The English program offers many courses in English literature and language. Find currently offered classes here.
Our classes serve the English major and minor as well as the entire UC-Merced student body through several courses that satisfy General Education requirements, particularly the Arts and Humanities Approaches and Writing in the Disciplines requirements; and Literary and Textual Analysis, Societies and Cultures of the Past, Diversity and Identity, Global Awarenss, and Sustainability badges.
English 102 will be offered in Spring 2021 and Spring 2023
English 103 will be offered in Fall 2021 and Fall 2023
English 104 will be offered in Spring 2022 and Spring 2024
Lower Division Lectures:
ENG 010: Foundations of Literary Studies
This course aims to introduce students to the study of literature, including exploring answers to the questions: 1) What is literature? 2) What does it mean to read well? 3) How has the practice of reading changed over the years? and 4) What can the study of literature teach us about ourselves?
English 011: Introduction to World Literature in English
This lecture course provides students with an overview of stories, poems, and plays composed in English around the world. Students will read literary texts written in a number of regions, including Africa, Asia, Australia, the British Isles, and North and Caribbean America, and from the Middle Ages to the present day. Students will explore colonial and post-colonial contexts while learning about the spread of the English language—and literature composed in its various dialects—around the world. Always the emphasis will be on global connections between these texts, and students will also explore the way this literature reflects and constructs varying notions of race, nationhood, class, and gender.
English 012/GASP 80a: Introduction to Drama, Theatre, and Performance
This lecture course will enhance students’ ability to enjoy, appreciate, and communicate how theatre and other performance arts are collaborative and necessary and a reflection of the human experience, in both historical contexts and today. This course combines lectures, video presentations, discussions, and live performances of plays and other works of performance. It will develop students’ understanding of theatre and other kinds of performance as aesthetic forms, deepen their appreciation of the arts, and hone critical thinking skills through evaluation and analysis of theatrical events. Students will learn to analyze dramatic texts and non-scripted performances, directorial and actorly choices, visual and aural design elements, reviewer and audience responses, and cultural contexts of performance in order to understand the varied ways that theatrical performance creates meaning.
ENG 018: Crime and Horror in Victorian Literature and Culture
The Victorian middle classes were simultaneously titillated and repelled by transgression and abnormality: from Jack the Ripper to the Elephant Man, from venereal disease to self-murder. In an era marked by unprecedented prosperity and widespread poverty, the Victorians aggressively policed – and clandestinely crossed – increasingly porous and unstable boundaries in their literary representations of modern life. Across a range of literary genres, and against a backdrop of global imperial expansion, we will map the nineteenth-century British obsession with crime and horror, with phenomena that rattle one’s sense of self.
ENG 020: Introduction to Shakespeare Studies
In this course, students are introduced to the plays and poetry of William Shakespeare. We read a few texts from representative genres (six or so plays and several sonnets), slowly considering each scene or poem in depth in order to develop the skills needed to read and understand this challenging literature. We will also read materials explaining the historical contexts that shaped these plays, and consider why they continue to be so popular throughout the world. You will learn about both historical and modern-day performances of Shakespeare’s works by viewing several films and a live performance, and by reciting or performing yourself.
ENG 021: Why Harry Potter? Why English?
The Harry Potter series tops many lists, among them the American Library Association’s list of books most frequently challenged or banned. Most attackers see the books as supporting satanic practices. Such attacks have brought out defenders as well, with many saying that any books that get boys to read are valuable on that ground alone and that these books are more than just literacy lessons: they also teach morality. So the Harry Potter phenomenon might help us answer some fundamental questions about literature. Is there a necessary relationship between fiction and ethics? How is it that fiction gives pleasure? How do stories create individual and group identity? To answer these questions, we will read several Harry Potter novels and will read selections from a few of the numerous literary antecedents Rowling drew on when creating her series—such as various myths from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, various tales from English and Continental folklore, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Homer’s Odyssey, the story of the ring of Gyges from Plato’s Republic, Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex, the Faustus story (either in Marlow or Goethe), Dickens’s Great Expectations.
ENG 030: Literature of Childhood
This class reads a variety of books written for children: books that explore the hilarity of childhood, but also its poignancies. In addition, students read short stories and works of fiction that use the idea of childhood to explore a variety of themes from poverty to race, works of literature written for adults that reflect on the literally formative experience that is childhood. Texts will include class novels like Alice in Wonderland and the Secret Garden, poetry by William Blake, Robert Lewis Stevenson, and Langston Hughes, picture books like Where the Wild Things Are, works for adults like Toni Morrison's Bluest Eye, and contemporary fiction likeThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Persepolis.
ENG 031: Introduction to African American Literature and Culture
The study of the African American experience and subjectivity across four centuries in the Americas in legal, historical, social, political, literary and cultural perspective. Instruction and close readings of slave narratives and autobiography, cultural renaissances from Harlem to Paris, black power and black arts movements, musical formations, the intersections of jazz, hip-hop and philosophy, post-black aesthetics, Diasporic, Afro-Asian, and Afro-Latin identity, and study of the American presidency, urbanity, and the prison industrial complex.
The African American experience spans four centuries, from the initial settlement of North America by Europeans and the establishment of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, to the present day. This interdisciplinary course examines the social thought, cultural mores, religious institutions, intellectual history, political challenges, literary traditions and expressive arts of people of African descent in the Americas. Among the focal points are the centrality of the African American experience to important legal, historical, political, and cultural developments in the formation of the United States, and the acts of self-making or self-fashioning that African Americans performed in response to difficult odds and circumstances. The course surveys African-American subjectivities and the social construction of black life from slavery to the present from historical, sociological, political and literary perspectives. This can include, for example, close readings of slave narratives and women’s autobiography, visual analysis of Harlem Renaissance art production, examinations of Blacks Arts poetry and manifestos, unpacking of African-American spirituals and jazz laments, interrogation of the Prison Industrial Complex and its affect on African-American life, discussions on the intersections of hip hop music and philosophy, post-black aesthetics, Diasporic, Afro-Asian, and Afro-Latin identity, and study of the American presidency.
