English Core Courses

The English Core is a three-course sequence that introduces our majors to the key theoretical concepts and critical practices in English Studies. The Core is designed to prepare students for our diverse array of intermediate-level English classes and also for our advanced research seminars. All Core courses are Writing Emphasis (WE), ensuring that students receive rigorous writing instruction.

Note: These core course descriptions are for students entering the major before Fall 2021. Students declaring an English major in Fall 2021 or later should consult the Undergraduate Studies (For Students Entering in Fall 2021 and Later) page.

ENG 194: Conventions of Reading and Writing


ENG 194 encourages students to acquire a self-reflexive and critical perspective, particularly through an introduction to reader-response theory and methodology. Students learn how their own reading assumptions and strategies effect their interpretation and production of texts. They consider especially the ways in which they have been shaped by the "interpretive communities" of school, college, family, friends, etc., to make sense of, produce, and evaluate texts. They learn to ask, in turn, how these interpretive communities may be influenced by such factors as race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexuality, socio-economic class, and culture.

To produce thoughtful critical responses, students need to pay careful attention not only to the way culture has shaped their reading assumptions and strategies but also to the way the texts they are reading and writing are influenced by textual conventions, especially those of genre. ENG 194 introduces students to a variety of prominent genres—e.g., the novel, short story, poetry, drama, essay, autobiography, and film. Writers represented in ENG 194 have emerged from diverse discourse communities—ethnic, racial, gendered, sexual, and cultural.

Teaching Requirements

All sections of ENG 194 will:

  1. Include both twentieth and twenty-first century texts.
  2. Introduce students to conventions of genre through an introduction to a variety of genres (novel, short story, poetry, drama, film, autobiography and memoir, film and television commercials) and rhetorical modes (essay, reviews, literacy narratives, editorials, letters, speeches).
  3. Provide a general introduction to various textual theories and critical approaches that are applicable to the texts they are reading and writing. Special attention should be given to reader-response criticism.
  4. Engage students in applying various methods of textual interpretation and production consistent with reader-response criticism, such as formal analysis, identifying and interpreting the meaning of literary and rhetorical uses of language, and adopting critical and cultural perspectives.
  5. Engage students in reflecting on their own positioning as readers and writers through such perspectives as feminism, queer theory, cultural and identity politics, and racial and ethnic studies.
  6. Require a minimum of 15 pages of polished writing and 5-10 additional pages (or their equivalent) of formal or informal writing in a variety of genres, including but not limited to: literacy narratives, reviews, reflections and self-evaluation/inventory of reading and writing skills. The informal assignments may include free writing, short response papers (1-2 pages), rewriting from another perspective, and D2L responses. Formal assignments, including a formal analytical essay, should develop from the above-mentioned shorter writing assignments. Students will produce at least one formal essay for which they will submit both a first draft and a revision.
  7. Create a classroom environment that constitutes an interpretive community through which students become active participants in the construction of meaning as readers and writers.

Learning Outcomes

 By the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Quote and paraphrase the texts with which they are interacting.
  2. Locate their individual responses within a larger context of cultural codes and conflicts, critical approaches and theories.
  3. Demonstrate knowledge of conventional interpretive practices and critical interpretive terminology.
  4. Demonstrate an awareness of the conventions of particular textual genres; as such, students should be able to explain the strategies used by a writer to shape a reader's response and they should be able to employ similar strategies in their critical writing.
  5. Identify the gendered, racial, ethnic, and class perspectives from which we read and we write.
  6. Apply methods of reader-response criticism as well as other relevant critical approaches in a formal analysis.


ENG 295: Histories and Texts


ENG 295 focuses on history and its influences on the reception and production of texts. Students will be asked to engage critical, historical, and literary materials in order to develop insight into how cultural and historical circumstances enable the production of texts and influence how readers respond to them. An important part of understanding how texts are produced and received throughout history is coming to grips with how texts are valued in a given society at a specific historical moment. Toward that end, texts that have been considered "major," "canonical," and/or "literary" will be set in relation to texts that have been identified as "minor," "rhetorical," and/or "non-literary." The cultural values these comparisons bring to light will be examined in the context of the specific historical moments that produced them, as well as in light of our contemporary historical/cultural positioning.

By exploring the production, reception, and cultural valuation of texts, students will be able to see reading as a historically and culturally situated practice. Students will be asked to reflect on how texts are "preserved" by the reading process; how meaning is (re)produced even for texts from historically and culturally remote times and places; and how recuperating history, in itself, is an act of making meaning. Thus, students in this course will be encouraged to see reading texts through historical contexts as an exercise both of imagination and interpretive intellectual abilities.

