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Topics Courses

Fall 2024 Topics Courses, Department of English, CSUSB

English 3600 Community-Based Writing
MW 2:30-3:45 pm (Hybrid) Classroom + Asynchronous Online
Prof. Alexandra Cavallaro

In this course, we will examine the writing in three prison archives: a Japanese internment camp during World War II, prison newspapers from the mid-20th century, and a contemporary storytelling project from the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola). Through these collections, we will consider the role that reading and writing play in these institutions, how it is linked to the construction and maintenance of identity, and the social practices that surround reading and writing in these spaces. Together, we will ask: How might the form or content of archives invent, challenge, or narrate knowledge of the past? How do archives silence?  How might we (re)present archival collections to the community as a form of public knowledge-making? Our aim through all of this will be to study archives not as repositories of facts or fixed knowledge, but as contested sites of inquiry and disruption.

English 4400 Weird Fiction
MW 2:30-3:45 pm
Prof. Ann Garascia

Now symbolized by the tentacle, a flexible and mobile appendage common to invertebrate critters, Weird Fiction refers to a slippery literary genre combining horror, science fiction, and fantasy. Weird Fiction pushes aside conventional supernatural haunts to explore the cosmic terrors that render humanity insignificant and test the limits of our knowledge. This class will slither through the darkness of Weird Fiction, from the “Age of Haute Weird” (1880-1940) to the “New Weird” (1990s-now).  We will pursue many interlocking questions. What is weird: a genre, a movement, an aesthetic, a way of being? How might cosmic weirdness help us think about human identity? How does weird help us navigate an ever-expanding and changing more-than-human universe? Some featured authors are Victor LaValle, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, H.P. Lovecraft, Junji Ito, Leonora Carrington (and others), with secondary criticisms by Mel Y. Chen, Stacy Alaimo, and Anna Tsing.

Warning: this class includes cursed books, death spirals, fungus people, talking ooze, and, of course, tentacles.

English 5010 Media Performance Practicum: Transmedia Storytelling
TR 2:30-3:45 pm (Hybrid) Classroom + Synchronous Online
Prof. Gina Hanson

Transmedia storytelling is the telling of a single connected story across multiple media and/or digital platforms. This class teaches you how to plan, write, and create a uniquely interactive storytelling experience. (No specialized knowledge needed.) From digital comics to podcasts to social media content to short films, this course will teach you all you need to know in order to build a cohesive story delivered across a wide variety of 21st Century venues.

English 5130 Prose of Inquiry & Interrogation: Intro to Creative Nonfiction & Prose Poetry
TR 2:30-3:45 pm (Hybrid) Classroom + Synchronous Online
Prof. Angela Peñaredondo

This course will examine craft devices, aesthetics, and theories that exist in the unsettled terrains between creative nonfiction (CNF) and prose poetry. This course will look closely at contemporary and hybrid prose and CNF and investigate how these literary structures overlap to produce innovative, compelling prose.

What are the boundaries and 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 creates a space for reflection, radical inquiry, and interrogation within the self and the collective.


English 5150 Nathanael West and the Modernist Gaze on Hollywood
MW 9:00-10:15 am
Prof. Omar Moran

This course embarks on the following premise: movies matter as much as literature. Movies reflect the demands of individuals and societies alike, which make them laboratories for cultural, political and literary examination. Movies democratize the uses of the aesthetic with its ability to reach mass audiences in a condensed period of time, which, by the 1930s, drew the gaze of Modernist writers who sought to capitalize on this commercial and valuative potential. Authors such as William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Aldous Huxley and others wrote for the studios at various points in their careers, at times incorporating literary techniques embodied in their novels and poetry, and at other times shifting away from them. Of the authors that went to Hollywood, the most indelible is Nathanael West. His novel The Day of the Locust is still regarded as one of the best exemplars of the Hollywood facsimile, emblematic of the dreamland that populated the American imagination at a time of suffering and despair. His works reveal the need for social awareness beyond the literary medium, and the utility of satire to destroy comforting myths which made him beloved by literary communities, and an outcast by 1930s audiences. This course examines West as both a novelist and a screenwriter--a provocateur that navigated the diegetic spaces between the literary and cinematic. It will survey the cultural and historical significance of the 1930s and probe the intersections of literature and film in West’s works, aesthetically, stylistically, and prescriptively. In the process of studying the intertextual West, students will become skilled in literary and cinematic analysis and will utilize this knowledge to shape literacy of genre, setting, characterization, point of view, narrator/auteur, mise en scène, montage, lighting, camera angle, special effects, sound, speculative props, and other textual and visual devices. Moreover, students will identify the architectures of each artform as they overlap and diverge; explore the business of screenplay and adaptation from a textual, meta-textual, visual, and authorial perspective; consider structural and post-structural frameworks from imaginative, rhetorical and pedagogical positions, and will delineate the cultural imprint of literature and film in conjunction and apart. As if all these things weren’t wonderful enough, free popcorn will be served during screening days.

English 5150 “Out West” Intersectional Literary Perspectives of the American West
TR 10:30-11:45 am
Prof. 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.

English 6330 Alternative Rhetorics of the 19th and 20th Centuries
Thursday 5:30-8:15 pm
Prof. Alexandra Cavallaro

Our readings for this term represent but one possible way of constructing the history of rhetoric from the 19th century to today, exploring dominant rhetorical traditions and alternative rhetorical traditions simultaneously and thematically. Working collaboratively, we will consider a number of questions: What is “rhetoric” and how do social and cultural contexts shape its definitions over time? What does a particular rhetorical tradition reveal about what society considers important—and, by omission, what it does not want to discuss? What is the relationship between philosophies of rhetoric and practices of rhetoric? How and why are rhetorical traditions constructed? How do these constructions change over time? To what extent is this history relevant to the teaching of writing? By the end of this course, you can expect to be familiar with rhetorical terminology, theories, and traditions.

English 6510 Satire and Subversion
Tuesday 5:30-8:15 pm
Prof. Jennifer Andersen

This seminar will examine three famous examples of literary satire, parody, and burlesque with special attention to how they reject and debunk other literary forms and traditions. Presenting themselves as substitute literary programs, they provide a way of articulating a culture’s reassessment of its literary inheritance. The course will examine:

1. How Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Miller’s Tale” answers “The Knight’s Tale” (both read in modern English).

2. Francis Beaumont’s answer to anti-merchant satire in Jacobean city comedies in his avant-garde play, The Knight of the Burning Pestle.

3. Jonathan Swift’s critique of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) in Gulliver’s Travels (1729).

Each case involves not just genre criticism or differences in aesthetic taste, but also the recognition (and critique) of the ideological implications of specific literary representations. While their parodies can be hilarious, Chaucer, Beaumont, and Swift expose more than stale literary conventions; they also attempt the serious work of correcting assumptions and perceptions about social class, ethnicity, and nationality.