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Topics Courses

Spring 2021 Topics Courses, Department of English, CSUSB

ENG 3190-01.
Self and Community: Regulated to Emergent Bodies in Women of Color Literature
TR 9:00-10:15. (Suzanne Arakawa)

This course will include readings in fiction, drama, and nonfiction by African American, Asian American, Mexican American and Native American female authors. We will examine texts under the larger topic of “Self and Community” as well as look at connections among historical or cultural relays and how bodies in spaces and places respond to powerful forces--from coercive beliefs to coercive legalities. Students will also consider how the authors present racial and ethnic, gender and other cultural identifiers as a way to give voice to unique lives and experiences.

ENG 3240-01. Literature and Film.
TR 5:30-6:45. (Omar Moran)

Films draw the attention of millions each year, whether at the movie theater or through television and streaming services. Yet, what is it about films that make them so popular, and how do their operations inform our understanding of literature? This course examines the intersections of literature and film, aesthetically, stylistically and culturally. Throughout the course, students will become skilled in literary and cinematic analysis, and will utilize this theoretical and technical knowledge to shape literacy of genre, plot, setting, characterization, point of view, narrator/auteur, mise en scène, montage, lighting, camera angle, special effects, speculative props, and other textual and visual devices. Moreover, students will identify the architectures and techniques of each art form as they overlap and diverge; explore the business of screenplay and adaptation from a textual, meta-textual, visual and authorial perspective; consider how the study of literature and film could be approached from an imaginative, rhetorical and pedagogical context; survey the cultural imprint of literature and film in conjunction and apart; and, assess their own learning through discussion, debate, and researched work that fulfills the writing intensive designation of this course. Examined texts will range from the Modernist/Golden Era in literature and film (1930s) to the Contemporary period, and will encompass various genres executed by authors and directors, both domestic and aboard. Students will also select their own literary and cinematic texts to demonstrate what they have learned and can apply beyond the classroom.

ENG 5130-01. Memoir.
MW 10:30-11:45 (James Brown)

This is a course in memoir writing where you will learn to shape personal experience into stories employing narrative techniques such as scene, setting, character, dialogue, and conflict.  Where do we draw the line between imagination and memory, fact and fiction?  How do we recreate and mold the past into something more than a simple record of our lives? We will use representative works from the memoir genre to help guide us into giving form and meaning to this crazy, beautiful, sad, mad sprawling thing called life.

ENG 5130-02. World Building in Poetry and Fiction.
MW 4:00-5:15 (Chad Sweeney)

Whether we write realistic urban fiction, science fiction or fantasy, poetry of imagism, philosophy, traumatic memory or ecopoetics—whether we write coming-of-age memoirs or zombie invasions—the art of WORLD BUILDING is essential to the fulfillment of our writing projects. In this writing workshop, students will discuss how master writers create the world of their stories, novels and poems, and will explore and experiment with new writing techniques in order to heighten the sensory and imaginative experience for readers living inside their created worlds. In science fiction, world-building might mean new technologies, floating trees or invented languages; in poetry it might mean capturing the sounds of traffic, gunfire, or the blur of jasmine spilling over a back fence; and in memoir it might mean trying to portray a bilingual argument at the dinner table or the memory of falling asleep under a peach tree on the last day of war. This workshop will serve to develop a more thorough textured and dimensional perception and creation of the worlds of our writing, whether these worlds occur in realism, magical realism, fantasy, sci-fi or poetry. We will focus on developing scenes, settings, linguistic zones, cultural zones, vibrant living spaces of sense perceptions, memory and imagination, and we will write several new pieces for workshop in the spirit of experimentation and growth.   

ENG 5140-01. Prison Education Project.
R 5:30-8:15 (Alexandra Cavallaro)

This class is offered in partnership with the Prison Education Project ( and is open to both graduate and undergraduate students. Students will work with Dr. Cavallaro to design and teach a course (“Writing for Social Change”) in a local prison. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this will likely be done online via Zoom. The class with the incarcerated students will run for 7 weeks during the semester. The rest of the semester will be devoted to preparation and research on mass incarceration, prison education, and writing in/from prisons. This is a great class for anyone considering a career as a teacher or for anyone interested in the connections between social justice and education. 