ENG 032: Introduction to Chicano/a Culture and Experiences
This course provides an introduction to Chicano/a cultural practices and experiences, with an emphasis on the ties between culture, race, gender, social class, language, historical developments, artistic and literary expression, migration and transculturation. We will analyze changes in Chicano/a culture and cultural practices as Chicanos/as adapted to different historical and social circumstances. In so doing, the course will approach culture from an interdisciplinary perspective that benefits from critical insights in History, Sociology, Arts, Folklore, Anthropology, and Education, among other disciplines.
English 049: Introductory Topics in Literature
This lower division lecture introduces students to the tasks of closely reading and writing about literature related to a particular topic.
Lower Division Seminars:
English 050: Readings in Close Reading
In this small seminar, students read texts while highly aware of reading texts, whether poetry or prose, a novel such as Morrison’s Beloved, a poem like Eliot’s Wasteland, a film like Dreyer’s Ordet, a painting like Picasso’s Guernica, a bridge like the Golden Gate, a monument like the 9/11 Memorial, a refrain from a religious spiritual. We will read many other objects, discourses and worlds, pressuring interpretation, ambiguity, misreading, pleasure, “dead” authors, absence, and reading against the grain. What is the point of close reading? Who is responsible for this phenomenon? How do we read its history? How does close reading create strategies for reading society and culture? What is the relationship between close reading and literary theory? What is the status of close reading in global capitalist postmodern worlds?
ENG 052: Politics and Prose of the Nobel Prize in Literature
After more than a century and 110 recipients, the Nobel Prize in Literature has greatly impacted world literature and prompted lively debates about the arts, literary merit, and national and cultural representation. This course delves into the art and politics of the Prize, reads major works of recent laureates, and contends with claims and imaginings of a universal canon, a new "literary space" comprising works that express, as Horace Engdahl, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy suggests, "the power of great literature to transcend national borders and to conquer distances in space, time, and culture."
ENG 056: Introduction to World Drama
In this course, students read plays performed in ancient Greece and as recently as a few years ago. This seminar is intended for English majors fulfilling a lower-division seminar requirement, and for any non-major wanting to learn more about the history of Western drama (in the future it may be cross-listed with GASP). The course aims for both breadth and depth: students read everything from Aeschylus to Noh Dramas to Suzan-Lori Parks, but spend enough time on each play to learn about its historical and theatrical context. Students learn how to read dramatic literature with an eye and ear toward both historical and modern-day performance.
ENG 057: Introduction to Poetry
This course will equip students with the tools necessary to approach, evaluate, and enjoy this infamously peculiar and wonderful medium of language. We will read everything from classic sonnets to the cutting-edge poetry of today.
ENG 058: Literature and the Natural Environment
This course introduces students to the vast production of literature about the natural environment: wilderness, nature, and the natural world. The course surveys poetry, essays, and fiction while also keeping in mind specific developments in land uses and political responses to owning the environment. This class explores a variety of genres and topics within the wide rubric of nature writing.
ENG 059: Apocalyptic Literature
The idea of “the end of the world” is as timeless as human history-- in every culture and epoch of time, the exploration of human and/or planetary annihilation has preoccupied the art and mythology of humanity as an ever-present psychic force. Sourced in natural disaster and phenomena, religious prophecy, and technological proliferation, the interrogation of apocalyptic potentialities has inspired a large body of world literature that seeks to predict, explain, warn against, or avoid the imminent event. As we engage texts from various centuries, continents, textual mediums, and cultural contexts, we will be served principally by the application of postmodern and postcolonial theoretical lenses. “Icons” or entities that one can expect to encounter in this course include nuclear warfare, zombies, gods and texts of Eastern and Western dynastic traditions, climate change, comic books, and corporate greed.
ENG 062: Literature and Gender
In this small seminar, students read several texts—stories, poems, and plays—that deal with issues of gender. Students will read works written by men and women, and in various times and places, and will think about the way that gender is portrayed and performed by the narrators, speakers, and characters involved. Texts may include things likes Marie de France’s medieval romances, Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Allen Ginsberg, Walt Whitman, and Adrienne Rich. Students will hone their close reading skills, attending to the ways in which formal language choices create meaning, especially meaning that is related to the representation of femininity, masculinity, and queerness.
ENG 064: LGBT Fiction
In this seminar, we will explore classic works of twentieth- and twenty-first-century LGBT fiction, from Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (1928) to James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room (1956), from Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body (1993) to Dennis Cooper’s The Sluts (2005). How have certain LGBT authors embraced classic novelistic subgenres and frames, such as the epistolary novel, the Bildungsroman, and the marriage plot, to make sense of same-sex desire and love, political oppression, resistance, and solidarity, the competing impulses to be “normal" and yet to maintain difference? Conversely, in what ways have LGBT writers defied aesthetic and psychological conventions in their narratives, pushed the limits of the novel, resisted the epistemological and (Western) cultural temptation to be defined by sexual identity? What exactly is “sexuality” anyway? This seminar welcomes all students, particularly those interested in the politics of identity, in representations of sexuality, and in edgy works of literature.
ENG 065: Literary Comedy
According to E.B. White, "Analyzing Humor is like dissecting a frog; that is, it can be done, but the frog tends to die in the process." In this course, we are going to try to kill frogs. Or to put it less glibly, we will try to understand one of the most interesting of human characteristics, our ability to take deep pleasure in disrupting the serious order of things. While much comedy is ephemeral, human beings have made almost as capacious a record of comic as of religious art. We will sample widely from this record, examining various kinds of comedy (including humor, satire, burlesque, parody) in several literary genres (plays, novels, short fiction, and film) from Aristophanes to the Monty Python. In our study we will also read a large number of theories of comedy in hopes that these theories will enrich our understanding and appreciation of the risible. In our theoretical readings, we will look at the social and psychological dynamics as well as the ethical implications of various kinds of comedy.
