Overview | Requirements | Courses | Faculty


Courses in the English department engage students in the close critical study of English-language literature in an international and interdisciplinary context, encompassing works from British, American, and other Anglophone literary traditions. In keeping with Occidental’s mission values of equity and excellence, students in English courses read the work of both long-studied writers and of those previously excluded from traditional literary history. Majors will 1) become proficient in close reading and focused discussion of individual literary works,  2) learn to situate those works in their generative historical, geographic and social contexts, and 3) become skilled in interpreting them through a range of theories and methods that characterize the evolving discipline of literary studies. Non-majors will develop their capacity to engage in close reading, critical thinking, and analytical writing. Most courses in the department are seminars or combinations of lecture and discussion. This pedagogical orientation underscores the department’s strong emphasis on faculty-student interaction and the collaborative production of knowledge. Introductory survey courses (ENGL 287-289) expose students to the breadth and diversity of Anglophone literary history. Upper division courses (ENGL 300 level classes) develop sophisticated skills in literary analysis, interpretive writing, and oral presentation. Methodological and research-oriented seminars in the sophomore, junior and senior years (ENGL 290, 390 and 490) direct students in the practice of original independent analysis that places primary textual interpretation in dialogue with secondary critical research.


MAJOR: A major requires a minimum of eleven courses (44 units). These must include three historical survey courses (ENGL 287, ENGL 288, and ENGL 289); students may substitute one of the corresponding first-year survey courses (187, 188, 189) for its 200 level counterpart (287, 288, 289), but may not receive major credit for both (e.g. 187 and 287). Students must also take three sequential seminars (ENGL 290, ENGL 390, and ENGL 490) in their sophomore, junior and senior years, respectively. The remaining five courses should be chosen in consultation with the student’s adviser. But they must include one course from each of the following four categories, with no more than two taken at the 200-level:

Group I: Medieval and Renaissance Literature (courses numbered 210-229 or 310-329)
Group II: 18th and 19th Century Literature (courses numbered 230-249 or 330-349)
Group III: 20th and 21st Century Literature (courses numbered 250-269 or 350-369).
Group IV: Emergent Literatures (courses that satisfy the department criteria for representing the study of literatures from historically marginalized groups or communities)
[NOTE: “Emergent Literature” courses will typically fall under the Group II or III categories. However, they cannot count for both a period requirement (such as Group II or III) and the Emergent Literature requirement.]

Students considering graduate work in literature are strongly encouraged to take additional English courses beyond the minimum of eleven in order to broaden and deepen their knowledge of literary history and their practice of literary interpretation. They should also take ENGL 370: Literary Criticism. Most graduate programs require proficiency in at least one foreign language.

CREATIVE WRITING EMPHASIS:  Students majoring in English may elect to take additional courses in order to complete a Creative Writing Emphasis, a special track that provides a strong background in both literary history and creative writing skills. Students choosing this emphasis will take a total of 13 courses. These must include ENGL 287, ENGL 288, ENGL 289, ENGL 290, ENGL 390, ENGL 490, and three courses from among the four upper division course categories noted above as Groups I, II, III and IV (only one of these may be a 200 level course). The four remaining electives must be creative writing courses. At least two of these must be from the English department. Other departments and programs that have offered writing courses include French, Theater, AHVA, and Writing and Rhetoric. Students interested in pursuing the Creative Writing Emphasis must work out a careful program in consultation with their adviser and the department chair.

MINOR: Five courses (20 units); two courses from 287-290 (one first year course from among ENGL 187, 188 or 189 may substitute for its 200 level equivalent); and three other courses, two of which must be taken at the 300-level.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT POLICY: English majors who have completed the AP test in English with a score of 4 or 5 may petition the department chair to be allowed to graduate with 10 courses (including all required courses and Group I-IV categories) rather than the 11 specified above.

JUNIOR WRITING REQUIREMENT: Students majoring in English satisfy the final component of Occidental College's college-wide writing requirement by successfully completing ENGL 390 in the junior year and receiving a notation of "Satisfactory" for its writing component.

