Spring 2021 Course Descriptions

Below is a partial listing of English Department courses—both ENGL and WRTG—for the Spring 2021 semester. Learning formats were subject to change due to the UA coronavirus response. View the descriptions for our current registration term here.
World Literature: The Contemporary International Novel
Delivery Mode: Online, asynchronous 
Instructor: Daryl Farmer
This course is designed to expand student knowledge of the human condition across cultures by reading literature from several continents. While we will be reading from a lot of sources, the focus of the class will be on contemporary international novels from a variety of countries including Japan, Iran, Colombia, Zimbabwe, and Iceland. Through this study, we will engage in critical analysis and develop an appreciation for the art of literature and its role throughout the world. 

Texts and Contexts: Contemporary Science Fiction
Delivery Mode: T Th, 9:45-11:15, both in-person and online by Zoom
Instructor: Eric Heyne
This course will look at a range of contemporary fantasy and science fiction stories and one new novel (The City We Became by Nebula-award winning fantasy novelist N. K. Jemisin). We will discuss trends among recent science fiction and their connections to contemporary aspects of American life, such as climate change fiction (or "cli-fi"), artificial intelligence, cyborg life, and the coming singularity, alien invasion and immigration, and alternate history and social change. Our goal is to understand more about what storytelling in the modes of fantasy and science fiction can tell us about ourselves, as well as more about storytelling works as a human invention.
Writing and the Humanities: Exploring Representations of Mental Illness
Delivery Mode: 1:00pm–2:00pm, MWF
Instructor: Alison Miller

This is crazy. She’s nuts. That episode was insane. What a psycho.  The language of mental illness permeates our vernacular. Often, we refer to our meticulous quirks as “OCD behavior” or say that we are “depressed” when we’re really just sad. These terms are (mis-)used constantly and unthinkingly, usually without any intention of shaming people who do suffer from mental illness.  But what do those casual appropriations mean for our collective cultural conceptions of mental illness? And where do they come from?

In this course, we will be discussing the ways that mental illness is represented in a variety of mediums, including literature and film. We will talk about how those representations reflect or contribute to existing stigmas around mental illness, and explore the ways in which mental illness has been represented over time and the effects of literary portrayals on public perception and understanding of mental illness.

Writing and the Humanities: Freedom Writers
Instructor: Daniel Lyew
Delivery Mode: Online, asynchronous
What does it mean to be “free”? To what extent, if any, do human beings have free will, and what do findings in philosophy, the natural sciences, and the social sciences have to say about human freedom? Is freedom compatible with the existence of all-knowing, all-powerful gods such as the ones of Christianity or Islam? Is it necessary to be free in order to be held morally responsible, or might we be responsible for our actions even if we’re not free in any meaningful sense? What does it mean to be free in the political sphere, or the social sphere, and what are the acceptable limits on freedom? In this course, we will examine writings, both classical and contemporary, and from across disciplines, that touch on the above questions as well as others. Moreover, students will learn how to craft arguments, develop their scholarly writing skills, and articulate their own views on freed

Writing and the Professions (Honors)
Delivery Mode: M, 2:15–3:15 online, with additional work conducted asynchronously
Instructor: Joseph Holt
Professional writing communicates with readers or users who need to solve a problem or complete a task. In this course, we'll emphasize audience needs, context of use, genre conventions and clarity in writing. Much of our work will concern rhetorical assessment and how we can tailor our communications to achieve our purposes for writing. We'll craft emails, memos and letters, an activity report, a longer expository report, and an informative presentation. Through this work, we'll explore how to develop a research plan, evaluate secondary sources and present your findings using MLA or APA citation style. Similarly, we'll discuss how to avoid plagiarism and establish your writerly ethos. Our textbook will be Laura J. Gurak and John M. Lannon’s Strategies for Technical Communication in the Workplace, 4th edition (Pearson: 2019), which is available as a print textbook and e-book.

