Fall 2020

Divya Victor
ENG 229: Introduction to Writing Poetry
Topic: “Sensing Life”

This course introduces students to the practice of writing poetry as an evolving genre of literature. The thematic and methodological focus for this course is “The Senses.” As such, students will undertake the embodied practices of observation, notation, recollection, cataloging, and re-enacting, while developing the critical skills of close-reading, literary analysis, researching, and proposing. Students will learn how to balance spontaneous and guided composition in a variety of organically defined forms in order to understand different modes of and approaches to poetry. Students will be introduced to a range of composition processes intended to stimulate frequent and adventurous writing, and will be encouraged to make disciplined and inventive use of the revision process. Through an experimental approach to writing, reading, and collaborative response, students will develop a vision for a longer-work that they will undertake for this course. Finally, they will grow as writers in a spontaneous community through a robust and compassionate approach to the peer-review process, in close consultation with their instructor.

Emery Petchauer
ENG 308: Literature for Young Adults

This readings course engages students in experiencing, discussing, and thinking critically about adolescent and young adult literature and the teaching of this genre. We will read narrative, graphic, and poetic works within this genre. Hip-hop, time travel, zombies, and magical murals will be in the mix as young protagonists fight white supremacy, cross borders, and remake the world into a shape that has room for them. Films and current television series will make appearances in this courses, as will some readings on adolescents and the teaching of this genre in schools. This course asks you to think not only as a student but also as an educator and ally to young people. Reading load: Approximately 1 book/week.

Joshua Lam
ENG 320A: Methodologies in Literary History: Genre
Topic: “Comedy”

Why do humans often laugh at the misfortunes of others? How does cruelty serve as material for our amusement? Comedy has been a genre of literature, speech, and performance for millennia, but there has been an abundance of so-called “dark humor” in the last two centuries—especially in the U.S. In an era of world wars, revolutions, nuclear conflicts, and environmental disasters, many writers have turned to satire, parody, and other forms of comedy to contemplate violence. Are they escapists? Apathetic? Cruel? Philosophers? This course will survey a broad range of American writers, thinkers, and performers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, following the theme and genre of “dark humor.” In addition to exploring different genres/media (fiction, film, poetry, stand-up) and movements (modernism, postmodernism), we will ask how American writers use comedy to respond to cultural problems such as war, sexism, racism, and inequality. We will ask: Why has the Holocaust been such fertile ground for comedians? Why do we laugh at jokes we regard as being in “bad taste”? Why are Nazis and policemen fodder for so much comedy? We will also look at several theories of comedy and laughter, and we will strive to take comedy seriously (but not too seriously). In addition to viewing comedy as a genre across various media, we will study its role in everyday life and culture, paying attention to our own senses of humor and habits of consumption. Units on modern and postmodern satire, subversive queer comedy, African American humor, and more, with longer texts by Don DeLillo, Fran Ross, Nathanael West, and Patricia Highsmith.

Shelia Contreras
ENG 320B: Methodologies in Literary History: Region
Topic: “US/Mexico Borderlands”

Mexicans have been and continue to be represented as perpetual foreigners in US political and cultural representations. Early citizenship laws were aimed, in part, at the Mexican presence in this country. Certainly, current exercises of border enforcement specifically target Mexicans and other migrants travelling from the southern areas of the Americas.

Remember learning about the Mexican-American War? These lessons demonstrate that the Mexican presence in the US predates Anglo-European-American settlement of the south/western United States. What we don’t often learn about is the significant impact of Mexican-descent communities of that region on the history and culture of this country. Our primary focus will be on the southwestern United States, specifically a region known as the US/Mexico Borderlands, or what scholar Américo Paredes once called “Greater Mexico,” which includes the northern region of the country of Mexico. Readings, lectures and discussions will introduce you to the literatures of Mexican/American communities and the socio-political history and cultural production of this region.

Our goal will be to develop methods of interpretation and analysis advanced at the intersections of literature and history, with an eye towards sharpening our skills in assessing information, especially when presented with competing accounts of history and society. At the same time, we will work to establish context for contemporary media and political discourses centering on Mexicans at the border and throughout the United States.

Sheng-mei Ma
ENG 352: Asian American Literature

American literature is crawling with Sinophobic viruses, from Bret Harte’s 1870 “The Heathen Chinee” to Trump’s crossing out “corona” in coronavirus and replacing it with “CHINESE” in caps with a sharpie. This course opens with “California Dreamin’”—with a touch of evil/yellow—by Jack London and Frank Norris. Such Sinophobia is compensated by mid-century Sinophilia in Beat poets, Philip K. Dick, and E. V. Cunningham. In between the two extremes are Asian American quest to heal itself, with unforeseen side effect, exemplified by Crazy Rich Asians, Gene Luen Yang, Ling Ma, Patricia Park, Alice Wu, and Lulu Wang. This course studies fiction, film, radio play, and graphics. Course grade is based on papers, exams, and class performance. 

