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English 121 Course Themes

ENG-121 Comp & Lit is an intensive study of thesis-based essay writing, including the research paper. Students read complete works of literature from a variety of genres in the context of the works' intellectual, social, and cultural backgrounds, frequently grouped around cultural themes defined by the instructor.

Listed below are examples of themes for English 121.

Canaday, Steven

"The Individual and the Modern Family"

Rather than being lectured to or led in discussion, students will work in teams to solve specifically designed cases. Texts: As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner; Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams; How I Learned to Drive, Paula Vogel; Eight American Poets: An Anthology, Joel Conarroe, Ed.; Rules for Writers, Diana Hacker. 


Finnegan, James

"Doing Documentary Work"

In this course students will study “documentary” as a unique form of social and historical representation—a form defined by a collaborative tension between images and words, “fact” and creative nonfiction, history and personal experience, observer and observed. As part of a research and final project for the course, students will produce their own documentary (representing another person using a combination of words and images) in connection with a service learning component. Texts: Writing Analytically (5th Edition); Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee and Walker Evans; 12 Million Black Voices, Richard Wright; The Laramie Project, Moises Kauffman; Maus I and II, Art Spiegelman.


Gabriel-Tucci, Paul

"Persuasive Visions: Revealing the Unseen" 

Texts: Little Brown Handbook (10th Edition); Narrative of the Life of Frederick Frederick Douglass; Nickled and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich; The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston; All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque, trans. by A.W.Wheen; Poems: New and Collected, Wislawa Szymborska, trans. by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.


Rabin, Jessica


In this course, we will read and analyze literature that explores the nature of relationships between generations, especially within the context of families. We will look historically and culturally at the sources of the generation gap and also at the ties that bind members of different generations together through our engagement with poetry, plays, and fiction. Texts: Brown Girl, Brownstones, Paule Marshall; Fences, August Wilson; The Tragedy of King Lear, William Shakespeare; When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple, Sandra Martz; Little Brown Handbook (10th Ed).


Spoor, Suzanne

"National Mythologies and Individual Identities"

How does our view of ourselves affect others and shape our environment? Does one's sense of personal identity create reality? Can an individual's imagination change the stories of a culture or nation? How do personal or national trauma, as occur during a war, affect one's sense of identity? In this section of English 121, we will explore these and other questions through short stories, novels, and plays that reflect a variety of cultural viewpoints. Texts (provisional list): The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien;  And the Soul Shall Dance, Wakako Yamauchi; Fences, August Wilson.