CAS EN 220: Undergraduate Seminar in Literature Academic Year 2022-2023, Semester II

Fundamentals of literary analysis, interpretation, and research. Intensive study of selected literary texts centered on a particular topic. Attention to different critical approaches. Frequent papers. Limited class size.
Required of concentrators in English.
Satisfies WR 150 requirement.
Effective Fall 2019, this course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Writing: Research & Inquiry, Oral and/or Signed Communication, Research and Information Literacy.


Topics for Spring 2023:

Rotten English: The Vernacular in World Literature

This course will explore how various forms of English from around the world have found literary expression.  Reading so-called “dialect literature” closely will enliven us to the possibilities of language and help us understand the societies (including American ones) that produce it. Such reading will also help us master the standard written English that is the particular dialect of the university. Among our readings will be Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English by Ken Saro-Wiwa and selections from Rotten English: A Literary Anthology, which includes the work of Gloria Anzaldúa, Zora Neale Hurston, Uzodinma Iweala, Mark Twain, Irvine Welsh, and many others.

EN 220 A1 Walsh

TR 12:30 – 1:45p


Moral Choices

How have ethical or moral dilemmas been presented in literary works from different parts of the world? We explore how fictional characters in diverse historical and cultural settings have responded to such challenges. Authors we read may include Wordsworth, Conrad, Bronte, Rhys, Adiga, Coetzee.

EN220 B1 and C1 Krishnan

B1: TR 11:00a – 12:15p

C1: TR 9:30 – 10:45a


Enlightenment Philosophy and Literature

The English and European enlightenments are marked by a great variety of experimental writing. There are lunar voyages, spy novels, erotic tales, utopias and dystopias, survival narratives, satires, anti-romances, and novels–among many forms. These quasi-literary, quasi-philosophical works protected their authors from direct responsibility for what they expressed between the lines. They also popularized controversial ideas and questioned entrenched attitudes and dogmas. Writers attuned to problems of otherness–of race, class, gender, and irreligion–recast direct protest in weird fictions that enacted encounters between strangers in strange lands. Studying these works, we encounter some of the earliest English writings on abolition, feminism, and ecology. This seminar does not assume previous study of philosophy. It will introduce students to some of the primary documents of the Enlightenment by Descartes, Hobbes, Herbert of Cherbury, Spinoza, Charles Blount, Locke, and Hume, and then ask what it was about these ideas that helped produce an array of experimental fiction by Francis Bacon, Margaret Cavendish, Cyrano de Bergerac, Lucian (in 17th century translation), Aphra Behn, Ibn Tufayl (12th century Spanish-Arabic in 18th century translation), Daniel Defoe, Eliza Haywood, Jonathan Swift, Laurence Sterne, and others.

EN 220 D1 Prince

MWF 11:15a – 12:05p


Migrations to/in/of America 

Mythologized as a land of immigrants, the US is also a terrain scarred by the routes of forced migrations: indigenous removal, the internal slave trade, Dust Bowl migrations, and, more recently, the flight from rising tides. Yet, migrations are often accompanied by hope, the utopian imaginary of a better world. Reading across one hundred years of literature, we will explore migrations that forged and re-shaped the US – the Middle Passage, the Great Migration and the Great Depression – alongside smaller migrations – the journey of a family to bury their mother in a dissolving landscape, the journey of a young boy to visit his incarcerated father, the endless return of a dispossessed Spokane, or even the phantom migrations of an extinct species. We will examine the different ways we can move: to conquer, invade, escape, discover, enjoy or return. We will ask: What is the meaning of home when that home can no longer be returned to or has never existed? How does movement and travel change our relationship to the world around us – what we see, encounter, and how we imagine ourselves? What possibilities do migrations create even as they navigate alienation, loneliness and loss? Among others, we will read works by Frederick Douglass, Sherman Alexie, William Faulkner, Elizabeth Bishop, Janet McAdams, Doreen Massey, John Steinbeck and Jesmyn Ward.

EN 220 E1 Hopkinson

MWF 9:05 – 9:55a


EN 220 F1 Staff – Topic TBA

MWF 12:20 – 1:10p


Reading in the (Post)Apocalypse

The root of “apocalypse” comes from the Greek meaning “disclosure” or “revelation.” What is the role of literature at the end-of-the-world? This question will guide our readings this semester as we investigate how the apocalypse has been imagined in literature. Reading from a selection of novels and short stories, we will examine how authors depict zombies, eco-apocalypse, dystopias, and the world in ruins. We will ask: what does it mean to write in the face of destruction and so much uncertainty? What does this fiction show us about our own world? Authors include: Carmen Maria Machado, Colson Whitehead, Gary Shteyngart, Ling Ma, Louise Erdrich, Junot Díaz, and Emily St. John Mandel.

EN220 G1 Gil’Adí

MWF 1:25 – 2:15p