We offer a wide range of unique classes taught by professors who love what they do and take joy in furthering their students intellectually, spiritually and socially.

While our curriculum provides majors the specialized courses they need, it also seeks to meet the needs of all students pursuing the broad aims of a liberal education. Courses in literature and writing help develop students' abilities to read, to think and to express themselves logically, coherently and imaginatively.

View full course information in the catalog

Special Topics (ENGL 113)

Catalog course ENGL 113 consists of multiple topics of focus that vary each semester. Current and/or forthcoming descriptions are listed below. To see course details, including dates, times and professors, please use the Registrar’s course scheduler.

English 113 Section Descriptions — Fall 2016

ENGL 113.01 and 113.11 The American Presidency
This is a course about research, thinking and writing with a thematic focus on the cultural history of the United States Presidency. The course will examine topics such as the invention of the office, presidential mythology, transformative leaders, scandals, national crises, presidential oratory, First Ladies, debates and campaigns, and events relating to the election of 2016. Requirements include reading and viewing the thematic material, engaging in conversation and writing workshops, and developing a portfolio that demonstrates development towards greater proficiency at college-level writing.

ENGL 113.02 The American War in Vietnam
The American War in Vietnam was a controversial time in the United States. While soldiers were entrenched in a deadly war in Vietnam, the population at home was torn apart in their views on the war. In this class, we approach the war through the words of those actively involved in the conflict. We read one novel by an American solider and one by a North Vietnamese soldier, plus find other ways to see the war from both sides. In between we read many smaller excerpts from other writers, discuss different viewpoints, write responses to specific questions, and research and write longer papers.

ENGL 113.03 Academic Writing: Feminist Perspectives
This course is reading, writing and research intensive. 

In “Academic Writing: Feminist Perspectives” students will become acclimated with writing for and conversing with a college-educated audience through their research-oriented exploration of feminist perspectives in the United States and abroad. This course aims to increase your ability to summarize, develop and express ideas concisely; to engage with multiple literacies; to introduce you to research processes. The course gives special attention to academic writing in its various forms — critical summary, synthesis, explication, cultural analysis and book review — all of which are based on the reading of primary and secondary texts.

English 113 is flagged for “information literacy” within the general education curriculum; thus, it is essential that you become fluent with the skills required to understand and effectively seek, identify, evaluate and access various forms of information. Enrollees will spend nearly every Tuesday session with a Research and Instruction Librarian, who will guide and challenge you to “search” and to think critically about the information you encounter.

ENGL 113.04 Writing Thoughtfully
In this English 113 class you’ll have the opportunity to slow down and explore what’s important to you, engage in meaningful conversation with others and connect with the world around you. Ultimately, the goal of this class is to give you time and space to prepare for academic writing. We’ll spend a great deal of time writing, researching, reading and — most importantly — listening to what others have to say. 

ENGL 113.05 and 113.06 The Will to Survive
After all, isn’t that what life is all about anyway — surviving? To what extent do human beings fight to survive? To what lengths and extremes will we go to cling to life? What is the limit of our hanging on?

In this English 113 section, participants will read, discuss and be asked to write in response to literature that exemplifies humankind’s desire to survive. To inspire our discussing and writing, we will explore three pieces of “survival” literature. Actual titles will be selected from the following works: In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton (nonfiction), Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody (nonfiction), The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (nonfiction), Alive by Piers Paul Read (nonfiction), A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beal (nonfiction) and/or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (dystopian fiction).

And, speaking of survival, a major goal of this class will be to help you “survive” the writing that will be demanded of you in the real world of college and beyond; therefore, we’ll explore and practice writing that narrates, informs, persuades, reviews, responds, shares and/or entertains.

Class time will be spent discussing the assigned literature and (to a greater extent) responding to and helping each other with the writing we create — in pairs, in small groups and as a whole class. We will also spend time learning together through informal lectures, student presentations, in-class writing and individual student-teacher conferences. We’ll choose from different types of writing in order to create some final products, and, eventually, we’ll create a more in-depth research project.

