/ English Department


We offer a wide range of unique classes taught by professors who love what they do and take joy in furthering their students intellectually, spiritually and socially.

View full course information in the catalog 

Special Topics (ENGLISH 113)

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.

FALL 2023

113.03, 05, 06, 12, 16, 17, 22, 24 Expository Writing
A course designed to encourage students to explore ideas through reading, discussion, and writing. The emphasis is on development of writing abilities. The area of exploration varies with individual instructors.

113.02 Making a Difference with Words
We’ve all seen bumper stickers — a kind of soundbyte — that appeal to our sense of right and wrong or make a plea for our allegiance to a cause. (A personal favorite: “If you love Jesus, work for justice. Anybody can honk.”) And while bumper stickers, hashtags, memes, slogans, headlines and soundbytes of all kinds can deliver “zingers,” they don’t often acknowledge or address complexity. What kind of writing might instead call us to attention, inform us and/or offer a compelling argument? How might your own words make a difference in this world?

We’ll be thinking specifically about the role of a writer to consider audience and argument. Written assignments will highlight the act of writing as potentially powerful and creative forces for social change. By connecting with a local non-profit organization throughout the semester, your writing projects will involve study of a social issue that’s addressed right here in Holland, Michigan; you’ll work with these non-profits for 10 hours over the course of the semester as an activist-writer. This engagement will provide a springboard for you to explore in writing not only what you’re experiencing but also why and how words can make a difference.

Soundbytes may catch our attention, but learning to catch and sustain a reader’s interest — and perhaps even call her to action — is a serious skill, one that will serve you well outside the classroom and across many different kinds of careers. In this course, you’ll go beyond soundbytes to learning the art of responding thoughtfully, meaningfully and thoroughly to issues in our world — starting right outside your dorm door.

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 convincing 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).

113.07 Language and Culture
This writing course explores how language creates and interprets culture. We will learn about how our attitudes about language shape our realities and about how language mediates the way we understand ourselves and our cultures. Readings and projects will cover a range of topics including the ways that language and culture influence one another, the rhetoric of social media and analyses of cultural phenomena. Students will also develop research projects in an area of personal interest.

113.08 Everyday Rhetoric
Have you ever loved a song so much that you opened your car window and belted it out for all to hear? Have you ever leaned forward in your chair as a commercial voiceover proclaimed, “But wait, there’s more!” Have you ever been convinced that someone was not being true to their word? From Socrates, to Civil Rights, to selling a product, this course will examine rhetoric — how people use things like language, images and even sound to persuade other people to do, think or feel something. As we study rhetoric, you’ll choose your own research focus and examine it through guided research and writing. You will also develop your work through revisable portfolios so that you have plenty of time to explore and experiment. This also means the majority of your grade will come from what you know at the end of the course instead of what you don’t know at the beginning. From books, to news, to movies and music, rhetoric shapes our world. Through studying it, you will begin to see it at work all around you, but more importantly, you will be able to use it more effectively to shape the world we all share.

113.09 Writing for Change: Using Rhetoric to Influence Social Justice and Equity
Have you ever loved a song so much that you opened your car window and belted it out for all to hear? Have you ever leaned forward in your chair as a commercial voiceover proclaimed, “But wait, there’s more!” Have you ever been convinced that someone was not being true to their word? From Socrates, to Civil Rights, to selling a product, this course will examine rhetoric—how people use things like language, images, and even sound to persuade other people to do, think, or feel something. As we study rhetoric, you’ll choose your own research focus and examine it through guided research and writing. You will also develop your work through revisable portfolios so that you have plenty of time to explore and experiment. This also means the majority of your grade will come from what you know at the end of the course instead of what you don’t know at the beginning. From books to news, to movies and music, rhetoric shapes our world. Through studying it, you will begin to see it at work all around you, but more importantly, you will be able to use it more effectively to shape the world we all share.

113.10 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.

113.11, 13 Academic Writing
This course is an introduction to the process of academic writing, designed to prepare you for the writing you’ll do in college. We’ll focus on the conventions of the argumentative essay genre, writing on a topic chosen by you. We’ll pay particular attention to (1) discourse communities, the groups and contexts in which writing takes place, (2) rhetoric, using words and other elements to create and communicate meaning, and (3) research, seeking out the ideas of those who have gone before us to inform our own work.

113.14 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 science fiction will stretch us to imagine communicating with intelligent aliens and artificial intelligences. We will explore how the English language changes as different communities use the same language to express their identity and experience.

