English

Chair: Christopher Leise

Sharon Alker

Scott Elliott (on sabbatical, 2024-2025)

Adam Gordon

Jessica Hines

Gaurav Majumdar

Mary Raschko

Katrina Roberts

Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel

Johanna Stoberock

Alzada Tipton (on sabbatical, 2024-2025)

Althea Wolf

 

Affiliated Faculty:

Lydia McDermott, Rhetoric, Writing, and Public Discourse

 

About the Department

The courses in English provide opportunities for the extensive and intensive study of literature for its aesthetic interest and value and for its historical and general cultural significance. English courses also provide instruction and practice in writing: some in scholarly and critical writing, others in creative writing.

Learning Goals

  • Major-Specific Areas of Knowledge
    • Upon graduating, English majors will be able to perform sophisticated close readings of literary texts, applying genre-specific literary terminology in demonstrating their understanding of the relationship between form and content. They will be able to demonstrate their familiarity with various approaches to literary studies, to identify the effects of literary allusions, and to investigate the relationship between a text and the culture in which it was written.
  • Accessing Academic Community/Resources
    • They will be able to make good use of library resources and to read and explore literary texts independently.
  • Critical Thinking
    • They will have developed sensitivity to literary aesthetics and style and will be able to analyze texts and discourses in a variety of media—written, performed, visual, and oral; they will be able to synthesize a broad range of information bearing upon the interpretation of these discourses.
  • Communication
    • They will be able to think, speak, and write intelligently about what texts do in their various functions. They will speak and write clearly, confidently, persuasively, and with nuance.
  • Research Experience
    • They will be capable of writing an extended literary analysis paper supported by primary and secondary research. They will be capable of identifying literary questions, posing an hypothesis about how the question might be answered, and researching the question through the analysis of primary sources and synthesis of secondary sources.

Distribution

For students who started at Whitman College prior to Fall 2024, courses in English count toward the humanities distribution area with the following exceptions:

Humanities or cultural pluralism: 201, 245, 246, 270, 376, and other courses as specified in the course description.

Fine arts: 150, 250, 251, 252, 320, 321, 322, and 389.

For students who start at Whitman College in Fall 2024 or later, please refer to the General Studies section for a full list of courses that count toward each distribution area.

Programs of Study

Courses

Credits 4

The writing of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Experience not necessary, but students should expect to complete weekly exercises, share work aloud, and write responses for peers. In addition, extensive reading and analysis of pieces by established writers in a variety of literary forms.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Creative Production (CPROD)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Fine Arts (FI DIST)
Credits 4

A study of the forms, techniques, and traditions of a shape-shifting genre that can be understood as arising from the long tradition of the “essay.” Creative Nonfiction includes forms as diverse as the lyric essay, memoir, profile, critique, rant, and review; inspired and researched, it is a form that transforms lived experience into literary art. The course will explore the writings of literary essayists from antiquity to the present.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

A study of the forms, strategies, voices, and visions of  poetry across time. An ever-changing art form related to song, poetry predates literacy; today, through imagery, implication, indirection, and other means, poems continue to offer writers and readers ways to give voice to the ineffable. We will examine how poetic form and content interact, and consider the unique powers and possibilities of poetry’s metaphoric language to address all aspects of life.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

A study of the forms, techniques, and traditions of fiction across time.  Fiction has been said to be a means of imaginative escape, a way to gain deeper understanding of the external world, “the lie through which we tell the truth,” and a way to acquire a deep empathy for others.  This course will explore the complex power of fiction in a variety of manifestations, from the short story to the novella and the novel.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

A study of plays as literary texts, examining the forms and techniques of drama across cultures and time periods. We will consider the dynamics of reading (as opposed to watching) plays and will discuss how dramatic texts are developed and interpreted through performance. 

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

The study of selected texts in the humanities, with particular attention to literature written in English, offered at the introductory level and designed to fulfill the humanities distribution requirement. These courses are writing intensive (involving at least 18 pages of formal, graded writing assignments and including instruction in academic writing) and involve a substantial amount of reading. Subjects for the section change from semester to semester and year to year in order to provide students with a variety of choices for literary study at the 200-level. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

