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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.

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Special Topics (ENGL 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.


ENGL 113.01 & 02 – The Will to Survive
After all, isn’t that what life is all about anyway — surviving? To what extent do human beings fight to survive? To what lengths and extremes will we go to cling to life? What is the limit of our hanging on?

In this English 113 section, participants will read, discuss and be asked to write in response to literature that exemplifies humankind’s desire to survive. To inspire our discussions and writing, we will explore three pieces of nonfiction “survival” literature. Titles include In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton, Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

And, speaking of survival, the major goal of this class will be to help you “survive” the writing that will be demanded of you in the real world of college and beyond; therefore, we’ll explore and practice writing that narrates, informs, persuades, reviews, responds and shares.

Class time will be spent discussing the assigned literature and (to a greater extent) responding to and helping each other — in pairs, in small groups and as a whole class — with the writing we create. We will also spend time learning together through informal lectures, student presentations, in-class writing and individual student-teacher conferences. We’ll select from different types of writing in order to create some final products, and, eventually, we’ll create a more in-depth research project. 

ENGL 113.03 – 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? 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? We will use these inquiries as the occasion for the development of skills necessary for academic writing, including coherent organization, thoughtful textual analysis, ethical research practices, persuasive rhetoric and use of the conventions of standard written English.

ENGL 113.04 & 05 – Activist Americas
What does social justice activism require of us? Along with courage, determination and faith, two more things: knowledge and critical learning skills. We must be knowledgeable, for example, of what resistance fighters have done in other places and at other times. We also must be cognizant that peace and justice are fueled by critical learning skills, such as, intercultural literacy, communication skills, radical empathy and active listening that allows us to see through the perspective of others. 

In this class, we will look closely at how people have fought for peace and justice across the hemispheric Americas in response to discrimination and oppression based on race, ethnicity, gender, language, political views and other facets of social identity. We will learn from novels such as The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Canada), Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang (US), Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez (Dominican Republic) as well as real-life activists like the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Argentina) and participants in the Black Lives Matter movement (which has spread throughout the hemisphere). We will consider how these folks have stood up and spoken out for peace and justice and how you can too. In all, my hope is that you will see how literacy (critical thinking, reading and writing skills) and democracy are intertwined, that your education can be a catalyst for peace and justice.

ENGL 113.06 – 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 modern literary phenomenon: Since the beginning of his career in the 1970s he has averaged at least one new title per year, and his books — many of them reborn as films — continue to sell like candy corn at Halloween. Some people dismiss his work as trash, just low-quality popcult 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?

English 113 is intended to lay the foundations for your academic success at Hope College — and, for that matter, in life. Although every section offers its own topic or theme, the course in general stresses four things:

  • Reading (you will gain experience reading, understanding, and discussing texts)
  • Writing (classroom instruction and one-on-one conferences will help you produce high-quality papers)
  • Research (you will find out how to find reputable sources and make good use of the library)
  • Thinking (most important): like all your studies, this course is a step in preparing you for a life of integrity and service

With this in mind, we will begin with a basic review of sentence structure, punctuation and English usage; we will master the art of crafting a thesis, shaping good topic sentences, incorporating quotations and creating effective introductions and conclusions; we will survey and evaluate sources of information; and we will stress, above all, the relation between literary texts and life. King’s 1977 novel The Shining will be our foundational text, accompanied by a selection of his shorter fiction: and we will also contemplate the transmogrification of his scenarios into film and other media (comic books, cartoons, even opera). Shaking in your Nikes already? Forget your fears: There’s actually nothing mysterious about learning to write, and your instructor is committed to your success

ENGL 113.07 & 13 – Creativity and 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 four films. 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.

ENGL 113.08 - Writing Across Genres
The primary purpose of English 113, Expository Writing I, is to equip Hope College students with essential writing skills and practices for education and life. This iteration of the course, "Writing Across Genres," focuses on genre as a strategic approach to composition. We will work through four major units: narrative, evaluation, analysis and research. You will write one essay in each unit, and along the way we will consider what makes a piece of writing successful in a given genre, how the criteria of good writing vary between genres, and how to develop skills that will be transferrable to any future genre. In lieu of a final exam, you will compose in a fifth genre of your choice.

ENGL 113.09 – The Harlem Renaissance
As material to read, think and write about, this course is a very brief sampling of the literary production coming from Harlem, New York, during the time of flourishing African American culture generally known as The Harlem Renaissance. The period from about 1919 until roughly 1934 marked the emergence of a distinctly modern Black literature, music and visual arts. The course will begin with material from the late 19th century in order to understand the forces giving birth to the Renaissance, and it will conclude in the 1930s as the Depression largely put an end to the time “when Harlem was in vogue.” While the course will include some discussion of music and art, its primary focus will be on fiction and poetry along with some non-fiction from a wide range of remarkable writers.

ENGL 113.11 & 14 – Outdoor Writing
This course utilizes the outdoors to equip students with the writing foundation needed to journey far in academia and beyond the walls of the classroom. Over the course of the semester, the class will explore how people and place shape one another by reading literature from renown outdoor writers, including two works that made National Geographic’s List of Greatest Adventure Books. Students will sharpen their writing and research skills as they learn to leverage language, avoid pitfalls in logic, find credible sources and craft college-level essays. To learn the art of persuasive writing, the class will study Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, which advocates for an environmental lens in considerations of education and lawmaking. Over the course of the semester, students will read fiction and nonfiction from other outdoors writers, including Wendell Berry and David James Duncan, to study the intricacies of language and how to craft strong, thesis-driven arguments. A few times during the semester, the class will journey off-site and hike to practice writing with specificity and imagery.

