To take or not to take? It’s that wonderful time of year again wherein we all must go into battle and fight for those coveted seats in the classes we want—otherwise known as registration. It’s easy to fill up your schedule with all those Gen-Ed courses and major requirements, but what about all those electives and upper division credits you get to choose from? We know it can be difficult to decide what courses to take, especially when presented with a myriad of brand new courses with little to go on but a title. In order to make your life easier and give you registration confidence, we sat down with professors to learn more about some of the new/unique courses being offered this fall. Hopefully, this course preview will open your eyes to some new possibilities and help you make your final decisions.
ENGL 4910 Writing Workshop: Design for Writers with Carrie Meadows
This project-based course challenges students to write and design public documents. We will focus on the convergence of image and text in communication today and cover topics such as rhetorical awareness, writing style, page layout, typography, image editing, development of multi-page documents, professional ethics, copyright regulations and fair use standards, plus file preparation for print and web applications. The course will be practical in nature, with students creating documents in applications professional writers use in the workplace, namely Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Muse. I am not a graphic designer, and I don’t expect students to become graphic designers or proficient users of all software over the course of the semester; rather, the goal is to give students practice using professional design software as they learn to negotiate the interplay of image and text in public documents.
Why should students take this class?
“I think it’s important for English students, especially those going into some professional writing field, have an understanding of how text and images work together and that they have some familiarity with the design programs that are used in the world of professional writing. Over the course of the semester we will also have people coming into the class, copywriters and graphic designers, to provide insight into what it’s like to work on a collaborative team. Even if you never have to use these programs to design anything, it’s really important that writers have an understanding of what their colleagues do and have a respect for the work and skills they bring to a collaborative team,” said Meadows.
This Beyond the Classroom course is designed to provide students with hands-on experience. The main project the class will work on over the semester is the creation of a design for writers handbook that the class will write, design, and have printed. “They will be able to walk away with a copy of it and hopefully have it as a reference to use down the road as well as something they can put in a portfolio,” she said. The book will also be used in the internship program and will be handed out to professional writing professors so it can be used by others.
ENGL 4270: Major American Figures: Henry James with Aaron Shaheen
Henry James isn’t called “The Master” for nothing. His career spanned from the 1860s until the first decade of the twentieth century. He wrote novels, short stories, memoirs, literary criticism, and newspaper articles. He took realism—the prevailing literary aesthetic of the late-nineteenth century—altered it, complicated it, and then laid it ever so elegantly at the doorstep of modernism. Authors as different as the bombastic Ezra Pound and the subdued Willa Cather regarded James as their literary precursor. And no doubt about it, the man had a sense of humor that came through time and again in his writings! ENGL 4270 will offer an in-depth look at James through his three major career phases, paying special attention to the themes and techniques that have placed him in the pantheon of American authors. We will, for instance, address his preoccupation with Americans in Europe, his sympathies for women in gilded societal cages, and his interest in psychological ambiguity and nuance. Students will likely read The Aspern Papers,,The Portrait of a Lady, The Turn of the Screw, What Maisie Knew, The Beast in the Jungle, as well as the short stories “The Real Thing” and “The Jolly Corner.”
Why is Henry James an important figure of study/What insights do you hope his work will impart to your class?
“James’s novels are so insightful because they teach us about ourselves and what it is to be flawed human beings. James’s best characters are ones who live in the gray zones; they are not polarized into black and white. The choices they have to make sometimes are devil’s bargains, and they just have to live with the consequences. For that reason, he really helps us to understand the sophistication of living in the modern world. There are very few easy ethical or moral choices to make. He helps us to realize that life has to be lived between the forty yard lines,” said Shaheen.
Dr. Shaheen, who has published two academic articles and a book chapter on James, hopes that his students will learn not to be intimidated by James’s large novels and will walk away with an appreciation for the insight, humor, and psychological nuance that characterizes his work. Out of all the works that will be taught, he most looks forward to teaching Portrait of a Lady because it exemplifies the very best qualities of James’s writing.