Students will be able to choose from three different roles in the class based on their interests: 

  • Researchers will identify a question of interest surrounding prison education and will conduct a research based analytical or creative project throughout the semester.
  • Teachers will help to design and lead class activities for incarcerated students
  • Writers will complete reading and writing assignments based on the topic for the class 

All students must complete a mandatory, three-hour orientation with the CDCR (more information on dates to come). To enroll, please email Dr. Cavallaro ( with a brief description of why you are interested in the class and the name of one English professor who can serve as a reference.  (Note: The ENG 3300 pre-requisite for this class can be waived with permission of the instructor.) 


ENG 5150-01. To the Archive!
MW 4:00-5:15 (Vanessa Ovalle Perez)

An archive refers to a place where records are kept, and yet archives are much more than simply collections of paper documents, computer files, or objects. The writer Diana Taylor insists that “the archival, from the beginning, sustains power.” What we collectively choose to archive and how our archives are read speaks volumes about who holds and maintains power in society. The archive becomes a function of whose history is preserved and made accessible, and this privileging is influenced by the intersectional politics of race, gender, class, sexuality, etc. One way to democratize our society is to democratize our history and our archives, thus the call: to the archive! This course has two main purposes: (1) to familiarize students with archival research methods and empower them to pursue their own archival research questions; and (2) teach students to read and write about literary texts with historical context in mind. Students will be asked to do a project in which they analyze an archival text that has not been written about by contemporary researchers. The course will be interdisciplinary, focusing on the interconnectedness of history, literature, archival science, and media studies. 


ENG 5150-02. What Remains: The Literature and Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe.
TR 10:30-11:45 (Chad Luck)


More than perhaps any other nineteenth-century American writer, Edgar Allan Poe continues to exert an outsized influence on the contours of contemporary mass culture.  Poe’s diverse body of writing persistently inspires writers, filmmakers, artists, and musicians to produce new work in dialogue with his old masterpieces.  This course will investigate the mystery of Poe’s continuing cultural resonance by reading a range of his writings (stories, poetry, essays, and his one novel) in relation to twentieth- and twenty-first century responses and adaptations.  So, for instance, we will read The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and then follow it up with Yann Martel’s oblique rejoinder, the 2001 fantasy novel, Life of Pi.  We will consider some of Poe’s most celebrated short stories as they relate to twentieth-century film adaptations.  And we will explore the remarkably robust body of visual art and popular music that has been inspired by Poe’s writing.  Throughout the course, our aim will be to chart the growth of “Edgar Allan Poe” as a cultural phenomenon, a fertile figure of the modern(ist) imagination and a nexus of high and low culture.

ENG 5150-80. Conspiracism, Paranoia and Panic in Post-War American Literature. 
TR 4:00 (PDC) (Steve Lehigh)

 Perhaps you are wondering how American culture became pervaded by paranoia and conspiracy theories? If so, this course is for you. In “Self-Reliance,” Emerson wrote that “society everywhere is a conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members,” a compact statement of the rugged (often masculinist) individualism in American culture and of a certain anxiety about plots to subvert personal agency. This course explores the way the postmodern culture of postwar America challenged that strain of individualism, with its notion of strong personal agency, producing a “paranoid” literature of conspiracism and panic. Beginning with some touchstones (like Emerson) that posit the free liberal subject, our course will follow the advent of various paranoid styles in postmodern American literature. We’ll historicize our literary inquiry by reading excerpts of influential sociological accounts of post-war culture, such as Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders, Hoover’s Masters of Deceit, Whyte’s Organization Man, Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man, Wiener’s Cybernetics, and Human Use of Human Beings, Reich’s The Greening of America, Ellul’s Technological Society, Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd. We’ll also read relevant theories of the postmodern and of paranoid interpretation. Readings will include some, but not all (!), of the following literary texts: 

