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Special Topics (ENGLISH 113) Fall 2024

Catalog course ENGL 113 consists of multiple topics of focus that vary each semester. Current and/or forthcoming descriptions are listed below. To see course details, including dates, times and professors, please use the Registrar’s course schedule.

ENGL 113.01 Seminar in Academic Writing
This course will orient you to the world of expository writing and will provide a solid preparation for the written assignments you will encounter throughout your course work at Hope College. Our work together will emphasize writing as a process, and it will focus on exploring, planning and organization of complex ideas, editing and revising of drafts, and developing writing skills through effective means of organization, support and justification of ideas. As such, students will read intellectually intriguing essays, engage in writing workshops that focus on developing a clear and coherent expository style of writing, craft individual and critical responses, construct unified and coherent paragraphs, and contribute to the dialogue about writing that would emerge from our classroom responses. By the end of the semester, you should have generated at least 28 pages of polished prose. 

ENGL 113.02 Wit, Wisdom and Wizardry
When you have to make a difficult decision, how do you proceed? Do you carefully analyze the circumstances and rationally weigh your options? Do you cry, “It’s not my fault!” and lash out at the world that forced the decision upon you? Do you close your eyes, grit your teeth and just accept whatever wild ride you’re on, vaguely hoping for the best? How do various aspects of your identity shape the decisions you make? How do the decisions you make shape the person you become? 

In this class, we’ll read three books together, looking at ways that different characters approach the process of decision-making and identity. We’ll discuss different factors that affect their decisions, from family expectations and gender issues to friendships and special talents. We’ll write about ourselves and how we make our own decisions, as well as about these characters and what we can learn from them. Writing for this course will include daily reading responses, several short essays and a research paper.

ENGL 113.03, 09 Analyzing Empathy
In this course, we will use the complex and sometimes controversial concept of empathy as a basis for the study of the conventions and possibilities of academic writing. Through a variety of readings — primarily essays and short fiction — we will explore the challenges that face writers endeavoring to define empathy and to determine how it can contribute to contemporary society. We will begin with texts that depict or challenge common methods, such as personal observation and storytelling, that allow us to engage with the feelings and experiences of others. We will then turn toward more specific cases, including works of historical drama and speculative fiction that attempt to give readers access to thoughts and emotions that might be drastically different from their own experiences. Throughout the course, we will think critically about this subject matter and the questions about it that our readings might raise: what are the limits of empathy? When might an empathetic approach create harm instead of helping? To what extent is it the responsibility of writers to create an easy sense of connection for their readers, and to what extent is it the responsibility of readers to engage with perspectives that differ from their own? Is empathy valuable as an abstract feeling, or does it only take on value when it translates into action? 

ENGL 113.04 Stephen King: Trash or Talent?

“I think with the best writing you can actually feel the writer’s joy, the writer’s vision, or something like that.” —Stephen King

Stephen King is a contemporary literary phenomenon: since the beginning of his career in the 1970s he has averaged at least one new title per year, and his books continue to sell like candy corn at Halloween. Some people dismiss his work as trash, just low-quality pop cult horror stories; even King has jokingly referred to himself as a “salami writer.” But other readers insist that throughout his page-turner fiction King addresses serious, even urgent concerns. What are we afraid of, both as a society and as flesh-and-goosebumped individuals? What are the problems of family life and interpersonal relations? How does American society deal with racial prejudice? What about the scourge of alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse? How has our history made us what we are as a nation? What explains our perennial attraction to the supernatural, even in its more ghoulish manifestations? How has the literature of the past — especially the Gothic tradition, spawned in 1764 and still proliferating — infiltrated the literature of the present?

These are some of the questions we will address in a course that is at its core an introduction to college-level writing: how to form sentences in a variety of modes, how to incorporate appropriate punctuation, how to compose a coherent and interesting academic essay, and how to produce a research project you can be proud of. King’s novels The Shining (1977) and The Green Mile (1996) will be our foundational texts, accompanied by a selection of shorter fiction that demonstrates his relation to other works of the supernatural. And we will also contemplate the transmogrification of his scenarios into film and other media (comic books, cartoons, even opera). 

ENGL 113.05, 06, 07 Rhetoric in the Arts
The arts are concerned with beauty; but in their pursuit of beauty they often offer both implicit and explicit critiques of the society in which they are practiced. Thus, the arts can become a site of contention, power struggles and battles over interpretation. In other words, the arts have the capacity to provoke interesting and complicated rhetorical situations. In this class we will look at how the arts possess a persuasive force of their own, and how their appeals to the intellect and emotions combined have a unique capacity for provoking spirited responses and debates. Students will not only read and respond to selected texts and engage in research projects related to the arts; they will also visit museums in the Holland area and/or attend arts events, experiences on which they will reflect through writing.

