From exploring texts about Chicana/o border ballads to evaluating the Blues as an influence on African-American literature, each semester professors in the Texas State English Department teach a broad range of Special Topics Advanced English courses that inspire student curiosity and excitement. These courses reflect the diversity of student interests at Texas State, as well as the talents and scholarly interests of the faculty who create them. Many of these courses are offered only once, providing students unique experiences to examine timely, intriguing topics as part of their college educations. Among the many Special Topics courses on offer for the upcoming Spring 2020 semester are Dr. Eric Leake’s course on “The Rhetoric of the Emotions” (ENG 3318, Group D), Dr. Elvin Holt’s single-author course on African-American writer August Wilson (ENG 3341, Group B), Dr. Sara Ramirez’s “Chicana/o Myth” course (ENG 3329, Group B), and Mr. Steve Wilson’s course on “The Literature of Resistance” (ENG 3340, Group B).
Students taking Dr. Leake’s course, “The Rhetoric of the Emotions,” will investigate representations of emotion in writing from “rhetorical, cultural, social, and embodied perspectives.” Their multidisciplinary study of the “theories of emotion and how emotions function rhetorically in everyday texts, experiences, and relations” will culminate in a personal journaling project, in which students will write about events from their own lives. In another project, students will select an emotion and research “the rhetorical significance of that particular emotion” in literature, scholarship, and their lives. Together, these projects will allow students to share and evaluate their own experiences with emotion, promising an exciting intersection between literary scholarship and personal experience.
Dr. Holt’s “August Wilson” course will consider Wilson’s undeniable influence on African-American literature, as well as the social impact of Wilson’s work and his treatment of race and history. According to Dr. Holt, students will discuss the “four B’s’ … Romare Bearden (collages), Amiri Baraka (black nationalism), Jorge Luis Borges (magical realism), and the blues (creative aesthetic),” each offering a lens through which to examine Wilson’s plays and highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of the course. Not only will students enrolled in this course study Wilson’s creative and cultural influence, but they also will perform a scene from one of the playwright’s works as part of their course project – encouraging them to become both young literary scholars and artists themselves.
Dr. Ramirez’s course on Chicana/o myth will investigate important elements of Chicana/o mythological narratives, beginning with “Aztlán, the mythical homeland, and its characterization in various cultural productions.” Students also will consider several deities from the Nahua and Mayan mythological pantheons that offer a framework for discussing Feminist Chicana mythology. Transported to mythologized border spaces, students will focus on assigned texts – Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, Virginia Grise’s blu, and Cherríe Moraga’s The Hungry Woman – that will instruct their study of border ballads as they relate to Feminist Chicana myth. Dr. Ramirez notes that the course is interdisciplinary in its examination of mythological adaptation, addressing, in particular, “the three mothers known in Chicana/o mythology: la Llorona, la Malinche, and Guadalupe.”
Students enrolling in Mr. Wilson’s course on “The Literature of Resistance” may find themselves similarly transported as they evaluate “the complicated relationship between aesthetics and politics” in texts portraying resistance by and reactions to oppressed groups. The required texts address such topics as gender, sexuality, race, and class-based oppression – from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, set in a dystopian future; to Helena Viramontes’ Under the Feet of Jesus, set in California and exploring the lives of Latin-American migrant workers. Discussing methods of resistance and the characterization of this resistance in literature will allow students to draw conclusions about the social impact of politicized texts that influence a variety of audiences and strive for social reform.
The courses highlighted above are only a few of the Special Topics courses available during the Spring 2020 semester. The full list of Spring 2020 Special Topics courses, as well as course descriptions for all Spring 2020 Advanced English classes, are available at the English Department website. These documents provide course codes, CRN, descriptions, names of faculty, and the degree requirement each course satisfies. Registration begins October 22, 2019.
-Kennedy Farrell, English major