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Topics Courses

Fall 2022 Topics Courses, Department of English, CSUSB

ENG 3600-01 MW 1:00-2:15 Writing in Prison Archives (Alexandra Cavallaro)

An archive refers to a place where records are kept, and yet archives are much more than simply collections of "stuff." What we choose to archive and how our archives are read speaks volumes about who holds and maintains power in society. In this course, we will examine the writing in three archival collections from prison settings: a girls’ prison in upstate New York in the early 20th century, a Japanese internment camp during World War II, and prison newspapers in the 1960s and 1970s. 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. Upon completion of this course, students will have a better understanding of scholarly conversations surrounding archival work; an understanding of the relationship between writing, identity, and social action; a familiarity with archival research methods; and the ability to conduct independent and collaborative archival research and (re)presentation.  


ENG 4630-01 TR 2:30-3:45 Stereotype Threat in City Comedy (Jennifer Andersen)

London city comedy allows its audience a glimpse of their own prejudices and assumptions by staging contemporary stereotypes of an array of visitors to and inhabitants of London. City-comedy playwrights routinely plot status-group rivalries, revealing tensions and antipathies in the social structure. The plays do not merely provide a reflection of seventeenth-century London social types, but also blur social distinctions and cause the audience to rethink traditional stereotypes and roles. A common plot structure involves competing members of disparate groups who attempt to trick one another. The prize might be a coveted bride, trade in goods, cash, social prestige, or advancement in public office. We will read a sequence of city comedies by a variety of London playwrights to examine what they tell us about social and economic competition and tensions.


ENG 5130-01 Literary Hybridities and (A)symmetrical Imaginary TR 5:30-6:45 (Angela Penaredondo)

This course takes an investigative and rigorous plunge into the layers of literary hybrid genre studies. This involves art-making and meaning-making; contextualizing artistic approaches and concepts in relation to the text we read. However, as Sulak continues “a hybrid work must seduce but it cannot consummate. Hybrid work must go forth and multiply, but it cannot simply combine.” Thus, we do not create art for art’s sake. This course requires critical thought and intersectional analysis (both verbal and written) in order to better understand and work through the materials we study and literary work we produce. To be open and curious to new texts and new ways of examination is mandatory. Because literary hybridity lives in an intersection of asymmetry and interdisciplinarity, where harmonious and opposing elements collide, you are required to experience the creative and challenging process of learning how to be a writer (and learner) within a space of uncertainty, nonlinearity and confrontation. I encourage all students to unlearn singular or binary notions of creative writing; to value the process, the research that supports process, and the expansive nature of the literary arts.


ENG 5150-01 MW 9:00-10:15 The Mixed-Race Woman in African American Fiction. (Bobby Smith).  

The focus of this course will be representations of women of mixed Black and white descent in African American fiction from the mid nineteenth century to the early twenty-first.  Our readings will include Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Nella Larsen’s Quicksand, Zora Neal Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Dorothy West’s The Wedding, Danzy Senna’s Caucasia, and Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half.  Via close-reading and the writing of formal essays, students will explore the liminal status of the mixed-race figure in literature.   


ENG 5150-02 MW 4:00-5:15 Extinction (Martin Premoli)

Over the course of the earth’s history, the planet has experienced five mass extinction events. Currently, scientists argue that we are in the midst of the sixth extinction (sometimes known as the Holocene extinction)—the first to be caused by human activity. Throughout the semester, we will explore how cultural forms understand and reconceptualizes the complexities of our present-day extinction event. Our animating questions will be: What are the stories we tell about extinction? Why have these stories changed and in what ways? What futures does extinction allow us to imagine, and how do we try to bring about these futures? Who is part of this future? Studying literature, film, visual art, scientific theory and reports, philosophy and other genres, we will examine how “extinction” has emerged and transformed in our cultural imaginaries, as well as think about its utility for science, politics, and art.