ENG 066: Literary Romance
Literary romance (not the Danielle Steele kind!) developed in the European Middle Ages, with stories of knights on quests, magical wizards and witches, and people in love. The genre has never lost its popularity: everything from Arthurian stories like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to Shakespeare's late plays like Cymbeline to the Star Wars films can be classified as romance. Romances usually involved a character leaving society, being tested and pushed to his or her limits whil encountering magic and adventure, and then eventually being reincorporated into society. In this class, we tested and pushed to his or her limits while encountering magic and adventure, and then eventually being reincorporated into society. In this class, we will read a broad range of English and French literary romances: medieval chivalric tales, long poems and plays that take up romance structures during the Renaissance, later novelistic and short story versions from the nineteenth century, and finally, romances on film.
English 067: Environmental Ethics in Beast Fables
What would your dog or cat say if they could speak? This seminar will examine fables featuring talking creatures who implore human readers to examine their ethical and spiritual responsibility toward the environment, a fragile ecosystem that cannot endure society's unsustainable practices. This popular genre will be studied from a global ecocritical perspective and through various media, focusing on the philosophical, political, biological, and aesthetic implications of the human-animal relationship in ancient Greek, Arabic, and Sanskrit fables and Native American trickster tales (in English translation) as well as in familiar fables such as Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and the 2009 film Avatar. How this relationship affects the way we treat non-humans and live with each other as animals will be explored through select secondary readings by a cultural critic and sociologist, biologist, religious studies scholar, and philosopher.
English 071: Literature of Illness and Disability
This seminar explores the history of literary and medical representations of illness, physical disability, and cognitive diversity over the past three hundred years. What role has illness played in Western self-understanding? What does it mean to be “healthy”? How do people with different cognitive styles and mental abilities, or people with unusual syndromes and medical conditions, challenge popular assumptions about how the mind works or how bodies should behave? From Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year to Oliver Sacks’s moving portraits of autism, color blindness, and Tourette’s Syndrome, we will read autobiographies, memoirs, and case studies, as well as literary representations of the human body refusing to be “normal.”
Upper Division Lectures Required for the English Major:
Note on survey courses (101-104): these course need not be taken in order, though it is recommended.
ENG 101: Medieval and Renaissance Literature and Culture
In this class, we will meet a woman who marries a werewolf, a man who battles a green knight, a shipwrecked and mourning twin sister who cross-dresses to save her life, and a sympathetic Satan. We will read poetry, stories, and plays written by men and women who lived in the British Isles (England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland) from around 700 to 1660, and track the way that the English language transformed because of European politics, social relations, and literature itself, morphing from an Old English that is nearly unreadable to us into the language spoken around the world today. We will also learn about the history of the British Isles—and the places to which British people travelled (or said they did)—from the eighth through seventeenth centuries, and the music and art and architecture of these periods. We will also study long histories of racism and anti-racism; misogyny and feminism; Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Protestantism, and cosmopolitanism; heteronormativity, same-sex love, and cross-dressing, and about how literature represented and also helped to shape notions of social concepts that still matter today. Offered every other fall: 2020, 2022, 2024.
ENG 102: English Literature 1660-1837 (Restoration, Early Colonial, and Early Romantic Literature)
In ENG 102, we will survey literature in English from 1660 to 1837, which is to say, we will survey the literature of a period that witnessed at least five revolutions commonly discussed in history—part of the English Civil War, the “Glorious Revolution,” the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution. More importantly, perhaps, the period witnessed revolutions in ideas and mores. It should come as no surprise that the literature of this era both shaped and critiqued these revolutions. So put on your three-cornered hat and prepare to revolutionize yourself. Offered every other spring: 2019, 2021, 2023.
ENG 103: British and American Literature, 1830-1940
In this course, we explore the literary history of the British Isles and North America in the Great Age of Modernization, the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is a period of unprecedented and unsettling change: technological and scientific innovation, the expansion of global capitalism, the rise and fall of the largest empire in history, national and international trauma—the American Civil War, the First World War, the Great Depression. It is a paradoxical age: democratization and individualism, on the one hand, white supremacy, economic exploitation, and mechanization, on the other. It is an age of extremes: materialism and consumerism, but also soul-searching, a yearning for enchantment and sublimity. An epoch of unbridled optimism, of aesthetic and social experimentation, it is nevertheless marked by nostalgia, anxiety, and epistemological fragmentation, the sensation of a world coming apart. In short, English 103 is the story of modernity at its height, of the women and men who capture in language the discombobulating experience of modern life. Offered every other fall: 2019, 2021, 2023.
ENG 104: English Literature after 1945 (Post-War, Post-Colonial, Postmodern)
Literary and cultural studies have been radically altered by the introduction of discourses that interrogate colonialism, power, and empire. The unidirectional gaze from center to periphery has been returned, and the resulting parallax has created important anti-colonial frameworks and methodologies for engaging with the literary and cultural production coming from former colonies in every continent. These interrogations, post-colonial and postcolonial, place terms like identity, subjectivity, decolonization, migration, language, terror, hegemony, truth and knowledge in a renewed crucible. Postmodernism/post-modernism has also splintered and exploded the determinacy of literature and language. Master narratives are made to face their ironies, and a process of destabilization to the certainty of history, periodization, identity, epistemology, presence and meaning, occurs through prolonged critical pauses on difference, the symptom, the trace and minor characters. In the latter half of the twentieth century, these modes of analyses have intersected with studies of disability, gender, race, feminism, sexuality, economy, transnationalism, postnationalism, whiteness, and the environment, to greatly diversify and transform the production and study of literature. This course enters into that post-1945 realm, introducing students to an array of literature and theory that signifies, plays with and forms an inter-textual relationship with narratives they will have encountered in earlier surveys in the ENG 100s sequence. Students are encouraged to be as careful and daring as the texts they encounter. Offered every other spring: 2020, 2022, 2024.
