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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 113.02 & 03 – 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 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 113.04 & 08 – 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 113.05 – Crime & Punishment
Did your mom or dad or grandparents take this same course from me? I have offered it for 48 years, and if the coronavirus allows me to teach this autumn, I will attack this subject again. Only the books and faces have changed. This is your chance to play Erin Brockovich or James Bond or Ralph Nader or Agatha Christie, hot on the trail of clues leading to the exposure of past or current problems of law and order, cops and robbers, race and gender, crime and punishment. Readings, written exercises and experiments, compositions, research projects, interviews, discussions and classroom capers will focus on such significant issues as prison conditions, crimes against women and minorities, biological terrorism, drinking laws, medical dilemmas, environmental crimes. With luck and skill, you may write the perfect crime or, at least, the perfect expository essay. Several classes will be devoted to writing workshops where you will read and comment on early and polished drafts of papers by class members. TV programs and occasional films may supplement the reading material. Four credit hours.

ENGL 113.07 – 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 113.09 – 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 113.11 & 12 – 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 through the Lake Michigan coastal woods to practice writing with specificity and imagery.

ENGL 113.13 – 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 113.14 – Memoir-able
How reliable are our memories? The genre of creative nonfiction dares authors to provide artistic, factually correct accounts of people and events we encounter, but how accurate are they? This course asks you to consider and appreciate the tentative line between fact and fiction as we explore several modern memoirs, including The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Educated by Tara Westover. You will also be challenged to enter the larger conversation of truth and memoir by creating your own brief narrative and consider your ability to truthfully recount events from your past. Through these and other readings and assignments, students will be generally acclimated to expository writing skills that they will encounter throughout their academic and professional careers and also work on honing their research and critical thinking skills.

ENGL 113.15 – Writing in Context: Culture, Technology and Language Practices
This course will investigate the different contexts in which, and for which, we write that we might be more or less overtly aware of participating in. How do we define these contexts and why are those definitions important? Additionally, how do communities (even temporary ones) bring people together and complement or interrogate individual identity? How does the intertwining of culture and language practices influence our decisions as readers, and how can we harness that potential as writers? We will be reading, listening and watching various materials that demonstrate the range of existing communities (ex. Greek life, a Blue Zone, startup companies and more) to be able to write our own assessments and arguments about particular communities from the past, present and/or in the near future. This course will include an extended unit on podcast creation and development.

ENGL 113.16 – The American Presidency
This is a course about research, thinking, talking and writing with a thematic focus on the presidency of the United States. The course is likely to examine topics such as the invention of the office, presidential mythology, transformative leaders, scandals, national crises, oratory, First Ladies, debates and campaigns, and especially events relating to the current election cycle. Requirements include reading and viewing the thematic material, keeping informed about the current election, independent and small-group learning, engaging in conversation and writing workshops, and developing a portfolio that demonstrates development towards greater proficiency at college-level research and writing. All of the writing in this course will be research-based, expository essays of increasing length and difficulty, beginning with a lightly-researched, short essay and culminating in a college-level scholarly paper. The specific subject matter of each essay will be determined by group discussion, with significant individual flexibility, as the course proceeds and events unfold in the presidential election. This is not a disciplinary course in political science, law or history; the subject matter is intended, primarily, to stimulate engagement with academic writing and, secondarily, to reinforce thoughtful participation in what is likely to be your first presidential election. The course does not endorse any political perspective, but it does encourage critical thinking about U.S. parties, issues and candidates.

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.

ENGL 113.18 & 22 – The Space Between Us
We are living in divided times. It feels impossible to bridge the space between two sides of any opinion. Writing and literature provide the possibility of narrowing the gap in an individual's experience and perspective. This semester we will examine the ways writing can bridge borders, including but not limited to linguistic, geographic, racial, national, generational and religious. 

In this course we will focus on becoming critical thinkers through reading, writing and discussion. Students will read a diverse range of mostly contemporary authors and genres to see the variety of ways writing is employed. Through several writing assignments students will work on becoming clear, concise and coherent writers who effectively communicate thoughtful, well-researched topics. Our time together will include instruction, discussion, and collaboration in order to hone our reasoning skills through the written word.