SENIOR COMPREHENSIVE REQUIREMENT: All majors must take ENGL 490 (Senior Seminar) in the fall of the senior year, where they will design, develop, and complete a significant project involving literary research and analysis. The project will result in a substantial essay of original interpretation and pertinent secondary research, and a formal conference-style oral presentation at the Senior Symposium held during the spring semester. See the department website for more details.

HONORS: Honors may be awarded to graduating seniors who demonstrate excellence in course work and who successfully develop their comps project into an honors thesis. To be eligible, students must have a 3.65 grade point average in courses taken toward the major and an overall 3.5 grade point average. Qualified students will be invited to apply for permission to proceed to honors by the department prior to the beginning of the spring semester. Upon review by department faculty, students whose applications are accepted will register for ENGL 499 (Independent Study), for two units in the spring semester. They will complete a thesis to be orally defended before a faculty committee during the spring semester. Honors candidates are encouraged to take ENGL 370, preferably in the junior year. For further details, consult with your department advisor.


English Courses Open to All Majors

English courses numbered 200-290 are open to all Occidental students of any major who have completed the first-year fall CSP writing seminar. No more than two may be counted toward the English major.

106 - Representing the Metropolis

In the US, roughly 80% of the population lives in urban regions (2000 US Census), while according to United Nations figures, about 52% of people are urban-dwellers worldwide. This course will examine various representations of the modern metropolis through film, literature, and cultural theory.  The city, as we experience it today is the product of multiple historical, cultural, and social forces.  Over the course of the semester, we will consider how cities have been shaped by these forces, as well as how they, in turn, shape our own experience and understanding of culture, history, and social practices.   In an era of increasing globalization and mobility, the role of the metropolis continues to evolve and expand.  As we consider representations of the city in a variety of films and novels from around the world, including some from our own city of Los Angeles, we will interrogate the ways in which the city has played a formative role in how we imagine life in the contemporary moment.  In what ways has the city become a vehicle for the production of culture?  How does life in the city serve to normativize certain notions of what it means to live in the modern world?  How does life in rural spaces complicate representations of modernity that take the city as their norm?  Does the city promote accessibility, or, alternatively, does it rigidify codes of exclusivity?  These are some of the many questions we will address as we consume a spectrum of world cinema and literature.  As we work our way through the material, we will strive to develop a complex understanding of how cities shape our cultural imagination, with a particular emphasis on postcolonial theory.  This course is cross-listed as CTSJ 106

189 - The American Experience in Literature

A historical survey of the major literary genres from the colonial to the contemporary period, emphasizing the persistent thematics of the American experience from a cross-cultural perspective. This class is particularly suited for students interested in the ways in which well-known American authors are in conversation with African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos/as, and white women, who, until recently, had been left out of the literary canon. Open only to first year students. ENGL 189 satisfies an equivalent requirement to ENGL 289 within the English major. Students may not receive credit for both 189 and 289.

English courses numbered 200-289, with the exception of 280, are open to all students. English 290 is open to students who have completed the first-year fall CSP writing seminar.

210 - Medieval Romance

This course explores medieval romance, one of the most popular genres of medieval literature and one that gives us some of the best-known literary characters of all time, including King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, and other knights of the Round Table. Though “romance” often conjures ideas of star-crossed lovers and torrid affairs, the genre of romance during its heyday in the Middle Ages tells different stories: sprawling, episodic narratives of chivalry, the supernatural, and yes, occasionally even love. We will read a variety of romances from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, as well as some present-day descendants of the genre, to discover what characterizes this eclectic genre and what love, sex, and gender have to do with romance. Requirements include two papers, quizzes, a presentation on a topic of your choice, dutiful attendance, and lively participation in class discussions. Some texts will be in modern English translation; others will be in Middle English. No prior knowledge of Middle English or medieval literature is expected.

