English Composition & Literature Undergraduate Courses

Click on any course title below to read its description. Courses offered in the upcoming semester include a schedule, and are indicated by a label to the right of the title.

Composition

Note 1: All students enrolling in MET EN 101 are required to take a placement examination. The Department of English reserves the right to assign students to sections based on the results of this examination.

Note 2: MET EN 101 and EN 102 fulfill the same composition requirements as EN 103 and 104.

Note 3: For full-time and additional part-time courses in English for international students, contact the Boston University Center for English Language & Orientation Programs (CELOP), 890 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215; 617-353-4870.

Required for all undergraduate degrees. Reinforces basic skills in communication necessary for college work. Instruction and practice in fundamentals of critical writing, reading, and thinking. Lectures combined with seminars on vital current social, political, psychological, and philosophical issues. Students choose their seminars. Frequent papers; individual conferences.

MET EN104 Section Descriptions for Spring 2018:

Section A1 -- Adair - "The American Family"
As humankind's primary social unit, the family works to influence individual and collective identities more than any other group. Families challenge, support, educate, and restrict us by helping to shape our political views and cultural values. They suggest patterns of behavior we seek to emulate or to avoid and reflect structural shifts in the larger community. In this course, we will enter the ongoing debates of theorists, social philosophers, artists, politicians, and others about the nature of changes in the family unit. Our discussion will treat several controversial questions: What or who constitutes a "family"? Is the American family merely evolving, or is it in a state of crisis? Is a "return to family values" possible, or even preferable? By examining various incarnations of the American family, including those of colonial settlements, the "nuclear family," alternative households, and cultural communities, we will investigate the development of what one philosopher called society's "moral cell." Readings will include historical, political, literary, and sociology texts, as well as some advertisements and film.

MET EN104 Section Descriptions for Fall 2017:

Section A1 -- Challener - "Contemporary Disasters: Nature, Culture, Crisis"
In this course we will investigate the contemporary meaning of disaster from a variety of perspectives. We will focus on two contemporary disasters: 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Drawing on scholarship in sociology, anthropology, ecology, literary and cultural studies, and the relatively more recent field of disaster studies, we will ask whether there is such a thing as a natural disaster, whether disasters expose any differences between "nature" and "culture," and in today's geo-political, urbanized, globalized world, if there's anything especially American about how citizens of the United States think and talk about disaster. We'll also consider how more recent research on crisis intersects with and complicates our understanding of disaster. Possible readings include excerpts from Bill McKibben's The End of Nature; Rebecca Solnit's Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster; Rob Nixon's Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor; Catastrophe and Culture: The Anthropology of Disaster, edited by Anthony Oliver-Smith and Susana Hoffmann; and Cheena Marie Lo's A Series of Un/Natural/ Disasters.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
A1 IND Challener CAS 223 M 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

Does not give concentration credit. Practice in writing narration, exposition, argument and persuasion, the critical essay, and the research paper. Related readings. Class discussion of papers. Individual conferences. Students enroll in specific seminars. Limited enrollment.

MET EN201 -- Section Descriptions for Spring 2018

Section A1 (Bennett) -- "The African in All of Us"
This course examines several ways of interpreting Africanness in African and American literature. It looks at how African individuals adjust to life in the Americas as forcefully displaced persons of the diaspora and self- motivated immigrants. It pairs African texts with American ones investigating short stories by Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, James Baldwin, and others. It covers longer selections including Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Pulitzer-prize winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot D?az), and National Book Critics Circle fiction prize-winning novel Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie).

Section A2 (Pasto) -- "Witchcraft and Magic"
Witches have historically and cross-culturally been both male and female, believed to be possessed of malevolent -- "magical" -- powers that cause harm to their neighbors and family. Accusations and even executions for witchcraft still occur today, particularly in parts of Africa. At the same time, in the United States and parts of Europe, people in the Wiccan and Neo-Pagan movements claim to represent and even reclaim witchcraft as a positive force. How can we understand both negative and positive notions of witchcraft as well as magic? Do people really possess supernatural powers, or are there, rather, "real" psychological and social forces at work? This course will explore traditional and modern notions of witches and witchcraft, drawing on works of film, television, and literature, scholarly studies and works of fiction. Among the topics explored will be witchcraft in Africa and New England, witchcraft in Europe, the "evil eye," Wicca and Neo-Paganism, ritual and healing, and modernity and witchcraft.

