Curriculum Overview 

The English major at Franklin & Marshall offers students a choice between two complementary tracks, one emphasizing literary study, the other creative writing. We require majors in either track to have some experience in both areas. Studying literature and practicing creative writing develop in us obvious skills—skills of reading, writing, analysis, creativity and critical thinking—but they also enable us to engage with the rich diversity of human experience.

Since we cannot separate language or literature from their cultural and intellectual contexts, the literature component of the English major at Franklin & Marshall offers a substantial historical base, with core courses on topics in the traditional periods of British and American literature. Additionally, students take thematic courses in subjects like “Caribbean Literature,” “Nature and Literature,” “Graphic Novel,” “African Literature,” and “Baseball in American Literature and Culture,” as well as upper-level seminars in authors or topics that build on the historical core.

The track in creative writing joins the passion for language and imaginative writing with the study of literature. It is built upon the premise that reading widely and deeply in literature, including contemporary literature, is essential to becoming a skilled creative writer: in other words, that the best writers are also avid, engaged readers. Students who choose a concentration in creative writing practice the craft of writing poetry, fiction and nonfiction in workshop settings where writing is valued as a serious art form. The major culminates in an advanced creative writing workshop in which students complete creative theses in the genre of their choice. The creative writing major is a gateway to a lifelong love and appreciation of words.

Literature majors also take at least one course in creative writing. All students, through their own attempts to write creatively, can develop an appreciation for how the great works they study in their literature courses might have been created. English majors in both tracks come to appreciate the rigor that both disciplines—literary criticism and creative writing—entail.

English majors have rich research opportunities beyond the requirements of the major through independent study and Hackman summer research scholarships, which engage students with the scholarly activities of their professors. They also have opportunities for involvement in a range of extra-curricular activities: attending readings by and meeting numerous visiting writers, participating in events at the Writers House, helping to plan the Emerging Writers Festival, or writing for or staffing one of the College’s literary publications.

English majors are highly valued for their abilities to think and write. The study of English is not just good preparation for a career, however. It fosters an engagement with the big questions of living—questions about language, meaning and value. It fosters self-reflection and greater awareness of the natural and social worlds in which we live. Moreover, studying English literature gives us a purchase on how narratives and metaphors work so that we can interpret and deploy them wisely and even re-make them for our own time, with its enormous challenges and demands.

A major in English with a concentration in Literature consists of the following eleven courses, at least two of which must be at the 300-level: ENG226; two Pre-1800 literature courses (ENG 201, 202, 203, 206, 212, 256, and 200- and 300-level courses designated as Pre-1800); two Post-1800 literature courses (ENG 204, 207, 208, 210, 257, and 200- and 300-level courses designated as Post-1800); one course designated either Pre- or Post-1800; one creative writing course (ENG 225, 381, 382, 383, 384); two electives; and two 400-level seminars.

A major in English with a concentration in Creative Writing consists of the following eleven courses: ENG226; three creative writing courses (ENG 225, 381, 382, 383, 384); one Pre-1800 literature course (English 201, 202, 203, 206, 212, 256, and 200- and 300-level courses designated as Pre-1800); one Post-1800 literature course (ENG 204, 207, 208, 210, 257, and 200- and 300-level courses designated as Post-1800); one course designated either Pre- or Post-1800; one designated Contemporary literature course; one elective; one 400-level literature seminar; ENG 480.

A minor in English consists of the following six courses: ENG 226; one Pre-1800 literature course (ENG 201, 202, 203, 206, 256, and 200- and 300-level courses designated as Pre-1800); one Post-1800 literature course (ENG 204, 207, 208, 210, 257, and 200-and 300-level courses designated as Post-1800); one course designated either Pre- or Post-1800 literature; one elective; one 400-level literature seminar.

The writing requirement in the English major is met by completion of the normal courses required to complete the major.

Students are urged to consult with departmental advisers about appropriate courses within the department and in related fields.

Majors in the Department of English have studied abroad in the following programs in recent years: Advanced Studies in England, Bath; various programs in London, Scotland and Australia. See the International Programs section of the Catalog for further information.