241 - The "Deviant"

This course looks at representations of “deviance” in 19th and early 20th century literature. Underlying our examination will be an investigation of what constitutes the “normal” and the ways in which normativity polices its boundaries. Focusing primarily on literary and filmic representations of the sexual, racial, legal, and economic “taboo,” in works including Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, E.M. Forester’s Passage to India, and Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood, we will seek to uncover the terms of normativity against which the figure of the deviant emerges into representation. We will supplement our analysis of literature with readings from a range of theoretical methodologies, from psychoanalysis, legal theory, Marxist/economic theory, to postcolonial and critical race studies.

267 - The Death of Hip- Hop: Liner Notes to an Aesthetic Theory

If the deaths of the novel, of poetry, of painting, of sculpture, and of opera might serve as indicators, then perhaps the death of U.S. hip-hop suggests it is transforming and moving into a new phase. The thought-experiment inspiring this course does not question what hip-hop might give to the world. On the contrary, it questions if the world can critically accept and appreciate what hip-hop might offer it. Theoretical readings include Tricia Rose's Black Noise, Adam Bradley's Book of Rhymes; Jeff Chang's Total Chaos; selections from Theodor Adorno's Aesthetic Theory and Philosophy of Music; music will include the work of Notorious BIG, J Dilla, Kanye West, Lauryn Hill, Wu Tang Clan, Outkast, and Erykah Badu.

280 - Creative Writing

This creative writing workshop will focus on both fiction and poetry. Students will be required to read and write extensively, to write reports on assigned reading, to attend author readings on campus, and to participate in class examination of student work. A final portfolio is due at the end of the semester. We will examine ways of heightening imagination through both memory and perception.  The class is limited to first and second year students. Prerequisite: Any first year fall CSP writing seminar, Writing and Rhetoric 201, or permission of instructor.

287 - Early British Literary Traditions

One of the three introductory courses for the major designed to provide a broad historical background. This course covers texts from Beowulf through Paradise Lost. The course includes the various genres of epic, drama, and poetry, and demands both close reading and an understanding of how the texts are produced in particular cultural and historical contexts.

288 - Modern British Literary Traditions

The course will focus on British literary traditions since 1660, with references to other national literatures. It will emphasize the close reading of both poetry and prose. Students may not receive credit for both 188 and 288.

289 - The American Experiences in Literature

This class surveys American Literature from the colonial period to the present. We will study genres, authors, and cultural trends in a historical framework. Significant emphasis will be placed on close reading and analytic writing. Students will be introduced to the nomenclature of literary analysis through discussion and interpretation of individual texts.

290 - Literary Methodologies

This course will introduce students to contemporary critical methodologies in literary studies.  Students will engage a wide range of critical approaches to help ground their subsequent study of literature across the English department curriculum. By studying influential works of theory and criticism, you will become familiar with the historical genesis of literary studies, with special attention to the political, social and other institutional factors informing the rise of particular methodologies in the academe. We will trace these critical genealogies so as to recognize and participate in the fullness of literary studies. Prerequisite: any first year fall CSP writing seminar, Writing and Rhetoric 201, or permission of instructor.


Upper Level English Courses

English courses numbered 300-385 are designed primarily for English majors and students from other majors with some experience in reading and writing about literature at an advanced level. Successful completion of one 100-level or 200­level English course, or junior or senior standing, is required for these courses. In some cases individual instructors may require additional prerequisites, as listed below.

310 - Medieval Literature

An examination of the major texts of the period 1000-1500, such as Beowulf, The Pearl, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde, and Willam Langland’s Piers Plowman. Prerequisite: Any 100 or 200-level ECLS course or junior or senior standing. Can be repeated one time

318 - Chaucer

An analysis of Chaucer's major poetry and the insight it provides into the social, religious, philosophical, and psychological instability of the fourteenth century. We will place Chaucer's texts in the context of both literary and intellectual history, and we will confront directly their relevance to an understanding of the most persistent idioms of Western culture. Prerequisite: Any 100 or 200-level English course or junior or senior standing. Major Requirement met: Group I. Prior completion of ECLS 287 is highly recommended.

