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 literature courses 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.
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 also offers 300-level courses designated “Pre-1800.”
201. Medieval British Literature. (H)
This course surveys selected major works and other representative examples of Old and Middle English literature, and some Latin and French texts written in England, from approximately the eighth through the fifteenth centuries. The course explores the development of medieval attitudes and themes in a variety of forms and genres, including poetry, prose, and drama. Readings may include Beowulf and other Anglo-Saxon poetry in translation; St. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History; Arthurian material such as Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain and Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur; Piers Plowman; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as well as other Middle English romances; and a selection of plays from theN-Town cycle for Corpus Christi. Students will gain extensive experience and practice reading and analyzing the English language at various stages of its historical development, including Old and Middle English. (Pre-1800)
202. The Renaissance Humanist: Early Modern British Literature. (H)
The Renaissance humanist has become symbolic of the many monumental achievements of the early modern European period: the discovery of the New World, the rediscovery of classical texts, the invention of the printing press, the reformation of the Western Church, and the formulation of a recognizable English language. We will take as our subject the Renaissance humanist and try to figure out just who this character was . . . and how s/he was figured in the literary and dramatic texts of William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, and John Donne as well as Thomas More, John Milton, and Queen Elizabeth I herself. (Pre-1800)
203. Defining Human: Eighteenth Century British LIterature
A period of enormous social, intellectual and political revolution, the so-called long eighteenth century in Britain (1660-1800) calls into question age-old assumptions about the nature of humanity. From the sex comedies of the Restoration to the satires of Jonathan Swift, the treatises of Mary Astell, the novels of Daniel Defoe and Frances Burney, the neoclassical poetry of Alexander Pope and the lyric poetry of Thomas Gray, literature of the eighteenth century engages in debates about gender, slavery, social class, human nature and our place in the cosmos. Social, intellectual and literary developments of the age still shape our modern world and our understanding of what it means to be a human being. (Pre-1800)
206. American Literature I: Insiders and Outsiders in Early American Literature. (H)
This course draws on a diverse body of writing stretching from Euro-American contact to the early years of the United States. The texts we’ll read are gathered around the problem of belonging: distinguishing insiders and outsiders, considering what is at stake in making this distinction, and exploring what happens when the distinction breaks down. They range from sermons and political pamphlets—texts that may not immediately strike you as literary—to novels, lyric poems, and a play. In these texts, questions of belonging appear in the familiar categories of class, race, gender, and nationality as well as registers from religion (who are God’s elect?) to aesthetics (which genres count as literature?). (Pre-1800)
212. Sex, Lies, Shakespeare, and U. (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 pre-1800 English major requirement. (Pre-1800)
256. African American Literature I: Declarations of Independence and the Narratives of Slavery (H) (NW)
This course covers African American narratives of slavery from the colonial period through the early 19th Century. The Declaration of Independence, the founding narrative of American selfhood and agency, provides the discursive background of the course. The Declaration did not mention Slavery, thereby erasing Slaves' experiences in the American narrative about peoplehood. We will engage the logic, rhetoric and contradictions of the document by pluralizing "declaration" to broaden and then examine how Slaves' oral narratives (the Spirituals, etc.) and texts (by Phyllis Wheatley, Oladuah Equaino, etc.) were figurative and literal declarations of independence that simultaneously question the Declaration's principles and ideology and affirm its transcendent meanings in the writers' discourses on Slavery, Black humanity and selfhood, race, the American Dream, etc. Same as AFS/AMS/WGS 257. (Pre-1800)
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 also offers 300-level courses designated “Post-1800.”