How do displacement, difference, and transfer mark the work of migrant writers? What kinds of cultural contests, exchange, violence, and absorption do these works portray as products of migration? How do they show people negotiating these processes at times of massive social and technological change? How do the aesthetics of border-crossing writers themselves reflect the conditions of migration? We will address such questions through a study of anxious introspection, contempt, anger, melancholy, and irony, as well as attitudes to cultural confusion and mixture, in works by Joseph Conrad, Elizabeth Bishop, George Lamming, Derek Walcott, Salman Rushdie, Colm Tóibín, Edward Said, and Edwidge Danticat. May be taken for credit toward the major's "Underrepresented Literatures" requirement.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

From Lysander’s “The course of true love never did run smooth!” to Lady Macbeth’s “Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,” Shakespeare’s plays and poems grapple with erotic love, human sexuality, and the complex workings of gender in human experience. Writing for the English stage during a period when female roles were played by male actors, Shakespeare often explored the ways in which gender is constructed and performed, yet his writings also include archetypes of masculinity and femininity; and he fashions lovers whose passions and desires range from the sublime to the ridiculous. The course will introduce students to college-level study of Shakespeare’s poetry and plays, with particular attention to the themes of love, sex, and gender. May be taken for credit toward the Gender Studies major or minor.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Writing Across Contexts (WAC)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

“What ish my nation? Who talks of my nation?” asks the enraged Irish captain MacMorris, speaking in dialect as he confronts the Welsh captain Fluellen in Shakespeare’s Henry V. Not only in his history plays, but in his comedies, tragedies, and romances, Shakespeare explores both how race, ethnicity, and nationality are constructed and how these concepts shape individual identities and social interactions. Shakespeare not only worked to define what it meant to be “English” in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, but helped to shape the English language itself—which only a tiny percentage of the world’s population spoke at the time he wrote his plays—into England’s most powerful global export. The course will introduce students to college-level study of Shakespeare’s poetry and plays, with particular attention to the themes of race, nationality, and power. May be taken for credit toward the Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies major or minor.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” This mock proverb tempts Twelfth Night’s Malvolio to fantasize about social mobility—an ambition met with comic but humiliating ridicule. Across his works, Shakespeare interrogates the social, economic, and gendered structures that stratified early modern communities. He examines various modes of service, leadership, and artistry, including the craft of poetry. Mixing high art with realism and humor, he labors to engage diverse audiences, ranging from those who stand in the yard to those so wealthy that they can pay to sit on the stage. The course will introduce students to college-level study of Shakespeare’s poetry and plays, with particular attention to the themes of work, wealth, and status.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Writing Across Contexts (WAC)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4
Faculty
Hines

“Who can control his fate?” Othello asks in his last moments upon the stage, after falling prey to Iago’s manipulations and punishing his wife for imagined sins. Throughout his plays, Shakespeare repeatedly grapples with questions related to belief and power. In tragedy, comedy, and romance, he explores the boundaries between the worldly and the supernatural, as well as the limits of free will. Interweaving politics and religion, ethics and philosophy, Shakespeare’s texts confront audiences with the existential and moral dilemmas that make us human. The course will introduce students to college-level study of Shakespeare’s poetry and plays, with particular attention to the themes of faith, fate, and virtue.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

A survey of writing by indigenous peoples of the present-day United States. This reading-heavy course will focus its attention on a small number of distinctive indigenous literary traditions, possibly (but not necessarily) including the Iroquois confederacy of the U.S. Northeast and southeastern Canada, the Creek nation of the U.S. Southeast, the Kiowa peoples of the Southwest, and the peoples of the Columbia Plateau. Aside from reading, assignments will include exams and formal essays. May be taken for credit toward the Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies major or minor. May be taken for credit toward the major's "Underrepresented Literatures" requirement.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

A study of the forms, techniques, and traditions shared by Black writers in colonial America and the U.S. from the earliest known writing in the Eighteenth Century to the present. Topics will include the way Black writers (especially enslaved and formerly enslaved persons) forged spaces for expression in the American public sphere, debates about the appropriate qualities and purposes of “Negro Literature” in the early 20th century, the innovations and explorations of the Black Arts Movement, and representations of history and identity pertaining to African Americans in the wake of the Civil Rights Act. Aside from reading, assignments will include exams and formal essays. May be taken for credit toward the Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies major or minor.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

An intermediate workshop in fiction writing offering students the opportunity to expand their knowledge of fundamental techniques and important works in the genre. Students will write original short stories and experiment with strategies and structures through exercises meant to increase their awareness of, and proficiency in, the elements of fiction. Extensive analysis of peer work and important established models in the genre. Weekly assignments in reading and writing to develop critical and creative faculties. Final portfolio of creative and critical work.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Creative Production (CPROD)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Fine Arts (FI DIST)
Prerequisites

English 150; or consent of instructor.

