Spring 2020 Courses - Graduate


ENGL 203 W 4:00 p.m. 6:45 p.m. Cathy Miller
ENGL 204 M 4:00 p.m. 6:45 p.m. Revathi Krishnaswamy
ENGL 240 M 7:00 p.m. 9:45 p.m. Alan Soldofsky
ENGL 241 R 7:00 p.m. 9:45 p.m. Keenan Norris
ENGL 242 R 4:00 p.m. 6:45 p.m. Faith Adiele
ENGL 254 T 4:00 p.m. 6:45 p.m. Susan Shillinglaw

Spring 2020 Course Descriptions

English 203 Memoirs: Sampling Other Lives

W 4:00 p.m.-6:45 p.m. (Professor Miller)

Memoirists have been accused of being everything from navel-gazing narcissists to cannibals feasting on their loved ones. However, none of this changes the fact that these works of narrative nonfiction are blockbuster bestsellers that have created a dialogue about what it means to lead a
certain type of life. They create in-depth self portraits of cultural diversity, requiring no filter from an outside narrator. By reading memoirs, we can sample other people's lives, try them on for size, and see how they fit. In 203 we will look at the literary lives of ten popular memoirists and study how they represent the world around them, while creating themselves as characters. Since this is a craft course we will be examining the methods the authors use to write creative nonfiction. Most of our texts are from the MFA reading list, so we’ll also be preparing you for the exam (although MAs are indeed welcome):

  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; Dave Eggers
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Maya Angelou
  • The Liar’s Club; Mary Karr
  • Angela’s Ashes; Frank McCourt
  • The Woman Warrior; Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Barbarian Days; William Finnegan

ENGL 204: Modern Approaches to Literature

M 4:00 p.m.-6:45 p.m. (Professor Krishnaswamy)

This course deals with the multidisciplinary field of Literary Theory and Criticism that cuts across various disciplines including psychology, philosophy, economics, political science, sociology, anthropology, history, biology and others. Focusing mainly on theories developed by literary scholars and critics of the 20th century, we will engage with fundamental questions about language, literature, and reading/writing: What is literature? How do we interpret it? How should we evaluate it? What is its relation to culture and society? What are the rights and duties of artists? Of critics and scholars? We will try to understand major intellectual schools such as New Criticism, Structuralism, Marxism, Feminism, Deconstruction, New Historicism, Postcolonialism, Postmodernism etc. and discover how they may be applied to literature. While this course will challenge you to read a considerable amount of complex material, it should also be exhilarating because you will have an opportunity to form clearer perspectives on the discipline and acquire more sophisticated tools for critically interpreting literary works.

ENGL 240: Graduate Poetry Workshop 

M 7:00 p.m.-9:45 p.m. (Professor Soldofsky)

The Workshop is intended for poets who want to further develop their abilities in the art of poetry (primary or secondary genre), to learn strategies for generating and revising poems. The class will also require you to consider your work in light of essential issues of the poet's craft,
and to articulate your individual sensibilities as poets. Though the central text will be class members’ poems, students will also be asked to read and respond to the work of contemporary poets, as well as to essays on the craft of poetry. The fundamentals of prosody, as well as "non-metrical” forms, will be addressed within the context of discussing aspects of a poem’s music, syntax and lineation, form, structure, and image. We will use Canvas to facilitate workshopping poems both inside and outside of class. Each class member will complete a portfolio of at least 8 poems, and also give an in-class presentation. During the semester students will read a diversity of recent books of poetry by poets whose work includes a concern for ecopoetics and/or social justice. We'll read these works together selected from a larger reading. Students will lead discussions of the books/poets who they are reading, in class and on Canvas. MA students (and undergraduate students) must submit a short writing sample to the instructor prior to the first class-meeting to receive permission to enroll.

English 241: Fiction Writing Workshop

R 7:00 p.m.-9:45 p.m. (Professor Norris)

This is the most advanced fiction workshop offered at SJSU. It is designed for students pursuing writing as a vocation. Students enrolled in the MFA Program in Creative Writing have registration priority. If there is extra space, graduate students in other disciplines and Open University students may enroll with instructor permission. The majority of our class time will be
spent discussing student work. We will also read a variety of short stories and longer prose work. The class is divided into four loosely thematized parts, based around the concepts of voice, character-building, story structure and reflection/revision. We will take a tour of different styles
of creative writing, learning what’s been invented, and we’ll do a lot of our own new writing as well. Additionally, we will discuss aspects of the writing profession. Topics include finding time to write, managing time, revision, genre, using material, finding an agent or publisher, and networking. Students will workshop their own work on at least three instances during the term (2,000-5,000 words) and will also be required to provide respectful, constructive, detailed written feedback to their classmates when their classmates are the focus of the workshop. We’ll also read
the work of acclaimed writers every week and we will examine what we’ve read through in-class discussion and group book reports (each group will be responsible for one report to the class) to “open up” the work from an artist’s vantage point. The objectives of this course are to study and
work toward establishing our voice(s) as writers, to learn in nuanced fashion the deep lives of our characters, and to competently structure our stories.

English 242: Nonfiction Writing Workshop

R 4:00 p.m.-6:45 p.m. (Professor Adiele)

This workshop explores the intersection of personal narrative, research and lyric in creative nonfiction in the digital age. Class discussion will focus on figuring out what form your story wants, using research to create innovative structure and metaphor, leveraging the oral tradition, and the possibilities that hybrid writing affords multicultural/multilingual/gender fluid/cross-genre and other complex stories. In addition to workshopping stand-alone essays or thesis chapters, assignments will involve short experiments with mapping, digital storytelling, visual reporting and other innovations. Texts may include an anthology of lyric essays, examples of mixed-media/
mixed-genre memoir and an immersion craft guide.

English 254: Conservation Classics

T 4:00 p.m.-6:45 p.m. (Professor Shillinglaw)

How do we consider the world? We will read and discuss several “classics” in conservation and consider the questions they raise: how to participate fully in the places one inhabits; how to respect and conserve those places of the heart; how to turn contemplation into action; and how to consider ways in which these “classics” are urgently relevant today, as we confront a world in crisis. Assignments for this course include short essays on individual texts; group presentations; and final projects that link text/s and contemporary issues, either in a critical essay, science writing, a personal essay or active social/political/environmental engagement.

Readings will be selected from the following list:

  • Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain (1903)
  • Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place (1991)
  • John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1941)
  • Rachel Carson, Under the Sea Wind (1941)
  • Robinson Jeffers, Selected poems
  • Aldo Leopold, Sand Country Almanac (1949)
  • Wallace Stegner, Wolf Willow: A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier, (1962)
  • Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter (2005)
  • Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang, (1975)
  • Camille T. Dungy, Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (2009)
  • Richard Powers, The Overstory: A Novel (2019)