Introduction to English Studies

Class Format: Online Synchronous

TR 12:00 – 1:15


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, and interpretation of a variety of texts, including works of fiction, poetry, drama, oratory, non-fiction, life writing, films, and other media. The course also includes an introduction to the fundamental concepts of rhetoric and methods of rhetorical analysis.

One of our goals will be to understand the aesthetic, cultural, and political dimensions of written communication in different historical periods and cultural contexts, tracing 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.

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, and 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

Required Texts

Alani Apio, Kāmau, Palila Books, 1994.

Brandy Nālani McDougall, The Salt-Wind: Ka Makani Paʻakai, Kuleana Oiwi Press, 2008.

Toni Morrison, A Mercy, Vintage, 2009.

Timothy Synder, On Tyranny: Twenty Questions from the Twentieth Century, Tim Duggan Books, 2017.

Other readings will be available online.


Your grade for this class will be based on your performance on the following assignments:

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