Undergraduate Course Descriptions

All Department of English courses are "R" courses, except for the following "D" courses: ENGL-303, ENGL-304, ENGL-407 and ENGL-490. A Department stamp is not required for "R" course registration prior to the beginning of the semester, but is required for "D" course registration. On the first day of classes all courses will be closed—admission is granted only by the instructor's signature and the Department stamp (available in Taper Hall of Humanities 404). You must then register in person at the Registration office.

Departmental clearance is required for all "D" class courses.

Be sure to check class numbers (e.g., 32734R) and class hours against the official
Schedule of Classes at http://classes.usc.edu/.

  • Fall 2014 Special Interest Courses

    ENGL-392 Visual and Popular Culture
    Gambrell, MW 12-1:50pm
    What does language look like? What impact does the physical appearance of a text have upon the reader? In this course, we will be begin to propose answers to these questions by looking at words not only as abstract conveyors of significance, but also as viewable, malleable objects that shape and are shaped by broader forces at work in our everyday lives. In addition to reading novels, literary criticism, design theory, and cultural history, we will also devote substantial attention to expressive forms (including graffiti, comics, artists’ books, film, interactive media, and installation art) that will help us think about language as a richly embodied mode of communication. In the process, we will investigate and generate new possibilities for the design of information, stories, and scholarship.


    In addition to traditional written assignments, students in ENGL 392 will produce scholarly projects in alternative forms. During the course of the semester, students will learn about the theory and practice of multimedia authorship in a supportive, collaborative environment. No prior experience with multimedia design (web, video, image, or sound) is expected.

    Readings will include:
    Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay; Egan, Jennifer. A Visit from the Goon Squad; Hayles, Katherine. Writing Machines; Hustwit, Gary. Helvetica (documentary); Jackson, Shelley. Skin; Levin, Golan. The Dumpster; Lupton, Ellen. Thinking With Type; Maeda, John. Tap, Type, Write; McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics; Rose, Aaron. Beautiful Losers (documentary); Stewart, Susan. “Graffiti as Crime and Art”; Tufte, Edward. “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint” and Envisioning Information (excerpts); Ware, Chris. Jimmy Corrigan, the smartest kid on earth; Winterson, Jeanette. Written on the Body.

    ENGL-491 The Ethnic Novel
    Elda Roman, Th 2-4:20pm
    This course takes an in-depth look at the dynamic world of ethnic novels. The twentieth century witnessed radical changes in this genre as ethnic minorities gained greater access to education and publishing outlets and were able to produce literary works in ways that had not been previously possible. We will examine the resulting experiments in story telling by Native Americans, Chicana/os, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, and African Americans. We will pay attention to the narrative strategies that enable authors to portray race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and social class. Students will gain a deeper understanding of the novel as a genre, theorizations of race and ethnicity, and the social and political contexts giving rise to the formal and thematic concerns of US ethnic literature in the past century.


    Possible authors include D’Arcy McNickle, Zora Neale Hurston, Abraham Cahan, Américo Paredes, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, John Okada, Tomás Rivera, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, Leslie Marmon Silko, Karen Tei Yamashita, Coleson Whitehead, and Salvador Plascencia.

  • Spring 2014 Special Interest Courses

    ENGL-376 Comics and Graphic Novels
    Johnson, TTh 9:30-10:50am
    In this course we'll look at 13-14 graphic novels with widely varied themes and literary styles. Through these novels we will explore the writer and artists' cultural, psychological, social and political agendas while we also explore and analyze how this increasingly popular literary form has evolved. We will consider what common (or uncommon) elements comprise the most effective novels.

    ENGL-499 Forster and Isherwood: Master and Student
    Freeman, Th 9:30-10:50a.m.
    This class will focus on two 20th century masters of English prose, E. M. Forster (1879-1970) and Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986). These two men knew each other well—they met in the early 1930s and remained friends until Forster’s death. Forster was a peripheral member of the Bloomsbury Group; Isherwood’s first two books were published by Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press. Forster became known for his liberalism, his humanism, and his clean, precise writing. As a young writer, Isherwood saw Forster as a role model, but then, as he grew and matured as a man and a writer, there was a shift, as the younger man became a kind of role model for the older one. Isherwood moved to the United States in 1939 and lived the second half of his life in Los Angeles, much of that time in a relationship with a much younger man, the artist Don Bachardy. Forster admired Isherwood’s ability to be open in his life and, eventually, in his writing; Forster himself was never really able to live that way. He did write that way, but only secretly.

    After publishing A Passage to India (1924), Forster published no more fiction. However, he wrote plenty and he had a literary secret, a gay novel he had written just before the outbreak of World War I. He allowed Isherwood and a few other close friends to read the manuscript. Isherwood was especially moved by the book, and this forged such a strong bond between the two writers that Forster left Isherwood the manuscript, which Isherwood saw it into publication in 1971. It nearly ruined Forster’s reputation. How that happened will be part of our course.

    We will cover a representative sample of both writers’ work—fiction and nonfiction—as well as critical and biographical scholarship about them. Both men wrote about the writing process, so that will also be a concern in this class. Students will also present projects and research papers on other writers of their choice from this era. These projects will allow our course to cover the breadth of the period while also going in depth on these two important, masterful writers.

Undergraduate alumni publications pictured above:
Hiram Sims, Photoetry: Poetry and Photographs from South Central L.A., Figueroa Press 2014; Susan Straight, Between Heaven and Here, McSweeney's 2012; Brad Thor, Hidden Order: A Thriller, Pocket 2014; Patrick Ness, More Than This, Candlewick Press 2013; John J. Gobbell, Edge of Valor, Naval Institute 2014; Ellen Plotkin Mulholland, Birds on a Wire, Logos 2013.

For a complete schedule of classes offered by the English department, click here.

  • USC Dornsife Department of English
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • Taper Hall of Humanities 404
  • University Park
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0354
  • Fax: (213) 741-0377