ENGL 113.07 Activism: Whose Lives Matter
We’ve all seen bumper stickers — a kind of sound bite — that appeal to our sense of right and wrong or make a plea for our allegiance to a cause. (A personal favorite: “If you love Jesus, work for justice. Anybody can honk.”) And while a bumper sticker can deliver a “zinger,” it’s not the best forum for carefully addressing complicated issues. What kind of writing might instead call us to attention or offer a compelling argument? What kind of writing can ask us to consider our hidden agendas, our subconscious mentalities and the impact these have on others?

By drawing on a variety of texts and genres, this course will center around works that explore contemporary issues of social justice — or injustice, as the case may be. We’ll be thinking specifically about the worth of a human life — whether certain lives are valued over others. We’ll read powerful texts, watch documentaries and welcome guest speakers. Written assignments will highlight the act of writing as a potentially powerful and creative force for social change. By connecting with a local nonprofit organization throughout the semester, your writing projects will involve research on a social issue that’s addressed right here in Holland, Michigan; you will work with these non-profits for several hours over the course of the semester as an activist-writer. Such engagement will provide a springboard for you to explore in writing what you’re experiencing in your “field work.” You will turn in weekly journals, meet in small groups, hone your skills in grammar and reading analysis, and write and rewrite a handful of essays.

Bumper stickers may catch our attention, but learning to catch and sustain a reader’s interest — and call her to action — is a serious skill that will serve you well outside the classroom. In this course, you’ll go beyond bumper sticker mentality to learning the art of responding thoughtfully, meaningfully and thoroughly to tough social issues in our world — starting right outside your dorm door.

ENGL 113.08 Seminar in Academic Writing
To hone your writing skills, it takes practice and it takes patience. In this workshop-oriented section of English 113, we develop a series of essays incorporating themes from several novels and ideas from the Concise Guide to Writing textbook. Together, they serve as a content baseline for the course. Especially during the weekly computer lab sessions, you will come to see that the writing process is not so much magic as it is mechanics — plus a dash of inspiration. With the benefit of the instructor’s longtime experience as a writer and editor in the workplace, you will learn about crafting communication for today’s audiences, from on paper to online, and from the academic essay to the short forms of contemporary life.

ENGL 113.09 Crime and Punishment
Did your mom or dad or grandparents take this same course from me? I have used this same title since 1972; only the books and films and faces have changed. This is your chance to play Erin Brockovich or James Bond or Spike Lee or Agatha Christie, hot on the trail of clues leading to the exposure of past or current problems of law and order, cops and robbers, race and gender, crime and punishment. Readings, written exercises and experiments, compositions, research projects, interviews, discussions and classroom capers will focus on such significant issues as prison conditions, crimes against women and minorities, biological terrorism, drinking laws, the Holocaust and environmental crimes. With luck and skill, you may write the perfect crime or, at least, the perfect expository essay. Several classes will be devoted to writing workshops where you will read and comment on early and polished drafts of papers by class members. TV programs and occasional films will supplement the reading material. Four credit hours.

ENGL 113.10 Writing Your Life
Relative freedom of choice, plenty of interaction among peers and between students and prof, and multiple opportunities to revise writings before final evaluation will headline this workshop-driven writing course. Choices will include what to write about and how much to revise after initial submissions. With final works to be collected in a portfolio at semester’s end, students will not only learn more about themselves by writing, but also about the worlds of others around them and how to communicate effectively in various modes (narrative, informative, investigative and persuasive), for various audiences (informal to formal) and to serve various purposes (to entertain, inform, persuade, inspire). The course’s readings and activities will suggest many options and inspire creative possibilities. People who like, or are willing to learn to like, examining and expressing what is important to them; who, with acclimation and practice, will not be bashful about discussing such things in critically thoughtful ways; and who do not procrastinate will thrive best in this self-motivated course.

ENGL 113.12 Space and Place
In the film Fight Club, the narrator asks, “If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?”

In this workshop-based course we’ll explore environments — how do we define our environments and how do they define us? How have the rooms where you’ve slept, the trees you’ve climbed, the school hallways you’ve walked impacted who you are, who you’re still becoming? You’ll read as a writer as you study and discuss fiction and nonfiction texts rooted in place and intricately tied to setting. And, through writing, you’ll explore and discover (possibly re-discover) the places and perspectives that shape you.