Sheng-mei Ma
ENG 360: Studies in Postcolonial Diaspora
Topic: “In Search of Alien”

This course explores the heart of postcolonial studies, the concept of alien in an “us v. them” divide. Starting from Edward Said’s classic Orientalism, supplemented by American stigma of Asians as “perennial aliens,” the course interrogates historical and current Sino-U.S. representations of alienation (alienAsian). We pair Bret Harte’s “Ah Sin” with Kevin Kwan a century later; Roman Polanski’s Chinatown with Frank Norris’ stories and novel; millennial China’s Detective Chinatown with the BBC’s Sherlock and Ruth Rendell; and more. We conclude with a unit on Afro-Asian filmic duet, where two U.S. minorities perform a pas de deux ever in danger of escalating into a duel. This course studies fiction, film, visual art, and graphics. Course grade is based on papers, exams, and class performance.

Natalie Phillips
ENG 364: Studies in 18th/19th Century Literature
Topic: “Fictions of Mind: Thinking and Feeling in Eighteenth-Century Literature”

How does literature represent the mind? What effect does reading literature have on thought and emotion? This course takes up these questions in a period where debates about cognition had become newly vibrant: the Enlightenment. Reading a range of historical works engaged with theories of the mind and brain, we will explore rationality and its discontents, the history of objectivity and memory, and depictions of cognitive control lost (absorption, obsession, and madness). As we look at the emerging aesthetics of mental states—e.g. curiosity, boredom, distraction, happiness, and desire—we will also consider the distinctly historical ways that eighteenth-century literature raced, gendered, classed, and sexed the body and mind. This course will incorporate interdisciplinary activities drawn from the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition Lab (DHLC)’s Projects in the neuroscience of reading, poetry, and music as well as accessible art into course assignments. Students will learn to use new databases to explore literature’s connections with the history of science, engage interdisciplinary scholarship on theories of the mind, brain, and environment, and discuss new work in cognitive literary studies and the history of neuroscience.

Jyotsna Singh
ENG 368: Studies in Medieval/Early Modern Literature

This class will study connections between selected late Medieval and early modern literary works in England, with a comparative focus on Medieval influences on Shakespeare’s plays and their sources. Specifically, we will focus on how drama evolved from early biblical and morality plays in the 15thcentury to the complex, secular drama of the age of Shakespeare, from the late 16thcentury onwards.
Drama evolved from biblical stories, covering the Creation to the Last Judgement, often focusing on the divinity of Christ. Alongside these biblical plays, medieval audiences were also entertained by another kind of religious performance called the morality play, an allegorical drama popular in Europe in the 15thand 16thcenturies, in which the characters personify moral attributes of sin or virtue. For instance, the protagonist is a representative Christian figure like “Everyman” and “Mankind,” and istypically confronted by personified Sin of all magnitude (the seven deadly sins, the world, the flesh, the Devil, Vice, and so on). Notwithstanding religious themes, these plays were also infused with local idioms, folk traditions, and other entertainments, often involving buffoons and devils.
As English drama evolved, it became more secular and removed from its earlier didactic goals, moving through Tudor Interludes into the full flowering of Renaissance drama in Shakespeare’s plays. Drawing on selected plays, we will explore the relationships between the two dramatic movements and common themes and concerns they may share, such as the nature of evil, complexity of sins, as well as the familiar conflicts between virtue and vice. For instance, the psychological struggles of Shakespeare’s characters are reminiscent ofpsychomachiasor conflicts between good and evil faced by allegorical figures like “Everyman” in Medieval drama. In addition to literary works, we will read historical and cultural works on the MSU Libraries electronic website, Early English Books on Line (EEBO).
1. Four MoralityPlays (The Penguin English Library) (NOT in SBS)
2. Everyman and Mankinded. Doug Bruster.
3. Everyman and other Miracle and Morality Plays Dover Thrift ed.
4. Shakespeare,The Winter’s Tale(Penguin)
5. Shakespeare,Richard III, (Penguin)
6. Shakespeare,Macbeth (Simon and Schuster)
7. Shakespeare,Cymbeline, (Simon and Schuster)

Gary Hoppenstand
ENG 391: Special Topics in English
Topic: “Popular Genre Fiction”

Popular genre fiction provides critical insights into the human condition. Categories such as romance fiction, science fiction and fantasy, detective fiction, horror fiction, and the thriller offer bestsellers that reflect, as well as affect, society. This class will examine the above popular genres through the lens of World War Two, discussing how this historical moment in society is interpreted by these different approaches to storytelling.