Upper Division Seminars
ENG 105: Shakespeare’s Medieval Inheritance
When Hamlet warns an overzealous player, “I would have such a fellow whipt for o’erdoing Termagant, it out-Herods Herod” (III.ii 13-14), he refers most probably to the character of Herod in the Coventry Corpus Christi Cycle. These annual pageants were staged until 1579, and there is evidence to suggest Shakespeare attended them as a boy. But both Corpus Christi drama and morality plays have long been labeled as “medieval drama,” despite their continuing popularity in the sixteenth century. In this class, students will read a number of medieval and early Tudor English plays before exploring a selection of Shakespearean drama in order to re-think this period of theatrical history. They will also examine the emergence of the public theatre, the impact of the Reformation on theatre and on drama scholarship, and the roles of memory and ritual in the performance experience of both contemporary and modern audiences.
ENG 106: Early English Drama
Shakespeare is not the only early English playwright, and in this class students read important medieval and Renaissance plays written by Shakespeare’s predecessors and contemporaries. Students will be exposed to several early dramatic genres: biblical Corpus Christi pageants, morality plays, saint’s plays, interludes, comedies, and tragedies. Students also learn about the performative, religious, and political contexts of these plays, which were performed in city streets, in monasteries, in aristocratic dining rooms, and in professional theaters, and before Kings and Queens as well as lowly servants and farmers. Students will start to re-think this period of theatrical history, questioning whether or not traditional scholarly distinctions like “medieval” and “early modern” really serve these often overlapping dramatic traditions.
English 107: “The Age of Enlightenment” in the Long Eighteenth Century
In “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” (1784), Immanuel Kant defines Enlightenment as “the human being’s emancipation from its self-incurred immaturity.” This course will focus on how Enlightenment-as-maturation, a trope frequently deployed in eighteenth-century English literature (1660-1830), involved new conceptions of the mind, self, and society that illuminated the dark corners of socio-political life in unexpected, complicated, and contentious ways. By reading across a broad range of genres, we will examine various literary forms that record narratives of arrested childhood development, or stories in which the enlightened protagonist fails to grow up. The main premise here is that this counter-Kantian narrative evolved to accommodate the uncertainties that defined “the Age of Enlightenment:” the “progress” of science and reason, the rise of the novel, women’s place in the public sphere, the emergence of England’s overseas empire, and the Romantic reaction against impersonal modes of rationality. We will be reading from the works of Daniel Defoe, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Olaudah Equiano, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, and others to develop insight into how they cast skepticism on projects of human emancipation and called into question many of our cherished assumptions about the role of the Enlightenment in the larger narrative of Western history, then and now.
English 108: Romanticism and Apocalypse
Plagued by economic collapse, ecological destruction, and global wars, the world is now entering an apocalyptic stage. As documented in prophecies from the Bible to the Mayan calendar, the world was destined to end by December 21, 2012. Such prophecies are, of course, false and inaccurate, but their emotional appeal is very real. This thematic course treats these contemporary apocalyptic anxieties as deeply rooted in the cultural and literary transformations that we now retrospectively call “British Romanticism.” Like many people today, British Romantic writers worried about the demise of humankind and the planet, but also hoped for a regenerative revolution that remakes the world anew after the apocalypse. We will examine the Romantic discourse of “apocalypse” as a religious, secular, and political phenomenon that captivated the British imagination between 1789 and 1830. The following questions will guide our thinking: why does the Romantic poet-prophet replace the priest and politician as a legislator speaking for the world? Could women adapt this prophetic position? How does poetry assume supernatural insight into the past, present, and future? How does “the end of history” theme shape the way British Romantics write for their contemporaries and to us—their post-apocalyptic progenitors?
English 109: Encounters with Islam in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Literature
Between 1700 and 1830, Britain witnessed a growing fascination with the beliefs, practices, and customs of the Muslim world in North Africa, Turkey, and South Asia. As a way of examining the porous borders of British nationhood, this course focuses on how representations of Islam were intimately woven into the fabric of English cultural and political life in remarkable ways, calling into question entrenched notions in literary history that continuously cast Islam as a “backward,” “unenlightened,” and “terroristic” religion. The writings of English travelers such as Joseph Pitt (the first Englishman to make the pilgrimage to Mecca), Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (an English Ambassador’s wife who visited the women of the Turkish harem), and Lord Byron (a self-exiled trouble-maker who lived among Albanian Muslim insurgents), challenge emerging colonialist and racial stereotypes that sought to bolster British imperial superiority over a degenerate Orient. This course also considers the memoirs of inquisitive Muslim travelers visiting or living in England—such as Mirza I‘tisam al-Din, the emissary of the Mughal Empire, and Sake Dean Mahomet, an Indian aromatherapist who managed his own bathhouse in Brighton. Their unique cross-cultural experiences were committed to print, offering insights about the role of the English “Other” in nascent imperial Britain. Our studies will focus on primary texts, although they occasionally will be complemented with secondary criticism on race, orientalism, and colonialism.
English 110/CRES 151: British Romanticism and India
During the Romantic period (roughly 1780-1830), British literature and the early British Empire underwent mutual transformations in which the Orient, real and imagined, served as an experimental site for envisioning a global modernity. This course is premised on the assumption that literature served as a crucial medium through which Britons and their colonial subjects understood a developing western empire, and the early empire in turn profoundly informed the themes and forms of literary expression in Britain and India. We will focus on connected South Asian and British histories that were articulated across poetry, fiction, travel literature, drama, historical writings, and painting. We will study literary works by British writers Sir William Jones, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Elizabeth Hamilton, and Sydney Owenson in dialogical relationship with Anglophone writings by contemporary Romantic-era Indian authors: the Muslim entrepreneur and immigrant Sake Dean Mahomet, the first Indian known to write in English, and the early Calcutta poet Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, a Eurasian freethinker, teacher, and journalist. We will conclude by examining the cultural impact of Indian-imported opium on Thomas De Quincey’s autobiography, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, in which the “high” Englishman travels to Asia in his imagination only to have dreadful Malaysian sailors repay his visits. Our studies will focus on the complex intersections between race, gender, sexuality, class, and religion in this period, as informed by postcolonial criticism and critical race theory.
