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Topics Courses

Spring 2024 Topics Courses, Department of English, CSUSB

English 3620-01  Rhetorics of Identity: Abolitionist Feminisms
TR 2:30-3:45 pm (Hybrid) Classroom + Asynchronous Online
Prof. Angela Asbell

What does gender, racial, and economic justice look like when we refuse to seek solutions through the carceral system?  How can we envision a world that holds perpetrators of violence accountable while also seeking justice for survivors?

Feminist theorists and activist collectives (such as Mariam Kaba, Angela Davis, Ruthie Wilson Gilmore, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, Critical Resistance and more) make the argument that in the context of racial capitalism and mass incarceration, the Prison Industrial Complex is designed to reinforce hierarchies of oppression and violence; as such, these theorists ask us to imagine a new kind of society centered on care, accountability, and gender, racial, and economic justice.

Abolitionist Feminist theory as a body seeks to enact a prefigurative politics: enacting practical strategies to mitigate harm in the context of a larger vision for a more just society. This course explores the rhetorical approaches abolitionists use to interrogate ideologies of punishment and incarceration in order to construct meaningful alternatives around decriminalization, decarceration, and reinvesting in public health and well-being.


English 4400-01  Darkness Visible: The Evolution of American Gothic Literature
MW 2:30-3:45 pm
Prof. Chad Luck

This course will trace the development of the American Gothic tradition, broadly conceived, as it crosses the Atlantic and takes root in the soil of the New World.  We will begin by considering the Gothic's European origins as they appear in Horace Walpole's totally insane account of supernatural revenge in The Castle of Otranto.  Then we will chart the genre's transformation in eighteenth- and nineteeth-century American texts (Brockden Brown's Wieland, plus Poe, Hawthorne, Alcott, Spofford, and Wharton).  Finally, we will consider 20th- and 21st-century instantiations in novel and film (Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, etc.).

English 5130-01 Video Storytelling and Poetry
F 9:00-11:40 am
Prof. Chad Sweeney

In this creative writing course, students will make short films highlighting their poetry, fiction, memoir and/or hybrid writing. Students will work both collaboratively and alone to make short films of identity, place, culture, satire, comedy, social issues and dreams, including poetry videos, hometown and cultural documentaries, satirical ads, and short "fictional" films. This class will involve writing in various creative genres and will dive into techniques of filming, composition, acting, voice, directing and video editing. We will use all free software for I-Phone and Android phones as well as free editing software in our computer labs, so there is no need to worry about costs. And when ready, students may elect to post their films on various media platforms such as Instagram, Tik Tok and YouTube.   


English 5140-01 Community-Based Writing: Prison Education Project  
R 5:30-8:15 PM
Prof. 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, virtual orientation with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

English 5150-01 Stereotype Threat in City Comedy  
TR 1:00-2:15 pm UH 059
Prof. Jennifer Andersen

Theater over other varieties of literature is especially well suited to dramatize and examine social stereotypes because of how it puts the aesthetic valuation of human bodies on display. In dramatic performance characters are presented not only through their speech, but also through dress and deportment. Markers such as age, gender, health, and status are on full display. In this course we will examine Renaissance English drama for the reductive labels and stories that get attached to characters and do so with recourse to the sociological concept of ‘stereotype threat’. What stereotypes are operative, how do they play out, and is there any space for characters to evade or disrupt stereotypes that are attached to them? Course reading will include The Merchant of Venice, The Jew of Malta, Bartholomew Fair, The Alchemist, The Knight of the Burning Pestle, and Eastward Ho!

English 5150-60 To the Archive!
(Online asynchronous)
Prof. 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, images, 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.


English 6030-01  Myth, Intertextuality, and Popular Culture
R 5:30-8:15 pm
Prof. David Marshall

Mr. Wednesday, Percy Jackson, and Anubis have all strode across the page (both novel and graphic novel) and the silver (and LED) screen, returning us to ancient narratives associated with early cultures’ religious beliefs and deities. The phenomenon draws together to strands of study, mythology and intertextuality, within the frame of contemporary popular culture. The fact is, what we have in that intersection is the merging of theoretical questions about what constitutes mythology, how ancient religious narratives persist over time, and how texts that can continue to be associated with active religious belief can become objects of pop cultural fantasy. In this graduate seminar, we will explore the theoretical approaches to mythology and to intertextuality (specifically adaptation and appropriation) to analyze the ways in which this very particular form of cultural narrative is reinvented.


English 6310-01 Rhetorical Theory in Public and Technical Writing
R 5:30-8:15 PM (online synchronous)
Prof. Miriam Fernandez

This semester we will take a closer look at rhetorical theory and apply it to real world issues in public and technical writing. In the public sector, we will study how publics interact with media, with institutions, and with other groups of people. We will consider the push and pull of power as institutions and the public sphere(s) grapple with big issues such as sexual harassment, racism, and poverty. In the world of technical writing, we will consider issues of ethics, effective communication, and consider the inherently persuasive aspects of technical and professional writing. We will discuss more about the field of technical writing so you know what it takes to work there and what skills you will need to master.