The English minor allows students to explore literature and other cultural works, as well as linguistics, and creative writing. The minor familiarizes students with works composed or translated into English and provides them with the opportunity to explore a variety of historical periods and geographical regions. Courses in the minor explore literary genres such as science fiction and fantasy; literary forms such as the novel, the short story, poetry, and graphic storytelling; and literary practices across media and multimedia arts. The minor builds an awareness of methods, theories and technologies for both the creation and analysis of literary texts, and provides an introduction to critical or creative writing.
Notes about this minor:
Posting of the minor on the student's academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.
Notations may appear in the curriculum chart below outlining pre-requisites, co-requisites, and other curriculum requirements (see footnotes).
Students will study literary and cultural texts selected from traditional literature to contemporary media and culture (including mythology, poetry, plays, novels, film, graphic novels, television, and digital literature). Students will analyze these texts from a variety of perspectives and become familiar with the history of debates about literature and/or culture as arenas of human experience. Individual sections will vary in their foci.
Literature from Around the World
Offering a representation of literature from at least three continents and intending to be introductory in nature, this course will explore literature drawn from a variety of cultures. Literature from Around the World will explore the nature, function and value of literature from a global perspective: students will become familiar with world literatures, as well as methods of studying literature and culture across national boundaries.
Storytelling is one of the primary ways we make sense of the world, communicate, share human experiences, and entertain ourselves. This course introduces students to methods used by literary critics and creative writers. Reading stories and analyzing the basic elements of story, the course builds understanding of how stories work, demonstrates the importance of artistic strategies, to enable greater appreciation of the creative choices storytellers make as they craft and communicate their stories in a variety of mediums. The course will explore distinct storytelling modes – such as oral, written, visual, dramatic, digital, ASL, augmented or mixed-reality – and consider the contributions different genres, or kinds of storytelling make to these practices. It will also explore how stories circulate in a culture, or across cultures, and examines the dynamic interrelations between stories, audiences, and changing cultural or historical contexts. Students will read, analyze, discuss, compare, and creatively rewrite or remix stories in order to better understand the range of storytelling practices, how stories work on us as readers, and why they are so significant to human cognition and cultures.
Choose four of the following
The Art of Poetry
This course emphasizes the enjoyment and study of poetry with primary attention to major poetry in English. Students will develop (and apply) a working vocabulary of the concepts and terminology used to discuss and analyze poetry, through close readings of individual poems, lectures on specific poets, and theories of poetics.
The Short Story
The short story has been one of the most dynamic and innovative genres in literature. This course uses the genre of the short story to provide material for critical commentary and cultural understanding. Students read a variety for short stories to develop an understanding of the form and its impact on culture.
Mythology & Literature
This course is a scholarly investigation into the cultural, historical, social, psychological, religious and spiritual, literary and performative dimensions of world myth. It examines different approaches to the study of myth emerging from disciplines such as anthropology, history, literary studies, and psychology. Special attention will be paid to the effects of these narratives on literature and other kinds of cultural texts, past and present. We will also use myth to develop, and critically reflect on, comparative approaches to world cultures.
In this course students will read, study, and discuss some of Shakespeare's dramatic work in an attempt to determine the nature of his significance. What political and institutional factors account for the reverence accorded to Shakespeare? In addition to reading a range of Shakespeare’s plays, the course will develop deeper understandings of contemporary literary theory and practices that allow various interpretations of these plays. The approach will be comparative and reflect on the influence and effect of Shakespeare’s work on contemporary culture. Attention will be paid to issues of gender, historicity, iconicity and textual analysis among others
Topics in Literary Forms*
This course explores the evolution of an influential literary form ( the short story, drama, poetry, autobiographical literature, or the novel). Reading a series of variations on this literary form, likely bridging cultural or historical contexts or themes, the course develops critical perspectives and artistic insights into this genre of writing. Criticism and theory appropriate to the genre will be discussed as a way to understand the form, its social functions, and its cultural and political significance. The course can be taken up to two times, for a total of 6 semester credit hours, as long as the topics are different.
Since the initial development of the computer, writers have collaborated with programmers, illustrators, and soundscapists to create digital literatures. Following from radical techniques in print literatures such as concrete poetry, Choose Your Own Adventure novels, and reorderable/unbound fictions, digital literatures exploit the potential of digital formats to explore questions of interactivity, readership, authorship, embodiment, and power. In this class, we will learn to analyze and appreciate digital literatures not simply through their content, but also through the relation of content to form, media, programming platforms, and distribution formats. Our consideration of digital literatures will lead us to cell phones, web pages, video games, virtual reality environments, and genome sequencers.