113-15 Spiritual Life Writing
This course will invite you to grow in your academic reading, thinking, researching and writing skills by exploring writing through the lens of the Christian faith. We will look together at the ways in which people use writing to make sense of who they are in relation to life’s big questions: Who am I? Who or what is God? How do different people experience God? What is the role of faith in seeking justice on issues of racial and gender inequity, poverty and environmental degradation? Through weekly reflective writing, short essays and an academic research paper, you will come to understand differences in genres, the role of process in writing and the basics of research. Course readings by spiritual writers such as the Desert Fathers and Mothers of Africa, Teresa de Ávila, Annie Dillard, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ernesto Cardenal will help you to hone thinking and reading skills and gain an appreciation for the myriad ways in which spiritual authors have used writing to grapple with their faith. In this, my hope is that through this course you will gain a deeper understanding of yourself, the power of your writing, and your place in the world.

113.18 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 organizing complex ideas, editing and revising 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 20 pages of polished prose.

113.19, 20 Creativity & The Unexpected
What are the ways and habits of creative people? How do creative people respond to adversity and the unexpected? In what ways (if any) are the insights and skills of creative people valuable during times of unexpected (or even catastrophic) change? In “Creativity and the Unexpected” we will explore these and related questions. Our reading will include The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, One Day of Life by Manlio Argueta and A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo. We will watch two films and you will be encouraged to attend exhibitions, readings, public presentations and similar events. We will have lively class discussions, and you will write four short essays, participate in a group presentation and write a longer research paper. We will utilize the “workshop” format for the discussion of our work. Each student will assemble a final portfolio that will contain all five papers and a brief introductory statement. We will also receive some expert training in the use of the Van Wylen Library. The ultimate objective of this class is to make you a better writer and critical thinker. Along the way we will have a great deal of fun, learn much and have some interesting discussions.

113.21, 23 Outdoor Writing
Welcome to the trailhead! This outdoor-themed section of English 113 aims to equip students with the writing foundation needed to journey far in both education and life. In learning to write with prose that is concise, powerful and persuasive, we will study literature inspired by the outdoors and make a semester-long exploration based on one question: How do people and places shape one another? For the first third of the semester, we will ask this question on an individual level as we read narrative accounts of men and women in remote and wild places. During the rest of the semester, we will explore this question on a societal level, studying essays and arguments about the relevance of the environment to humanity’s health and well-being. We will read fiction and nonfiction by modern outdoor writers — including Wendell Berry, Rachel Carson, Latria Graham and Edward Abbey — to study the intricacies of language and how to craft strong, thesis-driven works. We will learn the art of persuasive research writing as we read Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, which crafts a strong argument about the dangers of separating young people from nature. All the while, we will learn to write with specificity and authority, gaining the kinds of research and critical-thinking skills necessary to thrive in academia. Throughout the course of the semester, we will also venture off-campus a few times to practice writing with specificity and imagery in outdoor areas.

Special Topics (Upper-level Courses)

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.

Fall 2023

ENGL 110: English Literature Themes I

  • Section 01: Rebooting the Classics
    This course investigates the plethora of new literary adaptations of the classics. As evidenced by the Percy Jackson series as well as by Circe by Madelyn Miller, the era we currently are living in may soon be known as the Great Age of Adaptation. We can add the boom in film and literary adaptations of Shakespeare to this list of works that have been transformed. Investigating these reboots alongside their classic counterparts is the main objective of this course. Students are thus invited to decipher how the past is incorporated into the present, that is, how ancient texts reverberate in our present moment. Such an understanding ensures that students can reflect thoughtfully and creatively on how literatures and cultures meld into new forms. These new forms, this course shows, will incorporate the diversity and richness of our society.

  • Sections 02 and 03: Apocalyptic Anxieties
    This course covers literary texts that reflect fears about the end of the world. We will place fiction, poetry and drama about monsters, natural disasters and other catastrophes into conversation with descriptions of the real-life wars, technological developments, medical challenges, political conflicts and religious anxieties that inspired these visions of the apocalypse. After exploring the British Romantic period as a starting-point for modern apocalyptic literature, we will turn to modern and contemporary American literature, focusing on both the challenges that our texts depict and the strategies for hope and resilience that they reflect. Readings may include works by Mary Shelley, W. E. B. Du Bois, Thornton Wilder, Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang and Joy Harjo. Analysis of these texts will center on the ways in which the study of literature can enable us to process some of the most difficult elements of human experience.