Required Major Courses

A list of regularly offered courses follows. Please note the key for the following abbreviations: (A) Arts; (H) Humanities; (S) Social Sciences; (N) Natural Sciences with Laboratory; (LS) Language Studies requirement; (NSP) Natural Science in Perspective; (NW) Non-Western Cultures requirement; (W) Writing requirement.


226. Engaging Literary Texts: Introduction to Literary Study. (H)

What are some of the ways that works of literature engage us, and in turn how can we learn to engage in various ways with literary texts: their words on the page, their imagined communities, their invented characters? How can learning about and practicing different interpretive approaches incite our readerly pleasures as well as our understanding and excitement about a work of literature’s complexity of language and form, its aesthetics, and its power both to represent and transform lives and times and places.                                                                                                          Huber, Mongia

Pre-1800 Literature. (H)

These regularly offered courses examine selected issues and ideas in the traditions of British and American literature in the historical periods before 1800. ENG 201 covers British Literature from the Medieval Period; ENG 202 examines British Literature from the Renaissance; ENG 203 treats British Literature from the Restoration and the 18th century; ENG 206 treats American Literature from its beginnings through the 1830s; ENG 212 covers Shakespeare; ENG 256 examines African-American Literature from the colonial period through the 19th century. The department occasionally offers 200- and 300-level courses designated “Pre-1800.”                                                                Staff

Post-1800 Literature. (H)

These regularly offered courses examine selected issues and ideas in the traditions of British and American literature in the historical periods after 1800. ENG 204 covers British literature in the 19th century; ENG 207 covers American Literature from the founding of the Republic to the Civil War; ENG 208 extends from the Civil War through World War II. ENG 210 treats 20th-century literature written in English; ENG 257 examines African-American Literature of the 20th century.  The department occasionally offers occasional 200- and 300-level courses designated “Post-1800.”  Staff


60. Modern Drama. (H) (W)

This course explores 20th-century drama and performance from around the world. We will read works written in English from Nigeria, South Africa, Ireland, English, and America. We’ll also watch several performances as videos. Along the way, we will persistently pose the questions of how performance can address important social issues and how it can offer insight for change.   Abravanel

163. Myth and Fairytale. (H)

This course compares a number of myths and fairy tales with versions from other times and cultures; we also examine critics whose perspectives range from historical to psychological, philological to feminist. We also examine artistic interpretations—films, poetry, fiction—and discuss ways in which the meaning and even utility of myth and fairy tale shift over time. Student perspectives are explored in various papers and through class presentations. Throughout the semester we examine the relevance of these stories, and how knowledge of them adds dimension to our lives.                       Hall

182. Tolkien's Mythology. (H)

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is often described as one of the most important and influential novels of the twentieth century, yet it is commonly banished from the literary canon. Why is this? This course examines Tolkien’s role as an author of popular fiction as well as of “great” literature, and will address the following questions: what is the relationship between Tolkien’s scholarship and his fiction, between the medieval text that informed his intellectual life and his novels? To what extent do Tolkien’s experiences during the Great War affect the mythology of Middle Earth? Is The Lord of the Rings good literature, and what kinds of criteria do readers and critics use in answering this question? Readings include The Lord of the Rings, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and selections from the Silmarillion. Same as LIT 182.                            Huber

212. Shakespearean Literature. (H)

This course provides a general introduction to Shakespeare’s language and dramatic literature: we will read comedies, tragedies, and histories; discuss text; analyze film adaptations; consider Shakespeare's relationship to modern culture; and attend a live performance. Meets Contemporary requirement for Creative Writing majors. (Fulfills Pre-1800 requirement.)                             Goeglein

231. Women Writers I. (H)

A study of the experiences of women as presented in selected British and American literature from the Middle Ages through the 19th century, as presented from a variety of cultural perspectives. We will consider various readings of the texts, including those that emphasize feminist theory and historical context. Among others, we will be reading Jane Austen, Aphra Behn, Anne Bradstreet, the Brontës, George Eliot and Mary Wollstonecraft. Same as WGS 231.                                        Hartman

