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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 Writing as a Journey
In this class, we will travel a good deal in Holland, Michigan, to borrow the words of Henry David Thoreau. We will pack up our journals and pens — looking and listening in places like the Lake Michigan dunes, ethnic supermarkets, coffee shops, art museums and cemeteries. We will think together about travel, our own experiences and dreams as well as the stories of great travel writers. We will consider writing as a journey — a process that invites exploration, experimentation, curiosity, re-routing and finding deeper and clearer meaning along the way. Like Thoreau in his city of Concord, we even may come to see that people are righting the world in a thousand remarkable ways in Holland. Writing for this course will include a travel log of short observation/reflection papers, a personal travel narrative essay and a research paper.

This section of English 113 is open to all students with a special invitation to rising sophomores, juniors and seniors.

English 113 Section Descriptions — Fall 2019

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 discussing and writing, we will explore three pieces of “survival” literature. Titles include In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton (nonfiction), The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (nonfiction) and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (dystopian fiction.)

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 with the writing we create — in pairs, in small groups and as a whole class. 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 & 06 Group Culture: Locating, Defining and Questioning the Role of Community
This course will investigate the different communities that we choose to join as well as others that perhaps we are less overtly aware of participating in. How do we define a community and why are those definitions important? How do communities (even temporary ones) bring people together and complement or interrogate individual identity? How does group culture influence our decisions? We will be reading, listening and watching various materials that demonstrate the range of existing communities (e.g., a family, a sorority, the Hope College sports fans, prayer groups, a Blue Zone and more) to be able to write our own assessments and arguments about particular communities from the past, present and/or near future. 

ENGL 113.04 & 07 Adventures in Adolescence
This course offers a solid preparation for the writing students will do throughout their college experience, as well as in many common careers. Activities, lectures and workshops are designed to hone the skills of critical reading, writing preparation and crafting an insightful essay with polish. Writing in this course will take a familiar subject — adolescence — and approach it in several new lights. We will ask:

  • When did the idea of “the teenager” develop?
  • Why is teen citizenship strictly regulated by society?
  • How are teens across the globe redefining expectations for their age group?

Students will be introduced to research, and given information literacy skills that empower them to identify, analyze and respond to valuable sources.   

Essay writing and workshopping form the core of this course. It is not a grammar course, though some grammar issues are addressed. Most centrally, this course will teach the linked skill set of planning, drafting and revising — invaluable tools for assuring that your writing represents you in the best possible light.

ENG 113.05 & 09 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 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.

ENGL 113.08 Stephen King: Trash or Talent?
It goes without saying that Stephen King is a contemporary literary phenomenon: Since the beginning of his career in the 1970s he has averaged at least one new title a year, and his books continue to sell like candy corn at Halloween. But is King a good writer? Should his work be considered “literature” — and does it belong in the classroom? Or is it nothing more than “trash,” and his amazing popularity a dead giveaway of the depraved tastes of American society? These are some of the questions we will wrestle with in this class. But English 113 is first of all a writing course, intended to lay groundwork for your future studies. Along with “engaging students in a significant intellectual question or topic,” the stated goals for the course include “helping students improve their writing skills” and “helping students improve their library and research skills.” Expect, therefore, to do a lot of writing, mostly about King’s work or some topic related to it. Expect a number of “workshops”: class sessions on some aspect, general or technical, of writing, especially for an academic audience. Expect to compose a first-rate research paper. Expect library sessions. Expect discussion. Expect to learn.


  • Stephen King, Different Seasons
  • Stephen King, The Shining
  • Paul Brians, Common Errors in English Usage
  • A writing handbook, yet to be selected

ENG 113.10 Seminar in Academic Writing
This course will orient you to the world of academic writing and will provide a solid preparation for the written assignments you will encounter throughout your coursework 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 28 pages of polished prose.

ENG 113.12 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.

ENG 113.13 Writing Your Life
Relative freedom of choice, plenty of interaction among peers and between students and prof, and multiple opportunities to revise writings before final evaluation will headline this workshop-driven writing course. Choices will include what to write about and how much to revise after initial submissions. With final works to be collected in a portfolio at semester’s end, students will not only learn more about themselves by writing, but also about the worlds of others around them and how to communicate effectively in various modes (narrative, informative, investigative and persuasive), for various audiences (informal to formal), and to serve various purposes (to entertain, inform, persuade, inspire). The course’s readings and activities will suggest many options and inspire creative possibilities. People who like, or are willing to learn to like, examining and expressing what is important to them; who, with acclimation and practice, will not be bashful about discussing such things in critically thoughtful ways; and who do not procrastinate will thrive best in this self-motivated course.

