ENG 439: Topics/Restoration/18th Century Lit, Blake and the Counter-Enlightenment, Professor Richard Squibbs
Professor Squibb’s Blake and the Counter-Enlightenment course focused on the illuminated works of William Blake, whose work I had not visited since freshman year of college. We studied the works in relation to their facsimiles, with Professor Squibbs broadcasting the online William Black Archive each class. It is here I became obsessed with facsimiles and their relation to the texts, as well as the variations of style or color. The online coloration is astounding. As a freshman, I remembered writing a basic five-paragraph essay on Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Innocence and Experience and how the surrounding artwork influenced the reading of the two poems. I guess I took the same idea and upgraded it a bit for graduate school. For the final, I decided to focus on the change in the final order of poems from Songs of Innocence and Experience. This was no small feat, as it meant comparing editions of the Songs and their final three poems for some variation in overall meaning. I did go to the William Blake exhibit at Northwestern during the class, though, and the exhibit – which included one of his original facsimiles and a section on his influence on ‘60s counterculture – was beautiful.
ENG 471: Book and Media History, Professor John Shanahan
I will admit, this course was not what I was expecting when I had to take a required Book and Media History class. It expanded my knowledge on media and text studies tenfold. Professor Shanahan was trying something different with our class, and with the help of Digital Scholarship Librarian Ana Lucic our class focused on the data of text. We did learn the basic quarto, binding, and type case of book history, but we were also learning Python code in class as a tool to analyze texts. For example, we could go to Project Gutenberg and scrape a copy of Shakespeare’s Hamlet for the term “skull.” While I found Python to be useful, I was extremely confounded by it and the nature of book history studies. So, for my final, I tried to put it into terms I could understand and focused on the variations between print and digital zines and how textuality influences the reading experience. I utilized DePaul’s zine archives and chose three that I felt illustrated the changing nature of zines from print to digital. I ended up turning my work into a mini-zine, and it was one of my favorite papers. This zine is also open-access, so those outside of the class or interested in zine culture can publicly view my research. This class also proved to be one of my favorite classes of my graduate career, and was the most beneficial when discussing texts in other classes.
ENG 429: Topics in Renaissance Literature, Donne and the Metaphysical Poets, Professor Megan Heffernan
I first remember studying Jack Donne and Dr. Donne in Professor McQuade’s class my junior year. I was excited to take a course specifically on Donne as a graduate (and have it count towards my undergraduate Shakespeare requirement). In the class, we discussed the textuality and dissemination of Donne’s writing, since most of his earlier works were not published but sent as notes to friends or lovers. Most of his work was published after his death, besides his sermons or Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. We also spent a lot of time on the Digital Donne Archive, where you could recreate the courtyard of St. Paul’s Cathedral – if my time at DePaul has taught me anything, it is to appreciate a good digital archive. Donne is quite possibly one of the most confusing, wackiest writers I’ve encountered. I became hyper fixated on the odd medicinal and spiritual beliefs of the Renaissance, and ended up focusing my final on the humors, melancholy, and their connection to spirituality in Donne’s Holy Sonnets. My final for this class was selected for the Newberry Library's Center for Renaissance Studies 2020 graduate conference. I can’t say no to a Madness and Melancholy panel, but I did realize Renaissance Studies is not my field of interest.
ENG 41: Chaucer, Professor Lesley Kordecki
Quite frankly, I’ve never been a fan of Chaucer. Nor did this class make me a fan of Chaucer, though not to Professor Kordecki’s fault. I will never forget that bitch, Fate (ask Professor Kordecki to explain). I find Medieval Studies to be a bore unless one can find a justifiable reason as to how Chaucer still connects to contemporary culture. Most of our class discussions centered on whether Chaucer was progressive or not, given tales like The Wife of Bath’s Tale from The Canterbury Tales. I didn’t really agree with the idea that Chaucer was progressive, which I felt bordered on presentism. When reading Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, our class discussions often address the damned nature of the female characters included across the pilgrims’ tales. Women, those separate from the church, seem to be caught in two categories. They are either 1.) labeled as mischievous vixens or 2.) obedient beings, used as objects for men’s desire and ownership. Often, the women are completely voiceless in the tales’ resolution, even in storylines in which they are more substantially involved, such as the marriage tales. My final for the class criticized The Franklin’s Tale and The Physician’s Tale for their depiction of female death as a sacrificial, redemptive act, yet one not entirely of their own agency. Death becomes less a means to preserve women’s reputation than to save that of the surrounding men. Purity and the extremes to preserve it become a representation of patriarchal control over women’s bodies and agency. I’m now realizing this is a presentist reading, as well, just in the opposite direction.
