Intro to English Studies

ENG 320: Introduction to English Studies

TR 10:30–11:45

John David Zuern


This course is designed to introduce you to the multifaceted discipline of English studies and provide you with a solid foundation for future coursework in the discipline. We will focus on the methods and theories that are used in the production, analysis, interpretation, and assessment of a variety of texts, including works of fiction, poetry, drama, oratory, non-fiction, life writing, films, and other media. The course also includes a general introduction to key themes in composition studies and devotes time to an exploration of the basic concepts and methods in rhetoric. We will also spend some time on the theories and methods associated with cultural studies.

One of our goals will be to understand the aesthetic and social dimensions of written communication in a number of historical periods, emphasizing significant continuities throughout the history of scholarship in literature and rhetoric and at the same time examining the critiques and transformations that basic critical concepts and approaches have undergone in the course of their development.

Our particular focus will be on the complex problem of interpretation. What critical procedures allow us to grasp and to convey the meaning of what we read? How do we know that our interpretations are valid? What are the social and political consequences of our interpretations?

In addition to providing you with a background in English studies, this class is designed to build skills in careful reading, critical thinking, and lucid argumentative writing. Throughout the semester, we will explore the diverse careers in which you might apply these skills.

Required Primary Texts

  • Alani Apio, Kāmau and Kāmau A‘e (dramas)
  • Brandy Nālani McDougall, The Salt-Wind: Ka Makani Paʻakai (poetry)
  • Toni Morrison, A Mercy (novel)
  • Sophocles, Oedipus the King (drama)
  • Jose Antonio Vargas, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen (memoir)

Additional assigned readings will be provided.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course you should be able to

  • examine literary texts, films, orations, advertisements, and other forms of artistic and persuasive discourse critically, attending to details such as genre, narrative and poetic structure, style, figurative language, allusions, and logic
  • situate texts in their historical and social contexts, accounting for formal, stylistic, thematic, and other relevant features in relation to these contexts
  • identify and accurately employ key concepts in literary, rhetorical, and cultural theory
  • write clear, coherent analyses of literature, film, oratory, or other forms of discourse for an academic audience
  • use available resources, physical and online, to conduct thorough and responsible research
  • demonstrate sound argumentation in your writing
  • document sources accurately and responsibly in your writing in compliance with a standard academic style


Your grade will be based on your performance in the following assignments:

  • a mid-term and a final examination
  • an abstract of a scholarly article
  • a creative writing assignment
  • an in-class oral presentation
  • a research paper (we will break up the components into separate short assignments)