Teaching Requirements

All sections of ENG 295 will:

  1. Include two or three pre-20th-century historical periods and cultural locations.
  2. Include texts from more than one culture or from distinctly different cultural locations within an individual society. The variety of genres, historical periods, and cultural locations will help to highlight the roles these social factors play in producing meaning in texts.
  3. Cover a varied selection of "literary" and "rhetorical" genres representing both "canonical" and "non-canonical" texts, including but not limited to: novels, plays, short fiction, essays, speeches, poetry, sermons, memoirs, and so on.
  4. Include readings in criticism, theory, and history.
  5. Require a minimum of 15 pages of polished writing and 5-10 additional pages (or their equivalent) of formal or informal writing.
  6. Instruct and guide students in practicing several genres of formal and informal writing, described below. Formal assignments, including the formal research paper, should develop from the above-mentioned shorter writing assignments.
    • Formal and informal timed writing (in the form of exams, free writing, quizzes, writing to classroom prompt, D2L responses, and/or short response papers of 1-2 pages). These writing assignments will provide students with opportunities to demonstrate their learning and/or think through a central concept of the course prior to participating in class discussion.
    • A research paper that explores the effects of history and culture on the production and reception of a set of texts. Students will be encouraged to consider comparative topics for this assignment that invite historical and cultural critique across time periods, genres, and/or cultural locations. This assignment will include direct instruction in conducting literary, critical and historical research in the library and on-line, as well as in MLA citation style. (Students will receive their main review of MLA style for their major program in this class.) This assignment will give students the opportunity to explore the concepts being introduced in class in a more intensive manner, developing some expertise on a specific set of texts, time periods, and/or cultural locations.

Learning Outcomes

By the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Analyze the roles that history and culture play in the production and reception of texts.
  2. Demonstrate a familiarity with methods of textual, cultural, and historical criticism, especially an introductory knowledge of New Historicism.
  3. Identify major events and dates in the historical periods covered.
  4. Demonstrate a facility with academic research.
  5. Perform timed writing comfortably.
  6. Show competence in MLA citation style.

ENG 296: Theory, Meaning, and Value

NOTE: LIT 206: African American Literature and Literary Theory also fulfills this requirement


In ENG 296, students will examine how the relationship between meaning and text is conceived by different critical theories. As meaning may be understood as inhering in the interaction of author, audience, text, and context, each theory provides a different way of understanding the nature of this interaction. Focusing on the 20th and 21st centuries, the course will present a selection of four or five key theoretical perspectives, including but not limited to: dialogism, expressivism, feminism, Marxism, myth, New Criticism, phenomenology, psychoanalysis, queer theory, postcolonialism, poststructuralism, race and identity, semiotics, and translation. Through the study of these perspectives, students will learn how the interpretation and creation of a text are mediated by theory.

By exploring several theoretical perspectives, students will consider the ways in which the value of a text emerges from not only the text itself, but also the historically variable force of cultural and institutional value-systems: ideological, scholastic, and commercial. They will also explore the role of language in shaping these value-systems. As such, students will consider how historically variable forces and the shifting role of language influence genre and canonicity.

Teaching Requirements

All sections of ENG 296 will:

  1. Include four or five key theoretical perspectives. While the course may make comparisons with older critical theories, the focus will be on 20th and 21st century developments.
  2. Assign actual texts written by key theorists, along with texts that explicate those theories and critical essays that reveal specific theories at work.
  3. Provide students opportunity to articulate their understanding of theory, meaning and value though a substantial oral presentation.
  4. Provide students opportunity to read, discuss, and write about the relationships among language(s), cultural values, and theoretical perspectives as expressed in course readings.
  5. Require a minimum of 15 pages of polished writing and 5-10 additional pages (or their equivalent) of formal or informal writing.
  6. Allow students to practice several genres of academic writing:
    • Timed writing (in the form of essay exams, quizzes, or responses to readings).
    • Provide students with an opportunity to experiment with one writing assignment by actually enacting a specific theoretical perspective in content, style, genre, and perspective.

Learning Outcomes

By the conclusion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Apply models of criticism to their reading and writing of texts
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the interaction of author, audience, text and context
  3. Define and use theoretical terms and perspectives important in English Studies
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the relationships among language, cultural values, and theoretical perspectives
  5. Demonstrate greater comfort with oral presentations of scholarship
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