ENG 449: Topics in 19th Century British Literature, Godwins and the Shelleys, Professor Jonathan Gross
Our course focused on the iconic literary family of the Godwins and the Shelleys and their influence on Romantic literature. We read Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman, Caleb Williams, and Frankenstein, the prose work of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft and the poetry of Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. It was a closer look at the famous drama of the family, with Godwins’s radical political beliefs, Wollstonecraft’s feminism and death during childbirth, and Percy and Mary Shelley’s tumultuous marriage. We read the texts in the context of larger Romantic and Gothic frameworks, but also as a study of the interpersonal relationships of the family.
I’m thankful that Professor Gross let me experiment with my research because it was around this time that I became obsessed with interdisciplinary studies between literature and popular music. This was mostly after reading James Rovira’s Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms, where Rovira argues “that rock itself is a late-twentieth-century expression of Romanticism — an extension, continuation, partner, or doppelgänger of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century movement” (2). I’m all for experimentation with research, so I wanted to use Rovira’s research as an outline for my own work. I focused on Wollstonecraft’s Maria in comparison to Evanescence’s 2003 album Fallen, Shelley’s Frankenstein in comparison to PJ Harvey’s 1993 Rid of Me, and Shelley’s Mathilda to Siouxsie and the Banshees’s 1986 Tinderbox.
ENG 475: Topics in Literature, Rewriting the Romance, Professor Eric Selinger
I think students and traditional scholars balk at the idea of reading romance novels because of their connotation as cheap or mass-marketed literature. Yet, romance novels are one of the best-selling genres of literature, and their popularity garners contemporary literary analysis. In Professor Selinger’s class, we studied the history of the romance novel, from the problematic The Sheik to contemporary, queer romance novels. I found our discussions to be more engaging than other literature classes because it felt relevant to popular culture. We were able to discuss the publishing field, too, which I think often becomes irrelevant in English literature classes, even though it can be extremely influential on a writer’s reception, style, and publicity. For the final, I wanted to focus on contemporary romance novels that were expanding the boundaries of romance narratives. This was specifically when emotional labor was a hot-topic, and I wanted to address emotional labor in the terms of romantic relationships. The romance is found in the hero’s reciprocation, best exemplified in grand gestures that perform emotional labor as a means to an end. It’s a tropic narrative arc of the romance genre where the hero is prided, or even rewarded, for their emotional labor while the heroine’s work goes largely unnoticed or is considered a natural expression of her feminine character. I focused on Alisha Rai’s Hate to Want You as a novel of communication, and more importantly, communicating your emotional needs and listening to the needs of your partner.
ENG 490: Writing for Magazines, Professor Theodore Anton
I believe Professor Anton’s Writing for Magazines course was the only creative writing course I took as an undergraduate or a graduate. I wanted to take the course because I also have a BA in journalism and I was hoping to meld journalism and creative nonfiction writing. We focused on three types of magazines: trade publications, public magazines, and literary magazines. This mix didn’t always work because styles can vary drastically based on publication – like the pitch letters you would write to Cosmopolitan are not the same as you would write to Guernica. My background in journalism might have helped my understanding of pitching, but I still did not understand creative nonfiction that did not meld some sort of research. Perhaps that is my style, though, like a Joan Didion or Maggie Nelson or Jia Tolentino – I'm now realizing most are also journalists.
We did read some amazing, long-form journalism and creative nonfiction pieces, and it was here I discovered my love for Elissa Washuta. I’m glad I did not take more creative writing courses because we would read our articles aloud and then the group would offer feedback, which I hated but my creative writing friends said was standard. It’s just awkward. I did have one of my articles published, though, which was the goal of the course. My piece on supporting local musicians was published in the Reader during the course.
ENG 408: Stylistics, Craig Sirles
In Professor Sirles’s Stylistics class we analyzed the style and tone of language. Our point of emphasis was on how style acts as code for certain settings and situations. For example, the language used between coworkers will probably be more formal than the language used between close friends. We focused our readings on passages from Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style with 99 variations on the same story, each in different style. It was interesting to see how much style changed the meaning of the passage. I really loved our final essay, which was to analyze the style of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and how the style contributed to her narrative. As mentioned previously, I was already a Didion fan, so I was thankful to read her again, but I believe this text provided a good base for stylistic analysis. I’m wondering if the course could be updated to analyze the stylistics of social media. This might get too close to communication or media studies, but it would be interesting to study language as it evolves through online communication or digital dissemination.
ENG 475: Topics in Literature, Latin American & Latinx Literature, Professor Bill Johnson Gonzalez
Professor Gonzalez’s Latin American & Latinx Literature class was the first class, outside of a course I took through the Modern Languages Department, that I was able to read any sort of Latinx literature. I find this dumbfounding considering almost 20 percent of the population is Hispanic or Latino, according to 2019 U.S. Census information. It made me consider how almost no Latinx authors are included in the American canon, and I wonder if language is a barrier, along with other factors. Our course focused on the transatlantic nature of literature and how writers incorporate history or culture from a mix of nationalities. I loved reading Octavio Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude that theorizes Mexican identity or Mexicanidad. I also enjoyed learning more about the history of Latinx migration and identity in America, whether that be reading about land grabbing in modern-day Texas or reading about Chicana writers like Gloria Anzaldúa. My final for the class on Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties and its use of popular media to pervert real-life body horror was selected for the Midwestern Conference on Language, Literature and Media at Northern Illinois University.