As first-year students in a new setting, you’ll focus on the process of writing. Your collection of polished work will inspire confidence in your ability and serve as a solid foundation for the writing you’ll do throughout college and beyond.

ENGL 113.13 and 113.16 Spiritual Life Writing
This course centers on writing through the lens of the spiritual life. We’ll look together at the ways in which people use the written word to make sense of who they are in relation to life’s big questions: Who am I? Who or what is the divine? What is my relationship to God? Where is meaning found? How should I live? How do I live as a sexual being? What do we do with evil? How do I decide between right and wrong? What shall we do about poverty or environmental degradation? Some of these texts will be prescriptive; they use writing as a way of ordering or more closely following an ideal spiritual life. Others will be reflective; they use language as a way of making meaning of one’s own or another’s spiritual journey. Others will be scholarly; they analyze the spiritual writings of others and consider how meaning is constructed in these texts. Besides reading (because it’s hard to find a good writer who is not also a good reader) we will write a lot: short reflective response papers, your own rule of life paper, a spiritual life interview paper and an academic research paper on a spiritual giant.

ENGL 113.15 Money Changes Everything
The readings and discussion in this course will consider the effects, positive and negative, that the pursuit of money and the possession of it or lack of it have on the quality of life and the human spirit. The broad questions about money that we will explore are:

Can we buy happiness?

  • Are rich people happier than poor people?
  • Does wealth increase contentment regardless of social class?

How does money shape relationships?

  • Can dramatic changes in personal income level bring people together? Tear them apart?
  • Does economic hardship lead to a higher incidence of domestic violence?

Can huge differences in wealth be justified?

  • Does the income gap square with our ideal of being “born equal”?
  • Is our long-held belief that hard work guarantees the good life still true?

Has money blinded us to higher values?

  • Where does the pursuit of money fit in with the tenets of various religions? Is it becoming a religion in itself?
  • Have we let money override things we claim to care about, such as good parenting, love of country, and sportsmanship?

You will read a wide variety of thought provoking articles. These readings will be a springboard for discussion and serve as models for your essays. During in-class workshops, you will learn to apply specific writing style and revision techniques to your papers. You will polish your “works in progress” throughout the semester and submit them in a portfolio for a final grade at the end of the term. Note: Due to the numerous in-class exercises, it would be difficult to function without a laptop computer.

ENGL 113.17 Who Are You?
(The Who had it right.) Though fifty years or so have traveled by – mostly in the fast lane – we could still say that in 2016–2017 much insightful language we might use to describe ourselves and our life views may be expressed in song titles of the band The Who from the 1960’s and 1970’s. “Who Are You?” continues to have more importance than just as a television or commercial theme song, and consider “A Little is Enough,” “Don’t Get Fooled Again,” “How Can You Do It Alone?” “Disguises” and “I Don’t Even Know Myself.” 

Song titles put aside, this expository writing course may allow you to articulate a little of who you are and what you have to say while adding to your preparation for the academic writing requirements of Hope College. Stressing the methods of the writing workshop process, our work will focus on clarity, depth of thought, voice, organization and language effectiveness.  Plan to read a variety of essay samples, write both formally and informally, engage in critical evaluation of your own products and those of others, research and cite thoroughly, and make valuable contributions within the group.  Hopefully the class will advance the realization that sincere, fluent thought and writing can occur “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” (Townshend and Daltrey 1965).

ENGL 113.19 Crichton’s Jurassic Park
Have you seen that classic movie Jurassic Park? Want to read the book? In this course we’ll read Jurassic Park and two other novels by Michael Crichton, and we’ll watch the film adaptations of at least two of these novels. The stories themselves can generate topics for a series of essays written during the semester; the novel/film comparisons can serve as part of a discussion of the factors that influence the process of revision. Students will have the opportunity to revise their essays throughout the semester (but not, I think, into cinematographic form).