Section B1 (Barents) -- "Boston Zeal, Insanity, and Lawlessness"
Boston has captivated the imagination of locals and outsiders alike for centuries, not only as The Hub or The Athens of America but also as "Suck City" and the town with "dirty water." In this seminar, we will look at Boston as subject and setting of a number of very different short works in order to understand the social, political, historical, and artistic forces that have shaped this American city and to figure out whether its often negative portrayal is deserved. We will debate, discuss, and question how such influences shape a culture or define a city, examining nonfiction from Michael Patrick MacDonald, Nick Flynn, and Susanna Kaysen; fiction by Dennis Lehane, Sylvia Plath, and Henry James; and poetry by Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. We'll also view film excerpts from Good Will Hunting, The Departed, Spotlight, Gone Baby Gone, and The Town.

Section C1 (Grabianowski) -- "Science, Technology, and the Imagination"
Can humans muster the imagination and the ethical grit necessary to create a sustainable and livable world where freedom, equality and human rights are respected? How can scientific insight, technological advancement and the humanities find common ground in creating such a world? Could revisiting the powers of imagination provide some answers? In this section of English 201, we will consider what the long history of the imagination in the West can teach us about the close proximity of human insight into the awe-inspiring wonders of nature and insight into the unexplored capacities of our minds. We will first take a look at the deep currents of imagination going back to the ancient philosophers both in the East and in the West. We will then, over the course of the semester, consider how 19th and 20th century writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Wordsworth, S.T. Coleridge, E.M. Forster, Albert Einstein, Aldo Leopold, David Bohm and Gary Snyder have addressed the practical and ethical issues that arise out of the intersection of technology, nature and society. We will explore topics like imaginative engineering, the difference between imaginative insight and imaginative reason, ecological consciousness, climate and medical models, sustainable business models, ecological economics, big data, wild writing, fake news, genetics and topics of particular interest to students. We will discuss how contemporary scientists, poets, technology industry leaders, and writers like Arnold Pacey, Herman Daly, Sherry Turkle and David Kelly seek to re-discover the imaginative capacities that will allow us to grapple with the rapid transformation of our technological existence.

MET EN201 -- Section Descriptions for Fall 2017

Section A1 (Bennett) -- "The African in All of Us"
This course examines several ways of interpreting Africanness in African and American literature. It looks at how African individuals adjust to life in the Americas as forcefully displaced persons of the diaspora and self- motivated immigrants. It pairs African texts with American ones investigating short stories by Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, James Baldwin, and others. It covers longer selections including Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart; Pulitzer-prize winning novels The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead) and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot D?az); and award-winning National Book Critics Circle Fiction novel Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie).

Section B1 (Pasto) - "Magic, Science, and Witchcraft"
People throughout the world believe that they can harness invisible, "supernatural" powers to bring about desired--harmful and beneficial--effects. Science, however, says that these invisible forces do not exist and that the effects are either imaginary or psychosomatic. This course will explore beliefs in witchcraft and magic and how they measure up to science. The course will include study of events such as the Salem witchcraft outbreak, contemporary witchcraft beliefs in Europe, Asia, and Africa, popular beliefs in the evil eye, dreams, numerology, etc., and Wiccan beliefs and practices. Students will read shorter and longer works, watch films, and conduct research on a topic related to the course.

Section C1 (Grabianowski) -- "Technology, Ideology and Society"
Is it possible to create a sustainable and livable world where equality and human rights are respected? What roles do science and technology play in creating such a world? How can thinking about our experiences in the natural landscape help us to think about our experiences in the technological landscape? In this section of English 201, we will first consider how 19th- and 20th-century writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Wordsworth, E.M. Forster, Aldo Leopold and David Bohm have addressed the practical and ethical issues that arise out of the intersection of technology, nature and society. We will then explore through topics like sustainable business models, ecological economics, agribusiness, big data, wild writing, hyperobjects, genetics and robotics how contemporary scientists, poets, technology industry leaders, and writers like Arnold Pacey, Timothy Morton, Neil Postman, Michael Pollan, Herman Daly and Sherry Turkle continue to grapple with the rapid transformation of our technological existence.