ENG 472: Literary Theory, Professor Bill Johnson Gonzalez
I was terrified to take the required literary theory class, but I love Professor Gonzalez. I believe he makes theory accessible, which it can be underneath all that jargon. I ended the class wishing I took it earlier because I believe it offers a useful framework for understanding criticism and giving students substantial ideas of how they aim to situate their studies in the context of larger literary theory. Our class focused on one question: What is literature? We read both literary and cultural theory, so not only were we reading literary theorists like Cleanth Brooks but also excerpts from Foucault and theories on psychoanalysis from Freud. The class felt like an introduction to popular theory practices that students could then build on as a methodology to literary criticism. At time, it felt a bit difficult to make the connection to practice with literature, but I am glad to have the overview of larger theoretical fields.
A majority of our class discussions concerned destabilizing the Westernized Canon and arguing about the artistic merit that separates a novel or writing from Literature. Our final was to explain Literature to an alien. I went a bit meta with this analysis. I argued that the act of engaging with a text is Literature. Thus, literature can be considered alien, and how one chooses to interact with that alien – to view it as an extension of life, to view it as apart from human, to accept, reject, but to always interact with – is Literature. I found Professor Gonzalez’s research question approachable to a larger audience and wanted to make the discussion open source. I turned my argument into a zine and then published it online to promote accessibility. I’m sure there are other ways of open-source publishing that engages an audience outside of academia, but that has been my goal with research. My analysis was paratextual in that I referenced the zine to literature or Literature, based on different theoretical approaches. I hope the dissemination of the product engaged a public not familiar with literary theory and furthered their interest in the study.
ENG 509: Internship, Teaching Internship at Truman College, Professor Carolyn Goffman
During my student teaching internship at Truman College, a branch of the City Colleges of Chicago, I worked with Department of Communication Director Kate Gillespie and her English 102 class, which focuses specifically on research and argumentative papers. My role as a student teacher mostly included assisting Professor Gillespie with students’ questions, working one-on-one with students in class, and reading or grading paper drafts. Our class is divided into two sections. The first was reading excerpts from Warmth of Other Suns by Isabelle Wilkerson and using it as a test trial for researching and writing academic papers. This was a good precursor to gauge students' writing before they continue their independent research. Then, at about week seven, we switch gears to focus on the main paper, which is about 30 percent of their grade and on a topic of their choosing.
During my time at Truman College, I got to work closely with students on personalized argumentative research papers and learned the emotional toll of teaching, as well as useful, evaluative approaches. I learned you can’t make a student care about their work, that even if a student tries hard, they may not get the grade they desire, and be flexible and patient with students. My online class that coincided with the internship consisted of just Professor Goffman and I, as no other graduate student had an internship that quarter. Most of the work for the online class was reflective work, such as a journal or online discussion posts. My internship shifted gears as the pandemic hit and Spring Quarter classes moved online. It was a learning experience in the classroom for me, students, and Professor Gillespie. I was surprised to see so many students drop off and not complete the course, but those who did turned in great work that (pleasantly) surprised me just as much.
ENG 464: Studies in American Authors, Toni Morrison, Professor Francesca Royster
I wanted to take Professor Royster’s Toni Morrison class for a while. I had yet to read a novel by Morrison, in or out of the classroom. I was heartbroken that the class ended up being remote due to the coronavirus pandemic because I was looking forward to class discussions. Being remote, though, class discussions were basically nonexistent. We read a book a week from Morrison, each under the thematic gaze of her 1988 essay “Unspeakable Things Unspoken,” which argued that literary theory for Afro-American literature should be based on the culture, history, and the artistic strategies the works employ, rather than through a white lens. That meant learning about the everyday lives and psyche of Black Americans, rather than reading them through an imperialist view. I became particularly interested in the relationships between Black women and their shared trauma or experiences. I wanted to focus my final on intergenerational trauma brought on by the dehumanization of Black women in Beloved. Outside of the class, it was quite a tumultuous quarter. Within the final week of class, there was the murder of George Floyd and nationwide protests met with police brutality, racial violence, and agitation from the president. It felt like living within the violence and white supremacy Morrison chronicles in her novels, from colonial America in A Mercy to Southern slavery in Beloved to the Harlem Renaissance in Jazz to the Great Depression in The Bluest Eye to the Civil Rights Movement in Song of Solomon to police brutality and racial profiling in the present day.