  •  Kathy Acker Empire of the Senseless 
  • Margaret Atwood Bodily Harm (Canadian, yes, but talking also about Americans) 
  • William S. Burroughs The Adding Machine, Naked Lunch 
  • Don DeLillo White Noise, Running Dog, Mao II  
  • Joan Didion The White Album 
  • William Gibson Neuromancer 
  • Joseph Heller Catch-22 
  • Diane Johnson The Shadow Knows  
  • Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 
  • Norman Mailer American DreamExecutioner’s Song 
  • Joseph McElroy  Lookout Cartridge 
  • Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead 
  • Thomas Pynchon Gravity’s Rainbow 
  • Ismael Reed Mumbo Jumbo 
  • Kurt Vonnegut Sirens of Titan 
  • Sol Yurick Richard A 

ENG 5270-01. Language, Race, and Ethnicity.
MW 5:30-6:45 (Wendy Smith)

In this course, we will examine how race comes up in everyday conversation, blogs, listservs, and TV and radio talk. We will look at how we frame race in all types of discourse. We will examine how this talk reflects both personal and systemic racism.

ENG 6510-01. Geographies of Multiracial Britain.
M 5:30-8:15. (Bobby Smith)

In this seminar we will read fiction and literary criticism that addresses the formation and expression of multiracial identities in Britain from the postwar period to the post 9/11 era.  The national identity of England was radically altered with the migration of people from its former colonies.  While most of the immigrants settled in London, they also lived in northern industrial cities.  More recently, asylum seekers have been located in remote rural areas.  The course will address questions of home and diaspora through works that present different locales of these new British citizens.  Authors may include Sam Selvon, Hanif Kureishi, Caryl Phillips, Ian McEwan, Roddy Doyle, Helen Oyeyemi, and Zadie Smith.


ENG 6510-02. “Out West” Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality in Literature of the American West.
T 5:30-8:15 (Vanessa Ovalle Perez)

The foundational fantasy of the American West is one that has continually marginalized and misunderstood the identities and literary contributions of women, the LGBTQIA+ community, and people of color. Problematically termed the old west or frontier, this era is rooted in the imagery, culture, and archive of a period spanning the nineteenth century through the turn of the twentieth century. During this time, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo marks not only the end of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), but also the beginning of massive ethnic and social fluctuation in the territories of California, Arizona, Nevada, and Texas. This course understands the old west not as a wilderness tamed by way of treaty and colonization, nor simply as a land which changed hands from Latinx to Anglos. Instead, this course proposes a vision of the American West as a transnational contact zone of clashing ethnic groups, languages, and social norms in terms of gender and sexuality. Challenging the preconception of western expansion as an exclusively white, male, and heterosexual endeavor, the class will attend carefully to the intersectional roles of people of color in socially and aesthetically resisting, transforming, and constructing western culture—paying special attention to the unique points of contact between Latinx, indigenous, Asian, immigrant, and Black communities. This class will expose students to archival research methodologies and empower them to pursue their own research questions. By working with numerous primary sources from the nineteenth and early-twentieth century, this class will help students develop strong methods and strategies for analyzing and contextualizing archival writings. 


ENG 6570-01. Community Writing Pedagogies.
W 5:30-8:15. (Alexandra Cavallaro)

What might the following groups have in common?

  • Incarcerated people participating in a college-in-prison program in Illinois
  • Immigrants helping each other learn to navigate citizenship documents in Massachusetts
  • Volunteers answering letters from and sending books to queer and trans incarcerated people in Wisconsin 
  • Refugee youth participating in an after school program in Michigan
  • Residents documenting community histories of the civil rights movement

All of these people are engaged in community writing, a practice where people come together and use a variety of literacy practices in order to take action for themselves and their communities. Community writing also offers opportunities for people from places of privilege (such as college students and faculty) to support the learning, writing, and public voices of others. Through engaging with case studies, outside speakers, and archival documents, this class will explore the ways that a variety of communities write for social change, and we will think about the role that reading, writing, and meaning-making plays in various kinds of community-based work. Together, we will ask: what does community writing look like? What forms does it take? What are the ethical considerations involved in community writing? How is writing used in service of social change? How might you write with and for your community(s)?