Special Topics (Upper-level ENGL courses)

Several upper-level ENGL courses consist of multiple topics of focus that vary each semester. Current and/or forthcoming descriptions are listed below. To see course details, including dates, times and professors, please use the Registrar's course scheduler.

English Upper-level section descriptions — Fall 2016

ENGL 373.01 Shakespeare’s Plays
Shakespeare’s plays are widely produced today, four centuries after they were first put on stage, because of the many ways Shakespeare’s characters face similar life circumstances to our own. By the end of the semester you'll be able to attend a modern Shakespeare production with the confidence that you can understand and critique the performance. In this course, we will work our way together through several of Shakespeare’s plays, reading and watching and studying and arguing about the meaning we find in them. Our work will cover his early to late writing and the four genres of comedy, history, tragedy and romance. We will consider the historical and literary contexts of the plays. We will examine the plays both as literature and as performance pieces, and will assess various critical approaches’ insights into the plays.

ENGL 373.02 Women Writers
From Revolution to Modernism. In the nineteenth century, women gathered in homes, schools and churches to answer the burning question: “What were we born to do?” In the twentieth century, women gathered in the streets to protect their families, for the right to vote and for greater equality at home and at work. From Anne Hutchinson to Emily Dickinson, Harriet Beecher Stowe to Zitkala-Ša, Edith Wharton to Willa Cather and Zora Neale Hurston, women have written stories, poems and plays that grapple with questions of family, race, gender, love, art, faith and justice. Through close reading, this upper-level literature course delves into the writing of a diverse group of women who found their voices, told their stories and changed American literature. We’ll learn from discussion, two short papers, writing workshops, an exam and a final presentation based on a final writing project. Want more information? Email Prof. Dykstra.

ENGL 373.03 Global Novels
Global Novels will consist of reading and discussing well written fictional and historical fictional novels. The authors chosen use precise, powerful words to enable the reader to be deeply touched emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. The reader will experience on a personal level the goodness, beauty, evil and ugliness in our world during the 20th and 21st centuries. Novels will be the best written from a wide range of nations including Sierra Leone, Kenya, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Armenia, Rwanda, Nepal, Afghanistan, Cambodia and more. If you are interested in integrating your learning at Hope with a deeply “felt” global citizenship, this is your class. Class structure will be seminar style. All majors are welcome.

ENGL 373.04 History of the English Language
Philology and the Inklings. Philology is the other discipline, besides literary criticism, that is at the core of English as a field of study. Whereas most English courses apply the tools of criticism, this one develops the philological tools for the study of English literature and the English language. It studies English from its origins, through its Old, Middle, and Modern forms, to its present-day varieties around the world (and especially in the United States) and its future in the age of computers and globalization. At each phase, we will analyze the various linguistic aspects of the language — sound, vocabulary, grammar, writing — with a particular eye toward how this kind of analysis is important to understanding literary works. You’ll learn enough Old English to be able to read a passage with lots of labor and reference aids, but more important you’ll have an idea what’s behind a modern translation of Beowulf and what choices a translator makes. With regard to present-day English, we’ll discuss controversies such as those over standard English usage and varieties like African-American Vernacular English. Most fundamentally, philology is a way to deepen your awareness of your language.

Three of the greatest English philologists of the past century happen to have been part of the literary fellowship called the Inklings: J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and Owen Barfield. As a sort of subplot, we will consider their ideas about philology, some of their philological research, and how, in Tolkien’s case, philology inspired the writing of The Lord of the Rings.

Recommended for those who plan to study literature or writing at the graduate level and those who plan to teach English at the secondary level or above. Taught every other fall semester.

Students have considerable latitude in the order in which they take their English classes. However, keep in mind a few general principles that will help you make the most of your education at Hope:

  • Take ENGL 248 and/or 253 as early as possible. These are foundational courses in our curriculum.
  • English 113 or the equivalent is a prerequisite to all other writing courses.
  • Students considering an English major should consult with the department chairperson or another faculty member in the department before beginning to take upper-level English classes for help in deciding about the most appropriate course selections.
  • Students preparing for careers in elementary and secondary school teaching should consult the Department of Education for detailed interpretation of major requirements for teacher certification.