ENGL 113.12 - Edible Essays: Food & Writing
We have all heard the claim, “You are what you eat,” but what about the question, “How does what we eat reflect our cultural identity?” as American Studies scholar Psyche Williams Forson puts it? This class will attempt to answer that question and more by using the universal concept of food to explain and explore the non-universal ways that food’s relationship to such topics as travel, politics, health and the environment get defined. From such examples of thinking of food through the lens of class with the rise of “yuppie coffees,” or framing food by looking at gender-segregated eating cultures, or employing culinary traditions to understand regional identity, the class will teach you how arguments of cause and effect, comparison and contrast, and definition get developed with food at the perennial center — and how you will be able to make your own arguments. We will be reading, listening to, and watching a variety of texts as this class incorporates a podcast unit (and you’ll be creating your own group podcast!) and a documentary unit to understand the ways that different mediums influence argument delivery. Our main course readings will come from Food: A Reader for Writers consisting of an interdisciplinary nonfiction sampling of academic, magazine and newspaper in-depth pieces. The emphasis throughout this course will be on analysis, research and genre.

ENGL 113.15 – Technology and Society
Once upon a time, writing itself was a revolutionary new technology. Perhaps it is still the most revolutionary of all. Many later technologies, from printing to social media, have reshaped and amplified its impact. As a course intended to equip you with essential writing skills and practices, this one will take as its subject matter the relationships between technology and society. It is part of a curricular pathway on technology and society that also includes Engineering 100: Introduction to Engineering and Computer Science 225: Software Design and Implementation and is expanding to include a new program in data analytics. Our reading and writing will provide opportunities to think about a wide range of technologies and how they shape society and are shaped by it. We will focus especially on data-intensive digital technologies and how they are changing the ways we live, read, and write now.

Special Topics (Upper-Level ENGL Courses)

English Upper-level section descriptions — Spring 2021

Several upper-level ENGL courses consist of multiple topics of focus that vary each semester. Current and/or forthcoming descriptions will be listed here as they become available.

This is not a complete list of available English classes. For a complete list of upcoming classes or to see course details, including dates, times and professors, please use the Registrar's course schedule

ENGL 248 -  Monsters, From Beowulf to Beloved
What if we read Beowulf, an early medieval text written in Old English, through the lens of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a novel about a ghost and about slavery? What would we learn about ourselves? About others?

This course is about monsters. It is a course on literature, because tales and stories are where monsters find form, where they find life. In this, monsters are bound up in our imagination, in what we find abhorrent, frightening, horrifying. And, to a large extent, what we most fear is the Other. This, then, is our task: to look at monsters through “dark” lenses that allow us see the devaluation of humanity in the making of monsters: in other words, the making of Others.

Along with Beowulf and Beloved, we will read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Octavia Butler’s Fledgling, William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Jorge Luis Borges’s “The House of Asterion,” a short story told from the perspective of the Minotaur.

ENGL 371 – Ernest Hemingway
For more than seven decades, people have asked me if I am the illegitimate son of Ernest Hemingway. No, I am not; we spell our names differently. However, I have come to terms with this mysterious and macho man whose complicated reputation has made his name a household word globally. Since preparing for this course four years ago, I have visited Hemingway haunts in Paris, Petoskey, Pamplona, Key West, Cuba and Walloon Lake.

In “Ernest Hemingway: Fiction and Film,” I will present several of his short stories and novels and Hollywood versions of them to help you grapple with his “lean, hard, athletic narrative prose that puts more literary English to shame” (New York Times, 1926) and the “technicolor adaptations featuring foreign settings and doomed love, and always at least half an hour too long” (Slate, 2007).

To whom should this course appeal? All English majors will get substantive views of “Lost Generation” themes and techniques that propelled Hemingway to fame and to influencing subsequent authors. Creative writing students will have chances to study and imitate his hard-boiled and economical realism. Secondary Education students will emerge with lesson plans for teaching such classic high-school texts as A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea.  Scientists will cherish his celebration of nature. 

Women’s atudies and psychology majors will meet “the enemy” often depicted as a multi-married misogynist. Midwesterners will love the northern Michigan settings of his Nick Adams stories. Film buffs will crave cinematic interpretations that often transformed Hemingway heroes into Hemingway clones. Travelers and adventure-seekers will want to do spring breaks in Oak Park or Mt. Kilimanjaro. I sincerely hope that Doc Hemenway on Papa Hemingway will appeal to your literary palate.

ENGL 375 – Global Shakespeares
This course is about Black Shakespeare, Latinx Shakespeare, Chilean Shakespeare, South African Shakespeare, Bollywood Shakespeare, all the Other Shakespeares. It also is about William Shakespeare. This course asks students to consider why, how and in what ways we read Shakespeare, we perform Shakespeare, and we teach Shakespeare. This course, in this way, is about the Bard and his times, in as much as the “afterlife” of Shakespeare, that is, Shakespeare in our current moment of racial and decolonial reckoning. Therefore, alongside three Shakespeare plays, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Julius Caesar, the most widely taught plays in high school curricula, we will read several “companion” texts that will direct our attentions to race, ethnicity, gender, ableism and belonging, texts such as If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. In this course, students will be invited to engage in Global Shakespeares Studies by exploring the Shakespeare of their interest(s) in films, novels, history and/or performances. 

Students in education, theatre, and communication are encouraged to join literature and creative writing students in this important and dynamic class.