This course presents a study of global literature by engaging in critically informed analysis of texts from different geographical regions or cultural perspectives. Students will discover new modes for thinking about what global literature is, and how globalizing impulses have changed and shaped our world. One of the goals of the class is to analyze and discuss the works in their respective socio-historical contexts, with a special focus on the theme of encounter or contact zones. The impact of various factors such as migration, nationality, class, race, gender, generation, and religion will also be taken into consideration. The course can be repeated up to two times, for 6 semester credit hours, as long as the topics are different.
From Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, forms of popular literature have existed alongside more literary forms of narrative. In this course students will focus on the distinguishing thematic, structural, and formal distinctions between popular and literary fiction (and in some cases drama and poetry) with an awareness of the historical trends that produced this distinction (the dime novel). The course may focus on popular forms either within broader genres (such as fiction, drama, or poetry) or could be organized thematically and use several of these larger genres. Some sub-genres may include, for example, detective fiction, gothic and horror, the western, romance, etc. Analysis of popular treatment of certain themes and ideas will give students a lens through which to understand how important social, political, and cultural issues enter into the popular imagination, and can in some cases become part of ideological contestation through popular literary discourse.
Students will learn about foundational texts in one or more category of genre fiction and review its development in the 19th, 20th, and/or 21st centuries. Genre is a category characterized by similarities in style, or subject matter. Examples include science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, fanfiction, magical realism, or historical fiction. The course approaches genre fiction as literary form, as cultural artifact, and as philosophical speculation; students will learn to distinguish key features of genre fiction, including the historical inspiration as well as contemporary trends. The course may be taken up to two times for a total of 6 credit hours, as long as the topics are different.
The course uses both literature and geography, artful writing and creative mapping, to explore the art of storytelling in both fictional and real places. From Sherlock Holmes’s 221B Baker St. London to J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, geography is more than an artistic theme, and maps are more than creative illustrations. We will read literature that uses spatial dimensions not only to indicate a destination and point of origin, but to create place–spectacular stories from the Iowa plains to rust belt cities to the networked future. We will also navigate a specific geographical space, telling numerous narrative stories about its pavement and is inhabitants. Through community-based research, students will explore a Rochester community, story-mapping its complex histories, social networks, and contemporary environments. Using literary geography, students will integrate their writing into a final mosaic project–a collaborative digital community map.
History of Madness
This course will study the changes in definitions, explanations, and depictions of madness as expressed in psychiatric texts, asylum records, novelists, cartoonists, artists, photographers, filmmakers–and patient narratives. Certainly, madness has assumed many names and forms: the sacred disease, frenzy, hysteria, mania, melancholy, neurosis, dementia, praecox, schizophrenia, phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder. Those afflicted have been admired, pitied, mocked, hidden from public view, imprisoned, restrained, operated on, hospitalized, counseled, analyzed, and medicated. The brain, particularly the disordered brain, has long been a source of interest. This course explores the brain from the history of madness. The course takes a humanist, rhetorical, and historicist approach to the question of madness within changing social institutions and popular discourse.
Evolving English Language
What makes the English language so difficult? Where do our words come from? Why does Old English look like a foreign language? This course surveys the development of the English language from its beginning to the present to answer such questions as these. Designed for anyone who is curious about the history and periods of the English language or the nature of language change.
This course introduces students to the field of adaptation studies and explores the changes that occur as particular texts such as print, radio, theatre, television, film, and videogames move between various cultural forms and amongst different cultural contexts. The course focuses upon works that have been disseminated in more than one medium.
Storytelling Across Media
This course introduces the basic elements of narrative, reflecting on key concepts in narrative theory such as – story and plot, narration and focalization, characterization, storyspace, and worldmaking – to enhance your understanding of how stories work and your ability to understand how such storytelling strategies convey their meaning and themes. After an initial exploration of storytelling traditions emerging from oral myth and short stories in print, we expand our inquiries into what a narrative is and what it can do by considering what happens to storytelling in graphic novels, digital games, and in recent electronic literature. Reflecting on competing definitions and varieties of narrative, the course raises the overarching question of why how we access, read, write, and circulate stories as a culture matters. Expect to read stories in a variety of media, to review basic concepts and conversations drawn from narrative theory, and to creatively experiment with the storytelling strategies we are analyzing in class. No familiarity with specific print, digital, or visual media necessary, though a willingness to read and reflect on stories in various media and to analyze their cultural significance will be essential.