Juliet Guzzetta
ENG 426/ENG 826: Special Topics Seminar
Topic: “Performing Solo and Performance Theory”

Sometimes life might feel like a solo show. In many ways it is. And yet many of us strive for connections with other humans and opportunities to share aspects of our lived experiences. This course examines a variety of one-person productions from a range of theater artists who typically write their own scripts including Ty Defoe, Coco Fusco, Spalding Gray, E. Patrick Johnson, Sarah Jones, Lisa Kron, Young Jean Lee, Franca Rame, Anna Deavere Smith, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Doug Wright. In addition to studying specific performances, we will also consider performance as an analytical tool, examining its relationship to everyday life and social practices. These critical interventions will engage with works by both leading and up-and-coming scholars such as Judith Butler, Jill Dolan, Donatella Galella, Fred Moten, Peggy Phelan, Adrienne Rich, Joseph Roach, Richard Schechner, Rebecca Schneider, D. Madison Soyini, and Wu Tsang. Through primary and secondary texts, students will explore and experiment with reading, watching, theorizing, writing, and maybe even performing about the performances of others.

Joshua Lam
ENG 450/ENG 814: Seminar in African American Lit
Topic: “US Modernsim in Black and White”

How has racial difference been inscribed in the creation and canonization of modernist aesthetics in the US? While race has long been regarded as central to the creation of American modernity, scholars and publishers have often regarded the modernist aesthetics of canonical figures like Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound as distinct from African American literary aesthetics of the same era, including those associated with the Harlem Renaissance and the “New Negro” movement. This course will examine both canonical and lesser-known texts from “traditional” (ostensibly white) modernism and African American modernism, framed by recent critical attempts to think against or complicate this putative divide. Our historical scope will be broad; we will read literature from the post-Reconstruction era; canonical modernist figures; “New Negro” writers and anthologies; and a number of authors who resist placement in these lineages and milieus. We will also examine scholarly attempts to complicate or challenge the notion that white and black writers created what Michael North calls “two different modernisms.” These include interdisciplinary and historical accounts of “Jim Crow Modernism”; investigations of racial imitation and masquerade; narratives of passing and queer of color critique; and scholarship on sound and recording technologies (e.g., sonic Afro-modernity). Longer texts may include works by Nella Larsen, Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Richard Wright, and Gertrude Stein; poetry by Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Gwendolyn Brooks, T. S. Eliot, and more.

Natalie Phillips
ENG 457: Literary Cognition
Topic: “Cognitive Science, Medicine, & the History of the Mind”

This course interweaves three interdisciplinary fields in literary studies: cognitive approaches to literature, the history of mind, and medical humanities. Discussing intersections in literary and medical portrayals of cognition from Austen’s Persuasion to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, we explore pivotal moments in the history of the mind and brain, beginning in the eighteenth century and ending with the DSM-5, self-described as “the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the U.S.” As we consider the literary history of modern diagnostic categories such as autism spectrum, attention deficit, and OCD (including depictions of distraction in Tristram Shandy, Jane Austen’s use of contemporary theories of head injury, and modern portrayals of disability in YA fiction), we will also explore therapeutic uses of literature, music, and art in proposed clinical treatments of everything from depression, anxiety, and PTSD to stuttering. Throughout, we will read key works in cognitive approaches to fiction, disability studies, and medical humanities, exploring both the power—and the profound challenges—of integrating scientific and literary-critical approaches to conduct authentically interdisciplinary work in medical humanities. This course will incorporate interdisciplinary activities drawn from the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition Lab(DHLC)’s Projects in the neuroscience of reading, poetry, and music as well as accessible art.In particular, students will work in groups to brainstorm and design an interdisciplinary experiment that imagines using technologies from cognitive science—such as fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), EEG, or eye-tracking—to explore a central question at the intersection of literature and medicine.

Stephen Deng
ENG 484C: Critical Questions in a Literary Period
Topic: “Early Modern English Literature”

This course serves as a “capstone” to the English major. It is designed to bring together the various skills you have learned from your English courses thus far (close reading, engaging with secondary sources and literary theory, interpreting a literary text from within historical contexts, structuring a literary essay and developing a solid thesis), as well as to allow you to engage in more extensive research on a particular critical problem in early modern literary criticism, especially through primary research of contextual early modern texts in Early English Books Online. The course will culminate in a “mini-conference” across the final weeks and a thesis-like essay of 15-20 pages, which could serve as a writing sample for those intending to attend graduate school. Moreover, the bulk of the course is organized as a series of presentations by students in order to provide an oral interactive experience that will benefit students for whatever field they choose to pursue after MSU. 