320 - Shakespeare

A study of Shakespeare's plays and critical commentary on those plays with specific emphasis on problems raised by his particular theater and boy actors, on problems raised by mixed genres, and on cultural anxieties concerning authority, race, gender, interiority, colonialism, and religion. Prerequisite: Any 100 or 200-level English course or junior or senior standing. Major requirement met: Group I.

322 - Renaissance Literature

An investigation of various Renaissance texts other than Shakespeare as vehicles for conflicting, at time self-contradictory, expressions of such cultural concerns as monarchy, empire,  private and public arenas of life, religious controversy,  and desire. The specific readings will vary depending on the year, but may include Jacobean drama and/or the poetry of Sidney, Spenser, Milton, Donne, Herbert, Jonson, and Lady Mary Wroth. Prerequisite: Any 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing. Major requirement met: Group I.

330 - Restoration and Eighteenth Century British Literature

A survey of poetry, prose and drama from 1660-1730. Authors to be studied include Aphra Behn, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift. Prerequisite: Any 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing. Major requirement met: Group II.

332 - Eighteenth Century Literature: 1730-1800

The class will examine British literature from the novels of Richardson, Fielding and Sterne to the poetry of Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge. Prerequisite: Any 100 or 200-level English course or junior or senior standing. Major requirement met: Group II.

341 - Race, Law, and Literature

This course interrogates the crucial role of the law in British imperial governance by reading colonial legislation and court proceedings alongside works of nineteenth and early twentieth century literature,.  Doing this allows us to examine how dominant legal paradigms were disseminated in the era’s cultural production, and, in turn, how cultural ideals reflected in literature were materially implemented through the law.  In addition, we will look at how literature often provided a viable means of contesting the normative terms of the law. Major requirement met: Group II.

345 - American Literature Before 1990

American Literature before 1900 (Group 2). The Literature of Non-Representation: In the Greek and Judeo-Christian traditions, literature is usually understood as an untrue copy of the “real.” As such, it has often been devalued as morally suspect and materially empty. However, this perspective was itself inverted by some American literature of the 18th and 19th centuries. In this contrarian view, literature is the activity of realization itself and the literal and scientific modalities are fictions lost in their habitual misunderstandings. For these opposing writers, the poetic process constitutes the reader’s dissolving emersion in the real without need of conceptual replica. This class will try to understand this non-representational view with primary concentration on the poems of Whitman and Dickinson bracketed by the previous practices of Bradstreet, Wheatley, Emerson, and Poe

346 - Beautiful Democracy: 19th Century Af Am Lit

This course thinks through current debates over the relationship between literary aesthetics and harmony in American democracy. Do aesthetics foster a more harmonious or disharmonious national culture? Do aesthetics create more peaceful cities and craft a common culture? Should its subject matter be legal resolutions to conflict and representations of peaceful communities? Or, is disharmony ever important to progress? How does literature represent protests for social change that are often only possible outside the law, like the many freedmen and freedwomen escaping slavery and demanding the destruction of that system? How does this alter our understandings of what it means to be “fugitive”? How can the fugitive fighting for freedom be distinguished from the unprincipled outlaw? From another perspective, we will consider how the complications of American society have altered certain traditional literary forms. While recent scholarship has addressed these questions in regards to early to mid 20th century literature, this course will look back further, starting from the early 19th century to the very beginning of the 20th. will complement the literature by reading relevant historical materials from the abolitionist movement, labor movements, government debates over Emancipation and Reconstruction, etc. The course will include literature from Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Walt Whitman, Ida B Wells, and Charles Chesnutt, among others, and will cover several genres, including oratory, autobiography, political pamphlets and short fiction. Prerequisite: Any 100 or 200-level English course or junior or senior standing. Major requirement met:  Group II. Same as AMST 346

347 - 19th Century Novel and Bollywood Cinema

This course will examine nineteenth century British and Indian novels in dialogue with their twentieth century Bollywood adaptations. A product of the largest film industry in the world, Indian cinema is consumed globally. Questions of globalism were also central to nineteenth century novels, which were written during the height of colonial rule. We will examine the films and novels, paying particular attention to representations of cultural subject formation, gender and racial norms, and nationalist sentiment in the era of empire and the postcolonial moment. Prerequisite: Any 100 or 200-level English course or junior or senior standing. Major requirement met: Group II.

