Past Courses

Below I list the courses I taught before coming to Fisk University. For a list of courses I teach regularly at Fisk, see the main teaching page.

Victorian Modernity (Rollins College, fall 2015)

The Victorians self-consciously felt themselves to be living in a moment of rapid change, as they witnessed events we still associate with modernity: the expansion of voting rights, the spread of evolutionary theory, the expansion of the railroad, and the invention of photography and the telegraph. In this course, students will survey major Victorian texts, considering how those texts engage with the concept of modernity and how they might help us face historical changes in the twenty-first century. Readings will cover Eliot (we’ll read all of Middlemarch), Tennyson, the Brownings, Carlyle, Mill, the Rossettis, Dickens, Wilde, Ruskin, and others. In lieu of standard papers, students will create fictional facebook and LinkedIn profiles to explore distinction between the personal and professional Dickens’s Great Expectations; contribute to a course blog; deliver pecha-kucha presentations, based on research about particular historical context for Middlemarch; and add to Wikipedia.

Young Adult Fiction (Rollins College, fall 2015)

This seminar for English majors introduces students to a genre that emerged only in the second half of the twentieth century but has, in the twenty-first century, become the most profitable and widespread literary genre. The course begins with a focus on narrative style, locating young adult fiction in the history of adolescence and paying attention to focalization and narrative discourse. The second part of the course emphasizes literary theory, as students engage with Marxist theory, feminist theory, cultural studies, and postcolonial theory. Readings include Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction; S. E. Hinton, The Outsiders; Robert Cormier, The Chocolate War; Walter Dean Myers, Monster; Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, Skim; M. T. Anderson, Feed; E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks; and Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Besides participating actively in class discussions, students will write a 5-page paper, based on a close reading of a novel; four short papers, each applying a different theoretical lens; a summary of a critical article; and a 6-8 page research paper.

Literature and Childhood (Rollins College, spring 2015)

In this course, which fulfills the college’s “literature” general education requirement, students will consider the ways in which literature helps us think about childhood. Readings will be mostly fiction, but will include some poetry and drama, and will range from canonical literary works like Frankenstein and Oliver Twist to popular contemporary fiction for adults and young adults, like Push by Sapphire and Harry Potter. Often our readings will be paired with popular press articles or academic criticism about children and culture. Assignments include participation; reading quizzes; three short (3-page) papers; and a longer (7-page) final paper.

The English Novel to 1900 (Rollins College, fall 2014)

This course explores the historical development of the English novel from its origins in the mid-18th century through the late Victorian period. We will examine sub-genres like the epistolary novel, the gothic novel, the historical novel, and the bildungsroman, as we aim to determine what criteria holds these different works together. Primary readings will include Pamela, Joseph Andrews, Evelina, Northanger Abbey, Frankenstein, Mary Barton, Great Expectations, Silas Marner, and Dracula. I will provide summaries of major critical studies, including Watt’s The Rise of the Novel, Gallagher’s Nobody’s Story, and Lynch’s Economy of Character, and we will read secondary material from the Norton Critical edition of Great Expectations. In addition to the reading (which will be a lot), assignments include participation in class discussions; posts to a course wiki; three 5-page papers; and a 7-page paper.

Disney’s Victorians (Rollins College, spring 2014, spring 2015)

“Mother and Dad both loved the Victorian Period,” writes Diane Disney Miller, daughter of Walt Disney. Given Disney’s choices of films — Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio, The Jungle Book, Oliver and Company, The Little Mermaid — the statement is perhaps unsurprising. In this course, students will explore the ways in which our modern perspective on late-nineteenth century British and European texts has been shaped by an American cartoonist. We’ll read the original texts, considering both their historical background and their reception history (including Disney’s adaptations). In addition to readings and active participation during class discussions, assignments will include: posts to a class discussion board; a group project looking at the reception and adaptation history for a single text; and a final research paper.

Major English Writings I (Rollins College, spring and fall 2014, spring 2015)

The first of two survey courses required for the English major, this course will help students develop their skills in close reading and historical perspective. We will focus on major works ranging from the Middle Ages through the end of the 17th century. Readings will include Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Canterbury Tales, Everyman, The Faerie Queen, Dr. Faustus, and Paradise Lost, as well as poetry by Shakespeare, Donne and Herbert, and a unit on the sonnet. Assignments include: participation in class discussion; in-class quizzes; a short paper in each of four categories (grammar and syntax; image and metaphor; narrative and genre; poetic form); a project on a sonnet; and midterm and final exams.

