Graduate Courses

Spring 2016

ENG 439 | Information Design

Dave Clark
Section 1 | W, 5:30 p.m. – 8:10 p.m.

This course provides a practical and theoretical overview of information design. We will begin with examinations of design theories and conventions coming from graphic artists, usability experts, cognitive psychologists, and technical communication scholars, and then critique those theories and conventions as we apply them to the analysis and creation of a wide range of documents and data displays.

Topics include typography, color, text and page layout, and diagrams and illustrations. Throughout, we will focus on usability for print and online production. This course is appropriate for all students with an interest in information production or who see themselves producing professional documents for a future workplace. Students from all plans and majors are welcome.


  • To analyze and produce information designs for a variety of professional contexts
  • To become familiar with the history, conventions, vocabulary, and theory of information design
  • To become familiar with and practice basic usability testing of documents
  • To gain familiarity with important genres of professional communication
  • To gain proficiency in using computer-mediated communications


  • Document redesign and analysis
  • Infographic
  • Research/technology report
  • Major project:
    • Proposal and Specification
    • Progress Report
    • Test Plan and Test Report
    • Deliverable

ENG 626 | Seminar in Critical Theory

Contemporary Approaches to Literature and Culture
Gregory Jay
Section 1 | W, 4:30 p.m. – 7:10 p.m.

The study of literary and cultural theory can be an exciting adventure in intellectual discovery. Or it can be an alienating march through forests of impenetrable prose and incomprehensible ideas. The topics should be rich and engaging, including psychoanalysis, feminism, marxism, queer theory, postcolonial critique, visual culture, and critical race discourse (among others). Yet unless we connect these theories to real works of literature, film and, indeed, the way we make meaning out of our everyday lives, studying critical theory grows abstract and pointless. So
this class will strive to help students make those connections, and to translate theory into practice. The variety of approaches sampled should give everyone an opportunity to evaluate which theories they find most interesting and valuable, and to explore chosen ones in greater depth.

  • Seminar Discussion Format
  • Frequent Short Reading Responses
  • Final Essay


  • Robert Parker, How to Interpret Literature, 3rd edition. ISBN-13: 978-0199331161
  • Patricia Waugh, Modern Literary Theory, 4th edition. ISBN-13: 978-0340761915

ENG 755 | Issues in Composition Studies

Composition’s Global Turn: Writing Instruction in Transnational Contexts
Shevaun Watson
Section 1 | T, 5:30 p.m. – 8:10 p.m.

This seminar in Rhetoric and Composition will investigate what has been termed “the global turn” in Composition Studies from a variety of historical, theoretical and pedagogical perspectives. The field has recently witnessed a surge of attention in the increasingly multilingual and transnational dimensions of higher education, which, as Wendy Hesford argues in the 2006 issue of PMLA, calls for “new collaborations and frameworks, broader notions of composing practices, critical literacies that are linked to global citizenship, a reexamination of existing protocols and divisions, and the formation of new critical frameworks in light of a changing world.”

Over the past decade, the global turn has brought much new scholarship to light, including challenges to English-only policies and myths of linguistic homogeneity;

investigations of English’s diversity and heteroglossic nature in the US and around the world; examinations of disciplinary divides between ESL and composition; new approaches to contrastive rhetorics; histories of English writing instruction in non-Western cultures; studies of writing programs and writing instruction worldwide; and much more.

This course will take up some of these key issues and trends in the field, with particular interest in questions such as:

  • What do (post-9/11) nationalisms have to do with teaching writing?
  • How and why is first-year comp an “American” enterprise?
  • What kinds of literacies and rhetorics should constitute citizenry today?
  • How do teachers and researchers address World Englishes?
  • How do teachers and research address increasingly diverse transnational identifications and multiliteracies?
  • What is transnational composition? What might it seek to achieve?
  • How do transnational rhetorical practices and publics expand the perimeters of rhetorical scholarship?
  • What should first-year comp strive to achieve today in this new context?

ENG 758 | Writing Workshop in Rhetoric and Composition

Writing Workshop in Rhetoric and Composition
Charles Schuster
Section 1 | M, 3:30 p.m. – 6:10 p.m.

This workshop is open to all graduate students, regardless of Plan.  Thus the title of the course is a bit of a misnomer:  this Writing Workshop must necessarily be listed under Rhetoric and Composition but the writing itself does not have to be about Rhetoric and Composition.