The course will then be run as a workshop – each student will prepare several 5-15 minute presentations throughout the semester, which will constitute the largest grade component. During the semester the students will hand in an annotated bibliography of primary and secondary materials consulted for the project. And a final 15-20 minute presentation will be given at a “mini-conference” during the end of the semester, in which students will present their final projects while getting valuable feedback from the class in preparation for the final essay. 

Rick Blackwood
FLM 255.001: Stars and Directors
Topic: “Kubrick and his Contemporaries”

Offers a survey of Kubrick’s works, emphasizing the influences of filmmakers Kubrick admired, like Max Ophüls, and comparing and contrasting Kubrick with contemporaries, particularly Coppola, Scorsese, and Oliver Stone. Particular intellectual emphasis will focus on thinkers and philosophers admired, and critiqued by this generation of filmmakers, such as Freud, Machiavelli, and Nietzsche.

Peter Johnston
FLM 335: Film Directing

Part of the Fiction Film Specialization, Film Directing immerses students in the job of the director through a combination of film screenings and production projects. By studying the works of great directors, and working through a series of filmmaking projects which culminates in the creation of a 3-minute short, students learn first hand the challenges and triumphs of Film Directing.

John Valadez
FLM 411/MI 211: Documentary Design/Production

Design and development of documentaries in a team setting using video and audio. Participation in a production cycle including idea generation, research, design, production, and distribution.

Rick Blackwood
FLM 434: Advanced Screenwriting

Offers undergraduate students a continuation of projects begun in ENG/FLM 334, and allows students to complete a screenplay in one semester. On a theoretical level, attention is directed toward the socioeconomic organization of the society that makes the American film business what it is, and that defines the relationship between the film artist in America and his/her artistic, and material, circumstances.

Julian Chambliss
IAH 207
Topic: “Afrofantastic: Race, Power, and Gender in the Black Imaginary”

Since the 1990s, we have seen an explosion of speculative art rooted in the black diasporic experience. Spanning media and crossing borders, the speculative work offered by these voices has coalesced into a movement broadly defined as Afrofuturism. This course examines the definition, historical roots, and contemporary expression of Afrofuturism. Our current Afrofuturist moment is the latest expression of a black imaginary with a deep cultural legacy. We will uncover the theory and examine the practice that shapes black futurity.

Gary Hoppenstand
IAH 221C
Topic: “The Hero’s Journey: Heroic Fantasy in American Popular Fiction”

This class will examine heroic fantasy in American popular fiction. Thematic issues such as Joseph Campbell’s “the hero’s journey” and comparative myth structures will provide the foundation of the course, which will cover such topics as “High Fantasy,” “Low Fantasy,” “Dark Fantasy, and Grimdark Fantasy.” Authors to be covered include J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, and Catherine L. Moore. From The Hobbit to The Witcher, fantasy stories in popular fiction featuring diverse cultures and mythologies will be covered, as read by American audiences, including novels that explore African heroic fantasy and Mid-Eastern heroic fantasy, and well as heroic fantasy novels that feature powerful women protagonists.

Spring 2021

Sheng-mei Ma
ENG 210.003: Intro to English
Topic: “Classic Redux, Anglo Asianized

Quite a few canonical classics inspire contemporary Asian American and Asian artists, who remake and recontextualize the classics. The Scarlet Letter weaves itself into Updike’s epistolary S and Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. Jane Eyre morphs into Re Jane. George Romero’s zombie trilogy is reanimated in Severance, not to mention Severance’s zombie girl behind the red curtains, a scene straight out of Charlotte Bronte. All such makeovers share in an Orientalizing of the West. Even the Chinese animation Nezha draws from the legends of Monkey King and the Boy God Nezha. Nezha belongs to the eternal return of this Oedipus-Loki-trickster “with Chinese characteristics.” We focus on modern and contemporary retellings, with the classics in excerpts setting the stage. Course grade is based on research papers, critical analyses, the final exam, and class performance.

Divya Victor
ENG 223: Introduction to Writing Creative Nonfiction
Topic: “Sensing Life”

This course introduces students to the practice of writing creative nonfiction as an evolving genre of literature. The thematic and methodological focus for this course is “The Senses.” Writers will undertake the embodied practices of observation, notation, recollection, cataloging, and re-enacting, while developing the critical skills of close-reading, literary analysis, researching, and proposing. Students will learn how to balance spontaneous and guided composition in a variety of minor genres to understand different approaches to creative nonfiction. Students will be introduced to a range of composition processes intended to stimulate frequent and adventurous writing, and will be encouraged to make disciplined and inventive use of the revision process. Through an experimental approach to writing, reading, and collaborative response, students will develop a vision for a longer-work that they will undertake for this course. Finally, they will grow as writers in a spontaneous community through a robust and compassionate approach to the peer-review process, in close consultation with their instructor.