ENGL 4000: Studies in the Novel: The Transnational African Novel (Experiential Learning) with James Arnett
In this class, we will be reading novels by African and African diasporic writers whose own careers and lives spans oceans and continents. We’ll be reading narratives of exile and emigration, immigration and return, and while doing so, working with The Bridge Chattanooga, a refugee resettlement organization, and taking field trips to experience the immigrant communities we’ll be reading about. Featured writers include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zadie Smith, and others. Completion of this course and others may culminate in special recognition by UTC’s Think/Achieve program.
What do you hope students will gain from this course?
“Well, one of my students once told me that he thought the definitions of sympathy and empathy were essential to my course, and I’m really flattered by that reading of my teaching. So I think that I really want my students to learn to assuage their own fears about encountering the other, whoever that other is—an atheist, a northerner, what have you—so that when they find themselves in those situations, they will be able to use the fund of their intellectual knowledge to approach it with some measure of clarity and sympathy before making hasty or irresponsible judgments. It’s far too easy to be afraid of someone you’ve never seen before,” said Arnett.
Arnett describes the course as a deeply human one that goes beyond the teaching of a specific practical skill. “These types of study are sites where we are not just teaching critical thinking and professional skills, we are teaching a responsible emotional, psychological engagement with the world,” he said. This is the second time Arnett has taught this unique course and you can read more about what the experience of the previous class in our Experiential Learning article on the department’s website.
ENGL 4870: Fans, Gamers, Tweeters: Digital Rhetorics and Participatory Cultures with Rik Hunter
Media scholar Henry Jenkins writes about how sites such as “YouTube, Flickr, Second Life, and Wikipedia have made visible a set of cultural practices and logics that had been taking root within fandom over the past hundred-plus years, expanding their cultural influence by broadening and diversifying participation.” The history and grassroots nature of fans practices, which Jenkins calls “participatory culture,” will serve as a lens for understanding newer forms of cultural production and participation, often tied to business models and commercial practices in social networks and transmedia franchises. Our readings, discussions, and projects will situate fan, gamer, and Tweeter practices in relation to broader trends of social networks, online communities, and digital-based social activism.
Why do you think this course is important/What do you hope your students will gain?
“One of the things I’m really interested in is getting students to understand that there are all these different forms of writing out there that they might not seriously consider as writing. For one, I think we still, especially in English, primarily value in our teaching the written word over the collaboration of text and visuals and other modes of communication. You have to start thinking of contemporary writing in a more multi-modal way because low-cost computers and software make these texts easier than ever to produce by everyday people without specialized training. In addition, we see young people participating in fan communities, and their texts and performances can act as a springboard to things we might typically consider more serious, for example, the social activism of the Harry Potter Alliance. So I really want students to see the value in these forms of cultural participation. For example, it’s easy to dismiss something like fan fiction as derivative and poorly written, but you have to see that writing as a social and cultural practice that gives many young people an opportunity to write about things they love and grow as writers in supportive community,” said Hunter.
The big example Hunter notes that demonstrates the value of fan participation is the that of teenage Heather Lawver Sewell, who, at the age of 13, created and managed the online Harry Potter newspaper for kids, The Daily Prophet, and was a leader in the “PotterWar” boycott. Through this online publication, Lawver Sewell brought together young fans of the series and provided an outlet for them to create and collaborate. These kids were only celebrating their love for a beloved book series; however, Warner Bros. felt differently and sent cease and desist letters claiming copyright and trademark infringement to many Harry Potter fan sites. Lawver Sewell fought back and appeared in several news stories and programs such as MSNBC’s Hardball. It’s a long story told by both Lawver Sewell and media scholar Henry Jenkins, but in the end, a new and youngest-ever Senior VP at Warner Bros. emerged to move the company toward working with fans rather than against them.
ENGL 4970: Special Topics: Feminist Theory with Heather Palmer
This course will give students an overview of the history of feminism as well as the different philosophical approaches to understanding how power structures are constructed and perpetuated by ideological systems throughout culture in order to think critically about gender, patriarchal power structures, and the female identity. Going back to Ancient Greece, we will look at the foundation of western thought and the gender binary oppositions that were initially set up in the works of philosophers like Aristotle and trace the perpetuation of this thought throughout history. Our goal is to not only look at the root of patriarchal power structures and find evidence of that throughout history, but to also examine 19th and 20th century feminist philosophers who have thought deeply and critically about how these things are articulated at the expense and well-being of women and apply this philosophy to cultural texts (i.e. film, literature, art, music, architecture, etc).