A transmedia storyworld is a shared universe in which its settings, characters, objects, events, and histories are featured in one or more narratives across many different media, including print fiction, films, television episodes, comics/ graphic novels, and games. This course will focus on the construction of large-scale transmedia storyworlds and how such storyworlds expand in size and detail over time. Students will trace narrative arcs as deployed through different media and consider the strengths and limitations of each medium in terms of adding to knowledge about the transmedia storyworld. The course will also analyze the differences and similarities between transmedia narratives, adaptation, and other forms of serial storytelling; the multi-authored nature of transmedia storyworlds; commercial aspects of transmedia storyworlds; and creative work produced by and for fan communities.
This course will examine how suppression of information has been orchestrated throughout history in different contexts. The process of suppressing information –of people in power attempting to hide images, sounds and words– must itself be viewed in perspective. We must recognize acts of censorship in relation to their social settings, political movements, religious beliefs, cultural expressions and/or personal identities. The texts that we will study were all considered dangerous enough to be banned by governments. They are dangerous because they represent sexuality, race, politics, and religion in ways that challenge the current political/cultural norms of their given culture. What, then, is so dangerous about a fictional representation? What is it that makes a certain work dangerous at a particular time and how does this danger manifest itself in stories, novels (print and graphic), and poetry? Studying these dangerous texts and watching some dangerous films we will ask: what features of political and cultural regimes do artists tend to single out for criticism? What is the range of expressive tools they use, including the contemporary context of digital media? What is it that makes intellectuals in general and imaginative writers in particular so potent a threat to established power? Do issues like these matter only in totalitarian regimes, or can we learn something about the book-banning pressures in our own society? How do social media technologies complicate discussions of censorship and creativity?
This course familiarizes students with a number of different critical approaches to film as a narrative and representational art. The course introduces students to the language as well as analytical and critical methodologies of film theory and criticism from early formalist approaches to contemporary considerations of technologies and ideologies alike. Students will be introduced to a selection of these approaches and be asked to apply them to a variety of films selected by the instructor. Additional screening time is recommended.
Themes in American Literature
The course introduces students to American literature by tracing a particular theme through a historical survey of canonical, non-canonical, and contemporary novels, stories, poetry, and drama, as well as non-fiction forms (speeches, autobiographies, essays, etc.). Students will gain a broad understanding of American literary trends while also gaining a deep understanding of the given themes. These themes will be broadly conceived, but will also lend themselves to social, cultural, and political questions. These themes may include but are not limited to horror, gardens and machines, natives and strangers, borders, etc. While these themes deal with abstract or conceptual ideas, they lead to questions about gender, race, ethnicity, empire, and other historical problems in debates over American exceptionalism, empire, and ideology.
Students will explore the landscape of African-American literature, and learn of its development throughout the 19th and/or 20th Centuries. From Phyllis Wheatley, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ida B. Wells to Toni Morrison, from the Harlem Renaissance, and the Black Arts Movements of the 1960s to Hip-Hop this course will explore African-American writers who inspired a civil rights and cultural revolution. Through writing, reading and research, they will grow to understand how, despite legal limits on freedom and social participation imposed because of their color in American society, blacks created styles of verbal and written expressions unique within the American experience and contributed to the shape, growth and development of the nation's literary character.
Topics in Women's and Gender Studies
This course will explore a key theme or critical question in women's and gender studies as an introduction and line of inquiry into how and why women's and gender studies matter in the contemporary world and in our individual lives. Drawing from and reflecting on approaches to women's and gender studies from a variety of disciplines and cultures, we will use these theoretical lenses to read social, cultural, and artistic texts and cultural practices in a new light. How has women's and gender studies and the creative, activist and academic practices theorized in this multidisciplinary, global space, challenged gendered and racialized power structures in the past, in the present, and how might it transform its methods to confront current challenges?
This course provides an in-depth look at literary giants and the masterpieces of prose or poetry they have created; it's an opportunity to see the role they played both within the context of their own time and within the larger span of literary history. These great authors confront key questions of modernity that continue to occupy us to this day; they ask the question of what it means to be human and explore fundamental human themes. They give us a fresh perspective on the past and on ourselves.
Literature and Technology
Surveying the rise of computing technologies, information theories, and information economies in the last century, this course considers their impact on literature, culture and knowledge-formation. In particular, we will reflect on topics such as the relations between social and technological transformation, literary print and digital cultures and electronic literature.
* Literary Forms (ENGL-309) may be taken up to two times, for six semester credit hours, as long the course topics are different.
† Genre Fiction (ENGL-320) may be taken up to two times, for six semester credit hours, as long the course topics are different.