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Course Review - English

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java602's picture

Creative Nonfiction

Most people roll their eyes when they hear the word “nonfiction” and their minds dredge up awful memories of history classes. The addition of “creative” normally doesn’t make things sound much better either. However, after taking Creative Nonfiction, one will quickly realize that “nonfiction” isn’t necessarily synonymous with “boring.” There wasn’t a single actual lecture during the entire semester and all of the classes were conducted in a circle that created a really pleasant atmosphere. All of the criticism given on our essays was constructive and not the least bit “soul-crushing” like you hear some students in writing classes complain about. And don’t underestimate that feedback: it is absolutely crucial to become a better writer. In fact, the experience of receiving constructive criticism was one of the most valuable aspects anyone could take away. Some people don’t always take criticism very well, even if its meant to help. This class gradually makes you more accustomed to receiving criticism, which is a skill that will prove to be useful long after graduation. Overall, I can say that this class was amazing and I give it my highest recommendations. Just make sure that you have a lot of fresh pens around: you’ll definitely need them.

java602's picture

First Year Writing Seminar

Pretty much every college makes their freshman go through some form of a First Year Writing Seminar. Usually, the only way around taking one is to do exceptionally well on a placement exam or to pass the Advanced Placement English exam according to the standards of the college you are enrolled in. This means that the majority of freshman end up enrolled in a First Year Writing Seminar.

I completely dreaded taking the First Year Writing Seminar. I envisioned some cranky professor teaching a bunch of underachieving students how to declare a thesis and organize an essay: both things that any student should have mastered by high school graduation.

But I was pleasantly surprised by the class. Instead of just reviewing boring basics, it was more about perfecting previously acquired writing skills. It also was a nice introduction to the way that college professors handle class discussions. I also was able to get a better grasp on my time management skills from the way assignments were distributed.

I thought that the class was a great way to transition from high school to college because college professors expect a different level of writing that high school teachers do. Taking the First Year Writing Seminar allowed me to become acquainted with the new expectations.

Joties3828's picture

English Composition I at Ashford

The idea of English Composition is to learn the basic composition of the english language in the written structure, but after taking the class I can't say the instructor helped me gain a better understanding of English. The only let down to the class was the instructor, I'm sad to report. The instructors assistant on the other hand did a great job answering questions and providing feedback on all the written assignments. Unfortunately, the instructor was short breathed as well as short on answers. If you had a question, his response may come in time to help with the assignment... or it may not. The main instructor and instructors assistant had very different work ethics and was perhaps one instance that the IA should have been the instructor. The class did teach me more about simplifying my sentences and proper comma placement, but it did nothing to help me remember the little things that I've had a hard time with since I was in high school. The information I did attain has helped me turn into a better writer, but not because of help from the instructor. If not for the instructors assistant, and of course personal determination, English Composition I may have been a flop not only for me but for most of the class.

Joshuah Tiesman's picture

English Composition II

English Composition II, had an instructor that was much more in touch with the students and almost to a fault. Part of the experience of my school is receiving feedback periodically from the instructor or instructors assistant via email. The teacher would tell you that a mistake had been made but unless asked to point out where left the student to guess where the sentence may be wrong. This can be very beneficial if the student is close to having it right, but to do this with students that thought the sentence structure was perfect, it can be a tough query. Several times students had to finally request that the instructor stop sending confusing email about assignments with no hints on what's wrong or how to make it better.

By the end of the class the instructor had discovered that this method isn't a good thing to continue and began making helpful comments int he emails, which made a huge difference in teaching methods! The class, by the end, had given me the idea that simple sentences are good sentences and not to over complicate an article or paragraph.  Overall, that class with that instructor I would not recommend to other students. If Ashford can work out their instructor problems I think the class has more potential than it displayed. 

Joshuah Tiesman's picture

Introduction to Literature- ENG 125

This class, as many of my English classes, was not one that I enjoyed. The reason behind that is two-fold. The first was the material. Most of the class revolved around more reading of others poems and short stories. This made the tests easy, but when the written assignments had to go in, and the essays are largely based by interpretation of others poems and short stories it got a little tricky. Some of the grade in the class was based on the idea that poems mean one thing by the writer, instead of the poem having different meanings to different people. I do not agree this is how poetry is meant to be read. It flows and changes from reader to reader. The second problem I came across was the teacher. The teacher insisted since some students couldn't get the interpretation right, that meant they didn't understand the material, such as in my case. The teacher several times docked me in my written assignments for not “understanding the material,” but when the final came around, I only missed 3 questions and scored perfect on the essay. Did I mention the TA agreed with my view points and checked my final instead of the teacher? This class, with an exception of the TA, was left wanting for improvement, and I can only hope that Ashford U. fixes the obvious problems with this class, because right now recommending this class can’t be done.

