journalism, creative nonfiction covers a range of forms. Students learn to combine fictional techniques, personal recollections, and direct exposition in assignments that might include memoir, personal essay, cultural criticism, nature writing, book and film reviewing, and "new journalism." Contemporary nonfiction writers such as Annie Dillard, Scott Russell Sanders, Judith Ortiz Cofer, and John McPhee provide models and inspiration for writing in the course. Prerequisite: FYW or its equivalent and sophomore status.
In this course students read and write contemporary poetry intensively and explore the writer's craft. Students peer-edit each others' writing. Prerequisite: FYW and sophomore status.
In this course students read and write contemporary fiction intensively and explore the writer's craft. Students peer-edit each others' writing. Prerequisites: FYW and sophomore status.
Students learn the techniques of screenwriting, including how to write a treatment, to create backstories, and to break down scenes. Each student produces and revises a narrative screenplay. Prerequisite: FYW. Counts toward film studies concentration.
Students focus on poetry, deepening their understanding of the form and completing a substantial portfolio of polished work. Class sessions include discussion of models in contemporary poetry, exploration of various options within the form, and workshopping of student writing. Prerequisite: English 292 or permission of instructor.
Students develop and complete individual projects in fiction, deepening and polishing their work. Class sessions are devoted to discussion of craft, examination of literary models, and workshopping of student writing. Prerequisite: Completion of English 293 or permission of instructor.
Students deepen and strengthen their work in creative nonfiction. Class sessions are devoted to development of writing strategies and analysis of professional and student writing. Prerequisite: English 291 or permission of instructor.
298 Independent Study
This course provides a comprehensive research opportunity, including an introduction to relevant background material, technical instruction, identification of a meaningful project, and data collection. The topic is determined by the faculty member in charge of the course and may relate to his/her research interests. Prerequisite: Determined by individual instructor. Offered based on department decision.
398 Independent Research