This course is
designed to introduce you to discipline of English studies today and provide
you with a solid foundation for your upper-division coursework. 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, non-fiction, life writing, and film. The course also
includes an exploration of the some of the basic concepts and methods in
rhetoric and cultural studies, and you will also be given a chance to do one
creative writing assignment as well as to discuss the creative process with
writers in our community whose works we will read.


One of our goals
will be to understand the aesthetic and social dimensions of written
communication in a number of historical periods. Throughout the semester, we
will be placing “classic” texts into dialogue with one another and
with present-day critical perspectives, emphasizing significant continuities
throughout the history of scholarship in literature and rhetoric and at the
same time as we are examining the critiques and transformations that basic
critical concepts and approaches have undergone in the course of their


Our particular
focus will be on the complex problem of interpretation. What critical concepts
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 and critical thinking. This course is not writing intensive,
but it is reading intensive.


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
  • 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
  • Use available
    resources, physical and online, to conduct thorough and responsible
  • Document sources
    accurately and responsibly in your writing in compliance with a standard
    academic style


Graded Work
Your grade for this class will be determined based on your performance on the

    Quizzes on assigned readings (20%)

    A précis on the assigned readings (10%)

    homework assignments and/or in-class writing exercises (10%)

    A short creative-writing assignment (10%)

    A midterm and final exam (50%)


Required Primary Texts

Subject to change. Please come to class before purchasing books.
(Available through Revolution Books, 2626 King Street)

    Alani Apio, Kāmau and Kāmau A‘e (dramas)

    Brandy Nālani McDougall, The Salt-Wind: Ka Makani Paʻakai(poetry)

    Toni Morrison, A Mercy (novel)

    Kimberley Peirce, Boys Don’t Cry (film)

    William Shakespeare, Sonnets (poetry)

    Sophocles, Oedipus the King(drama)