ENG 111/CRES 152: Mesoamerican Literature and Culture
Mesoamerica, as a cultural and geographic region, can be understood as an area spanning roughly from Central American up through Mexico. While scholars have defined the area of Mesoamerica based on shared cultural elements, the Indigenous people of Mesoamerica have no comparable names for such a delineation of people, and many shared cultural elements extend farther north of the recognized area into the United States, and farther south into South America. With that understanding of Mesoamerica, this course seeks to examine Indigenous people and culture through literature written both from emic and etic perspectives. Through an examination of Indigenous writings from around the time of contact (and up to contemporary writings), the course will focus on Indigenous methods of cultural survivance in the face of changing modes of colonization, with some attention given to texts written about Indigenous people by both allies and antagonists. Some of the literary works will include: the Codex Chimalpopoca (written by unknown Nahua scribes), the Florentine Codex (written by unknown Nahua scribes), and the Popol Vuh (written by unnamed Mayan scribes), as well as works written by Nezahualcoyotl, Bartolome de las Casas, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, Hernan Cortez, Rigoberta Menchu, Tomson Highway, LeAnne Howe, Sylvia Marcos, Antonia Castañeda, and Elvia Alvarado. Through a comparison of the ways that Indigenous people understand their own cultures and identities with how outsiders understand or fail to understand their cultures and identities, the course will develop analytical skills to better interpret power dynamics as they relate to racial, ethnic, class, and gender constructions within colonized and Indigenous communities.
ENG 113: US Latino/a Literature
This course offers a representative overview of U.S. Latino literature, from colonial times to the present. A socio-historical framework is outlined in order to establish a larger context from which this literature can be approached. Through the analysis of works from different genres, the student is exposed to the main themes, techniques, styles, etc. of some of the most influential Latino authors, including several writers from the Central Valley. Main aspects to be covered include: literary history (including issues of canonicity and reception), bilingualism and literature (including both stylistic and sociolinguistic approaches), ethnicity and race, gender parameters, the aesthetics of the borderlands, class and regional variations, migration and diaspora, children's literature, literature and folklore, and the journalistic tradition, among others.
ENG 115: Chicano/a Literature
This course offers a representative overview of Chicano/a literature, from colonial times to the present. A socio-historical framework is outlined in order to establish a larger context from which this literature can be approached. Through the analysis of works from different genres, the student is exposed to the main themes, techniques, styles, etc. of some of the most influential Chicano/a authors, including several writers from the Central Valley. Main aspects to be covered include: literary history (including issues of canonicity and reception), bilingualism and literature (including both stylistic and sociolinguistic approaches), ethnicity and race, gender parameters, the aesthetics of the borderlands, class and regional variations, migration and diaspora, children's literature, literature and folklore, and the journalistic tradition, among others.
ENG 116/HIST 135: Literature and History of the 1960s
The 1960s was a decade of turbulence, hope, protest, and change. This course seeks to understand the historical reality of the United States during this time by exploring, among other types of writing, the literary output resulting from war protests, radical movements, and racial stands. It seeks to understand those factors through the global and often transnational reality of a world both watching and participating with the many movements and stances that mark the decade and which, as the course will explore, led to permanent changes in politics, society, and culture. Readings include novels, poems, essays, manifestos, and, when appropriate, internal documents of movements such as the Black Panther Party, the Brown Berets, the National Organization of Women, and more.
ENG 117: Literature of California
Whether the Gam Saan of mid nineteenth century Chinese pioneers, the manifest destiny of their Anglo counterparts, the failed Eden of Dust Bowl migrants or the land of fruits and nuts, California has been as much the product of dreams as it is geology. Imagined into existence, as Jack Hicks wrote in the introduction to The Literature of California, Volume I, the state has long carried the burden of its own representations of wealth and prosperity, and the conflicted histories of those who come in contact with them for better or worse. Those points of conflict have often resulted in some of the state’s most poignant and well-known stories, as writers have crafted tale after tale of the often-difficult path to finding home in California.
ENG 119: Fashion and Fiction
How can fashion help us understand the humanities? Do we blur the lines between these two subjects or, alternately, engage in a study of contrasts between them? How can the humanities further illuminate the already burgeoning and complex field of fashion studies? This class seeks to explore these and other questions about the relation of fashion studies and the humanities, taken for the purposes of this course as literature, film, and art. Given the often material culture of many humanities approaches, particularly the idea of expressive culture as it is produced, distributed, and consumed,an increased understanding of both the humanities and fashion resides within Bruno Latour’s notion of a ‘material-semiotic’ network. As highly interdisciplinary fields in their own right, fashion and the humanities encourage us to engage inter/intra/multi disciplinary scholars across a range of campuses.
ENG 121/PHIL 141: Topics in Continental Philsophy
In-depth study of one or more figures or topics in continental philosophy. Possible topics include German idealism, Marxism, phenomenology, existentialism, the Frankfurt school, cultural studies, and critical theory.
ENG 122: Nature Writing and the Environment
This course takes the term "literature" as a wide concept and embraces the idea of wilderness, nature, and the natural world in a global perspective, unbound by time or place. All nations have some level of relationship with the natural world, and when writing about that world, poets, essayists, novelists and musicians tend either to sing its praises or bemoan humankind’s inability to preserve it or save it.