Special Topics (Upper-Level ENGL Courses)

Special Topics (Upper-Level ENGL Courses)

English Upper-level section descriptions — Fall 2020

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 371 – The Beatnik Generation
Are you ready to “Howl”?  This fifth-in-a-lifetime (mine, at least) course on “The Beat Generation” explores the “beaten down,” “beat up” and “beatific” aspects of many nonconformist, rootless, drugged and searching American writers of the 1950s and 1960s. Secular and sacred aspects of the Beatnik movement will receive critical attention and a fresh look at what makes the works durable or degrading more than half a century later. 

Harvey Pekar’s recently released The Beats, a graphic history with works by 11 artists, serves as an excellent introduction. Classic and controversial memoirs, novels and plays nestle next to each other: On the Road and The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir by Joyce Johnson, and Dutchman by Amiri Baraka. Poems by Gregory Corso, Diane di Prima, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Joanne Kyger, Denise Levertov, Michael McClure and Kenneth Rexroth sidle up to nonfiction and essays by William Burroughs, Carolyn Cassady, Ann Charters, Edie Parker Kerouac and Norman Mailer.

The course briefly examines early influences on the Beat writers from British Romantics (Blake and Shelley), American Romantics (Thoreau and Whitman) and American Modernists (Gertrude Stein and William Carlos Williams). Musical connections (John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Bob Dylan, John Cage, the Beatles and the Grateful Dead) get well-deserved attention, and campy old films about Beatniks (High School Confidential, The Subterraneans, The Cool and the Crazy) show cinema at its worst. 

Very recent films (Howl with James Franco, Kill Your Darlings with Daniel Radcliffe, Big Sur with Anthony Edwards, On the Road with Garrett Hedlund) reveal the continued popularity of this era.  Beat celebrators (e.g., Anne Waldman in The Beat Book) and Beat debunkers (e.g., Norman Podhoretz in “The Know-Nothing Bohemians”) get equal coverage. The squeamish need not apply; some material is R-rated. Four credit hours.

  • Reading: moderate to heavy
  • Writing: journal pieces, two analytical papers, research project
  • Evaluation: numerous methods of class participation and a variety of writing assignments

ENGL 373 – The Serious Comedy of Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde are among the wittiest and most quotable writers in the history of English literature. Their writing also addresses some serious concerns about 19th century British culture, and their humor often enables them to challenge societal ideals about gender, romance, propriety, money and the role of the arts. We will use major texts by these two figures in order to explore their complex blend of hilarity and earnestness at the very beginning and very end of the 19th century. Austen’s novels will invite us into the century’s earliest years, at the high point of Regency-era culture and literary Romanticism. Wilde’s works will introduce us to the final decade of the 19th century — a decade marked by tremendous social upheaval and a literary culture starting to shift toward Modernism. We will also pay attention to some more recent works based on the writings and life stories of these two figures in order to explore their legacies in the 21st century. Assignments will include short presentations and reflections, a film review, a research essay and a final project that will include options for both critical and creative work.

ENGL 375 – Children’s & Young Adult Literature
This course is perfect for anyone interested in reading kid lit, teaching, scholarship and/or literacy advocacy. Together we will consider the importance of diverse children’s and young adult literature — the way it offers mirrors for diverse kids who see themselves reflected and windows onto the experiences of others. We will think critically about race, ethnicity, language, gender and disability in children’s lit and what is at stake for readers, parents and educators. In addition to reading kid lit for a variety of ages and in a variety of genres, we will meet with practitioners in the field including librarians, teachers, literacy advocates, scholars and publishers, and we will share what we learn through a service learning project with kids in the community. Authors considered in this course include Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Angie Thomas, Dawn Quigley, Stan Yogi, Jason Reynolds, Guadalupe García McCall and Isabel Quintero, among others. Meets Hope College GLD credit.