ENGL 113.14 Making a Difference with Words

ENGL 113.15 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 productively 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 go beyond their own experiences? 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. 

ENG 113.16 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. 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 digital technologies and how they are changing the ways we live, read and write now.

ENG 113.17 & 19 Writing across the Curriculum
An introduction to the art of expository writing, with attention to analytical reading and critical thinking in courses across the college curriculum. Assignments offer students opportunities to read and write about culture, politics, literature, science and other subjects. Emphasis is placed on helping students to develop their individual skills to write with clarity and fluidity for multiple audiences.

ENG 113.18 Outdoor Writing
This outdoor-themed course 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 outdoor literature and explore over the course of the semester how people and place shape one another. In learning narrative writing, we will look at Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Wind, Sand and Stars and excerpts of Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, both of which ranked high on National Geographic’s List of Greatest Adventure Books. As a model for persuasive research writing, we will study Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, which advocates for an environmental paradigm in considerations of education and lawmaking. We will read fiction and nonfiction by other outdoor writers such as Wendell Berry and David James Duncan to study the intricacies of language and how to craft strong, thesis-driven works. As the primary concern of this class is learning to write well, we will craft four polished essays and gain new tools for organization, research, creative and collaborative writing, revision and critical thinking. We will also journey to Lake Michigan’s coastal dunes for inspiration.

Special Topics (Upper-Level ENGL Courses)

English Upper-level section descriptions — Fall 2019

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. To see course details, including dates, times and professors, please use the Registrar's course schedule

ENG 373.01 Crime and 19th Century Fiction
Have you ever sympathized with a clever criminal? Rooted for a vigilante seeking justice outside the law? This course will take you back to where our cultural fascination with true crime, detective stories and forensic investigation began: the nineteenth century. Slink down the foggy streets of London with Charles Dickens and his suspense-writing friends. Meet charming thieves and peek into the tormented minds of killers. Learn how Poe’s great detective, Dupin, was surpassed by Conan Doyle’s masterful catcher of criminals, Sherlock Holmes. And get ready to discuss along the way: Why do we humans like this stuff so much? This literature seminar will include opportunities for interest-driven research and creative work.

ENG 373.02 Shakespeare
Many of Shakespeare’s plays explore what it means to be treated as an outsider. Studying these plays can guide us in questioning the justice of societies where women are treated as possessions, Jewish merchants are ridiculed, and military commanders are questioned because of the color of their skin. In this course, we will work our way together through several plays, reading and watching and studying and arguing about the meaning we find in them. We will examine both the historical and literary contexts of the plays, studying the plays as literature and as performance pieces, and assessing various critical approaches’ insights into the plays.

ENG 375.01 Children's and Young Adult Lit
Welcome to a discussion on the importance and popularity of children’s and young adult literature. The recent flowering of kid lit has meant for a tremendous growth in the genre, with many texts moving into film, as the recent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse phenomenon testifies. At the same time the importance of the field to literary studies, to literacy and to teaching has never been greater. Scholars and educators are looking at classics like The Cat in the Hat with new eyes, asking questions like: Is this picture book racist? Together, we will consider this and other critical questions. We will think about race, ethnicity, language, gender and disability in children’s lit and what is at stake for readers, parents and educators. Students will read multiple YA novels (see the list at the bookstore!) and picture books, visit with a children’s librarian and complete a final project of their choosing (portfolio or paper). This course is perfect for anyone interested in reading kid lit, teaching, library science and/or scholarship. Meets Hope College GLD credit.

ENG 480.01 Intro to Literary Theory
Literary theory equips you to think better about how to read and why, and maybe to enjoy it more, too. Tour major schools of thought from Plato to the twenty-first century, such as formalism, structuralism, deconstruction, psychoanalytic criticism, gender and sexuality studies, postcolonial criticism, ecocriticism and disability theory. Meet theorists such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, René Girard, Adrienne Rich, Judith Butler, Edward Said, Chinua Achebe and Wendell Berry. Connect literature to other disciplines such as philosophy, theology and the social sciences. You’ll have a chance to write and talk critically about whatever texts you like — stories, poems, films, TV, games, etc. The course will be conducted as a seminar with several short papers and two longer ones.