  • Section 04: Faith and Belief in Literature
    This course explores literature dealing with faith and belief. We will examine how writers have creatively grappled with some of the knottiest and deepest questions of life: how beliefs shape our lives; how stories we tell affect what we believe; how and why people come to faith, lose faith, change their faith and grow in faith. We will study works in a variety of genres, especially forms of literary narrative (novel, film, short story, graphic novel, personal narrative, etc.), analyzing how they are constructed, how this construction plays a role in their messages and meanings, and how this may be relevant to our own lives and beliefs.

ENGL 210: English Literature Themes II

  • Section 01: Peace and Justice in Hemispheric Americas
    This course considers the role of literature and performance art in seeking peace and justice in the hemispheric Americas (Latin America, the Caribbean and U.S. Latinx communities). In particular, our class engages with texts that respond to state-sanctioned violence, military dictatorships, foreign intervention, and discrimination of women, Indigenous peoples and Afro-Latine populations. Authors may include Pablo Neruda, Luisa Valenzuela, Rigoberta Menchú, Quince Duncan, Margarita Engle, Gloria Anzaldúa, Sabina Berman and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, among others. From these readings, we witness the power of writing back and speaking up. In this way, we find ourselves challenged to thoughtfully accompany such writers and artists on this journey for justice.
    Recommended elective for Women’s and Gender Studies major and minor and Peace and Justice minor.

  • Section 02: Environmental Literature
    Although environmental issues are often framed scientifically, economically or politically, a premise of this course is that words and stories — and the values, attitudes and ideas embedded in them — are just as, if not more, important for understanding (and improving) humanity’s relationship with its environments. In this introductory course in environmental literature, we’ll consider that relationship and what we mean by “environment” and other ways we refer to our common, creaturely home. To do so, we’ll study classics of American nature writing as well as ancient and contemporary environmental texts in a wide variety of genres. Authors may include Henry Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Hayao Miyazaki and Octavia Butler. Particular attention will be given to environmental justice and intersections of religious faith with environmental issues.

  • Section 03: Magical Realism
    This course involves a way of seeing the world, that is, it proposes that magic exists homologously with the real. And, as we will find in our readings, magical realism works in the service of social justice, with magic intervening in the construction of a more just and equitable world. To better understand this dynamic, students are invited to read monumental magical realist works such as A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and short stories such as those by Jorge Luis Borges. As a course invested in the transnational dimensions of magical realism, works by Latinx, Native American and African American writers, as well as global writers, will be included in our reading. Along with these readings, students are encouraged to propose a magical realist reading list of their own making. The latter parts of this course are dedicated to their findings.

ENGL 230: English Literature Surveys II

  • Section 01: 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.

  • Section 02: The Anglo-American Girl
    Susanna Haswell Rowson’s best-selling novel Charlotte Temple (1791) was intended, the author wrote, “for the perusal of the young and thoughtless of the fair sex” and heralded a tidal wave of fiction about young women. Ranging from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century, this course will survey classic novels of girlhood such as George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles; portrayals of girlhood in such young adult classics as Kate Douglass Wiggin’s Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, or the Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery; scrutinies of modern sexuality by male writers; and the increasingly complicated speculations of contemporary women writers like Nella Larsen, Joyce Carol Oates or Amy Tan. Students, both male and female, will be encouraged to draw on their own memories of reading.

  • Section 3: American Ethnic Literature
    In this course we will examine the vibrant world of American Ethnic literature, which centers the voices, narratives and cultures of diverse ethnic groups. Through an assessment of literary texts authored by individuals who have been historically marginalized, we will critically analyze the texts considering issues of race, tribe, religion and cultural backgrounds that shape the genre of ‘Ethnic literature.’ This examination will enable us to appreciate individual differences and celebrate the shared humanity across cultures and races, as we study the works of writers from diverse backgrounds. We will consider the ways in which American Ethnic literature forces us to rethink what it is to be American. One principal question our readings might raise is this: To what degree has Ethnic literature influenced American culture and society? We will conclude by examining the future of Ethnic literature in a multicultural society like America. Major topics and themes will include alienation, double consciousness, assimilation and ethnic pluralism.

ENGL 240: Special Topics in Professional Writing

  • Introduction to Writing in the Healthcare Professions
    The course will focus on employment application documents, writing for both a specialist and non-specialist audience, writing instructions, formal reports, patient histories and developing a clear prose style. Intended particularly for the general liberal arts student and/or English elective credits. May be repeated for additional credit in a different focus area.