204. Nineteenth Century British Literature. (H)
The nineteenth century was rocked by social, scientific, technological and political transformations, yielding responses from high exuberance to deep anxiety about the new and the old. At the heart of the cacophony of voices lay a set of essential questions: What forces of the past shape the present of the individual, the community, the nation? What beliefs and practices must be changed, to give way to the new, the modern? What are the costs and benefit of progress? This course takes its keynotes from poet Wordsworth, natural historian Darwin and novelists such as Mary Anne Evans [pseud. George Eliot], Charles Dickens, and Thomas Hardy. Other texts may include Victorian children’s literature, essays on The Woman Question by J.S. Mill and Florence Nightingale, Tennyson’s poetic reinventions of myth, and Conrad's modernist novel, Heart of Darkness. (Post-1800)
207. American Literature II: American Experiments, 1800-1865. (H)
In the first half of the nineteenth century, the United States was still an experiment, in governance as well as in commerce and culture. Its literary production was no exception. From the historical tall tales of Washington Irving to the gothic confusions of Edgar Allan Poe to the cryptic poems of Emily Dickinson, writing of the period experiments with form and genre, words and ideas. These experiments confront the many tensions of the young nation: the call for a distinctively American literary culture in a marketplace dominated by English writing, the exploding exchange of labor and goods, and the contradiction of slavery and liberty. The questions they raise continue to resonate: How can democratic ideals contend with ugly inequalities of race, class, and gender? Are personal and national identity to be sought out or dissolved? And what does it mean, exactly, to be an American writer? Authors may include Emerson, Thoreau, Stowe, Douglass, Whitman, Hawthorne, Melville, and others. (Post-1800)
208: American Literature 3: Life, Labor, Light Bulbs. (H)
American writers of the late nineteenth century rejected romance, documenting instead the social conditions of cities and towns, the financial exploitation of laborers, and the hysteria of women with no work to do. This course studies the philosophies of biology and economy that shaped these new literary directions, as well as the developing technologies—such as photography and lightbulbs, elevators and monorails—that transformed the process of representation. Authors include Stephen Crane, Sarah Orne Jewett, Henry James, Frank Norris, Mark Twain, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and others. (Post-1800)
210. Modernism and Modernity. (H)
In this course, we’ll explore how modernist writers—such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, W.B. Yeats, André Breton, and T.S. Eliot—rebelled against the literary conventions of their day. In stunning, iconoclastic verse and prose, these writers turned to surrealist mind games, stream of consciousness narration, Freudian psychology, experimental cinema, and jazz-inflected metapoems to question the meaning of literature itself. Some issues we may consider: literary constructions of mind and self, early twentieth-century gender roles, WWI, Irish independence, mass entertainment, Futurism, Imagism, and bodies/machines. (Post-1800)
257. African American Literature II: Meaning of the Veil and African American Identity. (H) (NW)
In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), the African American writer W. E. B. Du Bois introduces two concepts--the "veil" and "double-consciousness”--to explain the black experience in America. This course, which covers African American literature from Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Aesthetic/Black Power movement and beyond, will examine the recurrence of the veil metaphor (and its synonyms) generally and engage Du Bois's formulation of the concept specifically in the cultural and historical contexts that frame this period's literature. We will explore how writers (Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, etc.) engage topics (race, gender, music, identity, etc.) that reinforce, expand and/or complicate Du Bois's metaphor. Same as AFS/AMS/WGS 257. (Post-1800)
169. Caribbean Literature. (H, NW)
What is Caribbean literature? Some writers and scholars question the identity of a region of so many diverse languages, races, ethnicities, religions, and nations. At the same time, others argue for the coherence of a region marked by a history of European colonization and slavery. This course will focus on anglophone (English-language) Caribbean literature of the twentieth century, a rich and varied body of work that has recently produced two Nobel Prize winners, Derek Walcott and V.S. Naipaul. In this course, we will explore how this literature grapples with issues of race, gender, nationalism, independence, decolonization, the ethics of violence, the importance of vernacular expression, and the formation of a literary tradition.
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.
229. 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
253. Epic and Romance. (H)
This course focuses on epic and romance: two genres of ancient literature which mutually inform and influence each other, and both of which formulate the foundations and inspirations of popular 21st-century genres of fiction (fantasy, science fiction, romance, among others). Readings will be selected from texts including Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the Irish Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), Beowulf, the Arthurian romances of Chrétien de Troyes, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. Our discussions will focus on the formation of the notion of heroism, and examine various stages in the development of concepts of heroism in western culture, and the cultural fantasies that accompany it. Above all, epic and romance concern themselves with the process and problematics of selfdefinition, that of the individual and of the community as a whole. The course addresses the following questions: How was reading used as a method of unifying culture in secular communities? In what ways did these narratives affirm and/or challenge societal rules? How does this literature treat figures of the nation and the king? The conventions of gender? Same as LIT 253.
