Return of the Pack Stay Informed
Main Content Region

Topics Courses

Fall 2021 Topics Courses, Department of English, CSUSB

ENG 3190-01. Disability Poetry and Poetics. MW 1:00-2:15. (Jessica Luck)  

The genre of poetry is often understood to be deeply connected to the body of the poet, to the rhythms of their breath and heartbeat. Poets emphasize the way that words sound in the ears, feel in the mouth, and look on the page; one poet has even said that a certain way of walking helps her write sonnets. But each person has a different way of walking, a different way of experiencing language in the embodied mind, which accounts in part for the many diverse styles of poetry we encounter today. These variations become particularly important when it comes to poetry written by people with disabilities. Disability, of course, is a social formation, playing across embodiment and cultural embedment, and poets with disabilities explore and enact this play in fascinating ways in their work. In this course, we will read and analyze poems that explore disability experience, but we will also consider the formal elements of the various poetics of disability, on the page and in performance. (After all, not every poem by a disabled person is about their disability.) We are at an exciting, seminal moment for the study of disability literature and disability as an identity category. Reading and applying some theoretical texts from the newly-emerging field of disability studies, we will consider how both disability and poetry work to critique normative ways of understanding embodiment and language itself.  


ENG 3240-01 Literatures of Mutual Aid. MW 9:00-10:15. (Yumi Pak) 

One of the reverberating phrases of the pandemic has been “mutual aid,” and you might have found yourselves wanting to learn not only what this is but where the concept comes from, how it differs from charity work and why it matters to us today. In this course, we will read both contemporary and historical texts that define, demonstrate and guide us through the various forms of mutual aid as they have been – and are being – practiced. We will read across periods and movements, ranging from Harriet Jacobs’ writing in the 19th century to Dean Spade’s in the 21st, to consider how mutual aid has always been an active communal and political practice, particularly within communities under threat from structural violence.

ENG 3600-01 Writing and Community Activism. TR 10:30-11:45 (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 

Community members writing proposals to the state legislature in order to address problems in their city in California  

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 in order to advocate for social change. 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 activism? How might you write with and for your community(s)? You are invited to add to these questions and to propose others. This class is an excellent opportunity for anyone considering careers in public schools, non-profit organizations, civil service, or government.  


ENG 4630-01 American Radicals:  Emerson, Thoreau and the Transcendental Rebellion. TR 10:30-11:45. (Chad Luck) 

New England Transcendentalism was arguably the most important intellectual and aesthetic movement to emerge in the first one hundred years after the American Revolution.  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and dozens of other writers, thinkers, and reformers came together to produce an incredibly vibrant and influential body of work, a body of work that dramatically altered the course of American literature. But the rise—and fall—of Transcendentalism is a story of conflict, a narrative of new ideas struggling to gain a hold against entrenched ways of seeing the world.  Transcendentalists fought with the established church, they fought with scientists and philosophers, they fought with poets and novelists, and, perhaps most of all, they fought with one another.

This class will map the fertile field of Transcendentalist conflict.  We will begin the semester considering the Romantic roots of the movement and reading some of the seminal texts by Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller and others.  As the quarter develops, we will turn our attention to other nineteenth-century American writers who were responding to Transcendentalism in all sorts of complicated ways.  So we’ll look at Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and Walt Whitman.  In doing so, we’ll chart the complex web of cultural and historical connections that radiates out from the center of Transcendentalist thought.


5130-01 Prose of Inquiry & Interrogation: Intro to Creative Nonfiction & Prose Poetry. TR 2:30-3:45. (Angela Peñaredondo).

What are the boundaries and the crossovers of creative nonfiction and prose poetry? How have they significantly informed each other? When these genres meet in the liminal space what becomes combustible? How can a writer move seamlessly between a body of prose poems and that of the hybrid essay or memoir? In this class, we will explore and emulate a diversity of approaches and strategies that take place within innovative and progressive prose poetry and CNF. We will study new developments within these genres, the writers who write them and how the meeting of these works create a space for reflection, radical inquiry and interrogation within the self and the collective.  


ENG 5140-01 Prison Education Project: Creative Writing For Change R 5:30-8:15 (Vanessa Ovalle Perez)

This class is offered in partnership with the Prison Education Project ( and is open to both graduate and undergraduate students. Students will work in collaboration with Dr. Vanessa Ovalle Perez to design and teach a course in a local prison. The class with 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). Please contact Dr. Ovalle Perez ( with questions.   


ENG 5140-02 Inside-Out Prison Education Program T 5:30-8:15.  (Alexandra Cavallaro)

This unique class is based on the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program (more details at

CSUSB students will take this course alongside incarcerated students at the California Rehabilitation Center. Together, all students will address social issues through engaged dialogue in order to explore the ways that people come together and use a variety of writing and meaning-making practices to take action for themselves and their communities. 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. This class is an opportunity to encounter incarcerated people as equals and work toward social change across frequently insurmountable barriers. 

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. 

Please email Dr. Cavallaro ( to enroll.


