Fall 2015 Graduate Course Offerings—CWE & Literature


ENGL 550. Creative Writing: Craft and Professional Practice

Instructor: K. L. Cook

A multi-genre craft course required of all incoming students in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment.  Students develop an understanding of craft and environmental writing across genres (poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama) as well as learn about editing and publication practice through the lens of a working literary journal, Flyway: A Journal of Writing and Environment (http://flyway.org/).  Other course activities include presentations on the production practices of leading literary journals, individual editing projects, pragmatic tips for finding publication outlets for polished creative work, and a field trip to publishing houses.  The class also takes a field trip to the Everett Casey Nature Reserve as well as to another location.  In 2015, the class will attend the Prairie Festival, hosted by the Land Institute during the last weekend in September.  Required of all new students in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment.


ENGL 555. Workshop: Nonfiction

Instructor: Barbara Haas

My work in nonfiction makes obvious that it’s not possible to address environmental or place-based concerns without also addressing the historical, cultural, aesthetic and even sometimes the political issues that shape them. Our intent, then, in 555 is to draw upon a complexity of research modalities that will coax from raw material the kind of nonfiction narrative that is at once emotionally evocative and also lushly grounded in the tangible real world constructs that shape our notion of environment, place or nature.

This workshop is ideally positioned for authors working with book-length nonfiction projects (chapter by chapter) and also for authors crafting stand-alone essays of every stripe (memoir, narrative-based, braided, personal, etc.)

An approach like ours might foreseeably have you examining the social and cultural implications of [your environmental topic here], designing and shaping your material around that, searching out odd pockets of meaning, forging creative links, making connections between disparate elements and ultimately working toward fashioning a work of nonfiction that highlights the human drama inherent in your material.

Our workshop methods will demonstrate how to frame a distinctive and neatly contained research topic, how to gather information and develop that topic further and then fuse lyricism, characterization and place-based cultural criticism into a highly focused compendium, namely the nonfiction essay, which contributes to a broader debate about global citizenship.

Ultimately, our workshop aim is to probe mysteries, illustrate basic truths and tell a good story.

ENGL 555 provides a workshop forum through which to test your CNF methods, receive feedback and gain insights for subsequent writing. You will generate four essays or chapters for this course, submit them for class critique in our workshop and read nonfiction models for discussion at intervals throughout the term.


ENGL 557.  Studies in Creative Writing: Stage and Screen: Scripting Dramatic Action

Instructor: Charissa Menefee

Unlike other forms of literature, scripts have dual lives.  They exist on the page, to be read, but also carry the potential to become something else, to transform into another piece of art that will require the collaboration of other artists and ultimately have another life in front of an audience.  How this second life manifests depends on the quality of the communication on the page.  In this graduate seminar, we will read, study, and write stage plays and screenplays, paying close attention to the techniques successful writers use to create dramatic literature that lives both on the page and beyond.


ENGL 560.  Environmental Field Experience

Instructor: Debra Marquart

Students in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment register for three credits and spend a term on a project that requires environmental fieldwork. Fieldwork experiences might include the following kinds of activities: working for a federal, state, or private non-profit environmental organization; partnering with an environmental activism organization or advocacy organization working toward a cause of interest for the student’s research; or living and working in a specified natural area and engaging in environmental fieldwork that enhances the student’s understanding of environmental issues.

A proposal must be submitted to and approved by the English 560 field experience coordinator prior to the commencement of fieldwork. Students should confer with their advisers or the field experience coordinator prior to writing the proposal. An informational document, “MFA Guidelines for Completion of English 560,” and the approval form, “MFA Environmental Field Experience Proposal,” are both available for download on the following website: http://www.engl.iastate.edu/graduate-students/resources-for-current-students-faculty/. (See the links for the two 560 documents under the subheading, “Program Specific POS Forms.”)

The 560 field experience culminates in a formal public presentation of the student’s experience and a short creative reading of work that demonstrates the way the field experience has informed the writer’s work. A final portfolio of the writing samples and other documentation will be submitted to the field experience coordinator as a final requirement of the 560 Environmental Field Experience.





ENGL 521. Teaching of Literature and the Literature Curriculum

Examination of the roles of the literary work, reader, and teacher in literary study. Responses to literature. Place of literature in language arts. Study and development of curriculum materials for middle school, high school, and college levels of instruction.

ENGL 523.  Introduction to Old English Language and Literature

Introductory study of Old English language and literature in prose and poetry, including extracts from Beowulf. Some attention to Anglo-Saxon culture.


ENGL 532. American Literature to 1865: The Haunted Wilderness: American Gothic and the Natural World

Instructor: Matthew Wynn Sivils

M 6:10-9 p.m.