351 - Twentieth Century British Fiction

This course will focus on modernism, including novels by Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and E. M. Forster. And it will also feature contemporary inheritors of modernism such as Doris Lessing and Ian McEwan.   Particular attention will be given to how these novels engage the politics of race and gender. Prerequisite: Any 100 or 200-level English course or junior or senior standing. Major requirement met: Group III.

352 - Contested Territories: Ethnic/Racial Literatures of the U.S. "SouthWest"

This course will study texts that treat the American Southwest as a determining and originary site of cultural interaction and expressive production. An attention to social geography (the felt "sense of place" effected by social history) will guide our examination of literary and popular cultural texts produced by Euro-Americans, Chicanos, and Native Americans. Beginning with the hegemonic discourse of the "Southwestern genre" at the turn of the century, we will consider subsequent representations and narratives of this historically complex and culturally rich region. Prerequisite: Any 100 or 200-level English course or junior or senior standing. Major requirement met: Group III.

353 - The Global 1930s:Literature, Philosophy & Politics

U.S. politicians have frequently said the Great Depression of the 1930s is the only economic crisis that surpasses the world’s current economic travails. This frequent comparison does not exhaust the significance of the Great Depression for the US or around the world. What makes the 1930s so intriguing is that the economic collapse spawned new or renewed older political and artistic movements across the globe. Most importantly, in the 1930s thinkers and artists all over the world not only rethought their political identities; they also pondered the very meaning of the political for the past, present, and the future. Art and philosophy were central to their investigations. This is important for humanities scholarship because even if we are currently exiting the “second Great Depression” in terms of economic productivity, the question remains: what cultural rebuilding remains to be done and how does art contribute to such processes? 1930s writers took up this question in several different forms, through the trope of the document and its archival drive, the unconscious and the search for the Marvelous, the raised fist of labor movements or anti-racist activism. Simply put, what can the first Great Depression of the 1930s teach us about cultural reconstruction in the second Great Depression of the early 2000s? This course will look at several literary (and related art) movements in and cutting across America, the Caribbean, and Europe. Texts will include (but are not limited to) literature from Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and Muriel Rukeyser; from Surrealist writers in Europe and the Caribbean like Andre Breton, Aime and Suzanne Cesaire; and theoretical readings from figures like Antonia Gramsci. Although this is a literature course, it will also be informative to students in History, Art, Philosophy and Politics. Prerequisite: Any 100 or 200-level English course or junior or senior standing. Major requirement met: Group III.

354 - Chicano Literature

A survey of major works and authors in the Mexican-American literary tradition, covering the genres of poetry, novel, short story and drama. Some attention will also be paid to the relationship of literature to forms of popular culture, such as video, film, graphic art, and music. Prerequisite: Any 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing. Major requirement met: Group IV.

356 - Black Reconstruction:Rethinking Black Radicalism in African American Literature

Through lecture and class discussion, this course focuses on writings from African American authors pondering the possibilities and goals of reconstructing their communities and the United States at large. We will cover multiple literary genres-including poetry, slave narrative, novel, and the essay, among others-used in the African American literary tradition placed in their historical, cultural, and institutional contexts. By reading the African American literary tradition in these contexts, we will pursue a number of questions, regarding issues of political agency, the role of the writer as intellectual, the relationship of literature to the folk, and literature as an avenue of recovering alternative histories. Prerequisite: Any 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing. Major Requirement met: Group IV.