Stephen Deng
ENG 318: Readings in Shakespeare

For over 400 years, readers and play-goers have been entranced by the language, imagery, themes, narratives, and sometime emotional roller-coasters of Shakespeare’s works. As I hope you find in this course, Shakespeare’s writings have much to say not only about his own culture but also about our own. Moreover, the richness of his texts offers an abundance of potential for various critical approaches. We begin this course with political, religious, and social background on Shakespeare’s England, including the material conditions of textual and theatrical production. By doing so, I hope to be able to provide a foundation for understanding how “Shakespeare” as we know the phenomenon emerged from a particular situation within history and the history of literature. We then proceed to seven plays chosen across Shakespeare’s career and across genres (comedy, tragedy, tragicomedy, history and romance)—Titus Andronicus, Richard II,The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, Othello, and The Tempest—as well as a brief stint in the middle of the semester on Shakespeare’s sonnets. We will approach the plays and poems from a variety of perspectives such as anthropological, post-colonial, historiographic, economic, and socio-political, as well as those that apply early modern theories of genre, gender, sexuality and race. Much of our class discussions will focus on close reading particular passages from the texts, though we will also explore performances of the plays through film clips. Our textual analysis in class should help students in preparing two 5-6 page critical essays, which should perform close readings of a work within a clearly structured argument. In addition to the essays, there will be a midterm, a final exam, and several unannounced reading quizzes throughout the term.

Joshua Lam
ENG 320A: Methodologies in Literary History: Genre
Topic: “Comedy”

Why do humans often laugh at the misfortunes of others? How does cruelty serve as material for our amusement? Comedy has been a genre of literature, speech, and performance for millennia, but there has been an abundance of so-called “dark humor” in the last two centuries—especially in the U.S. In an era of world wars, revolutions, nuclear conflicts, and environmental disasters, many writers have turned to satire, parody, and other forms of comedy to contemplate violence. Are they escapists? Apathetic? Cruel? Philosophers? This course will survey a broad range of American writers, thinkers, and performers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, following the theme and genre of “dark humor.” In addition to exploring different genres/media (fiction, film, poetry, stand-up) and movements (modernism, postmodernism), we will ask how American writers use comedy to respond to cultural problems such as war, sexism, racism, and inequality. We will ask: Why has the Holocaust been such fertile ground for comedians? Why do we laugh at jokes we regard as being in “bad taste”? Why are Nazis and policemen fodder for so much comedy? We will also look at several theories of comedy and laughter, and we will strive to take comedy seriously (but not too seriously). In addition to viewing comedy as a genre across various media, we will study its role in everyday life and culture, paying attention to our own senses of humor and habits of consumption. Units on modern and postmodern satire, subversive queer comedy, African American humor, and more, with longer texts by Don DeLillo, Fran Ross, Nathanael West, and Patricia Highsmith.

David Stowe
ENG 340: Popular Culture Studies

This course is an introduction to scholarly ways of viewing popular culture and provides a basis for further coursework in the field. Students will learn to map the parameters of the term “popular culture,” and will be introduced to key concepts such as culture, highbrow and lowbrow, genre, myth, taste, ideology, and adaptation.  Critical readings of forms like television, comics, movies, hip-hop, musicals, and popular fiction will prepare students to independently apply concepts, approaches and theories. Students will be guided through explorations of semiotic, narrative, psychoanalytic, economic, and sociological criticism with an eye to media industry practices. A particular focus will be the role of popular culture in constructing notions of racial and ethnic identity, especially the theme of racial/ethnic “passing.” Students will be given the opportunity to create works of popular culture as well as to analyze them. Our course will coordinate with events sponsored by Special Collections in the MSU Library as well as the annual MSU Comics Forum in February.

Divya Victor
ENG 429: Advanced Poetry Writing

The fundamental goal of this course is to help you develop effective, sustainable, and socially meaningful practices for writing through the genre of poetry. You will develop a broader and deeper understanding of poetry as a literary form and artistic practice. You will become familiar with a broad range of poetic practices and use these as launch pads for improvising and developing a critical understanding of poetry as an expressive form of political and cultural engagement. You will explore new compositional methods through experimentation, workshop critique, and collaboration.  The course is structured as both a conventional seminar and a workshop. Our sessions will be devoted (in approximately equal parts) to the work of established contemporary poets, the work of your peers, and the experiment-based play of your weekly poetry assignments.