ENG 129: Topics in Literature and Culture
This topics course allows instructors the ability to design a new class around a certain topic related to any literature of the English language and its cultural context. The course will be especially attractive when we have temporary lecturers needing to add a new course, or if our ladder-rank faculty members want to try a new topic out before adding it to the regular English catalog. This upper division seminar, like all upper division seminars in English, will require a large amount of reading of primary texts (works of literature), as well as reading literary scholarship and developing research and writing skills.
ENG 130: Writing to Save the Planet
This class has students both reading texts that urge environmental action, and creating their own. Students will read essays, non-fiction books, poems, plays, and stories about the natural world, ecological disaster and renewal, and climate justice, analyzing what makes this writing effective for its audience. They will also, working individually and in teams, work on turning scientific research (including research by UC Merced scientists and engineers) on the environment and climate catastrophe into op-eds, tweets, essays, screenplays, graphic novels, websites, and works of literature that could reach larger audiences. This course will thus equip English majors and others interested in humanistic, social scientific, and humanistic careers with the skills to aid scientists in communicating environmental problems and solutions, and will equip future scientists and engineers with the ability to better communicate their own research to politicians and the public.
ENG 132: Human Rights and Literature
A human rights revolution gained momentum at the midway point of the twentieth century, resulting in collections of global rights and protections that individuals could not previously appeal to in the face of abusive governments and regimes. This course traces the development of the social, legal and political discourses of global human rights, and the inter-related emergence of art forms—novels, stories, films, public spaces, monuments, museums, theater, paintings, sculpture, etc.—that embody, challenge and critically engage with human rights ideas. The course examines the foundations of human rights, its modern and contemporary formations, as well as key organizations, concepts, documents, treaties, and statutes that have combined to cast human rights as a global lingua franca. Debates about human rights will emphasize the legal and political, as well as the artistic and imaginative.
ENG 135: Working Class Literature-British
In this course, we will read novels, plays, and poems that depict and/or are written by members of the working classes in Victorian England. We will interrogate the ways that working classes are portrayed by middle- and upper-class authors, and we will also read texts written by members of the working classes themselves.
ENG 136: Working Class Literature-American
This interdisciplinary course examines the rich tradition of the working class in the United States. Using wide definitions of the working class, the course explores the myth of a “classless” United States, especially as that myth is interrogated and reinterpreted through literary production about and by the working class. In this way, the course focuses on the production and consumption of class, status and identity as a site of social critique. It examines historical links between formulations of class and status and attendant meanings of literary canon and modes of literatures, and explores how various expressions of class position function as aesthetic, rhetorical, and ideological texts within specific cultural contexts.
English 137: Islam in English Literature, from the Crusades to the War on Terror
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and Iraq, few issues are more urgent than the widely perceived “clash” between a “progressive” Western world and a “backward” Islamic world. This course offers students the opportunity to ask critical and historical questions about this so-called “clash of civilizations” in more detail, tracing the shifting terms in which the encounter between a Christian west and an Islamic east has been represented in English literature, from the rhetoric of the early medieval crusades to the present, post-9/11 era. This course will rethink commonplace stereotypes about “Islam,” the “West,” and their politico-historical interrelationship. Covering a broad range of genres and styles, primary emphasis will be placed on the following topics: concepts of holy war; Islam on the early modern English stage; the seventeenth-century theological polemics surrounding the study of Islam and the first English translations of the Koran; Enlightenment obsessions with “Mahometanism;” women’s place in Islam; the Romantic imagination and the East; the notorious Rushdie ‘affair’; and more recent versions of the West-East encounter both before and after the attacks of September 11th, 2001.
English 138: The Haunted Page: Gothic Literature, 1764 to the Present
Monsters! Murderers! Ghosts! Vampires! The readings in this seminar are sure to thrill and chill, and may even make you sleep with the light on. This course examines the concept of the Gothic in British literature and culture from 1764 to the present. We will begin with the classic Gothic texts of the late eighteenth century, including the first Gothic novel, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. We will then explore how the Romantics and Victorians re-imagine the Gothic in poetry, drama, short stories, and novels. Although we will focus on literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we will also consider some twentieth- and twenty-first-century treatments of the Gothic. In addition to our primary literary texts, we will read some theories of the Gothic as well as recent critical approaches to Gothic literature.
ENG 150: Geoffrey Chaucer
Students examine the extraordinary and extraordinarily influential work of the 14th century writer Geoffrey Chaucer. Students use his dream poems, lyrics, Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales as vehicles to explore medieval literary production. Students are thus exposed to several major literary genres practiced in the Middle Ages, and will understand how Chaucer’s works express, reflect, and influence the concerns of the various classes of people in 14th century England. Students also gain the ability to read Chaucer’s Middle English with confidence. And, they gain an understanding of how medieval literature differs from modern literature (and from modern notions of what literature is): for example such issues as the distinction between a printed edition and a medieval manuscript; the different definitions of what constitutes a literary work in manuscript and print cultures; the tension between Latin and vernacular literatures; the emphasis on literature as an on-going process rather than an end product (and thus the inappropriateness of notions such as "originality" or "intellectual property" in the medieval context); and the sort of decisions facing the editor of a medieval text. Finally, they learn about the afterlives of Chaucer’s works, the ways in which his writing forever changed both Western literature and the English language.
ENG 151/GASP 103B: Advanced Shakespeare
In this course, students will read several of Shakespeare’s plays across many genres: comedies, tragedies, history plays, problem plays, and romances. They will also read about the theatrical, political, religious, and social contexts that shaped these plays, and consider why they continue to be so popular throughout the world. They will learn about both historical and modern-day performances of Shakespeare’s works by reading about them, viewing them, and acting in them. This course will require a great deal of reading, research, and writing, and as such is a much more advanced course than Introduction to Shakespeare (ENG 20).