Literature and Science (Rollins College, fall 2013)

John Keats feared that science would “clip an Angel’s wings, / Conquer all mysteries by rule and line, / Empty the haunted air, and gnomèd mine— / Unweave a rainbow.” Students in this course will test Keats’s claim by reading a variety of literary texts that brush up against the sciences. The course begins historically, considering two major literary movements: Romanticism (readings include Wordsworth, Keats, Coleridge, Poe, Mary Shelley, and Barbauld) and modernism (readings include Whitman, Kipling, Eliot, Pound, Moore, Bishop, and Williams). Students develop their close readings skills on these canonical texts, and in the last third of the course apply what they’ve learned to twenty-first-century literary works about science: Margaret Edson’s Wit, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and E. O. Wilson’s Anthill. Assignments include participation in class discussion; in-class reading quizzes; and three papers.

Coming of Age Narratives (Rollins College, summer 2013)

This course explores the genre of the bildungsroman, the coming of age novel, in a variety of cultural and historical contexts. Readings will be mostly prose fiction, with some poetry and nonfiction prose, and may include: Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh (selection); Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre; Charles Dickens, Great Expectations; W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (selection); Zitkala Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin), School Days of an Indian Girl; James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Richard Wright, Black Boy; Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go; Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time; and Slumdog Millionaire. Assignments include participation in class discussion; in-class reading quizzes; and three papers.

Romanticism (Rollins College, spring 2013)

This course will focus on the major authors of the Romantic period (1790-1825), with a particular focus on poetry. Authors include Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, the Shelleys, Blake, Byron, Barbauld, Robinson, and Smith. The primary goal of the course is to develop students’ close reading skills and their ability to discuss poetry critically. For the first part of the semester, students will mark the rhythm and meter of one assigned poem each week, using the website For Better for Verse. For the second part of the semester, summaries of important scholarly work in Romanticism will accompany the primary readings: these summaries are designed to introduce students to a variety of critical approaches to Romanticism, and will include Abrams, Brooks, Bloom, McGann, and Mellor. Other assignments include participation in class discussions; weekly close reading papers; and a final portfolio, revising those papers and evaluating your progress over the course of the semester.

School Stories (UVA, spring 2011; Rollins College, spring 2013)

In this course, intended for prospective English-majors and non-majors, we will read a variety literary works about school. We will discuss the traditional school plots (arriving to a new school, participating in sports) as well as the conventional characters (like bullies, teachers, and friends). Throughout the semester we will ask how different authors treat these similar plots and characters, and what these authors seem to believe is the ultimate goal of education. Readings range from the eighteenth century through the twenty-first, and will include poetry, novels, short fiction, and films, and might include. Texts vary by semester but past iterations have included: Sarah Fielding, The Governess; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile (selection); Thomas Gray, “Ode on a Distant Prospect at Eton College”; William Blake, “The School Boy”; Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown’s Schooldays; Charles Dickens, Hard Times; Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer; Walt Whitman, “An Old Man’s Thought of School”; Charles Sorley, “A Letter from the Trenches to a School Friend”; Evelyn Sharp, The Making of  a Schoolgirl; W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (selection); Zitkala Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin), School Days of an Indian Girl; James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artists as a Young Man; Philip Larkin, “The School in August”; William Butler Yeats, “Among Schoolchildren”; Roald Dahl, Matilda; Rudyard Kipling, Stalky and Co.; James Baldwin, “A Talk to Teachers”; Noel Streatfield, Ballet Shoes; Dead Poets Society; J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go; Tom Wolfe, I Am Charlotte Simmons; and Mean Girls. Assignments include participation in class discussions; discussion questions (3 total, sent by email); three papers; and several short, self-evaluative writings, linking your own experiences at school with the texts we’re reading.

Dickens and the 19th Century Child (Rollins College, fall 2012)

The first novelist to write extensively about childhood, Charles Dickens presents us with an astonishing range of child characters. This upper-level seminar for majors will explore how the most popular novelist of the nineteenth century shaped our modern notions of childhood. We will begin with Dickens’s own childhood and his early novels Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol, before turning to the bildungsroman: we’ll read both David Copperfield and Great Expectations, and then compare Dickens’s novels with his contemporary Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The second half of the course will explore how children feature in Dickens’s social criticism. We’ll read Hard Times, then cross the Atlantic to see how much the child characters in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin owe to Dickens. Assignments include participation in class discussions; a Wikipedia entry on a character from one of the novels we read; and either two papers of 10 and 15 pages, or a single 25-page paper (students may choose). In addition, each student will be responsible for leading discussion of one of the novels.