Section D1 - Jackson: "The Sixties"
This course examines the 1960s, a tumultuous decade of political, social, and cultural change in the United States, through a range of readings that include poems, song lyrics, manifestos, autobiographies, speeches, essays, stories, and the "non- fiction novel." The major movements of the era (anti-war, civil rights, feminist, environmental, sexual liberation, and expanded consciousness) constituted a wide-ranging revolution. Literary critic Fredric Jameson characterizes the period with "the widely shared feeling that in the 60s, for a time, everything was possible: that this period, in other words, was a moment of a universal liberation, a global unbinding of energies." Some of the key players and events were in and around Boston (Martin Luther King, Jr. living in Myles Standish Hall, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton meeting Robert Lowell at the other end of Bay State Road, Huston Smith expanding consciousness in Marsh Chapel, Malcolm X growing up in Roxbury). We will read these writers as well as others including Rosa Parks, Betty Friedan, Bob Dylan, and Rachel Carson. We will write about what these writers meant in their time and about the reverberations and reactions that continue to affect how we live today.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
A1 IND Bennett CAS B25BN M 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm
B1 IND Barents SOC B61 T 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm
C1 IND Grabianowski CAS 325N W 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm
D1 IND Jackson CAS B25BN R 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

Designed mainly for those with little or no experience in creative writing. An introduction to writing in various genres: poetry, fiction, and plays. Students' works discussed in class. Limited enrollment.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
B1 IND Staff PSY B43 T 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm
C1 IND Staff CAS 212 W 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

The writing of short stories and perhaps longer fiction discussed in a workshop setting, including one-on- one meetings to discuss student work.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
C1 IND Staff CAS 323AN W 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Organization and techniques for effective verbal and written communication in the business environment. Emphasis on developing communication skills through practical written and oral assignments.  [ 4 cr. ]

Literature

Note: Prerequisite for all 500-level courses is at least 8 credits from the following:

Representative fiction, poetry, and drama from modern Continental, British, and American writers. Primarily for students not concentrating in English.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
C1 IND Villano CAS 326 T 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

Selected American writers from the Colonial period to the present. Prose and poetry representative of the American tradition. Primarily for students not concentrating in English.  [ 4 cr. ]

Representative English and American novels from the eighteenth century to the present. Required papers. Primarily for students not concentrating in English.  [ 4 cr. ]

Critical reading of representative English and American poems. Primarily for students not concentrating in English.  [ 4 cr. ]

Critical reading of representative plays from the ancient Greeks to the present. Primarily for students not concentrating in English.  [ 4 cr. ]

A critical introduction to Shakespeare through intensive analyses of six or seven plays. Possible attention to such topics as literary sources, early modern stagecraft, performance history, and contemporary film adaptation.  [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
D1 IND Macconochie COM 210 R 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

Survey and analysis of cinema as an expressive medium from the silent period to the present. Films are screened weekly and discussed in conjunction with works of literature.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
B1 IND Monk CAS 220 T 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
B1 Monk CAS 220 T 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Fundamentals of literary analysis and interpretation. Intensive study of selected literary texts. Frequent papers. Limited class size.  [ 4 cr. ]

Introduction to major works of ancient and medieval European literatures that influenced later Continental, English, and American literature: the Bible, Homeric epic, Greek Tragedy, Virgil's Aeneid, and Dante's The Divine Comedy.  [ 4 cr. ]

Prereq: MET HU 221. British literature from its beginnings to the Restoration.   [ 4 cr. ]

British literature from the Restoration to the end of the nineteenth century.  [ 4 cr. ]

A century's transformations of drama and stage. Reading and discussion of plays from early realism and expressionism to the theatre of the absurd and present trends: Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, Shaw, Synge, Pirandello, Brecht, Sartre, Ionesco, Beckett, Genet, Pinter, and others.  [ 4 cr. ]

Modern to contemporary drama since about 1950. Beckett, Genet, Osborne, Wesker, Pinter, Arden, Stoppard, Durrenmatt, Grass, Weiss, Handke, Albee, Miller, Williams, Shepard, and others. Related readings in predecessors, such as Kleist and Artaud, and in less well known contemporaries.  [ 4 cr. ]