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.
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.
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.
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.
315. 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.
362. End of Nature?: Contemporary Anthropocene Literature. (H)
Mass extinction, vast gyres of floating garbage, melting polar ice caps, ocean dead zones, rising atmospheric carbon levels, super storms: have we entered the anthropocene -- the geologic "age of man"? The experience of an Earth nowhere untouched by humans finds expression in all genres of literature and generates unfamiliar and compelling new ways of conceiving our species and our world. Readings include science fiction, realist fiction, poetry, non-fiction and theory. It is recommended that students complete at least one college-level literature or environmental studies course before enrolling. Meets Post-1800 or Contemporary English major requirement, not both. Same as ENV 362.
370. Contemporary Indian Literature. (H, NW)
Although fiction by Indians writing in English since the 1980s is probably best known on the world stage, Indians have been prolific producers of literature in English in a variety of genres. Through exposure to fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, this course will offer a taste of the tremendous energy and vitality which characterizes literary production in India today. Students will also develop a picture of the fraught place English has occupied in India from the pre-Independence period to the first decade of this century.
390 and 490. Independent Study.
Independent study directed by the English staff. See chairperson for guidelines and permission.
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.
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.
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.
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, Day, Anderson
462. Toni Morrison. (H)
This seminar will focus on Toni Morrison as a major African American and American writer. We will examine Morrison’s oeuvre in both fiction and criticism, and explore how her aesthetics and vision, and her analyses of them, are informed by historical contexts and their racial, sexual, gendered, class, etc. impulses. Permission of the instructor required.
467. Virginia Woolf. (H)
In her essay “Modern Fiction,” Virginia Woolf wrote, “let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness.” This proposition reflects Woolf’s turn from realism to a modernist style devoted to interiority, impressionism, wordplay, and what she called “breaking the sentence and the sequence.” At the same time, Woolf, an ardent feminist, wrote compellingly about the politics and culture of the early twentieth century. This course will consider Woolf’s major works alongside excerpts from the letters and diaries, charting her formal innovations as well as her social critiques. Through an examination of literary criticism, we will explore the main tendencies in Woolf studies from the 1970s to the present day.
470. Henry James: Story of Mind. (H)
In 1881, Henry James created literary history with The Portrait of a Lady: it was the first novel to contain an entire chapter in which nothing happens—except that the lady thinks. This course will look backward and forward from this moment in James's career to examine how his representations of mind and body develop and evolve. We'll be guided by James's cast of adventuring ladies—from the American flirt in Venice, Daisy Miller, to the righteous ghost-seeing governess of The Turn of the Screw, to the two women sharing one lover in The Golden Bowl—as we study psychology and narrative from the 1870s to the 1910s. Permission of Instructor required.
471. A Feeling for Fiction. (H)
When we read a novel, we expect to feel something. We feel cheated if we don’t. At the same time, we usually react with resentment or distaste when a work of fiction blatantly but unsuccessfully makes a play for our feelings—and we dismiss it as sentimental, cloying, or manipulative. This course delves into the literary and cultural history that underlies these intuitions. It examines the changing relationship between fiction and feeling by tracing the interwoven histories of the novel, emotion, aesthetics, and the self in the transatlantic literary culture of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. We’ll give special attention to fictional works that were renowned in their own time for their emotional impact, as well to works that trumpeted the dangers of novel-reading—and thereby acknowledged fiction’s emotional and political power.
Topic Courses Expected to be Offered in 2016-2017
- Spiritual Seekers.
- Violence and Story.
- Project Hemingway.
- An Image of Africa
- Irish Literature.
- Poetry On and Off the Page.
- Contemporary Queer Poetry.
- Novel Writing.
- Madonnas, Mothers, Virgins.