Because I use alternate grading methods like contract grading, I get to be more like your coach than your judge, jury, and executioner. I want you to be the best version of yourself that you can be right now, and I’ll motivate you to do that, but I don’t use overly punitive methods to do so. In my classes, you’ll be part of an ongoing dialogue: what’s working? what’s not? what do we need to be successful? This means you’ll be asked to take greater agency over your learning, and the students who do best in my courses are self-motivated and able to articulate what they want out of the semester’s learning objectives. This isn’t a situation where you’ll be given a list of rules to follow and you memorize them, nor am I going to motivate you with a stick. It’s mostly carrots over here. I hope you’ll be up for the challenge, and trust me it’s worth the shift in how we think about learning.
My PhD is in eighteenth-century studies, so most of my courses have their “home base” in English literature from 1660-1830. However, I bring in a lot of different methodologies to the study of this literature and history. Different courses will cover queer theory, gender studies, feminism, critical race studies, Marxism, psychoanalysis, or thinking about materiality such as how books are made or how we could think about literature as data. Here are course descriptions of my current set of courses (note, though, that these could change at any time; I’m always revamping things):
ENG 2883H Women Writers (General Education area C2)
Highlights: monsters, queerness, femininity, folk lore, graphic novels, film analysis
This course is for students enrolled in the honors college. The monstrous feminine is an archetype that extends back to the origins of literature, encompassing stories such as Medusa in Greek mythology, Grendel’s mother in Beowulf, the Hindu goddess Kali, Lilith in Judaic mythology, the queen in Snow White, the Salem witch trials, and folk tales like La Llorona and the maiden, mother, and crone. In this course, we explore instances of the monstrous feminine largely written by women across different cultures, time periods, religions, and genres. Students will engage with a diverse set of texts including films, graphic novels, and games that ask them to think about gender, sexuality, horror, and pleasure.
ENG 3000 Intro to Literary Studies
Highlights: research methods, writing instruction with multiple rounds of revision, citation, focus on single text / author for whole semester
This course orients students to literary studies as a discipline and develops the skills necessary for advanced practice. It is designed to bridge lower- and upper-level courses by providing instruction in reading, analyzing, writing, revision, and conducting research. As we model what advanced literary studies looks like, students will be asked to think about their practices and how the skills that we develop apply to their career goals. For our semester project, we will focus on Daisy Johnson’s Everything Under, a genderqueer retelling of the Oedipus myth with flavors of Hansel and Gretel. We will work through effective reading approaches, research methods, analytical techniques, and academic writing and revision. We will learn how to find, understand, and work within scholarly conversations about this text and its intertextual references and relevant discourses such as queer theory and gender theory. The final project will be a researched literary analysis, written through iterative drafts with peer and instructor feedback.
ENG 3010 Literary Theory and Cultural Studies
Highlights: Frankenstein, structuralism, Marxism, historicism, psychoanalysis, intersectional feminism. Historically, this is the class I teach students love the most, so don’t be scared off by the title!
This is an interdisciplinary survey that builds a foundation in literary and cultural studies. Our goal is to understand what theory is, how it influences our ways of thinking about literature as a discipline, and its role in the analysis of literary texts. The course has two main sections, each exploring a different way of looking at theory. We begin with a survey of the breadth of different kinds of theoretical traditions by reading representative samples from structuralism, Marxism, historicism, and psychoanalysis and using them to interpret Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). Then, students will take a deep drive into one theoretical discourse—intersectional feminism—and write a theoretical reading of a text of their choosing. This class will be challenging. It involves rigorous in-class discussion, engagement with complicated reading, and application of ideas to new texts and formats. Through our engagement with intersectional feminism, your own principles, if not thoroughly challenged or rewritten, will at least become more fully conscious in relation to current thinking about ourselves and the values we share.