365 - Contemporary Literature

The Anglophone Novel. This course will focus on the global novel in English. By 1914 the British Empire had colonized almost 85% of the world, bringing diverse cultural traditions under the encyclopedic gaze of Western modernity. If part of the project of the colonial apparatus was to collect knowledge of the world in ways that bodies, cultures, and landscapes could be understood and ordered by the West, contemporary societies are now negotiating their own means of self-representation in the often violent space of postcolonial rupture. Throughout the term, we will work with texts and visual images produced out of, and in response to, the history of the colonial encounter. Drawing on a broad range of literary, filmic, and theoretical materials we will develop strategies for understanding the production and consumption of postcolonial representation, in both local and global contexts. As consumers of these cultural products within the space of the Western academy, we will be attentive to the function of the stereotype as we consider representations of gender and sexuality, violence and terrorism, class structures, and migration. Texts considered will include Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions, Shani Mootoo's Cereus Blooms at Night, and Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North. Prerequisite: Any 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing. Major requirement met: Group IV.

Directions in Contemporary American Fiction. An examination of innovative literary techniques and thematic preoccupations in significant works of American fiction written since the end of World War II. Among the writers we will consider are Ralph Ellison, Don DeLillo, Tim O'Brien, Junot Diaz, Toni Morrison and Louise Erdrich.  Prerequisite: Any 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing. Major requirement met: Group III.

U.S. Latino Cultural Studies. Through analyses of literature, film, and popular culture we will explore how Latinos have understood and represented their individual and collective social experiences in the United States. In order to allow some depth of comparison, primary attention may be given to the creative works of Chicanos in Los Angeles and Puerto Ricans in New York. However, texts from other national-origin Latino communities (Dominican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Cuban) will be selectively incorporated to the course. Secondary texts of cultural criticism, social theory and community history may be read alongside the primary creative texts. Prerequisite: Any 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing. Major Requirement met: Group IV.

367 - Graphic Narratives: From Pulp Fiction to Comix Literaure

This course will study the 20th century evolution of word-and-image texts from their origins in early superhero and action comics to their contemporary emergence as a recognized medium of "high" cultural expression. The texts will be primarily from the United States, but some attention may be given to foreign works in translation. In addition, we may also consider how graphic narratives compare as a medium to related works in print literature and cinema. Prerequisite: Any 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing. Major Requirement met: Group III.

368 - Post Colonial Literature and Theory

This course will provide an introduction to some of the critical issues (modernity, hybridity, nationalism, globalization, etc.) that link disparate national literatures under the sign of "postcoloniality." While the major focus of the class will be on the theoretical texts produced in response to colonial occupation and the process of decolonization, we will also consider the ways in which postcolonial literature performs, and at times challenges, the paradigms of postcolonial theory. Through this engagement we will develop an understanding of the complex dialogue that emerges between literature and theory in the postcolonial context. In addition, throughout the course, we will look at how the many stylistic techniques (e.g., the use of patois, magical realism, temporal experimentation) that are particular to this body of literature not only develop a new mode of expression, but also interrogate the conventions of the Western canon. In this manner, our analysis of literature will be supplemented by a consideration of postcolonial theory in order to contextualize the literature within an understanding of the particular historical, political, and social discourses from which it emerges. Conversely, our study of theory will be anchored in a discussion of the ways in which it is materially practiced in its accompanying literary context. This survey will include authors such as Aimé Césaire, Arundhati Roy, as well as Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha, and Edward Said. Prerequisite: Any 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing. Major Requirement met: Group IV.

369 - Archaeologies of Black Memory

This course engages with recent theoretical, aesthetic, and practical concerns with the "archive" in the Black Diaspora. We will focus especially on how scholars on the Black Diaspora have thought critically and imaginatively about the archive, blurring the lines between critical discourse, historical investigation, and aesthetic representation. In this hybrid space, perhaps we will hear the silences that speak so loudly about black subjection and agency in the archive. Theory from David Scott and Michel Foucault, text art from Glenn Ligon, travel narratives from Saidiya Hartman, and poetry from the likes of Langston Hughes and Marlene Nourbese Philip will aid our exploration. Prerequisite: Any 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing. Major Requirement met: Group IV.

370 - Literary Criticism

After a short introduction to Aristotle, this course will present the works of Marx, Freud, and Saussure as the basis for later 20th Century theory. We will then explore the structuralist and post-structuralist movements. This class is recommended to those contemplating graduate study in the humanities, and it is required for students pursuing Honors in English. Prerequisite: Any 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing.