Emily Dickinson wrote, “Nature is a Haunted House—but Art—a House that tries to be haunted.” With this cultural linkage between the spectral and natural worlds in mind, we will explore a number of early American Gothic texts to better understand the anxieties that haunt this influential facet of environmentally conscious literature. As American Gothic works regularly forgo literal hauntings for more terrestrial terrors, this course will also investigate how these texts portray environments that are not only realms of great beauty and enlightenment but that are also home to madness, violence, and the grotesque.

Readings will include novels, poems, and short fiction by writers such as Charles Brockden Brown, Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, and Harriet Prescott Spofford. We will also examine a sampling of later works influenced by those early writers (including clips from some disturbing films). To better inform our discussion and writing about these texts, we will also study a selection of critical essays by Renée Bergland, Charles Crow, Teresa Goddu, Toni Morrison, Eric Savoy, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and others.


ENGL 535. British Literature 1830 to the Present: “H.G. Wells, Science Fiction, and Modernism”

Instructor: Jeremy Withers

W 6:10-9 p.m.

Frank McConnell writes: “H. G. Wells has been called the father, the one authentic genius, even the Shakespeare of science fiction.” This seminar will examine this tension and paradox that surrounds Wells. On the one hand, we have the “genius” and “Shakespeare” who helped establish a genre synonymous with modernity: science fiction. On the other hand, we have a writer who debated the merits of modernism with many of its early writers and who is commonly seen as having rejected modernism’s aesthetics and stylistics in favor of a more didactic approach to fiction. (We will, however, read some scholarship which suggests that Wells contributed to the shaping of modernism in key ways that have often been unacknowledged or under-appreciated.)

The primary readings in this class will be anchored in a sampling of some of the key works by Wells which were admired by both the early modernists and by later science fiction writers, works such as The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and The Invisible Man, as well as a sampling of later works such as A Modern Utopia which would have likely rankled many early modernists for being too “preachy” and “idea-driven.”

We will then trace the influence of Wells on later works of modernism. Readings in this latter category will include works of early modernism like Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and The Secret Agent. We also will look at selections of letters between – and essays by – Wells, James, Shaw, and Conrad in which they debate what the purpose and goals of literature should be. The semester will end with a reading of Virginia Woolf’s essay “Modern Fiction” (in which she criticizes Wells) and her novel Mrs. Dalloway, and a discussion of how works of high modernism like Woolf’s fit into the at-times ferocious debates between Wells and the early modernists.  In sum, this class should be of use to anyone interested in any of the following: issues of canonicity and periodization, larger debates about the role and value of art (especially the novel), the history of modernism or the history of science fiction, and so forth.


ENGL 545. Women’s Literature

“The Other F-Word Now: Contemporary Feminist Musings”

Instructor: Michèle Schaal

ENGL/WS 545 is a topics course dedicated to women’s literature. This section will focus particularly on feminist writings from the past five years and within a transnational perspective. We therefore will give special attention to contexts and the issues at stake in the publications such as contemporary democracy, intersectionality, transgenderism, alliances, sexualities, or inclusiveness. We will also try to determine whether we may consider that the Western world in particular is experiencing a fourth wave of feminism—or not. In order to understand how feminisms are about continuity and change, we will also read additional critical and foundational material. A visit to the ISU Museums exhibit “(Re)discovering S(h)elves” is scheduled too. Readings will include, among other items, Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, Tawakkol Karman’s Iron Jasmine, Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer for Freedom, Julia Serano’s Excluded,  and Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism.

ENGL 548. The History of Rhetorical Theory II: From Bacon to the Present

Instructor: Margaret LaWare

Rhetorical theory from the early modern period (Bacon, Descartes, and Locke) to the present; attention to its relation to the nature of knowledge, communication practice, and pedagogy.


ENGL 561x.  Methods for Scholarship in Literature and the Humanities

Instructor: Linda Shenk

TR 12:40-2 p.m.

This course will be an academic writing boot camp for master’s students who are studying literature and other disciplines in the humanities. The term “boot camp” may sound daunting, but the course is designed to be pragmatic and helpful in bolstering each participant’s research productivity. By examining the mechanics of how scholars construct and support their arguments in academic communication, we will address the strategies and research methods that lead to success. This course will involve some class readings, but mostly it will focus on research and on writing documents in a range of genres that may include, but are not limited to, the seminar paper, thesis prospectus, book review, conference paper, and critical essay. In addition to completing a seminar paper, participants will be allowed to choose from a range of genres for certain other assignments so that all students prepare critical documents needed to fulfill their individual scholarly trajectory. Course participants will conference often with the instructor, will form writing groups, and will follow a productive research-writing schedule. Because this course will move swiftly into research methods and projects, students should come to class the first week with specific ideas for research projects.