233. Women Writers II. (H)

A study of the changing world of American and British women in the 20th century as portrayed by women writers. The critical emphasis will be on feminist theory and the political, social and cultural background of the times. Among others, we will read works by Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton, Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf. Same as WGS 233.                                                                                                                                                Hartman

245. Baseball in American Literature and Culture. (H)

How do the history of baseball, writings about baseball and the playing of the “national pastime” reflect and shape American values, social conflicts and identity? An exploration through readings in baseball literature and history. Topics include: American idealism and the American Dream; democracy and free enterprise; race and class conflicts; hero worship; patriotism; ethics (including corruption and disillusionment); and masculine identity. Same as AMS 245.                            O’Hara

250. Contemporary American Short Story. (H)

An examination of the current state of American short fiction. We will read, discuss, and write about arguably important short stories, most published within the past 25 years, in an attempt to explore some of the predominant concerns and formal innovations of today’s short story writers. We will not consider these writers in a vacuum but rather in the context of those writers who have preceded them. Writers include Raymond Carver, Denis Johnson, Junot Diaz, George Saunders, Alice Munro, and others. This course counts as a “contemporary literature” requirement for English majors with a concentration in creative writing.                                                                                       Montemarano

258. Science Writing: Fact & Fiction. (H)

In this course, we will examine texts ranging from popular science to science fiction, by scientists and nonscientists alike. As readers, we will be interested in the ways people write about science, and, as writers, we will try to put some of these principles into practice. We will be equally interested in the ethical, social, and philosophical questions that contemporary science raises, and in how to probe these questions in writing. Same as ENV/STS 258.                                                                   Anderson

260. Nature and Literature. (H)

Readings from a variety of traditions, periods, disciplines and genres to discover diverse assumptions about nature and humanity’s relation to it. Readings from both Western and non-Western cultures, though with emphasis on the British and Euro-American traditions. Such broad exploration across vast divides of time and culture should not only teach us about varied understandings of nature but also encourage self-consciousness as we form our own conceptions of what nature is and how we ought best to interact with and in it. Same as ENV 260.                                                              Mueller

263. Writing and Community. (H)

This Community-Based Learning course will give students the opportunity to both experience and reflect upon the role of the creative writer-as-educator-and-or-arts-activist. In class we will engage in exercises designed to increase our understanding of writing as both craft and practice. Students will produce significant written work for the course, including poems, fiction, and essays, journal entries, lesson plans, and a final essay and portfolio. They will also work in teams to lead creative writing workshops in the Lancaster community.                                                              Sherin Wright

265. Contemporary Graphic Novel. (H)

In this course, we will develop an historical, aesthetic and formal understanding of contemporary graphic fiction. We will study the genre’s precedents in early comics, the interplay of the comics and their historical and cultural contexts, graphic fiction’s engagement with high art, and the formal elements of graphic texts. Readings will include comic strips and comic books from 1900 to the present, Maus I and II, Watchmen, Fun Home, Jimmy Corrigan, It’s a Bird, Black Hole, and other comics. Same as ART 265.                                                                                                   Sherin Wright

284. Writing 4 New Media. (H)

A course for good writers interested particularly in the practices of electronic publication. Emphasis on writing and editing, with some attention to the sites and software that enable online content creation. Class members often work in small teams or departments in producing original publications of their own.                                                                                                          Steinbrink

315. Introduction to Literary Theory. (H)

As Jonathan Culler states, “Theory offers not a set of solutions but the prospect of further thought. It calls for commitment to the work of reading, of challenging presuppositions, of questioning the assumptions on which you proceed.” Students in this course will be introduced to theoretical schools and concepts that shape the study of literature and the practice of literary analysis. Students enrolling in this course should have taken at least one college-level literature course. Recommended for students considering graduate studies in English.                                                                  Mueller


Writing Courses (Creative Writing Courses) 
225. Introduction to Creative Writing. (A)