Gary Hoppenstand
ENG 478B: Literature and Visual Culture
Topic: “The Popular Detective Story in Fiction and Film”

The Detective Story is one of the most popular and entertaining genres. From police detectives to amateur sleuths, the Detective Story has remained popular ever since Edgar Allan Poe invented the genre in the mid nineteenth-century. This class will examine this ubiquitous genre through the lens of World War Two, examining how the war defined how the detective hero is perceived by its readership, and understanding how the detective hero help to define society and the moral contrast between good and evil.

Sheng-mei Ma
ENG 492H: Honors Seminar in English
Topic “Chinee: Toward a US Stereotype”

Bret Harte’s 1870 poem “The Heathen Chinee” on a duplicitous Chinese card shark crystallizes the West Coast nativist “The Chinese Must Go!” movement and heralds the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943). The racial other’s physical features are first stereotyped and then decoded for intentionality, a fixation on turning unknown, evolving individuals into known, fixed types. Us in the US is thus pitted against Them, the perennial aliens. The deboning of “s” from “Chinese” produces the long “e” suffix, an alleged linguistic trait of coolies’ pidgin. Yet such stereotypes are symptomatic of our own semantic (auditory) and, increasingly, cinematic (visual) Orientalism. Nobel laureate John Steinbeck in East of Eden (1952) continues this time-honored American tradition in Lee, the Chinese servant-nanny-surrogate mother and wife, who parrots: “Dlinkee Chinee fashion.” Steinbeck’s biblical allegory sprouts in part from Lee, the East in Eden. After select canonical (read: white) American fiction and film, we proceed to Asian American (off-white, yellow-ish) correction to white discursive supremacy. The ethnic pushback comes with its own side effect on skin and speech: either self-Orientalizing yellowface speaking in Anglophone monolingualism, exemplified by Crazy Rich Asians (2013, 2018) and Severance (2018), or ethnic comedies of global fusion in the likes of Saving Face (2004), Re Jane (2015), and The Farewell (2019). Course grade is based on research papers, critical analyses, the final exam, and class performance. 

John Valadez
FLM 255: Starts and Directors
Topic: “FAME Celebrity, Infamy, the Promise and Peril of being Different While Being in the Spotlight”

Celebrity culture has always been an important part of human society, but what happens after the curtain call, when the stage lights fade and human ambition meets human frailty?  What happens when someone gains renowned but the world moves on, either to forget or condemn? From Marlin Brando to Imelda Marcos to Amy Winehouse, from the Rolling Stones to Kenneth Lay and Jeffry Skilling, to Leni Reifenstahl to Orson Welles, this course will use documentary film to look behind the gilded gates of talent and fortune…what could possibly go wrong?

Peter Johnston
FLM 260: Introduction to Digital Film & Media

What’s changed in filmmaking technology in the past 20 years, and what impact does that have on the stories we tell? Have digital image-making tools, editing software, and distribution channels fundamentally changed the types of stories being told and the types of artists telling them? In this hybrid course we introduce students to a variety of emerging filmmaking technologies and give them a grounding in technical skills necessary to then move on to higher order concerns of storytelling. We screen, analyze and discuss new works and look over the evolution of filmmaking technology and how it relates to this historical moment. And students produce a variety of work in documentary, fiction, and experimental forms, focusing on iteration and repetition to hone filmmaking skills.

John Valadez
FLM 311/MI 311: Introduction to Documentary Production

Design and development of documentaries in a team setting using video and audio. Participation in a production cycle including idea generation, research, design, production, and distribution.

Joshua Yumibe
FLM 480: Seminar in Film Theory
Topic: “Cinema and the Archive”

In 1898, Boleslas Matuszewski, a Polish cameraman working for the Lumière Brothers, published one of the earliest proposals for a film archive in the French newspaper Le Figaro: “It would suffice to assign to cinematographic prints that have a historical character a section of the museum, a shelf in the library, a cabinet in the ar­chives.” His intention was to make films available for scholarly inquiry: “animated photography will thus become an agreeable method for studying the past.” Taking a pointer from Matuszewski, we will explore in this class film’s archival relationship to the past, both in terms of what it represents and also in terms of the material history that is etched into films themselves. Scratches, fading colors, and decomposing emulsion attest to the provenanceof the medium, how time itself leaves its material traces on filmic objects as they circulate around the world. If film is a medium beholden to time, we will also explore the institutional ways in which film archives have developed over the last century to preserve the material legacies and as well as nurture the cultural heritage of the cinematic artifact.