ENGL 113.08, 10, 21 Writing as Self-Crafting: Composition and Coming-of-Age
In this core course, we will focus on writing as a tool for inquiry, expression and, above all, self-discovery. The word “essay” comes from the French for “to try” — an essay is an attempt to get to the heart of a difficult matter. As we put words on the page and subject our opinions to various tests, we often realize that our views on a given subject are more complex than we previously thought. Sometimes we even find that we hold two seemingly contradictory beliefs at the same time, and that there is much “unpacking” to do. In this sense, expository writing serves not only as a way to explain ourselves to others, but also as a way to explain ourselves to ourselves. And just as writing is never finished (only due), the self is never finished with the process of its own (re-)creation. Writing can be an important part of that process, and can help us become more conscious of it and intentional about it. 

This semester, we will explore the connections between writing and human development, often focusing on coming-of-age experiences. As a student, you will hone your academic writing skills, with the particular goal of learning to ask probing questions and to craft complex, well-supported arguments that matter in academic contexts. Working closely with your peers and instructor, you will develop your essays through workshops and extensive revision. The specific questions that you pursue in your essays will be guided by your own interests related to themes of coming-of-age and self-crafting.

ENGL 113.12 Imagining the Other
One of the keys to good writing is to imagine your audience. Artificial intelligence can’t do it, at least not yet, but we do it all the time in successful communication. While this course helps you develop the tools of academic writing, we will explore how language and imagination enable us to cross the gap between ourselves and others. We will pay attention to what happens when we read. Reading some fiction will stretch us to imagine people, and even intelligent aliens, very different from ourselves. We will explore how the English language changes as different communities use the same language to express their identity and experience.

ENGL 113.13, 14, 19 Outdoor Writing
Do you love the outdoors and want to grow in your writing skills? This outdoor-themed section of ENG 113 equips students to write with concision, power and persuasion — all while exploring our relationship to nature. We'll even journey to some natural areas on select class days for writing activities. Over the course of the semester, students will read fiction and nonfiction by modern outdoor writers including Wendell Berry, Rachel Carson, Latria Graham, Robin Wall Kimmerer and Richard Louv to study the intricacies of language and how to craft strong, thesis-driven works. Students will craft polished essays and gain new tools for organization, research, creative and collaborative writing, revision and critical thinking while exploring how people and places shape one another.

ENGL 113.20, 24 Finding and Writing the Small Miracles
The novelist Roald Dahl once wrote, “Life is a series of thousands of tiny miracles. Notice them.”
We are familiar with the great biblical miracles, but what about small miracles, the events of everyday life (both real and those understood by faith and art) that occur so often in everyday life that we may not realize or fully appreciate them? In this class we will read and write about small miracles: a pitch in a close baseball game that, when hit, becomes “The Shot Heard Round the World”; the hilarious story of an environmentalist fox who learns to “talk yuman” to save an endangered community of foxes; an unexpected intervention in the life of an unhappy Irish girl; and a contemporary account of little miracles, both realized and unrealized, along the Mexican-American border. Our reading will include Pafko at the Wall by Don DeLillo; Fox 8: A Story by George Saunders, Foster by the Irish writer Claire Keegan, and Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera. We will have lively class discussions, work on our grammar, thesis statements and the technical aspects of college writing, and you will write four short essays, participate in workshops, participate in group presentations and write a longer research paper. Each student will assemble a final portfolio that will contain all five (5) papers and a brief introductory statement. We will also receive some expert training in the use of the Van Wylen Library. The primary purpose of English 113, Expository Writing I, is to equip Hope College students with essential writing skills and practices for education and for life. Along the way, we will have a great deal of fun and learn much about the daily and longer-term significance of small miracles.

Special Topics (Upper-level Courses) FALL 2024

Several English courses consist of multiple topics of focus that vary each semester. Current and/or forthcoming descriptions are listed below. This is not a complete list of available English classes for the semester. For a complete list of upcoming classes or to see course details, including dates, times and professors, please see the Registrar’s course schedule.