English 152: William Blake
William Blake (1757-1827) has been variously described as a visionary, mystic, rebel, iconoclast, and even, as the famous nineteenth-century literary critic Leigh Hunt did, “an unfortunate lunatic.” This multi-media artist is unique in the way he synthesizes verbal and visual art forms; his “illuminated” books, a composite genre he created, raise key questions about the way that the most pressing issues of Blake’s lifetime were recreated, communicated, and imagined in art. This seminar serves two purposes: to study Blake’s poetry and prose as he produced it, complete with illustrations (including those found in the website The William Blake Archive), and to historicize Blake’s works and life. We will focus on his turbulent era, between 1780 and 1830, a period that witnessed the upheavals of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, radical reform movements, the expansion of Britain’s overseas empire, and the rise of prophets and mystics as “insane” as Blake himself. Discussions about his printmaking process, the juxtaposition of image and word, and his bizarre mythical philosophies will help us explore the intersections among literature, visual art, print technologies, and politics.
English 153: Robert Louis Stevenson
The author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson was a prolific poet, essayist, travel writer, and master of the short story. Cut short by lung disease, his bohemian life was as adventurous and romantic as his fiction. This seminar follows his meandering path from Edinburgh to France, from California to the South Pacific, where his literary interests turned anthropological, and where death was waiting.
ENG 154: Emily Dickinson
This class examines the extraordinary poems and letters of the American poet Emily Dickinson, as well as the poems of poets who were her contemporaries, predecessors, and descendants. Students explore the myriad and overlapping ways in which she so uniquely expressed her thoughts on selfhood, nature, love, God, pain, death, women, and the household. Through examining her poetry and reading about her life in 19th century New England, students will consider historical issues of gender, class, and religion, understanding how these contexts shape and illuminate her challenging poetry. The class also hones close reading skills for lyric poetry (attending to rhyme and slant rhyme, meter, and punctuation), learns about editorial issues including textual variants, manuscripts, and her groupings of poems into sequences, and reads about Dickinson afterlives (poems, plays, and books she inspired) before producing their own creative response to her work.
ENG 155: James Baldwin and Toni Morrison
This major authors seminar examines the inter-sectional aesthetics of critical categories such as race, gender, sexuality, politics and religion, through a comparative reading of the novels, stories, plays, essays, speeches and biographies of James Baldwin and Toni Morrison.
English 156: Oscar Wilde: Artist, Martyr, Celebrity
“I have nothing to declare,” Wilde reportedly informed a U.S. Customs agent in 1882, “except my genius.” So began his famous tour of America. In this seminar, we explore the plays, philosophical writings, poetry, journalism, literary criticism, and fiction of the nineteenth century’s most flamboyant and playful writer. We also study Wilde’s life and legend, his literary influences, his critics, and his rebirth in the twentieth century as a modern “gay martyr.”
English 157: Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster
This seminar examines the groundbreaking novels, short stories and political essays of two of the most influential, stylish and enigmatic writers in Great Britain in the early twentieth century. Formally and psychologically experimental, alternately absurd, edgy, and poignant, their modernist writings mark a turning point in English literature. Informed by the horrors of World War I, by the rise of totalitarianism, by the collapse of the British Empire, by new theories of consciousness, and by the hard-fought campaign for women’s rights, Woolf and Forster captured, as no one else could, the inner lives of modern women and men, and on occasion, the musings of a Victorian Cocker Spaniel. The goal of this reading- and writing-intensive upper- division seminar, in which participants are responsible for an in-class presentation and a lengthy research paper, is to provide students with an understanding, first, of Woolf and Forster’s contributions to world literature, and second, the historical, cultural, and geopolitical context in which they wrote.
English 158: The Brontës
From their small brick house in the Yorkshire countryside, three sisters—Charlotte, Emily and Anne—changed the face of British literature in the 1840s, penning some of the most beloved and poignant novels in the English canon. Set against the wind-swept backdrop of North England, their writings explore timeless themes of romantic and erotic passion, women’s independence, the power of imagination, and modern alienation. Marked by the deaths of their mother and sisters, by financial hardship, an overbearing father, a wild brother, illness, and ultimately by literary success, their lives are as fascinating as their novels.
English 159: Rudyard Kipling
Born in Bombay to British parents, Rudyard Kipling was sent to England at five to be educated. Returning to India at sixteen, Kipling recalled “moving among sights and smells that made me deliver in the vernacular sentences whose meaning I knew not.” “My English years,” he wrote, “fell away, nor ever, I think, came back in full strength.” Caught between two cultures, alienated from both, Kipling struggled to make sense of the paradoxes of British India. His writings explore the inherent strangeness of identity, the disorienting nature of youth, the multicultural experience of India. An alternately beloved and derided author, whose works are marked by ideological and psychological indeterminacy, Kipling has been called the British Empire’s greatest champion, as well as its shrewdest and most subtle critic.
ENG 160: Dickens: The Early Years
Charles Dickens (1812–1870) published his first literary sketch at age twenty-one. By twenty-four, he was famous. Focusing on the first decade of his career, this seminar offers a representative overview of the early—and highly influential—journalism, social criticism, novels, and travel writings of this preeminent Victorian author. From Pickwick to Scrooge, Oliver Twist to The Old Curiosity Shop, students will map the world according to Dickens: the terrible economic injustices, the siren song of success, the violence of city life, the tyranny of the old over the young, the peculiar poignancy of everyday people. This seminar examines the historical, ideological and aesthetic context in which Dickens wrote, exploring the ways in which he was both a product of his early-Victorian world and an important participant in contemporary social and political debates.
ENG 164: Great Authors
In this course we will be closely examining the writing of one particularly influential writer, and often in addition the work of that writer’s contemporaries, predecessors, and descendants. We will explore the ways in which this writer uniquely expressed her or his ideas, and their influence on later writers. We’ll also be thinking about formal matters—how to read the kind of literature this author produced.