Potential topics:

• Archival theories and practices, as developed by Paolo Cherchi Usai, Giovanna Fossati, and Catherine Russell
• Institutional histories: the British Film Institute; the Cinémathèque française, the Museum of Modern Art’s cinema collections (Haidee Wasson), EYE-Film, Amsterdam (Bregt Lameris), early ethnographic film at the American Museum of Natural History (Alison Griffiths), experimental cinema and Anthology Film Archives
• Gaps in the archive, e.g. Allyson Nadia Field’s work on the “nonextant” and early African American cinema, filmic reconstructions (e.g. Bezhin Meadow, Greed)
• Case studies: the Library of Congress’s paper print collection, The Davide Turconi and Josef Joye Collections, the Desmet Collection, found footage and recycled cinema (e.g. A Movie, Eureka, Film Ist, Decasia,and Lyrical Nitrate), MSU Special Collections
• Film archiving in the digital age (They Shall Not Grow Old)

Summer 2020

Joshua Lam
ENG 130: Film and Society
Topic: “Horror Comedy”

Have you ever been so frightened that you burst out laughing? Have you ever laughed until you cried? This online summer course looks at two popular film genres and their intersection: horror, comedy, and horror-comedy. As a genre, horror is often said to represent our collective fears. Yet humor, too, can be thought of as a way of managing anxiety. Both fear and laughter, after all, produce endorphins that we associate with pleasurable thrills and release. This course will function as an introduction to the genre of horror and the social fears it indexes, including ‘deviant’ sexualities, primitive religions, toxic masculinity, xenophobia, the sociopathy of capitalism, and more. Students will learn basic elements of film analysis and examine films in their social and historical contexts. We will pay special attention to the development of “horror-comedy,” from the unintentional humor of classic Hollywood monster movies, to campy exploitation films of the 1960s and 70s, to the biting satire of contemporary films like Get Out. Week-long units will focus on subgenres like slasher films, captivity narratives, possession, vampires, zombies, and folk horror.

Marisa Mercurio
ENG 140: Literature and Society
Topic: “Gender in Gothic Horror”

We will explore gender in the literature, art, and film of Gothic horror through an intersectional approach (e.g. also attending to sexuality, race, etc.), beginning briefly in the 19th century and making our way through the 21st century. Material will include texts like The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and Us, dir. Jordan Peele.

Why are we drawn to horror at the same time we shrink from it? What does gender have to do with it? This course explores the integral roles of gender and sexuality from the roots of Gothic horror through the present day in literature, film, and artwork. Texts include work by Shirley Jackson and Jordan Peele. 

Most material will be available through D2L. The course will offer content warnings to the best of my ability and can offer substitute texts if requested. 

Questions? Email Marisa Mercurio at mercuri7@msu.edu!

Kiana Gonzalez-Cedeno
ENG 142: Introduction to Popular Literature

In this course we will explore literature written in the 21st century by Women of Color. We will
read award winning literature that will challenge our understanding of the world around us
through their raw and ground breaking prose. As a student, you will gain valuable information
about People of Color and the challenges Black, Indigenous, and Latinx Women are
encountering-still- in the 21st century. The goal of this class is to introduce students to
established authors, as well as, up and coming authors that, regardless of writing in the margins,
have much to say regarding what we conceive of popular culture, the United States, and the
world.

 

 

Bria Harper
ENG 210.731: Foundations of Literary Study I
Topic: “Contemporary African American Literature”

This course is designed to introduce students to a variety of literature by African American novelists, poets, musicians, and artists that are not generally taught in classrooms.

This online summer course is a survey of different mediums of African American literature in order to engage the ways that these texts engage with conversations around current events.
Through looking at the texts are artists such as Morgan Parker, Eve Ewing, Danez Smith, Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, and Beyoncé guide us in examining new ways to view literature as not just words on a page but written and spoken narratives of our own lives. You do not have to have a background in African American Literature to take this course.

This course is designed to be accessible to students everywhere.

Email me at harper54@msu.edu if you have any questions.

Lamar Johnson
ENG 308: Young Adult Literature

How are authors challenging inequality based on race, ethnicity, class, gender identity, sexuality, religion, disability, language, and intersections through their writing? The major aim of this class is to read, discuss, appreciate, and explore various themes that are common in young adult literature. In addition, we will read, analyze, and discuss multiple theoretical frameworks for analyzing YA fiction and nonfiction texts. You will read a variety of YAL texts that explore critical issues such as (racism, sexism, classism, nationality, etc.). This course will also explore a variety of teaching strategies for the instruction of young adult literature.