ENG 4110 Technologies of Writing (General Education area C3; Poly-X Course)
Highlights: hands-on weekly workshops, going to special collections, learning to use the Maker Studio, researching “dead” media, creative final project, learn to make a book
This course explores the progression of technologies around writing and communication, such as the book, the pen, the press, the typewriter, and the computer. By focusing less on what a text says and more on how it is made, we see how technology shapes an object and the ways we are prepared to interact with it and process information. Technologies function as palimpsests that shape processes of writing and artistic expression long after they lose popularity. As we study this progression, you will look anew at the medium as not a vehicle for text, but key to the process of experiencing, creating, and remembering. This class embodies the “learn by doing” spirit at Cal Poly Pomona: a key part of our work will be critical making, or the process of learning about how objects are made by making them yourself. Using campus facilities such as a computer lab and the Maker Studio, you will learn about letterpress with ink on your fingers as you set type; you will enter an amateur scriptorium with quills and iron gall ink; you will use Xerox machines and scrapbooking materials to make a zine; and you will make digital texts or images using amateur publishing software. All this builds toward an original multimodal final project with a critical introduction that connects your choices to the history of text technologies.
ENG 4501 Literature of the English Civil War
Highlights: read one of the greatest poems ever written and understand a lot more literary references, Milton is surprisingly relevant to our current moment, deconstruction of the “Dead White Guy” in literature
John Milton (1608–1674) has long been considered one of the greatest English authors, and his epic Paradise Lost the greatest English poem. This class will familiarize you with Milton’s life and work and the complicated socio-political and religious contexts of the English Civil War (1642–1660) which framed them. In the first half of the course, we will work through some of Milton’s influential texts including Areopagitica and Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, and you will be able to understand and analyze his arguments about tyranny, liberty, reason, marriage, and the responsibility of a ruler to his people. In the second half of the course, we will trace the paradoxes of Milton’s legacy. In the Anglo-American literary world, Milton represents the canonical Dead White Guy. His posthumous evolution into what Audre Lorde calls the “master’s discourse” was part of the new Great Britain’s creation of a national identity. Along with Shakespeare, Milton’s style and form created a raced, gendered, and classed standard for aesthetic and creative output that framed evaluations of future authors. Yet Miltonic style also became a vehicle for empowerment for the authors that it was intended to disenfranchise, such as Olaudah Equiano, Phillis Wheatley, Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Shelley, and Helen Keller. Using approaches from literary history, critical race theory, and feminism, we will explore the tensions between: how a radical writer on the losing side of a revolution can become core to a nation’s literary identity; how a white supremacist discourse of natural rights can become the language of liberation for Black writers; and how sexist constructions of women’s subservience can become the justification for their equality.
ENG 4510 British Enlightenment
Highlights: focus on the origins of beliefs like “all men are created equal” when they were written, read against the grain of the colonial myth in the US and England using Orientalism, Indigenous Studies, and Black Studies
The Enlightenment is an intellectual period in Europe that popularized the scientific method, beliefs like “all men are created equal,” and literary forms like the novel. It also centers colonial expansion with ships shuttling millions of enslaved people, indentured servants, colonists, animals, and goods across the Atlantic and around the Cape of Good Hope into Southern Asia. This course asks you to hold these two truths together—beliefs about universal equality grew from a cultural moment that simultaneously codified structural inequality through colonial violence—while we read literary texts that think through these seemingly paradoxical beliefs. Centering Lisa Lowe’s Intimacies of Four Continents (2015), we will explore the relationship between Great Britain and Asia, Africa, and the Americas to see how contact zones inform, shape, and make possible contradictory rhetoric about freedom that is so central to the Enlightenment and Anglo-American national identities. Throughout, you are invited to explore the relationship between eighteenth-century ideologies and their continued impact on contemporary Anglo-American culture to judge for yourself the quip that “we are still in the long eighteenth century.”