The seminar will consist primarily of weekly writing workshops based on a specific model that I developed, refined, and published on a number of years ago.  The primary stipulation for the writing is that it must be nonfiction.  Students can write scholarly articles, personal essays, biographies, reviews, dissertation chapters, whatever—but not fiction or poetry, since we already have a strong program encouraging those modes of writing.  Each week, participants will produce three or so pages their own writing and read it aloud to other members of their group, who will then offer an immediate response to it.

Aside from enabling students to produce the writing of their choice during the semester, the particular format of this seminar offers additional benefits.  It promotes careful listening, an audible attentiveness to matters of pacing, style, voice, tone, and expression.  It offers the advantage of rapid and multiple feedback to each writer.   It emphasizes the performative aspects of written text.  It compels all participants to produce their own writing each week, no matter how weary or frustrated they may be.  In its format, it initializes a particular form of writerly discipline.

Once writing group work is completed during a class period, we will analyze some of the work of two outstanding nonfiction writers:  John McPhee and Kathleen Jamie.

Required textbooks:

  • Pieces of the Frame, John McPhee, ISBN-10: 0374514984, ISBN-13: 978-0374514983
  • Findings, Kathleen Jamie, ISBN-10: 1555974457, ISBN-13: 978-1555974459
    (Note: Jamie’s book is not always in stock; please order promptly so that you have it at the ready)

Optional textbook:

  • The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition, ISBN-10: 020530902X , ISBN-13: 978-0205309023

ENG 813 | Special Topics in Creative Writing

Visual Literature (Multi-Genre)
Valerie Laken
Section 1 | R, 5:30 p.m. – 8:10 p.m.

Most of the time when we read we fall into the habit of looking through words rather than at them, using the page as a window onto ideas rather than a physical space in its own right. But in the past several decades, more and more writers are going against this convention in fascinating ways, producing works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that impose themselves as material objects, making meaning through a complex interplay between visual design and literary techniques. From the labyrinthine pages of Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves to the innovative lay-outs in Ander Monson’s nonfiction to the visual poetry of Douglas Kearney and Cecilia Vicuna, contemporary authors are embracing the highly visual, multimedia tendencies of our age to challenge and expand our ways of reading and writing. In this course we will study, create, and workshop several works of visual literature. No prior experience in this area is required, and students of all genres and disciplines are welcome.

ENG 816 | Seminar in Poetry Writing

Constraints and Open Forms
Maurice Kilwein-Guevara
Section 1 | M, 3:30 p.m. – 6:10 p.m.

My goal is for you, as a serious poet, to push against personal habits of composition. If you have typical ways of writing new poems, I would like you to set those aside for this class and open yourself to alternative practices of thinking about poetic generation. The constraints, paradoxically, should facilitate new modes of exploration, away from routine; this can be wonderfully liberating.

Each student will give a short presentation (15 minutes) on a particular form from An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art. We’ll also read Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing throughout the semester as a discussion of alternative modes of production: appropriation, collage, conceptual poetry, et cetera. I’ll also bring in a few other models such as N+7, sound poetry, and performance poetry.

I want you not only to explore various forms and strategies for composition, but I want you to push against the types of subjects that you usually explore (thematics). If you were a poet of interiority and meditation, for example, I’d love to see you write new poems that are conspicuously in-the-world, outward-looking, observational, consensual & sensual, filled with what Clifford Geertz called thick description.

I’ll ask each of you to write three “original” poems-in-progress that are guided by a form in An Exaltation of Forms, three that grow out of your reading in Uncreative Writing, and two poems-in-progress whose compositional constraints were designed by you. I’ll also ask you to revise one of the poems-in-progress in each of the three groups by the end of the semester. Including both poems-in-progress and revisions, you’ll turn in a portfolio of eleven poems.

My hope is that this class makes you more mindful and flexible about your compositional strategies and thematics.

I welcome any dedicated and ethically engaged graduate-level writer in poetry or fiction, in one of the English Department’s other plans, or even in other graduate programs on campus. This class has the potential to be remarkably memorable, educational, and fun.

ENG 855 | Seminar in Theories of Business and Technical Writing

Rhetoric and Communication: Beyond Transmission and Representation
William Keith
Section 1 | R, 4:30 p.m. – 7:10 p.m.

Ever since Miller’s seminal 1984 article established genres as social actions rather than formalisms, scientific and technical communication scholars have struggled to make good on conceptually pragmatic (i.e. action or practice based) accounts of scientific and technical communication. Much of the theory applied to scientific and technical communication has assumed representation and transmission explain the communication in technical communication. In this course we will read a variety of authors who offer alternate theories, focused on concepts of action and practice.  Students will be able to pursue individual or group projects that gauge these theories’ usefulness for addressing scholarly questions of technical communication.