372 - Major Figures in Literature

Faulkner, Hemingway, and Morrison: Discussion of the major novels of William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and Toni Morrison with an emphasis on race and gender in American culture. Prerequisite: Any 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing. Major Requyirement met: Group III.

Du Bois and Hyperbolic Thinking This course is an in-depth engagement with the thought and activism of W.E.B. Du Bois. Despite the currency of some of his texts and concepts, only recently have scholars have called for a more focused engagement with Du Bois' vast and diverse set of writings. Some have reduced Du Bois' legacy to a few salient points that they say cover his entire career; others have periodized his thought too rigidly to consider its flexibility. But neither of these approaches helps us understand how and why Du Bois spent over 70 years (and over 175,000 pages) using philosophy, fiction, correspondence, editorials, novels, poetry, lectures, and historiographies to reformulate his understanding of African Americans in US society and the world. This course involves close readings of Du Bois corpus, framing him as a key thinker of modernity, democracy, and the role of the intellectual through his ongoing analysis of the African American. Prerequisite: Any first year fall CSP writing seminar, Writing and Rhetoric 201, or permission of instructor. Major requirement met: Group III.

374 - Women Writers

A survey of 19th and 20th century British, American and Carribean novelists. Among the authors we may study are Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Harriet Jacobs, Kate Chopin, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, Virginia Woolf, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Jamaica Kincaid. Prerequisite: Any 100- or 200-level English course, or junior or senior standing. Major requirement met: Group IV.

377 - Literature and the Other Arts

Orson Welles and Literature: Often rated the greatest film maker of the 20th century, this course will attempt to understand Welles use of literature. We will begin with his Shakespeare films, pass through Kafka, and detective fiction to end with a close examination of his filmic realization of his own novel, Mr. Arkadin.The course will supply a rudimentary introduction to film history, technology, and theory. Prerequisiste: Any 100- or 200-level ECLS course, or junior or senior standing.

Urban Fictions: The Modern City in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture. This course studies texts in several expressive media and literary genres which have as their subject the problems and promise of urban life in major world-cities of the 19th and 20th centuries. Among the cities we may consider are London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City. Field study in Los Angeles may be incorporated as pertinent events or opportunities come up.

Imaging the Image. The term "photography" means light writing. As such, it implies a form of language that is unmediated by authorial intention. What the history of photo application has demonstrated, whether digital or analog, is that photography often uses its appearance as unbiased to disguise its indebtedness to the tradition of image and the imaginary. Thus, photography and its varieties ─ film, television, computer, etc. ─ have come to represent our talent for virtualization, not truth. Since the 19th century, literature has explored this double aspect of photography ─ as realism and as ideology or deception. This class will explore this relation using theorists such as Peirce and Berger. The works studied will range from Hawthorne to Dick.

On Afrofuturism. This course interrogates the intellectual and artistic dimensions of the Afrofuturism movement. From the present-day going at least as far back as Phillis Wheatley's poetry, one finds a robust exploration of black culture's relationship to technology and futurity that diverge from Eurocentric standards of civilizational progress. The course will focus on literature and related genres, including music and film. Students will engage the work of Alondra Nelson, John Akomfrah, Sir Thomas More, Tracy K. Smith, Phillis Wheatley, Will Alexander, Evie Shockley, Sun Ra, Outkast, Octavia Butler, and others.

380 - Creative Writing: Writing Identity

This is a workshop class designed to encourage creative work in fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction.  In the first half of the course students read models from each of the genres and produce work based on a variety of prompts in order to try different forms and to work on imitation, structure, point of view, development of narrators and story, creation of imagery and the nuance of sentences, revision.  In the second half, students will have more freedom to develop a portfolio of work based on his/her interests and research: a portfolio of 25 pages is due at the end of the course.  Required texts include one each on writing fiction and writing poetry, and a collection of short stories to serve as models for analysis and imitation. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing

382 - Advanced Creative Writing

Students familiar with the elements of craft-setting, characterization, plot, dialogue, etc.-will produce several new stories and revise them, and will read and critique the works of their peers. In class writing exercises and outside readings will also be required. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing.

