So Many Courses, Not Enough Memes….

all the coursesMay 1 was National Decision Day.  While English and Creative Writing majors currently enrolled at the U of I are wrapping up the semester, those joining the University of Illinois’s incoming Class of 2020 are starting to think about Fall courses in preparation for their summer registration visits.

Those already here are at an advantage for planning next semester: the Department’s second biannual Course Showcase at the end of March introduced them to some highlights from the fall course offerings. The Department of English offers a variety of opportunities to gain valuable skills transferable across a wide range of academic disciplines at the University and to future career paths after graduation.

It’s not just about reading big books. Professionally-oriented classes offered by the English Department and Writing Studies will give students experience creating job materials, designing a website, and tutoring other students in writing.

  • Engl 199: Career Planning for Humanities Majors and Engl 199: Internship Seminar, taught by Director of Internships, Kirstin Wilcox, will give students practice in translating the skills they develop in English, Creative Writing, and other Humanities classes into terms that the corporate and non-profit world will understand. These classes provide valuable insights about how to successfully prepare for life after graduation, and can be beneficial to students of all ages, from freshmen to seniors.
  • Professor Gallagher’s BTW 490: Workplace Writing in a Digital Age will give students practical experience in website development and social media management—two skills increasingly in demand for many careers. In the course, students will learn basic coding skills (no previous knowledge required) and will build their own website, expanding their professional skillset in the process.
  • Professor Wisniewski’s Writ 300: Issues in Tutoring Writing gives students the opportunity to consult with peer writers at the Writers Workshop and to prepare materials for students who visit the Workshop, providing great hands-on experience for future teachers, future grad students, students interested in a career as an editor, and anyone interested in writing.

Other courses examine bodies of literature organized around particular time periods, themes, forms, and national and racial identities. These classes give students a familiarity with a range of texts, practice in textual analysis, skills in communicating orally and in writing, training in synthesizing course content, and more.

  • Professor Trilling noted that Engl 407: Intro to Old English class will allow students to study the very origins of English literature; to encounter monsters, heroes, kings, and queens in their original form; and to learn to read a foreign language in a single semester.
  • Courses like Professor Perry’s Engl 218: Intro to Shakespeare and Engl 416: Topics in British Drama to 1660 will expose students to memorable dramatic works from the Early Modern period, from Shakespeare’s “greatest hits” to plays whose experimentalism and shock value far exceed that of the Bard. Interesting in their own right, the literature in these classes also gives students experience interpreting complex texts, conducting research, and tracing developments from centuries past that continue to inform the Western literary and cultural tradition.
  • Looking at later centuries and across the Atlantic, Professor Murison, teaching Engl 255: Survey of American Lit I and Engl 250: The American Novel to 1914, characterized the serialized 19th-century American novel as the “tv show of today.” To students who enroll in Engl 255, she promised to identify the first humblebrag, to reveal why one should cry reading Lincoln and laugh reading Poe, and to explore the erotic exuberance of Walt Whitman.
  • Professor Jones, who will be teaching works from the same era in Engl 450: American Lit 1865-1914, described the historical context for her class as an exciting time of national change resulting from immigration, technological innovation, women’s suffrage, and other significant events in American culture, politics, and society. Both Professor Murison and Professor Jones stressed that American literature of this historical moment “speaks to contemporary ethical dilemmas and political contexts,” illustrating a fascinating pre-history out of which twenty-first-century America has emerged. Thus, students who enroll in these courses will learn to think critically about not only literatures of the past but also our cultural present.
  • Professor Jones’s other Fall 2016 course, Engl 200: Intro to the Study of Literature, will expose students to a range of texts (poetry, novels, nonfiction, and film) and will teach them to understand the field “as an ongoing conversation.” In the course, students will gain practice in making arguments, sharing interpretations, and entering into critical scholarly conversations—skills which will help them be successful in future humanities courses.

Film classes offered through the Department of English enable students to develop skills similar to those practiced in the study of literature, adding interpretation of cinematic aesthetic detail to the practice of critical analysis. The range of film courses offered in the Fall—Engl 199: Teenagers and Teenpics (Professor Camargo), Engl 374: Ireland and the Irish in Film (Professor Camargo), Engl 272: Minority Images in American Film (Professor Curry), Engl 273: American Cinema Since 1950 (Professor Curry), and Engl 104: Intro to Film (Professor Slobodnik)—will expose students to a rich array of filmic texts while giving them practice in textual interpretation and analytical writing.

Finally, Creative Writing workshops at all levels can provide students with a “writer’s toolbox,” a background in the basics of craft, and opportunities to provide constructive feedback about others’ work and to extensively revise one’s own, as instructor Roya Khatiblou (CW 104: Introductory Narrative Writing) noted. Such skills are broadly applicable to college coursework in and outside of English as well as to innumerable internships and jobs.

These courses are only a small selection of the range of great courses offered by English, Creative Writing, Rhetoric, and Business and Technical Writing. To learn more about courses for Fall 2016, check out our complete online list of course descriptions here or make an appointment with the English Advising Office.

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