Fall 2016 Graduate Course Offerings—Literature


English 521: Teaching of Literature and the Literature Curriculum

Instructor: Donna Niday

How do I begin to create or revisualize a semester’s literature course? Should I teach chronologically or thematically? Should I use literature circles, literature portfolios, dialogue journals, or online exchanges? How do I incorporate more multicultural texts into the curriculum? In this course, we will discuss text selections, discussion techniques, and strategies to encourage class members to read and think broadly and deeply as current or future teachers. Class members will read and discuss several pedagogical texts, connect theory and pedagogy, complete several short assignments throughout the semester, and conclude the course by composing an appropriate syllabus with unit plans. This course is appropriate for individuals who are-or may someday be-teaching at the middle school, high school, community college, or college/university level.

Texts: Contact Donna Niday at dniday@iastate.edu for a complete list of texts.


English 531: Topics in the Study of Literature

Instructor: Matt Sivils

Imagining Apocalypse: Narratives of Environmental Catastrophe

From nuclear Armageddon to horrifying pandemics to the quiet cataclysm of greenhouse emissions, the popularity of narratives about the end of our world seems to rise in step with our ability to make such predictions come true. Once merely victims of natural disasters, our species has since become complicit in large-scale environmental destruction. Humanity is the disaster. In this course we will investigate imagined environmental calamity so that we may better understand, and perhaps better remedy, our all too real impact upon the Earth. “Apocalypse,” writes Lawrence Buell, “is the single most powerful master metaphor that the contemporary environmental imagination has at its disposal. . . . for the rhetoric of apocalypticism implies that the fate of the world hinges on the arousal of the imagination to a sense of crisis” (Environmental Imagination 285). We will spend the semester investigating how authors of apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian fiction incite this “sense of crisis.” Along with filmic texts such as Stanley Kramer’s On the Beach (1959), Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia (2011), and AMC’s The Walking Dead (2010-present), we will read Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake; P.D. James’s The Children of Men; Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home; Richard Matheson’s, I Am Legend; Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Galápagos. We will enrich our discussion of these texts by reading a selection of critical sources devoted to literary apocalypticism, ecocriticism, natural disasters, disease studies, and related issues. Assignments include leading a class discussion, short written responses to readings, and an article-length critical paper of publishable quality.


English 538: Fiction

Instructor: Barbara Ching

Ivy Leagues, Red Bricks, Land Grants: Academic Fiction and Educational Access

In this 3 credit course we’ll read at least 3 “academic novels” and other documents such as the Morrill Act, Northrop Frye’s brief critical essay “The Mythos of Spring,” and sections of a memoir, From the Basement of the Ivory Tower by Professor X, and journal articles on the assigned novels. We will start with Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim (1954) set in a provincial English red brick university established to educate students whose backgrounds did not lead them to Oxford or Cambridge. The second novel is Jane Smiley’s novel Moo, set in a very recognizable land grant university. Our reading of these texts will be informed by both genre theory and by historical and rhetorical perspectives on the ways in which educational access and college and university rankings have been created, defined, (de)valued, and imagined. You will select a third novel from a set of choices to be determined by student interests and you will present your reading of the novel to the class. Grades will be determined by participation (20%), class presentations (40%) and a final paper (40%).


English 540: Drama

Instructor: Linda Shenk

Shakespeare, Performance, and the Rhetorical Tradition

In this course on drama, we will study some of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays alongside texts from the rhetorical tradition—a combination that unlocks the clues Shakespeare gives for the actor; the way that persuasion & negotiation are naturally theatrical; and the way that we can, as teachers, engage students when teaching plays and rhetoric. In class, we will often stage scenes, follow early modern practices of identifying rhetorical figures to examine character, and read critical essays from various perspectives and disciplines. Although this hands-on seminar is not a theater or rhetoric course, its focus is designed to appeal to graduate students from a range of sub-disciplines in the English Department who wish to study the theatrical-rhetorical craft of Shakespeare’s plays. Attention will also be given to how techniques we study in the course can be applied in one’s pedagogy and job searches. All course participants will be able to tailor their final research projects to explore ideas related to their individual areas of expertise.