ENG 165: Tragic Drama from Ancient Greece to Present Day
In this course, student read plays written thousands of years ago as well as very recently, all while exploring the questions of what makes a play a tragedy, and what function tragedy serves for the many times and places that produce this genre of drama. Students read tragedies written in ancient Greece (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides), in Elizabethan England (including Marlowe and Shakespeare), in nineteenth century Europe and Russia (including Ibsen and Chekhov), and in 20th and 21st century America and Britain (including Beckett, Brecht, Wilson, and Suzan-Lori Parks), and think comparatively the various times and places that produced these plays. I
English 166: Nineteenth Century Drama and Adaptation
Did you know that when writing his novels Dickens was known to act out his characters in the mirror? Were you aware that Dickens’s novels were adapted for the stage even before they were completed? Have you heard of the popular play Jane Eyre or the Secrets of Thornfield Manor? Did you know that Queen Victoria went to see Boucicault’s melodrama The Corsican Brothers five times in 1852? We often think of the nineteenth century as the age of the novel—the century that produced great novelists, such as Austen, the Brontës, Eliot, and Dickens. However, as these anecdotes illustrate, the novel was not the only show in town. This course shines the spotlight on that often upstaged but nevertheless central character in nineteenth-century literature and culture: the theatre. With an eye toward socio-cultural contexts and concerns, we will examine the thematic and technological changes of nineteenth-century theatre. In what ways do changes in dramatic style reflect social changes? What aspects of identity, in terms of class, gender, and race, are destabilized or reinscribed by the nineteenth-century stage? What can theatrical adaptations tell us about the cultural and historical moments in which they are produced? We will pursue these questions and more through an exploration of Romantic verse drama, comic opera, farce, melodrama, and dramatic “realism.”
ENG 185: Reading from the Margin
This course will explore the question of how to read canonical works from the margins. We will analyze such issues as: difference and sameness; the construction of the self and of the other; and reading as a culturally-situated activity. The class is structured around broad topics such as gender, family, violence, faith, fantasy, memory, love, and history. As we study these topics and questions, we will consider such critical aspects as intertextuality and literary history, among others. The class will also problematize the notion of canon, as we explore commonalities between the canon and the margins.
ENG 186: Language, Gender, and Culture
The relationship between language and gender has been a widely researched and debated topic in sociolinguistics, English language studies, and linguistic anthropology since the early 1970s when Robin Lakoff published Language and Woman’s Place. Since then, the intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality and other social categories have informed these critical conversations. In this course, students explore the questions researchers have asked regarding these relationships: How do patterns of speaking and interpreting reflect, perpetuate, and create our experience of gender? How does gender interact with sexual identity, race, class, socioeconomic status, age, occupational and social/familial roles, institutional settings, and other factors in terms of how we speak? Does gender connect to language change? What do controversies about sexism and other biases in language suggest about the connections between language, thought, and socially situated political struggles? No background in linguistics is required; a genuine interest in the workings and power of language is highly recommended.
ENG 195: Directed Study
One on one research between a professor and a student has become in many ways a hallmark of UC Merced, and its intellectual strength. Our campus is able to provide glowing public relations releases about one on one interaction between students and professors not simply because it happens, but because it happens well. ENG 195 expands this revered tradition into a fully articulated model for research in the humanities: how such research occurs, and how it affects our understanding of literature, what we teach, what we read, and what we value.
ENG 196: Internship
This course is designed to provide students with an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a real world setting. Units will be awarded based on the number of internship hours successfully completed. Interns will work closely with their site supervisor in designing the specifics of the internship. The Career Resources Center will provide assistance to the student in locating possible internship sites in the community, which may include community arts organizations (Playhouse Merced, Merced Shakespearefest, Phoenix), schools and educational outreach organizations, or other businesses or non-profits needing and developing the communication and analytical skills an English major offers.
ENG 198: Directed Group Study
Directed group study forms a coherent research cohort whose work is focused on one topic or a network of topics that relate. The class will likely begin with one or more group meetings, perhaps to read a novel, play, or collection of stories or poetry together, perhaps to watch and discuss a relevant film. From that point, students should outline their own contribution to the shared research goal, explaining what they will do and how it contributes to the topic and/or research goal. At the conclusion of the course, students should re group, and each should present their work in a poster format, with all in the group engaging in discussion and feedback.
ENG 190: Senior Thesis
As the capstone for the English major, this course asks you to demonstrate, to extend, and to reflect on your learning. You will demonstrate and extend your learning by producing a thesis that will ask you to apply what you have learned in a slightly larger and more rigorous way than you've been used to. You will reflect on your learning by writing a short reflective essay that asks you to discuss what you think your work in the English major has done for you. Offered every semester.
English 193: Honor Thesis Research
English 193 is the first half of the two-semester English Honors thesis sequence. Students taking English 193 will spend the first weeks of class working with the instructor to identify a research topic that will form the basis of 50-75 page thesis produced over the course of two semesters. Much of the students’ work during the semester will involve meeting individually with their faculty mentor to discuss and implement a research strategy appropriate to their chosen topic. At the end of the semester, students will submit a written prospectus and annotated bibliography outlining the research they have conducted in preparation for writing their thesis.
English 194: Honors Thesis
English 194 is the second half of the two-semester English Honors thesis sequence. Students taking English 194 will have previously identified a thesis topic and been assigned a faculty mentor to help guide their research as part of English 193. They will come to this course with a completed prospectus and annotated bibliography. In this class, they will write and revise a 60–75 page thesis. As with English 193, much of the work will involve independent reading and writing under the direction of a faculty mentor. Students will be expected to submit drafts of their work to their faculty mentor and fellow Honors Thesis students so they can benefit from the process of editing and revision before submitting the final product. At the end of the semester, students will make a final oral presentation before their fellow Honors Thesis students in addition to submitting their written thesis and a reflection on their learning from their English major classes including the Honors Thesis sequence.