Major English Writings II (Rollins College, fall 2012)

The second of two survey courses required for the English major, this course will help students develop their skills in close reading and historical perspective. We will begin historically, with the major authors from the eighteenth century (including Dryden, Pope, Swift, Johnson, Haywood, Fielding, and Gray), the Romantic period (including Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Byron, Keats, Austen, the Shelleys, Barbauld, and Hemans), and the Victorian period (including Dickens, Tennyson, the Brownings, Eliot, the Rossettis, and Wilde). In the last few weeks of the semester we will shift our focus to genre, spending two weeks on the lyric and three weeks on the novel, and rereading some of the works we had read earlier in a new context. Assignments include: three exams testing knowledge of each period; two 5-page close readings of individual works; weekly reading quizzes; and participation in class discussions.

Children and the Novel (UVA, fall 2009)

This course will examine the role children play in the history of the novel, both as characters and as readers. We will begin with Robinson Crusoe, the only book Rousseau recommended for children and a work occasionally cited as the first novel, and then progress chronologically, ending in the 21st century. We will considered novels written expressly for children, novels about children, and novels written for adults but also read by children. As the semester progresses we will discuss the historical development of the novel as a genre. Readings will include: Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe;  Sarah Fielding, The Governess (selection); Samuel Johnson, “On Fiction”; Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist; Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass; J. M. Barrie, Peter and Wendy; E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web; Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita; Judy Blume, Forever; and J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter.

Composition Courses

These courses help students develop the ability to read and write academic arguments. Assignments are scaffolded so that the semester begins with relatively easy readings (such as children’s texts) and short writing assignments, progressing to full-length academic arguments and research papers. New writing skills are introduced with each paper.

Regardless of the theme, the courses are writing-intensive. Each paper is broken into multiple assignments, and about half our class periods are spend workshopping student work.

Writing about Wikipedia (Rollins College, fall 2013, spring and fall 2014, fall 2015): Students in this course learn more about a website they use every day. Students begin by exploring a Wikipedia article of their choice, and then find a page that needs to be updated. Their first paper explains why the page is lacking, making an argument based on Wikipedia’s own criteria; their second assignment is to add to the page, which requires locating reliable sources on their chosen topic. The final paper considers Wikipedia’s roll in today’s culture. In 2014-15 I was awarded a Faculty Instructional Technology Integration grant to update this course. The last two iterations of this course were linked with the Wikipedia Education Program (see the course dashboard for fall 2015).

Writing about Children’s Literature (Rollins College, spring 2013): Primary texts include Peter PanCharlotte’s Web, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Secondary readings include criticism of these works and scholarship about children’s literature generally, by critics including Jacqueline Rose, Perry Nodelman, Jack Zipes, Peter Hunt, and others.

Disney and US Culture (UVA, fall 2010 and 2011): In this course, students begin by reading several stories and fairy tales on which Disney films were based, and then watch these films themselves. During the first week of the semester students select the texts and films we will read and watch. For the last section of the course we will read articles on topics like intellectual property, marketing, and labor rights, connecting these concepts to the Walt Disney Company.

The Harry Potter Phenomenon (UVA, fall 2008, spring 2009, spring 2010): Primary readings include one or more of Rowling’s novels, and films based on the novels. Secondary readings include book reviews and popular press opinion pieces, in addition to articles by Jack Zipes, Philip Nel, Colman Noctor, Harold Bloom, and others.

Other Teaching

Theses and independent studies (Rollins College)

  • Reader, honors in the English major: “Thoreau on the Threshhold: Examining the Liminal in Walden,” 2015
  • Independent Study: Frankenstein, Then and Now (fall 2013)
  • Director, Master of Liberal Studies: “Handicraft, Hobbitcraft and the Fires of Mordor: The Arts and Crafts Movement, Industrial Revolution and The Lord of the Rings,” 2014
  • Reader, Master of Liberal Studies: “Guarded Optimism, Cyclical Fatalism: an intertexual analysis of specific Victorian literary works and their Modernist reinterpretations,” 2012–2014

Workshop and Seminar Leader, University of Virginia Teaching Resource Center

  • Foundations of Scholarly Teaching (six-week seminar, fall 2010)
  • Technology and the Discussion Classroom (six-week seminar, spring 2010)
  • Teaching the First Day of Class (workshop, summer 2010 and 2011)
  • Responding to Student Writing (workshop, summer 2010)

Summer Medical and Dental Education Program, Charlottesville, Virginia

  • Director, Reading and Writing Skills (summer 2010, 2011, and 2012)
  • Reading and Writing Skills Instructor (summer 2008 and 2009)