ENGL 110.01 Celestial Encounters: The World of Black Sci Fi
Greg Tate, a prominent critic of science fiction, insightfully remarked that “Black people live the estrangement that science fiction writers imagine.” In this course, we shall explore the captivating realm of Black science fiction, a genre that uniquely confronts the traumatic histories of African Americans while envisioning a future of empowerment. We will examine the works of Black sci-fi fiction and films, delving into their creative reimagining of mainstream science fiction tropes such as alien spaceships, time travel and shapeshifting. Through our study, we will uncover how these authors center the harrowing experiences of Black people within these tropes, infusing their narratives with themes of resilience and resistance. By the end of the course, students should have an understanding of how Black science fiction differs from mainstream science fiction.

ENGL 110.02 War Stories
World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq. The last two centuries have been devastated by warfare, and there is no sign of an ending. How were these conflicts understood at the time, both by soldiers and those at home? This course will confront portrayals of war from a number or perspectives, and our texts will alternate with films and true-life accounts from visiting veterans. Syllabus still under construction, but titles will probably include Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage; Ernest Hemingway, Farewell to Arms; Willa Cather, One of Ours; Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried; Sebastian Junger, War; and Hope alumna Dana VanderLugt, Enemies in the Orchard

ENGL 130.01 African Novels, Music and Film
Based on the apartheid system of racial discrimination and economic and cultural oppression of blacks in South Africa, the course explores the history of apartheid, its implementation, political and cultural implications, and indigenous struggles and resistance to it. Using two novels by Alex La Guma – In the Fog of the Season’s End and A Walk in the Night, Paul Simon’s Graceland: The African Concert of 1987, and Sarafina! of 1992, the course uses literature, songs and film to trace the process of resistance to apartheid and the path to political emancipation. It also draws from two documentaries — The June 16, 1976 Soweto Uprising in South Africa and Amandla! to depict the indignities of a system that dehumanizes millions of Africans in their own country. Carol Muller’s 2004 essay “Music and Migrancy” and Louise Meintjes’ paper “Paul Simon’s Graceland, South Africa, and the Mediation of Musical Meaning” also provide additional context for literary engagement of the theme of oppression. 

ENGL 130.02 Heroes, Gods, and Monsters
Stories from the ancient world are both deeply strange and strangely familiar. Ancient writers speak to the general human condition, but also present us with an odd and almost wholly different cosmos. In this class we will explore some well-known ancient stories and try to understand why they still strike us as both familiar and strange. We will focus on how the role of the hero was imagined, how “the gods” affected human destinies, and how monsters of various kinds wreaked havoc and were (sometimes) defeated. Along the way we will use these ancient texts to reflect on our own ideas about what makes someone a hero (or a monster) and how the divine realm still plays a role in human stories. 

ENGL 156.01 Learn to Make Comics
Something magical happens when you tell a story or share information juxtaposing words and pictures. Learn visual storytelling, study comics, make comics, do workshops, grow your skills.

ENGL 230.01 The Great American Novel
In the words of the British fiction writer D.H. Lawrence, “The novel is the bright book of life” — a genre whose generous dimensions allowed an ever deeper submergence into life as it is lived. But which are the greatest American novels? Who are the greatest American novelists? This course will investigate classic writers, writers on religion, race, gender, and the range of human emotion. The syllabus for this course may include revered nineteenth-century writers like Hawthorne, Melville, Stowe, Twain; twentieth-century giants like Faulkner, Hemingway, Richard Wright; producers of popular fiction like Mary O'Hara, idols of the young like J.D. Salinger, writers on race like James Baldwin or Amy Tan, perhaps even the Gothic tales of Stephen King.

ENGL 230.02 Contemporary Victorians
The Victorian era has been over for more than a century, but its literary figures live on in ways that their authors probably didn’t expect: Sherlock Holmes has a cell phone, Oscar Wilde has a Twitter account, and Ebenezer Scrooge employs Kermit the Frog. This course will cover both original Victorian texts and some of their more recent appearances in literature and popular culture. We will also look at the ways in which Victorian literature established literary and social trends that continue to influence the contemporary world and will examine the methods that scholars use to analyze Victorian texts. Students will engage with the aesthetic, political, and ethical challenges facing recent writing.

ENGL 230.03 Multicultural Literature: Women’s Perspectives
In this course, we will explore multicultural literature through women’s perspectives. We’ll examine how women are depicted in literature and analyze what constitutes women’s literature. Through the application of literary theory, we’ll examine various texts and discuss the intersectionalities of gender identity along with factors such as class, race, disability, sexuality, nationality, culture and religion. By studying a diverse range of literature, we aim to uncover common themes and understand the complexities of women’s experiences across different cultures. Throughout the semester, we’ll explore short fictions, novels, drama, literary non-fiction, literary criticism. By the end of the course, students will be able to apply literary theory to literary texts, conduct analysis and craft well-argued papers on topics relevant to the course focus.