Courses

Every semester the Georgetown English department offers numerous courses that foster students’ exploration of poetics, including courses taught by the Lannan Committee members, Lannan Director, and Lannan Chair of Poetics.


Spring 2020

Lower-Level Electives

20th Century Poetry | ENGL 163
Mark McMorris
This course will examine poetry by a range of American writers of the twentieth century. This will be a demanding course that will place emphasis on close analysis and comprehension of text, as well as group discussion in which students are expected to participate. The aim will be to enable students to analyze verse with a full understanding not just of its meaning but of the formal elements of prosody. A principal course text will be Philip Hobsbaum’s Meter, Rhythm and Verse Form (Routledge), which students are expected to read and memorize. Students should be prepared to write regular short essays on aspects of poetry. Each essay will contribute to your overall assessment, as will your attendance record and performance in class. Students are expected also to attend one-to-one tutorials with Professor Wu in order to discuss their work. There will be occasional tests. These activities will contribute to each student’s final grade. 

Modern & Contemporary Poems & Poetics I ENGL 164
David Gewanter
In this course, we’ll discuss and study terrific Modern and contemporary poems, and contend with some poets’ essays that (seemingly) advocate for such poems. Breakthrough Modernist poems have helped establish our sense of the world; we now drift through a murky era named “the Post Modern.” This course will test poems against their poets’ claims, and against our own, developed readings of poems. We may briefly consider some Romantic poems, then study the titanic Moderns—Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, TS Eliot, Ezra Pound, WC Williams, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, and others; then we’ll follow several of the outwardly spiraling clusters of significant poets since then. You need not be very experienced in reading poems; you may even find poems difficult, murky, or bewildering. I only ask, be ready to jump in! Text: Ramazani & Ellmann’s Norton Anthology of Modern & Contemporary Poetry (both volumes), and some short single books of poems. We’ll attend some of our Lannan poetry readings as well. Your written work will include: explication of texts; short essays; theatre review; (possible) in-class report; some poems composed by you (ungraded).

Black Autobiography I ENGL 217
Alice Sandosharaj
Five seats will be reserved for African American Studies majors. This course examines the genre of autobiography by way of Black writers post-1960. How has the genre served Black writers? How has the autobiographical mode been a limitation for them? How as the genre historically been defined, challenged, and enriched by Black writers? What does the Black Autobiography as a genre itself have to tell us about literature, power, and the American landscape today? We examine these questions by reading heavyweights such as Malcolm X and Maya Angelou, contemporary award-winners like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay, and scholars in the field like Harold Cruse and Joycelyn Moody.

20th Century British Poetry I ENGL 222
Duncan Wu
This course examines British poetry between 1900 and 2000, tracing the evolution of what it meant to be British through that turbulent 100-year period. It will be a demanding and rigorous course which will aim to cultivate each student’s powers of intellectual analysis. To that end, it will demand a full understanding of the elements of formal prosody, a scheme deriving from the Classical poets of Greece and Rome, which will be understood and memorized by all members of the class. Our approach to the poetry will be directly through the lives and works of our poets. There will be regular tests.

Poetry & Politics I ENGL 276
David Gewanter
How do poems uncover troubles in society? How do poems cause trouble for a poet, and for others? Though poems are written and usually read in private, they can explore and confront the social world in which the issues of identity (gender, racial, national), justice, power, and moral advocacy are at play (and war). We will read poems that face such problems, and that have brought social consequences—on the poet, and on his/her community: poems of personal confession and poems of witness; poems regarding prisoners and victims; poems by repressors and rabble-rousers. We’ll also read essays on the poet’s social responsibility and, as many of our works come from other languages, discuss issues of translation. We’ll write short analyses; give class presentations; pursue a research topic; write some poems; and learn from the inside what makes these poems succeed. No previous knowledge of poems required.

Intro to Creative Writing I ENGL 280
Gretchen Henderson
This course is an introduction to the art and craft of creative writing. Exploring techniques of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, we will ask fundamental questions about the boundaries that separate these genres and the spaces where they meet and bleed into other art forms. Considering language as a living entity, and the interconnection between form and content, we will explore different narratives and voices, rhythms and images, lines and sentences, and other techniques and structures that animate stories, poems, and essays. Assignments will invite you to engage with the materiality of language, to think visually and aurally and sensorily, and to exercise your imagination. While actively writing and reading works by established writers and fellow students, you also will develop different editorial and critique skills. The course will involve a mandatory field trip and a variety of writings that will culminate in a final portfolio.

Creative Non-Fiction Writing I ENGL 282
Norma Tilden
Students who have successfully completed ENGL 287
should not enroll in this class. An intensive writing workshop focused on discovering, researching and crafting first-person narrative, including memoir, personal and lyric essay, features, travel and nature writing. Readings and writing across the spectrum of this innovative fourth genre. Students should expect to write constantly and to contribute, as critical readers and writers, to the common cause of the workshop.

Intro to Fiction Writing I ENGL 283
Jennifer Fink
What makes a short story sing? In this class, each student will develop his/her/their own short stories while examining the elements that make any story truly brilliant. Questions of character, description, plot, setting, focalization, story structure, form, genre, style, and voice will be central to our investigation as we construct our own pieces and critique our classmates’. While the emphasis will be on the act of writing, we will also read classic and contemporary Anglophone short stories drawn from a diverse, global range of sources. NOTE: This is a class for students who are serious about learning the craft of fiction in the context of contemporary literary forms and cultures. Expect rigorous, generous criticism, with an emphasis on the technical dimensions of short story writing–and an interrogation of the very notion of ‘craft.’ We will be writing off-site during class time, engaging other art forms, and attending readings.