Survey of American Literature: Civil War to the Present – Environmental Imagination
Delivery Mode: online, synchronous/asynchronous (class discussions on Slack)
Instructor: Jen Schell
Rachel Carson might have launched the modern environmental movement in 1962 with the publication of Silent Spring. She was neither the first nor the last American author to tackle environmental issues, however. This semester we will study the development of the American environmental imagination between 1865 and 2020, a period which witnessed dramatic changes to many, if not most, American ecosystems. As we will see, authors from diverse backgrounds felt compelled to respond to these changes. As they did so, they adopted myriad styles, perspectives, and approaches to their material. Thus, among other things, our readings will include Zitkala-Sä's autobiographical essays, Marianne Moore’s poetry, Octavia Butler’s science-fiction, and a little bit of everything in between. Students will not need high-bandwidth internet connections to complete this class.
Intermediate Creative Writing: Nonfiction
Delivery Mode: synchronous/asynchronous 
Instructor: Daryl Farmer
Creative nonfiction is a literary genre that focuses on representing true-life events as seen through one’s

experiences, observations, memories, and thoughts. This can take many forms including memoir, personal essay, travel and nature writing, literary journalism and lyric essays. This course will guide students through a variety of exercises and writing tools and will focus on the development of the “habit” of writing, emphasizing exploration and risk taking, in order to write in new and imaginative ways. In the beginning weeks of class, we will focus on generating material, and
experimenting with different craft techniques, and then use these skills to develop individual writing projects Students will be expected to write at length, read selections from published authors, and respond to the work of their classmates.

Delivery Mode: Synchronous/asynchronous
Instructor: Eileen Harney
This course examines the depictions and constructions of monstrosity and otherness in the Middle Ages. Using primarily medieval English texts, select works from the continent, and ancient and biblical sources, the course will explore the literary presentations of monsters, foreign and marginalized peoples, and legendary races and beings and how these presentations develop and are portrayed in different time periods and contexts. Topics explored include medieval perceptions of religion, masculinity and femininity, race, war, and social expectations. In addition to examining a selection of influential texts across a range of literary genres, students consider the way historical and cultural occurrences and concerns are reflected in these primary texts. Major genres will include travel literature, Saints’ Lives, catalogs of women, and Crusade literature.
The Horror Film
Delivery Mode: online, asynchronous
Instructor: Sara Johnson
Horror films are often considered "low art," as exploitative and gratuitous schlock, but many such films are deceptively complex. A study of the American horror film reveals deep insights into sociopolitical and cultural fears and anxieties, including collective traumas, and how such fears and anxieties have transformed across generations. In this course, we will watch and analyze the American horror film from the 1920s to the present, with an eye for how these films reflect the cultural contexts in which they were created. Along the way, we will learn about film theory and criticism, and how to "read" films as active critics, rather than merely watch them as passive spectators.

Northern and Environmental Literature: Cli-Fi, Fiction for Warming World
Delivery Mode: online, synchronous/asynchronous (class discussions on Slack)
Instructor: Jen Schell
Anthropogenic climate change might be harmful to polar bears and permafrost, but it has been inspirational to authors of contemporary fiction. In fact, it has generated an entirely new genre, climate fiction (or cli-fi). This semester we will examine a selection of novels and short stories, all of which address the effects of climate change on the planet’s various ecosystems. We will travel from the South to the North Pole, visiting Australia, Nigeria, and Norway along the way. If our texts are geographically diverse, they are also stylistically diverse. Some are gloomy-doomy, while others are more humorous. Some are realistic, while others are more fantastic. Many are just plain weird! Join us as we explore examples of each in turn. Students will not need high-bandwidth internet connections to complete this class.