Credits 4

An intermediate workshop in poetry writing, intended to expand knowledge of fundamental techniques, and to familiarize students with many important writers in the genre. Students will have the opportunity to write and revise poems based on prompts as well as on their own. There will be weekly reading and journal exercises, and extensive analysis of peer work and established models to develop critical and creative faculties. Final portfolio of creative and critical work.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Creative Production (CPROD)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Fine Arts (FI DIST)
Prerequisites

English 150; or consent of instructor.

Credits 4

An intermediate workshop in creative nonfiction writing, intended to expand knowledge of fundamental techniques, and to familiarize students with many important writers in the genre. Students will write original essays and experiment with strategies and structures through exercises meant to increase their awareness of, and proficiency in, the elements of nonfiction. Extensive analysis of peer work and important established models in the genre. Weekly assignments in reading and writing to develop critical and creative faculties. Final portfolio of creative and critical work.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Creative Production (CPROD)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Fine Arts (FI DIST)
Prerequisites

English 150; or consent of instructor.

Credits 4

Courses will cover one area of underrepresented literatures in depth. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

A course in practical criticism designed to introduce students to some of the approaches that can be used in literary analysis.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

An intensive advanced workshop in fiction. Students will continue to develop their proficiency in fiction writing by reading deeply and analyzing established models, completing exercises, producing drafts of original stories and revisions, participating in discussions of peer work, and giving presentations based on close readings. Final portfolio of creative and critical work, which may include some consideration of where the student’s work fits into a fiction-writing tradition.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Fine Arts (FI DIST)
Prerequisites

English 250 or equivalent; and consent of instructor.

Credits 4

An intensive advanced workshop in poetry. Students will have the opportunity to develop proficiency in poetry writing by completing exercises, producing drafts and revisions of poems for peer discussions, reading deeply and analyzing established models, and actively participating in rigorous and constructively critical discussions. Weekly poem assignments, as well as reading and journal exercises. Final portfolio of creative and critical work.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Fine Arts (FI DIST)
Prerequisites

English 251 or equivalent; and consent of instructor.

Credits 4

An intensive advanced workshop in “the fourth genre,” creative nonfiction. Students will have the opportunity to experiment with form, to address a range of subjects in weekly creative nonfiction pieces, and to read deeply and analyze established models as well as peer work to develop important critical faculties. Students will be expected to participate actively in rigorous, constructively critical discussions. Weekly exercises, as well as reading and journal assignments. Final portfolio of creative and critical work.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Fine Arts (FI DIST)
Prerequisites

English 252 or equivalent; and consent of instructor.

Credits 4

Courses designed to introduce students to the literature and culture of England in each of six literary periods: the Middle Ages (English (336), the Renaissance (English 337), the Restoration and 18th Century (English 338), the Romantic Period (English 339), the Victorian Period (English 340), and 1900-Present (English 341). Also included in this category are courses covering in depth particular topics in pre-Romantic English literature (English 335). The specific focus of each course will vary from year to year. Topics in a particular literary period may be taken a total of two times, but the second will count as an elective. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

This course examines how Black writers and filmmakers use fictionalized narratives of American history as a means to contest predominant narratives of African Americans’ past. We will discuss how African American artists highlight hitherto obscure and whitewashed events, and call attention to the forms by which largely white-authored representations of the past misrepresent or exclude Black histories and memories. We will pay particular attention to community flourishing independent from as well as despite institutional structures that pose substantial challenges to community cohesion, intergenerational wealth accumulation, and positive conceptions of Black selfhood in historically racist formulations of U.S. nationalism. Writers and films may include Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Charles Johnson, Paul Beatty, Danzy Senna, as well as Bamboozled, Judas and the Black Messiah, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and others. Fulfills the English Major “Underrepresented Literatures” requirement. May be elected for credit toward the Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies major and minor.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

One special topics course, English 347, with a topic that will vary every year, will examine one area of American literature in depth. English 348 covers early and middle American literature. English 349 covers rotating Variable Topics on major movements in modern and contemporary American writing in alternating years: one focuses on literary representations of the built environment, and the other considers literature influenced by or addressing Christianity and Christian themes. Topics in a particular literary period may be taken a total of two times, but the second will count as an elective. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