A general introduction to the modes and means of writing poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction with an emphasis on writing exercises and revision. Students will be introduced to the workshop method of critiquing student writing.                                           Anderson, Day, Hall, Montemarano, Nelligan

381. Writing Fiction. (A)

A workshop for students who have found fiction writing a satisfying means of self-expression and who now are ready to raise their work to a higher level. Students will write and significantly revise two or more short stories. What we read in this class—student work as well as contemporary published fiction—we will read as writers, meaning: with extreme attention to craft. We shall concern ourselves with the many choices writers make and the effects of these choices. We will practice writing dazzling sentences. Permission of the instructor required.                   Montemarano

382. Writing Poetry. (A)

A workshop focused on generating and criticizing student poetry. Weekly poetry assignments will be according to subject matter (the elegy, the political poem, the love poem, etc.), lyricism and experiments in form. A rich selection of weekly readings of American and world poetry will be our guide as we work towards further mastery of poetic craft. The semester will culminate in a portfolio of student work. Students of all majors are encouraged to take the course. Permission of the instructor required.                                                                                                                       Nelligan

384. Writing Nonfiction. (A)

For confident writers ready to find their voices in a genre that claims to tell the truth without making it up. Assignments center on pieces suited for today’s magazines, newspapers and online publications: opinion pieces, memoir, restaurant and movie reviews, editorials, travel sketches, investigative reports. Readings from contemporary nonfiction writers, some chosen by the class. Emphasis on reading and responding to each other’s work. Good writers, including non-majors, welcome. Permission of instructor required.                                                                             Anderson

480. Advanced Creative Writing Workshop. (A)

This is an advanced workshop for writers of fiction, poetry, nonfiction or drama. Each student will use the semester to finish writing, revising and organizing a creative writing thesis—a body of the student’s best work. Participants will read and discuss their own and each other’s theses-in-progress. Students will be expected to revise and tighten individual poems or stories, to shape their theses and to understand the aesthetic choices they are making. Each student must write an introduction to his or her thesis. Permission of the instructor required.                                                          Montemarano



Seminars, to which students are admitted only by permission of the instructor, are limited to enrollments of no more than 15 students. Seminars examine various topics, issues and authors.

461. Swift, Blake and Satire. (H)

A seminar on the work of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) and William Blake (1757-1827), satirists who stand at opposite ends of the eighteenth century.  Blake—radical revolutionary and visionary—addresses some of the same questions that so concern the far more conservative Swift.  Though each man would likely have found the other intolerable (given vast political, social, religious, artistic and personal differences), both effectively translate into art a profound rage about what Edward Said calls "schemes for projecting power on nature, on human beings, and on history." Among our chief objectives in our study of Swift will be to understand and enjoy the radical play of irony that characterizes his satire.  We will examine both Blake's visual art and his poetry, though with emphasis on the latter.  Students will participate in “springboard” groups whose task it will be to initiate weekly discussions; they will also write short papers and a final 10-15 page research paper.  Permission of the instructor is required.                                                                                       Mueller

470.  Contemporary Indian Literature. (H)

This course explores contemporary Indian fiction in English.  Beginning with the writers called “Anglo-Indian,” the course will offer a chronological survey of Indian fiction in English as it has developed over the last 50 years.  The bulk of our attention will be devoted to writers of the last 20 years—the “postcolonial” writers such as Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, and Arundhati Roy.  Throughout we will pay attention to the categories whereby Indian literature in English is marketed and sold; therefore we will also scrutinize the category “Indian literature in English.” Permission of the instructor required.                                                                                                                  Mongia

490. Independent Study.

Independent study directed by the English staff. See chairperson for guidelines and permission.

Topic Courses Expected to be Offered in 2015-2016 

  • 170. Violence and Story.
  • 271. Contemporary Memoir.
  • 276. Contemporary Queer Poetry.
  • 376. End of Nature?: Anthropocene Literature.
  • 379. Madonnas, Mothers, and Virgins.
  • 479. Dickens and the City.