Writing for a Cause I ENGL 285
Dennis Williams
This class will provide an introduction to the craft of fiction writing. Using short stories and prose excerpts by various writers as models, this course will show you how to create fiction for the purpose of social action. You need not be an experienced fiction writer in order to take this course; you need only be excited by the opportunity to advocate for a cause through thoughtful and intentional storytelling. You will write a brief (2-3 pages) response paper for each of 8-10 assigned readings, examining how these artists identify and address injustice in their work. You will also complete a few writing exercises to practice technique and approach. The primary goal of the course, however, will be for each student to produce, through extensive drafts, one solid, 20-page piece of short fiction that takes a position on a public issue.

Writing to be Heard I ENGL 288
Maureen Corrigan
“So what?” and “Why should anyone care?” are the two fundamental (and most irritating) questions that anyone writing for a diverse audience must address: by necessity, public intellectuals must explicitly confront these questions within their writing and throughout their careers. As a matter of professional survival, public intellectuals also must develop a writing style that negotiates between high and low cultures, addressing themselves to audiences composed of educated non-specialists, as well as erudite insiders. Whether explaining architecture or health care policy to a wide audience or arguing for the cultural significance of zombies without overstating the case, public intellectuals must draw on substantive backgrounds and acrobatic language. This course will also consider crucial questions of elitism, identity politics, and the balkanization of popular discourse in relation to the role of the public intellectual. “Writing to be Heard” explores selected moments in the twentieth-century history of American cultural criticism as well as the practice of writing criticism in an accessible, yet intellectually rigorous manner. Students will study critical writing and investigate its influence; they will also practice the art of critical writing in regular assignments. The course will begin by exploring the elusive and changing definitions of “the public intellectual” and reading “Politics and the English Language”—Brit George Orwell’s classic essay on language that obfuscates, rather than illuminates. We will then study twentieth-century American culture critics such as H.L. Mencken and Edmund Wilson, the rise of the New York Intellectuals (Alfred Kazin, Dwight Macdonald), the early stirrings of the Second Women’s Movement (Betty Friedan) and the work of African American intellectuals of the Civil Rights Movement (James Baldwin). It will continue with the emergence of outliers like Susan Sontag and urban studies pioneer, Jane Jacobs. The formal curriculum will conclude with the writings of contemporary public intellectuals, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jill Lepore, Daniel Mendelsohn, and Roxane Gay.

Upper-level electives

Disability Studies Seminar I ENGL 424
Lydia Marie Xin Zhen Brown
What is disability? Who counts as disabled? How do we – or should we or can we – think about disability and bodymind differences and divergences in society? Whose bodies or brains are considered healthy, sane, or normal, and whose are considered disordered, defective, or abnormal? The course will explore notions of disability through critical disability theory, crip culture and arts, and disabled community building and organizing, including examining critiques of disability representation and advocacy as articulated by neurodiversity, mad pride, psychiatric survivorship, independent living, deaf culture, disability rights, disability justice, and self-advocacy movements. This course serves as a core course for the Disability Studies minor and an upper level elective in English. Students will also read the work of visiting speakers in the Disability Studies spring lecture series and engage with the speakers in a seminar format. Students will also design their own independent research projects in disability studies throughout the term. 

Lannan Seminar I ENGL 450
Carolyn Forché
Registration in the class requires Instructor approval. Lannan Seminar (ENGL-450 & ENGL-650) Lannan Poetry Seminar encourages dynamic critical thinking and creativity with a view to examining literary forms and practices; the work of individual authors; the relationship between writing and other arts; and the place of writing in contemporary culture. Fellows study and discuss the work of the year’s scheduled guests in the Lannan “Readings and Talks” series, participate in conversations with the guests, and attend their readings and performances. Fellows then produce an independent final project (creative or critical) under the guidance of the instructor. There are also opportunities for students to develop and share their own writing in several genres. Enrollment in this seminar is limited to the Lannan Fellows.
Prerequisites: Permission of Instructor.

Long-Form Essay I ENGL 452
Norma Tilden
This workshop is designed for those with a genuine interest in studying and crafting long-form nonfiction prose. All nonfiction writers submit facts to the resources of language; sometimes it seems that the best writers of literary nonfiction—essayists such as Didion and McPhee, for example–shape their language under pressure of facts. This course will offer exercises in critical elements of nonfiction writing—close observation, description, voice, tone, story–as well as the opportunity to do extended research and writing on a subject that interests you. One subject that will necessarily interest all of us is the question of what it means to define an essay as “long-form.” Together, we’ll try to unpack that term, moving beyond physical attributes of volume and weight to consider what digital media scholar Alan Liu frames as sustained “forms of attention” (2014). While the course will include readings in the history of the genre and a sampling of contemporary essays and essayists, the workshop will focus on writing produced by the class. Workshop sessions will engage participants as both writers and close, critical readers.
*It is recommended that students will have completed at least one introductory level creative writing course before enrolling in the advanced workshop.

Intermediate Script Writing I ENGL 456
John Glavin
Registration in the class requires Instructor approval.
Students who did well in Intro to Script Writing may apply for permission to take Intermediate Screenwriting. Intermediate moves from the standard American paradigms for screen story-telling, covered in the introductory course, to new and current models developed by non-American auteurs over the past twenty years. Directors include: Pawel Pawlikowsi, Michel Piccoli, Alexander Sokurov, Ruben Ostlund, and Abbas Kiarostami.

Advanced Script Writing I ENGL 457
John Glavin
This class meets in Prof. Glavin’s office. Registration in the class requires Instructor approval. An individual tutorial offered to students who have successfully completed Intermediate Screenwriting. The student will complete an original, full-length feature script in a genre and with a story line of the student’s choice.