A study of medieval England’s most famous, influential, and humorous poet. Course texts will include The Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde, and select shorter poems. Students will learn to read texts in the original Middle English. May be taken to count toward the major’s “Early Period British Literature” requirement.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

A course on the dramatic and non-dramatic works of William Shakespeare, the course will focus on close reading of the primary texts, with attention to questions arising both from the Early Modern English culture in which they were written and to their cross-cultural significance in later literature, Theater, and film. The course will vary from year to year and will be organized by theme. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

The writings of John Milton (1608-1674) played a crucial role in shaping what we now know as Modernity. We will study his poetry and prose, with particular attention to his ground-breaking political treatises and his enormously influential epic Paradise Lost.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

An intensive study of one influential English-language author, designed to include texts from the beginning to the end of that writer's career. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

This course introduces students to arguments about the shaping, the effects, and the interpretation of literature. Themes for the course will vary, but among the questions we will consistently examine are the following: Through what kinds of assumptions do we read literature? How do characters in literary texts themselves read? How do these texts interpret what they represent? We will devote approximately equal time to the study of theoretical texts and to reading literary works through theoretical lenses. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

This course will examine texts from former colonies in South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Australia. We will study how these works negotiate the past and present, and how they explore multiple forms and conditions of colonialism and postcolonialism. The course will discuss works of literature, as well as theoretical and critical texts. Offered annually. May be taken for credit toward the major’s “Underrepresented Literatures” requirement. May be taken for credit toward the Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies major or minor. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)

This course examines the rhetorical construction of bodies as well as the ways in which bodies are often used rhetorically. In order to carry out this examination, we will apply a variety of critical rhetorical lenses to written and visual texts. We will be particularly concerned with the intersections of social factors such as gender, race, class, sexuality, and disability and the ways in which these intersections are written on our bodies. We will read texts by classical and contemporary theorists and authors, such as Hippocrates, Quintilian, Judith Butler, Kenneth Burke, Patricia Hill Collins, Debra Hawhee, and Robert McCruer. This course will be writing intensive. May be taken for credit toward the Gender Studies major or minor or the Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies major or minor. May be elected as Rhetoric, Writing & Public Discourse 380.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Writing Across Contexts (WAC)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

Studies of English or American literature and language generally not considered in other courses offered by the department. The specific material will vary from semester to semester. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

Studies of literary craft not considered in other courses offered by the department, intended for upper-level creative writing students. Active participation in rigorous discussions and intensive workshops expected. Final portfolios of creative and critical works. Specific material will vary from semester to semester. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Fine Arts (FI DIST)
Prerequisites

English 250, 251, or equivalent; and consent of instructor.

Credits 1 Max Credits 4

Directed reading and the preparation of written work on topics suggested by the student. The project must be approved by the staff of the department. Thus, the student is expected to submit a written proposal to the intended director of the project prior to registration for the study. The number of students accepted for the work will depend on the availability of the staff. Independent Study may not count as one of the electives fulfilling minimum requirements for the major or minor without prior written approval of the English department.

Prerequisites

Consent of instructor.

Credits 4

Seminars require a substantial amount of writing, a major written project of at least 15 pages involving research in secondary sources, and oral presentations. Topics will vary from semester to semester. Open to junior and senior English majors only. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Prerequisite Courses
Credits 4

Designed to further independent projects leading to the preparation of an undergraduate thesis in creative writing. The creative thesis, an option for a student of exceptional ability in creative writing, will be a substantial, accomplished collection of work in a particular genre. Limited to, but not required of, senior English majors.

Prerequisites

Approval of a proposal submitted to the English department prior to registration by a date designated by the department. For full details, see the English Department Handbook.

Credits 4

Designed to further independent research projects leading to the preparation of an undergraduate thesis. The creative thesis, an option for a student of exceptional ability in creative writing, will be a substantial, accomplished collection of work in a particular genre. Limited to, but not required of, senior English majors.

Prerequisites

Approval of a proposal submitted to the English department prior to registration by a date designated by the department. For full details, see the English Department Handbook.

Credits 4

Designed to further independent critical and creative research projects leading to the preparation of an undergraduate thesis. The creative thesis, an option for a student of exceptional ability in creative writing, will be a substantial, accomplished collection of work in a particular genre. Required of and limited to senior honors candidates in English. The candidate will be assigned to an appropriate thesis advisor, depending upon his or her field of interest.

Prerequisites

Approval of a proposal submitted to the English department prior to registration by a date designated by the department. For full details, see the English Department Handbook.