Upcoming Classes (Fall 2016)
Eng 260: American Environmental Literature (Fall 2016, Fall 2014, Fall 2012 ) Syllabus
In English 260, we will explore American writers’ engagement with the environment from the nineteenth century wilderness movement through Superstorm Sandy. We will consider how writers represent, reckon with, combat, and in some cases dispute environmental issues like biodiversity loss, toxicity, climate change, and problems with food production. We will read from classic works of American nature writing like Walden, A Sand County Almanac, and Silent Spring. We will also read some works of contemporary environmental literature like Nathaniel Rich’s 2012 climate change novel Odds Against Tomorrow. We will look at some paintings and we will watch some films. We will consider how traditions and histories of relating to the natural world affect 21st century debates about conservation and sustainability. We will talk about whether or not language and art can have any real effect on the earth’s problems. We will pay special attention to Wisconsin writers and to places around Whitewater. And we will go outside! As a special bonus this semester, English 260 will meet jointly with Dr. Gulig’s History 190: North American Environmental History on six occasions throughout the term to talk about ways that the disciplines of history and literature engage the environment and can be used to help solve environmental problems.
Eng 226: American Literature Survey I (Fall 2016, Fall 2013) Syllabus
“A survey of American literature from the seventeenth century through the Civil War to acquaint the student with the foremost writers of our literary culture” (UWW course catalogue description).
Current and Previously Offered Classes
Eng 341: American Renaissance (Spring 2016) Syllabus
“Democratic nations . . . will habitually prefer the useful to the beautiful, and they will require that the beautiful should be useful . . . No longer able to soar to what is great, they cultivate what is pretty and elegant, and appearance is more attended to than reality.”
-Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in American, Volume II, 1840
For quite some time UW-Whitewater’s course catalogue has called the first of its two nineteenth-century American Literature classes “American Renaissance,” presumably after F.O Mattiessen’s 1941 work of the same name. A renaissance is literally a “re-birth,” but it is also any “period of exceptional revival of the arts and intellectual culture” (eg. Italian Renaissance, Harlem Renaissance), and Matthiessen claims that the “half-decade of 1850-1855” is unequalled in all of American literary history. It was, he observes, in this remarkably narrow span that Emerson’s Representative Men, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, Melville’s Moby-Dick and Pierre, Thoreau’s Walden, and Whitman’s Leaves of Grass first “appeared.”
Matheissen raises three possible questions about this period’s exceptional revival of the arts and intellectual culture: how these books came out of American literary history, why it happened at this particular moment in American economic, social, political and religious history, and what these works were as works of art? Mathiessen focuses the following 655 pages of his book on the last question. We will consider all three, but rather than simply defer to the questions that were asked by a work of literary criticism that was published before many of your grandparents were born, we will ask other questions as well. Is this period exceptional? Does this period mark the birth of American art? Did these books have any effect on nineteenth-century readers, politics, religion, and art. Do they continue to exert pressure on our view of our history, our experience of the natural environment, and our politics (this is a presidential election year after all). We will not limit our investigation of nineteenth-century American literature to the first half of the decade before the Civil War and we will not limit our reading to the five readers that Mathiessen and the catalogue description list.
Hon 491: Honors Common Read – The Good Food Revolution (Spring 2016) Syllabus
For this spring’s Honors Common Read, we will read The Good Food Revolution, Will Allen’s book about establishing an urban farm in Milwaukee that has brought fresh food, jobs, and hope to his community and to cities around the United States. The book will lead us into discussions of environmental justice, individual liberty, multiculturalism, systemic injustice, agrarianism, and food culture. Rather than merely talking and thinking about the good food revolution, we will participate in it by researching, writing, cooking, and eating. The course will consist of six discussion sections, one field trip to Growing Power, and four lab sessions where we will select, prepare, and eat the best food we can find and afford in Wisconsin in late winter.
Eng 342: American Realism and Naturalism (Spring 2015) Syllabus
Realism and its close cousin, naturalism, get a bad rap. If twenty-first century Americans think about realism at all, they typically imagine fat books with lots of boring details about the everyday lives of ordinary people. Sandwiched between the raw emotion of Romanticism and the clever daring of Modernism, realism sometimes falls between the cracks of literary history. Yet realism was, and remains to this day, shocking. Realist authors wrote about political corruption, death, sex, racism, immigration, the concentration of wealth and power, ecological beauty and catastrophe, the possibility of a world without God, and the silliness of middle class life. Moreover, they wrote about this material “truthfully,” in plain, descriptive English without hiding behind either romantic fancy or modernist obscurity. Forget, for a semester, Emerson’s silly eyeball and the “currents of the universal being circulating through him, blah, blah, blah.” Leave the impenetrability of Faulkner’s sound and fury (“Then the barn wasn’t there and we had to wait until it came back. I didn’t see it come back. It came behind us . . .” WHAT!?!). Instead, watch a woman go crazy after her physician (and husband) locks her in an attic. See what happens when a bored 18-year-old Wisconsin farm girl moves to Chicago and tries to sleep her way to the top. Now that you have seen Lincoln, see how the Thirteenth Amendment worked after Reconstruction ended. Think about where food came from and what (or maybe even who) might have been wrapped up in a polish sausage casing. Dare to consider what does or does not separate us from our pets. Peer into factory life before OSHA and walk the back alleys of New York City before electric streetlights. Watch a boy rise from rags to riches. And light out for the Western Territories just as the frontier was closing.
Eng 372: Scientific and Technical Writing Syllabus
“Practice in expository, descriptive, and report writing, with special application to technical and scientific subject matter”
(UWW course catalogue description)
Eng101: Freshman English (Fall 2012, 2013) Syllabus
Eng102: Freshman English (Spring 2013, 2014) Syllabus
Eng 460: Major Authors: Herman Melville and his World (Spring 2014) Syllabus
Everybody knows Herman Melville for Moby-Dick, but as massive a world as that book imagines, Melville’s world was even bigger. This major authors course will lead you into (and maybe out of) the terrifying depths of Moby-Dick, but it will also allow you to pursue Melville and his characters around the world, from small town 1820’s New York (pop. 150,000) to London, to the South Pacific, to the Galapagos Islands before Darwin made them famous, to the Holy Land, to a small farm in the Berkshires, Massachusetts, and back to New York in the 1880s (suddenly a metropolis of 2 million people). As we pursue Melville around the globe, we will pay attention to how he, a nineteenth-century married, white man from a distinguished family reckoned with cultural difference in matters of race, class, gender, sexuality, and religion; environmental degradation and devastation; and the place of his peculiar art in the international literary marketplace. We will read Moby-Dick, but we will read it at a sensible pace. We will also take breaks from it here and there to dive into Melville’s writing process and source material. We will certainly look at the incredible true story of the whaleship Essex, which sunk after being rammed by a whale and whose crew turned to cannibalism while adrift in a lifeboat. This is a 400-level course; therefore, we will be attentive to Melville’s works, to critical responses to the works, and to ways that literary scholarship is constructed. As you read, discuss, and write, you will have opportunities to experiment with innovative methods of literary research that draw on approaches from the humanities, social sciences, or the physical sciences. You will also have opportunities to see what happens when you bring Melville’s works into contact with contemporary literary theory.