390 - Junior Seminar in English

The Junior Seminar is a small, discussion-oriented seminar required of all majors, emphasizing advanced critical approaches to a literary topic. Enrollment is restricted to English majors, who will pass the College 3rd Year Writing Requirement by satisfactory completion of the course writing requirements.

Literature and Laughter. Mark Twain suggests that the funny comes in three varieties: the comic, the witty, and the humorous. Each of these corresponds to a disparity – of content, insight, and form – whose tension and potential energy may result in laughter. These genres of the laughable may, taken together, imply a more general and profound source of laughter in language generally, a source of difference in the inherent inadequacy of the literal that is only realized by the inarticulate and material activity of the body’s laughing out loud at the mind’s pretensions. This class will trace both the theoretical attempts to compass this irrational phenomenon – from Aristotle’s missing poetics of comedy through Spinoza, Hobbes, Bergson, and Nietzsche – and to apply these theories to short comic texts. In the end, we will attempt to constitute a new understanding of the laughable as an affirmative but paradoxically post-personal expression of difference in the making.

Textual Mappings: Space and Place in Literary Study. This course will consider the significant spatial turn in recent literary and cultural studies. We will review key works of geographic materialist theory and criticism, and apply their insights to our reading of contemporary world fiction, poetry, and graphic narrative. The primary works of literature (and perhaps some films) will be selected for their representation of social drama (or trauma) in regions and sites of heightened spatial contestation, or for their mediation of such spatially determined social experiences as exile, migration, and urbanization.

490 - Senior Seminar: Comprehensive Project

In this course seniors will design and carry out advanced research projects in areas of their own interests. Seminar meetings will be devoted to discussion of a core group of theoretical and/or historical texts (varying from year to year) and to practical issues of sophisticated literary critical work. The course will result in a substantial critical paper, a version of which will be presented at the spring senior symposium in satisfaction of Occidental's comprehensive requirement. Open only to senior English majors

499 - Honors in English

Research, writing, and defense of the honors thesis in ECLS. May be taken for 4 units fall or spring, or for 2 units fall and spring. Prerequisite: permission of department.
2 units (fall and spring) or 4 units (fall or spring)


Regular Faculty

Leila Neti, chair

Associate Professor, English

B.A., UCLA; M.A., Ph.D., UC Irvine

Daniel Fineman

Professor, English

B.A., Franklin and Marshall College; M.A., Ph.D., Princeton University

James Ford III

Assistant Professor, English

B.A., Morehouse College; M.A., Ph.D, University of Notre Dame

Warren Montag

Brown Family Professor in Literature, English

B.A., UC Berkeley; M.A., Ph.D., Claremont Graduate School

Michael Near

Professor, English, Emeritus

B.A., M.A., Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Eric Newhall

Professor, English; Advisory Committee, American Studies

A.B., Occidental College; M.A., Ph.D., UCLA

Martha Ronk

Irma and Jay Price Professor of English Literature; English, Emeritus

B.A., Wellesley College; Ph.D., Yale University

John Swift

Associate Dean for Core Curriculum and Student Issues; English; Core Program; Advisory Committee, Urban and Environmental Policy

B.A., Middlebury College M.A., Ph.D., University of Virginia

Raul Villa

Professor, English; Advisory Committee, American Studies; Advisory Committee, Latino/a and Latin American Studies

B.A., Yale University; M.A., University of Michigan; Ph.D., UC Santa Cruz

Jean Wyatt

Professor, English

A.B., Pomona College; Ph.D., Harvard University

On Special Appointment

Spencer Jackson

Non Tenure Track Assistant Professor, English

B.A. Occidental College; Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles

Sarah Ostendorf

Non Tenure Track Assistant Professor, English

B.A., Northwestern University; MFA, Mills College; Ph.D. New York University

Danzy Senna

Writer in Residence, NTT faculty member