ENG 4521 The Novel in English
Highlights: learn about how novels came to be, narratology, thinking about how form works with content, sexuality, queerness, gender roles, and the marriage market
This course asks us to think about: what makes a novel a novel? To answer this, we focus on early experiments with prose and fiction, beginning in the 1600s, and see how they develop into the form that many of us might recognize as a “novel” by the mid-1800s. Early novels don’t have chapters, aren’t sure about how to represent dialogue, and are still figuring out what a novel can do as a form that drama and poetry cannot. One way the novel form excels is psychological intimacy between reader and characters, which we will trace by reading early novels that focus on sexuality, desire, and exchange. Specifically, we will read texts from authors like Daniel Defoe, Aphra Behn, Samuel Richardson, John Cleland, and Frances Burney that trace the interplay between sex as transaction, political necessity, expression, and intimacy. By focusing both on the novel form and its depictions of sexual intimacy, students will be able to articulate complex arguments about what novels are, what they can do, and how authors have used them. Note: Be advised that this course contain explicit depictions of sex, desire, and sexuality, and consequently issues of consent and assault. This will be handled intentionally and carefully with opportunities for decompression and processing, but successful completion of the course will require reading and engaging with these stories. If you do not feel that you are up for these discussions, please prioritize your well-being and choose another course.
ENG 4881 Intersectionality and Literature
Highlights: learn who coined the term “intersectionality” and its origins in Black feminism, trace solidarities between Black feminists and other women of color and queer feminisms from the 1800s forward, explore the relationship between activism and academia, read manifestos
This class is an in-depth exploration of Anglophone texts on intersectional feminism largely created and published in the United States. Through our reading, we identify how intersectionality developed out of Black, Indigenous, and women of color feminism in the 1970s and 1980s, trace its roots from the 19th century forward, and consider its limitations and usefulness as a contemporary theory and praxis. As context, we outline concerns articulated by women of color in the women’s movement in the U.S. including debates about solidarity across differences in race, class, sexuality, age, size, and ability. To capture a fuller range of revolutionary writing by women of color, we read everything from restrained academic prose to inspirational poetry to angry manifestos and zines. As we blur the lines between “literature” and “theory” or “academic” and “popular” writing, we will consider how knowledge about difference is produced and legitimized (and cyclically hidden and delegitimized) and how this perspective might be useful to us as students of literature and culture.
ENG 5562 British Literature 1660-1800
Highlights: celebrity studies, drama, historical accounts of play houses, biographical details of actresses’ and authors’ lives, thinking about gender, sex, race, and commodification and exchange
In 1660 when Charles II was re-established on the English throne, another marked change occurred: women were allowed on the commercial stage. In the years that followed, actresses like Nell Gwyn, Elizabeth Berry, and Anne Bracegirdle became celebrities whose popularity on and off the stage was intermingled with discourses about women’s place in public discourse, sexuality, labor, and consumption. This course traces the rise of the female celebrity actress by exploring their appearance in popular media and actions as public figures, examining the relationship between dramatists and roles tailored for celebrity actresses, and analyzing the labor conditions which actresses navigated as the theatre evolved over the long eighteenth century. Alongside this, we will detail the expanding role of the female dramatist from Katherine Philips to Aphra Behn, Mary Pix, Eliza Haywood, Charlotte Charke, and Mary Robinson to explore how celebrity signifies for authors, actresses, and author/actresses in increasingly complex ways.
ENG 5880 Special Topics in Literature
Highlights: Emma, Pride and Prejudice, adaptation studies, fandom studies, film analysis, material culture analysis
Jane Austen’s novels have been repeatedly adapted since their composition in the early 19th century with a sharp increase in the 1990s. This course allows students to read two of Austen’s novels and trace their transformation from written text to film and beyond: table-top role-playing games, cosplay and cons, fanfiction, and material goods like soap and candles. As we watch films such as Clueless (1995), series like Bridgerton (2020), and YouTube videos like Jane Austen Fight Club (2015), students will learn how to analyze film as a medium and as a text broadly constructed. They will use adaptation theory and studies in material culture to examine how aesthetics, concepts, and characters transform in response to genre, author interests, and commercial pressures. As we compare how creators from diverse backgrounds respond to and alter Austen and her cultural cache, students will consider the role of canonical English literature and hierarchies of taste in shaping production and consumption habits and Austen’s relationship to whiteness, femininity, and an idealized colonial past.