ENG 5150-01. Reading Old Books: TR 4:00-5:15. (David Marshall)

Why should we bother reading old books? Can we read pre-modern texts so that they address our current concerns? Some readers and scholar do. They use approaches that allow the reader’s own historical, social, and cultural context to inform the worlds and characters that they encounter in those old books. Other scholars think that approach has problems. They call it “presentism.” They argue presentism forces modern ideas, ideals, and ideologies onto historical artifacts that were never intended to deal with such modern issues. To these more conservative readers, reading old books is a way to learn about and appreciate (and sometimes critique) past periods and cultures, as well as the literary art that they produced. To them, past ideas, ideals, and ideologies are the interest. In this class, we will explore the tension between presentism and historical conservatism as a way of informing our own reading practices. We will look for a middle space that honors the past for its difference while allowing us to bring our own cultural moment into a meaningful dialogue with the old books we read. We will encounter some old books, some recent scholarship, and some texts (both literary and film) from contemporary popular culture that make the past speak to the present.


5150-02 British Mystery and Detection in Literature and Film. OL  (Luz Elena Ramirez)

In this seminar, we'll analyze detective stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, murder mysteries by Agatha Christie, and ghost stories by M. R. James.  Our seminar begins with an examination of the figure of the curator, dilettante, and academic researcher of James's ghost stories and how we, as an audience, participate in the act of inquiry and speculation; this, we will find, engages and to some extent empowers us as readers and, at the same time, we may find that discovery tends to push us away, to unhinge, unseat, and unsettle. 

We'll continue with the idea of inquiry in our study of detection and the murder mystery. We’ll investigate how Conan Doyle and Christie's murder mysteries enjoy a long-standing cultural currency, particularly in film and tv. We'll critically view ITV Granada's Sherlock Holmes series as portrayed by Jeremy Brett and compare selected episodes with Guy Ritchie's action-packed and edgy vision of Holmes and Watson, as portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law. We'll conclude our seminar with film adaptations of Christie's fiction, such as Viverious's brilliant *And then There Were None,* and debate to what extent Christie has inspired the clever, self-referential and metatextual, Knives Out.  Through student presentations, discussions and critical inquiry, we will explore what cultural work these stories and their film adaptations achieve. 


ENG 6020-01. Other Worlds: Speculative Fictions and Radical Worldmaking. T 5:30-8:15 (Yumi Pak)

As graduate students, you may be familiar with the concept of the Other, the ideological force which crafts and demands a thing “less than” against which the hegemonic one measures oneself. Rather than seeking assimilation into such a violent fold, however, numerous individuals and communities have long insisted on their very differences as sites for radical reimagining, the possibilities of a different world. Unsurprisingly, much of this has unfolded in works of speculative fictions and critical theory, in particular those written by women, queer writers and writers of color. In this seminar, we will read expansively across time – beginning with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and moving toward N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became – and fields – including, but not limited to selections from Kandice Chuh’s Imagine Otherwise: On Asian Americanist Critique and Ashon Crawley’s Blackpentecostal Breath. In doing so, we will take seriously the possibilities of radical worldmaking as both the driving force behind our authors’ cultural productions and the urgent impetus behind how we imagine a (post?) pandemic world.


ENG 6030-01. Environmental Humanities. R 5:30-8:15. (Martin Premoli) 

The Environmental Humanities (EH) is a diverse and emergent field of cross-disciplinary research that seeks to analyze and investigate the complex interrelationships between human culture and the environment, understood in its broadest sense. While natural scientists have long contributed toward our understandings of the environment, the severity our spiraling climate crisis demands an all-hands-on-deck approach—one that seriously engages with the questions raised and the dilemmas explored by scholars in the humanities. Scholars in the environmental humanities ask, for instance: How has aesthetics shaped perceptions of nature? In what ways are environmental issues deeply connected with issues of race, class, gender, ethnicity, and the legacies of slavery and colonialism? How can creative work help us imagine livable futures based on environmental and climatological justice?

Our course will be divided across three key units: theory, creativity, practice. In the first unit, we will familiarize ourselves with key debates in the environmental humanities. In the second unit, we will explore how aesthetic works mediate our understanding of the environment. And, in the third unit, students will develop creative/critical projects that explore the environmental dynamics of San Bernardino. Throughout the course of the semester, we will engage primarily with writers of color and thinkers from the Global South. They will be our guides as we navigate this fraught and complex eco-social terrain.


ENG 6340: Seminar in Literacy Studies: Queering Prison Literacies M 5:30-8:15. (Alexandra Cavallaro)  

This class will examine the intersections of literacy studies, queer studies, and mass incarceration. Collectively, these three fields acknowledge (in different ways) that the Prison-Industrial Complex (PIC) dramatically impacts society’s most marginalized, and that it uses literacy education as a component of its project of reform and punishment. The prison is as central to the work of literacy scholars (a field with a long history of commitment to questioning issues of power and privilege in language use) as it is to the political commitments of queer scholars and activists (whose projects critique injustices produced by normativity). Together, we will read a range of historical and contemporary texts by literacy scholars, critical prison scholars and activists, and queer theorists. These readings and conversations will set the stage for students to do their own scholarly inquiries and explorations that can be shaped by their interests and concentration.