Why do you think this course is important/What do you hope your students will gain?
“First of all, I hope my students will come out of the class with the ability to think critically about how patriarchy functions in our culture—how it is disseminated and perpetuated. Every time I ever teach a course that has an element of feminism, there are inevitably people who come into the class with a negative bias about what the term “feminism” means and what a feminist looks like. So, one of the biggest challenges I have at the onset of the course is convincing my students why we still need feminism, that these gender/social issues really do exist. So for that reason, I think there is a larger purpose to this course; it isn’t just an academic enterprise but an ethical one. We don’t just talk about theory, but we find ways to apply it to the world around us and hopefully discover ways to live more ethically and responsibly,” said Palmer.
Palmer’s past experience with the course has proven that people really do come away from this type of course with newfound insight and questions about the way the world operates. It strips away the world of myth. “By the end students often feel disillusioned—they see the world in a completely new way. I only hope that they can use this newfound perspective to challenge the negative conventions and standards that they see operating in society,” she said.
ENGL 4970: Special Topics: Theory of Horror with Matthew Guy
This course will consist of an application of theory, specifically poststructuralist theory, to the genre of horror from the earliest aspects of the horror genre that are found in gothic novels to contemporary popular horror films. We will address the questions: why do we like to confront things that we might be scared of? Why do we like to encounter things that gross us out? What are those things that we are scared of? How do the things that we are scared of change according to the times? By examining foundational horror films such as Frankenstein, Dracula, Exorcist, Halloween, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, through the lens of poststructuralist theory, we will explore how horror films reflect the unspoken political ideas and fears of their audience.
Why do you think students should take this course?
“First of all, it is a way to engage theory with something a bit more accessible than they might be used to. They can use the skills that they have been honing as an English major and apply them to something that is a part of pop culture. Hopefully, this will allow students to see the depth of ideas that surround us daily. I mean, you can’t turn on the tv at night without running into a horror movie somewhere. By looking at the horror genre, we can see how fears are articulated and discussed in the culture. Plus it’s just going to be fun to watch scary movies,” said Guy.
One of the films that Guy points to in order to demonstrate the insight we can gain from looking at horror movies is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which expresses the fears associated with McCarthyism and Communism during the Cold War. functions in a similar way, acting as the director’s statement about the civil rights movement and racial inequality during the 1960’s. In this way, these films provide both entertainment and an opportunity to look into the psyche of our culture at any given time, one of the chief interests of the course.
ENGL 4340: Development of the British Novel with Joseph Jordan
The course will cover the development of the English novel from its beginnings in its epistolary form through the works of Jane Austen and other writers of the Victorian period such as Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Anthony Trollope. Covering six novels, the course will show the evolution of the novel as a form as well as explore the reasons we enjoy these types of sprawling stories and why they have endured as literary classics.
What do you hope students will gain from this course?
“First, I want them to get a sense of how the novel as a form has evolved and changed over time, and I want them to have access to certain classics that aren’t often assigned in more general survey courses because of time constraints. Unless you take a specialized course, you might not get to read these novels in a university setting, so I hope this course will fill some of the holes that can come about in one’s English education.
“I also want them to see that they enjoy these things, to gain an appreciation for these types of novels and realize that they have a lot in common with the sorts of entertainment that we enjoy today. These novels were originally released in small sections and would have been consumed over long periods of time; they were episodic in a way that is akin to television shows today wherein each episode is like a chapter in a larger story. So people would consume these stories in much the same way we consume shows like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones today,” said Jordan.
For Jordan, teaching these novels is particularly rewarding in a university setting because the themes seem to resonate with young adults. “So many of these stories are about coming into one’s own. I always think of the opening line of David Copperfield: ‘Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.’ I think this portrayal of young people who have to discover themselves and become the heroes of their own lives is an idea that’s especially attractive to young people, especially in college,” he said.