I designed this as a topic-centered first year composition course. In composition classes I pick as subjects topics aligned to either my hobbies (“New Media and Public Discourse”) or my academic interests (“Magical Writing”). With this syllabus, I wanted to encourage critical thinking about cultural materials through multimodal composition. Board games are excellent objects to pair with discussions of composition, as they select images, writing, and mechanics for particular purposes and audiences. My goal is to encourage students to learn how to write for the quickly burgeoning genres of academic and professional life: the essay, the e-portfolio, the lab report, the website, and the e-mail.
A course I taught in the spring semester of 2013. The last assignment of the course asked students to create an anthology of their own, where they introduced the poems, justified their relevance to the anthology’s subject or theme, and presented the poems in a certain manner. I think the assignment could be revised to incorporate interests more relevant to textual criticism and publication, but asking students to design their own research questions and audience helped their writing grow a lot.
A course template in one of my fields of expertise. With this course, I have thought hard about designing objectives and appropriate measures. This necessitated one major research project whose work is built up through several tiered assignments, a midterm exam, and a final presentation where students craft a resource for teaching a key trend or idea to someone who has not taken the course. I like this last assignment idea because it makes students connect what they’ve learned to a rhetorical goal where they have to be the expert.
A single-author course for the most eminent author of English medieval literature. This syllabus is still a work in progress, with the secondary readings from each edition not yet decided upon. Books were chosen instead of the more comprehensive Riverside because of their portability and lower cost. Other research aside, I have chosen to give the course a contextual framework using Derek Pearsall’s biography of Geoffrey Chaucer, because it provides enough context of what we know about Chaucer’s life while also discussing the problem of assuming that biography is an easy way to interpret these texts. I am especially proud of the research assignment described in brief here, which demonstrates my belief that advanced undergraduates can make small and focused contributions to what they study. I also have notes for how to adapt this to a more focused topic course for a senior seminar, like Chaucer’s Materials (Chaucer, materiality, and manuscript reading) or Chaucer and Desire (Chaucer, courtly love, gender, and sexuality).
English 251: British Literature to 1660
The first half of a survey of British literature. The bread and butter of many literature departments, this draft will be a template developed through conversations with the people who teach the survey at my home institutions.
English 389: Medieval and Early Modern Women Writers
A course highlighting women writers and key critical questions around their writing. Currently being drafted as well, the syllabus so far features the writing of Hrotsvitha, Marie de France, Mechthild von Magdeburg, Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, Christine de Pisan, Isabella Whitney, Mary Sidney Herbert, Elizabeth Cary, and Katherine Phillips. The medieval materials will largely be in translation. I am also keeping notes to scale it down to a 200-level course if necessary.
English 489: Renaissance, Early Modern, or Postmedieval
A senior seminar or graduate course. Where does the medieval end, and what replaces it? Answers to these questions are embedded in the discipline of English literature, the canon, and the organization of the “British survey.” Is the Renaissance a golden age for the individual? Is the early modern a point when key institutions of state, religion, colonialism, and education begin to resemble their modern counterparts? Is it a postmedieval time, where practices of chivalry, agriculture, crafts, and trade continue to shift and develop? This course will approach the models of literary and historical period posited by critics like Jacob Burkhardt, Lee Patterson, Ian Watts, Stephen Greenblatt, Madhavi Menon, Jonathan Goldberg, Carolyn Dinshaw, Karma Lochrie, and Eric Hayot. We will develop our understanding of these models with texts that are often seen as transitional or model, like the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer, John Skelton, Henry Surrey, Thomas Wyatt, Mary Sidney Herbert, and Edmund Spenser; the prose of Thomas Malory, Philip Sidney, and Thomas Nashe; the plays of sixteenth century cycle performances, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare. The fruits of this course will be a student-curated project highlighting threads or circuits of ideas in British literature from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century that general readers and teachers of literature can use to develop course units.