Jonathan Thurston
ENG 318: Introduction to Shakespeare

In 21st century America, Shakespeare is a popular name. You might know him for his famously romantic poetry, his “to be or not to be” soliloquy, or even the play Romeo and Juliet. With this course, I hope to challenge many of your preconceived notions of the Bard. This course will focus on the ways that we can read Shakespeare as relevant to today’s culture and times as well as his. The course will start with an introduction to the kinds of texts Shakespeare was reading at the time, sources like Ovid and Petrarch. Reading these texts will hopefully give you a foundation for reading Shakespeare as artistic not just for his imagination but also his politics and ability to make texts relevant for a contemporary audience. Then, we will segue into four different plays across Shakespeare’s career and different genres: Othello, Titus Andronicus, The Tempest, and Midsummer Night’s Dream. The course will focus on readings of Shakespeare’s works that prioritize historical and cultural implications, especially for sex, gender, and race.

William Johnsen
ENG 328: Reading in Novel & Narrative

Some summers you can’t get to London but you can read novels set there by Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, George Orwell, Iris Murdoch, and Andrea Levy. Each of these authors has their own London and we will use electronic resources to recreate their specific historical moment, including London just after war, during war, postwar, and the early years of the Windrush generation that emigrated from Jamaica to London, to ‘the mother country.’ Their special attention to city life has attracted a film version to each of these novels except one, and we will attend to that way of novel-reading as well.

Kylene Cave
ENG 342: Readings in Popular Literary Genres

This course investigates literary genres and formula fiction through the lens of popular culture studies. Using a variety of mediums we will consider how certain popular genres emerged and how they have evolved over time in response to cultural shifts.

Sheng-mei Ma
ENG 360: Postcolonial Literature
Topic: “In Search of Alien”

This course explores the heart of postcolonial studies, the concept of alien in an “us v. them” divide. Starting from Edward Said’s classic Orientalism, supplemented by American stigma of Asians as “perennial aliens,” the course interrogates historical and current Sino-U.S. representations of alienation (alienAsian). We pair Bret Harte’s “Ah Sin” with Kevin Kwan a century later; Roman Polanski’s Chinatown with Frank Norris’ stories and novel; millennial China’s Detective Chinatown with the BBC’s Sherlock; and more. We conclude with a unit on Afro-Asian filmic duet, where two U.S. minorities perform a pas de deux ever in danger of escalating into a duel. This course studies fiction, film, visual art, and graphics. Course grade is based on papers, exams, and class performance.

Lyn Goeringer
ENG 478A: Lit Tech & Representation

This online class summer course is an introduction to independent podcast production. Looking at narrative, documentary, investigative, artistic, and creative podcasting styles, this class teaches you how to make professional quality audio recordings with a cellphone or digital audio recorder, how to mix and arrange them on your own computer, and how to share them with the world. No experience required.

Who this course is great for:
Writers who want to find a new outlet for their work
People wanting to make documentary pieces
Anyone who wants to consider storytelling as an auditory practice
People who want to engage in experimental story making
Anyone who wants to know more about sound/sound editing practices (It’s great for filmmakers!)
Anyone who wants to play with sounds, recording technologies, and more

You can do the work for this class anywhere.

Bill Vincent
FLM 355: Studies in Film Genres
Topic: “The Western”

One of the earliest and most enduring American film genres is the western. Whether dealing with the western expansion of the United States, the struggle with the tribes of the First Nation for domination, the quest for law and order, or the fight to maintain individual freedom in the face of spreading “civilization,” literally hundreds of westerns have been produced throughout the history of the movies. In this on-line class we shall watch and analyze a wide selection of western movies, from The Great Train Robbery (1903) to The Rider (2017). One book is required – John White’s ‘The Western.’ Assignments will include blogs, blog responses, quizzes, and exams. A once-a-week zoom meeting will be scheduled.

Sheng-mei Ma
IAH 211B: Area Studies and Multicultural Civilizations: Asia (I)
Topic: “Cool Outlaw and Lawman, East and West, in Words and Pictures”

Cool outlaw in both East and West has been hot, firing up public imagination from medieval Robin Hood ballads and Outlaws of the Marsh (Shuihu Zhuan) to the BBC’s Sherlock and the millennial China’s Detective Chinatown. Law-abiding readers and moviegoers project their discontent and rebellious impulse onto outlaws. Such transgressive flirting is counterpointed by a fascination with lawman, be it the rational genius of Howard Fast’s nisei Detective Masao Masuto or Ruth Rendell’s The Speaker of Mandarin. Indeed, the thin line between outlaw and lawman, violence and justice, cold-bloodedness and passion, East and West is so blurred that it begs the question of such distinction in our global village. This course pairs Satanic serial killers with God-like serial detectives, represented in both fiction and film. The latter hails from Hollywood and Huallywood, the tinsel towns bathed in the Californian sun or soft-powered by Beijing. The grade is based on seven papers due at the end of each week.