Six plays chosen from the following: Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, Henry IV (Part 1), Troilus and Cressida, As You Like It, Hamlet, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, and The Winter's Tale.  [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
A1 IND Cohen EOP 260 M 6:30 pm – 9:15 pm

Six plays chosen from the following: Richard III, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Macbeth, Coriolanus, and The Tempest.   [ 4 cr. ]

Origins and development of the detective and crime genres in England and America, including works of Collins, Poe, Dickens, Doyle, Christie, Sayers, and Chandler, among others.   [ 4 cr. ]

Blake, Wordsworth, and Coleridge. Emphasis on readings, but the course deals with romanticism both as an historical movement and as a cultural category significantly connected to modernism.   [ 4 cr. ]

Keats, Shelley, and Byron. Emphasis on readings, but the course deals with romanticism both as an historical movement and as a cultural category significantly connected to modernism.   [ 4 cr. ]

Close reading of balladic, lyric, and longer poems by Hardy, Yeats, Lawrence, Auden, Rosenberg, Mew, Loy, MacDiarmid, Gurney, Douglas, Larkin, Hill, Harrison, Prynne, others. Poets' essays and opposed schools and approaches. Reference to other arts, and times of political tragedy.  [ 4 cr. ]

Study of five or six poets from the following: Pound, Eliot, Stevens, Williams, Moore, Frost, Lowell, Bishop, Berryman, Ammons, Ashbery, Plath, Ginsberg, Merrill.  [ 4 cr. ]

The novel from Scott to Hardy. Among the works to be discussed: Scott's Waverley, Austen's Emma, Dickens's Bleak House, Eliot's Middlemarch, Bronte's Wuthering Heights, and Hardy's Jude the Obscure.  [ 4 cr. ]

Conrad, Woolf, Lawrence, Ford, Forster, Beckett, and other novelists of the period 1895-1956.   [ 4 cr. ]

From beginnings through the nineteenth century. Works by Brown, Cooper, Hawthorne, Melville, Twain, James, Howells, and others.   [ 4 cr. ]

From 1900 to the present, including Dreiser, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and selected contemporary novelists.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
C1 IND Boots EOP 260 W 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

Study of American postmodern fiction and culture since 1950; includes works by Atwood, Barthelme, Burroughs, Coover, DeLillo, Nabokov, Pynchon, and others.   [ 4 cr. ]

"Classics of British and American Literature" is designed to teach some of the classic books of English-language literature, including several of those most widely read in American high schools, as well as some authoritative literary criticism on each of these works, their authors and genres. The course will include selected poems, short stories, and essays, as well as novels and provide historical background for each work and biographical information about the author. We will look at some film versions of the works studied. The course explicitly introduces students to issues and controversies concerning the nature and purpose of literature curricula in schools. These include the idea of a "classic," a literary canon, and a "high" culture, as opposed to or different from popular, commercial, contemporary, and utilitarian uses and forms of literature. Texts: Shakespeare, Julius Caesar; Douglass, Narrative; Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter; Twain, Huckleberry Finn; Wharton, Ethan Frome; Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. Essays: Lincoln, Emerson,Thoreau. Short Stories: Hemingway, Anderson, Roth, Updike, Oates, Gordimer. Poetry: Whitman, Dickinson, Eliot, Frost, Owen, Larkin. Note: Course does not count for the English major.   [ 4 cr. ]

The heritage of Marlow and Shakespeare: the collapse of a historic world; Jacobean pessimism and decadence in the plays of Jonson, Webster, Middleton, Ford, and others.  [ 4 cr. ]

Major voices since 1980 who inherit and expand American poetic traditions, selected from Ashbery, Collins, Graham, Hecht, Komunyakaa, Kunitz, Pinsky, Wilbur, and others. Related readings in immediate predecessors such as Justice, Merrill. Opportunity for student choice of emerging poets.   [ 4 cr. ]

Introduction to major works of ancient and medieval European literatures that influenced later Continental, English, and American literature: the Bible, Homeric epic, Greek Tragedy, Virgil's Aeneid, and Dante's The Divine Comedy.  [ 4 cr. ]