Thinking Outside the Box: Genre-Benders and Hybrid Forms
Delivery Mode:  asynchronous
Instructor: Sara Johnson
Though we typically think of writing as belonging to a certain genre group—fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and drama—the four major literary genres can be manipulated, mutated, or merged into works that cannot be categorized as any one literary mode. This course is a study in the creation and transformation of literary forms, and a conversation about the usefulness of imposing genre boundaries on literary art. What are the benefits and limitations of writing the poem that is also an essay, or the video game that is also a novel? We will study a variety of works that cross genre lines, such as the graphic novel, the lyric essay, the verse novel, and the narrative video game. We will also write and workshop experiments in such genre-bending, and consider the ways our own work in our preferred genre can be pushed in unique ways.

Topics in Language and Literature: Practicum in Literary Publishing
Delivery Mode: MWF, 1–2 online
Instructor: Joseph Holt
In this course, students will manage the publication of Ice Box, the undergraduate literary journal for the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Students will form an editorial team, review creative submissions, then edit, design, produce and promote the journal. In the process, we'll hone our skills as copyeditors and literary decision makers. We'll discuss the market landscape for books and journals, and we'll explore career possibilities in editing and publishing. If time allows, we'll discuss how students can develop strategies for submitting their own creative work for publication. Our course will meet synchronously via Zoom, but we'll take certain days off for independent work. Our required textbooks will be What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing (U of Chicago Press: 2017), and The Copyeditor's Handbook and Workbook: The Complete Set (U of California Press: 2019). Students can petition that their enrollment in ENGL F482 this spring counts toward their Creative Writing minor.

Theory, Criticism, and Methods
Delivery Mode: online, synchronous/asynchronous (class discussions on Slack)
Instructor: Jen Schell
Have you ever asked yourself about the relationship of literary theory and criticism to your own writing? Join us this semester as we try to answer this question and many more. Throughout the course, we’ll explore the development of literary theory and criticism over time, discussing the foundational ideas advanced by such thinkers as Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault. We’ll also talk about the more current ideas developed by scholars working in the fields of gender studies, critical race theory, and environmental studies. And we'll discuss strategies for working with literary criticism in your own research/creative writing. Students will not need high-bandwidth internet connections to complete this class.

Studies in British Literature after 1900—Bodies
Delivery Mode: Tuesdays 2:15-5:15 PM by Zoom
Instructor: Chris Coffman
This seminar will explore significant texts in twentieth-century British literature (as well as some texts from other national literatures) by focusing on their figuration of bodies: animal, insect, human, and posthuman bodies; abject, disciplined, diseased, gendered, grotesque, repressed, sexual, and surreal bodies. Primary readings will include Oscar Wilde's Salome; Djuna Barnes's The Book of Repulsive Women and Nightwood; Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" and "In the Penal Colony"; James Joyce's Ulysses;  W.B. Yeats’s poetry; Imagist poetry by Ezra Pound, H.D., and Amy Lowell; T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and The Waste Land; Radclyffe Hall's "Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself"; Virginia Woolf’s Orlando; Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber; and Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry. Secondary readings will provide historical context, as well as expose students to a variety of feminist, Foucauldian, phenomenological, psychoanalytic, queer, and transgender perspectives on embodiment.

Class will meet synchronously via Zoom. Our class meetings will be broken into several segments: some focused on full class discussion or small-group conversation in Zoom breakout rooms; others involving activities such as close reading or freewriting that will allow you to disconnect from the screen and return to our Zoom classroom at a predetermined time.
Forms of Nonfiction
Delivery Mode: synchronous/asynchronous 
Instructor: Daryl Farmer
Our subject in this class is the study of creative nonfiction literature, or as Jennifer Brice calls it,

“the art and craft of transforming life into art.” This semester we’ll read and write in a variety of nonfiction forms and categories, including memoir, graphic memoir, literary journalism, place based writing, essays, and experimental forms. We'll explore how these categories might merge, expand, and in some cases, subvert the genre entirely. Then we’ll move to the essentials of quality writing, not only in terms of craft and technical skill, but especially toward an aesthetic understanding of what separates a piece of writing that is merely competent from one that is a work of art, that “breathes life”? And, most importantly, how might we drive our own work toward the latter?