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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.

ENG 113.02 Words Make a World of Difference
Achieve a lot of what you want to do through smaller changes to content Don't get too far ahead because there's a lot here 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’re not great at acknowledging or addressing 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? This course will center around texts of various kinds that explore contemporary issues of social justice — or injustice, as the case may be. 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 research on 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 how words can make a difference.
Soundbytes may catch our attention, but learning to catch and sustain a reader’s interest — and call her to action — is a serious skill, one that will serve you well outside the classroom. 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.


ENGL 113.03 and 16 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 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?

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 Crime and Punishment
Did your mom or dad or grandparents take this same course from me?  If the COVID-19 situation allows me to teach this autumn, it will be the 51st year in a row that I have been offering this class title! 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 rough and polished drafts of papers by class members. TV programs and occasional films may supplement the reading material.

ENGL 113.06 and 17 Secrets of the Universe
Secrets of the Universe is a writing course designed to have students read widely the works of scientists, artists and writers on the subject of the universe and of our place in it. From such readings and perspectives, students will be encouraged to ponder and write about the impact of science and technology in their everyday lives. The skills honed in this course will allow students to seek the secrets of the universe and then to share their findings. The goal is that this cycle of seeking and creating will better our world by strengthening the bonds of our shared humanity.

This course will prepare students to consider both the ways in which science and technology shape culture as well as the ways in which culture shapes science and technology; that is, how science and technology are interwoven with all aspects of culture. In this regard, literature and art, specifically works by women and writers/artists of color, have the potential to contribute to our understanding of what the universe is telling us in the ways it reveals its secrets, especially where issues concern gender, race and class and their intersections with science, technology and medicine.

English 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.

ENGL 113.10 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 coursework 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 113.14 C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien
This writing course will use selections from the essays and stories of Lewis and Tolkien as a jumping-off point for writing assignments that include personal narrative, literary analysis and a research essay. For their research projects, students will be invited to consider how Lewis and Tolkien responded to earlier works as well has how their own works have inspired and been adapted by more recent ones. Writing multiple drafts and working in groups to exchange feedback will serve the primary goal of improving your writing ability by becoming a better reader and reviser of your own work.

ENGL 113.19 and 20 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, What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Forche, A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. 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 113.21 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.

Special Topics (Upper-Level ENGL Courses)

Upper-level ENGL COURSES and desCRIPTIONS — Fall 2022

(A list of available classes and descriptions is coming soon!)