Adelaide's picture

Creative Writing - Web Course

I like online web courses for various reasons.  It's convenient, you manage your own time, and normally you do the work all by yourself with some feedback from your classmates once in a while.  The creative writing online course was amazing though, and an experience I don't think that I'll ever forget. 

As an English major, reading tends to always come at the forefront, and when it's not reading literary classics, it's learning about grammar, which can be only so enjoyable.  There are never enough classes that aim to improve writing, probably under the assumption that every English major is fated to become a teacher.  Whatever the case, I was lucky and able to snag a Creative Writing spot before it filled up.

Professor Roy Burkhead knows the meaning of work.  He assigns reading packets every month, much of which can be a daunting task because of the number of reading material and reaction papers you must write to each section.  The stories were often interesting though, and I didn't have much trouble writing a two-page reaction paper to what I've read.  Some classmates found it difficult to respond to each packet in the time he gives, but I was fortunate because I didn't take too many classes that semester.

I will warn that Professor Burkhead grades hard.  You must complete your packet work and the short story assignment, as he doesn't believe in giving partial credit for any assignment.  These packets are worth 160 points each, and you can't afford to miss a single assignment or face the probability of failing.

If you overcome those two obstacles however, you'll find that a lot of the reading material is interesting and compelling to aspiring writers.  I enjoyed the short story assignment the most, where you need to develop a short story over the course of the semester.  Having the time to work on a creative piece of writing rather than a research paper was immensely satisfying, and I learned more about how to write and compel my readers through this course.

 So I say, difficult professor or not, take it!  Just make sure you schedule an ample amount of time to work on all of the material, and you will learn a lot.

Adelaide's picture

Speculative Fiction - A Course Worth Taking

I was rather skeptical when I decided to add a Speculative Fiction course to my list of classes to take for the next semester.  I was never a fan of Science Fiction, and really couldn't see myself enjoying the class all that well compared to other English courses.  Little did I realize the type of journey I would take when I finally entered the class.

Led by Dr. Karen Schneider, I soon found myself immersed in the major themes of Speculative Fiction - From space exploration to artificial intelligence to the end of the Earth, I discovered that science fiction wasn't at all what I had initially figured.  There was meaning to be found in every story, and Dr. Schneider paved the way for thorough discussion that had be appreciating a genre I had so-often avoided. 

Homework consists of reading the various stories assigned.  These stories will be discussed in thorough detail the next day.  Sometimes a discussion-based classroom can get old rather fast, but this particular course was fascinating.  You learn a lot of things about the goals of the author and what they were trying to address in a futuristic environment.

There is also a major project where students will pick out a science-fiction film and pick out a topic to discuss to the class.  In my case, I chose the movie Soylent Green, but the possibilities were endless and many of the movies selected were recently out in the theatres. 

Most classes are only difficult if you make them.  As long as you actively read and discuss each of the reading selections, the tests and quizzes are very easy.  You are also sure to gain a thorough appreciation for a genre that is often depicted as being only about spaceships and aliens.  There's a deeper meaning to it, one that you can only learn through taking the course.

Joshuah Tiesman's picture

ENG 225: Film, From Watching to Seeing

Ok, first I want to say - I loved this class! The teacher kept this thing moving smoothly and with few hiccupps. Feedback on class work was a bit slow in the return, but it didn't let the teacher stop from moving onto new material while dealing with the old material. It sounds like it's really a bad way to teach, but somehow the instructor, with the help of the TA of course, pulled it off nicely.

The tests and written and assignments covered more about the history and viewing angles than anything else in the first few weeks. As the class progressed the teacher led us into film subjects such as the process of the story board going from written story to video and how plot is worked into video in contrast to the written story, so be sure that close notes are taken from the teacher and TA… not to mention the text itself.

Oddly, near the class end the more simplistic topics get covered, as if the author simply ran out of things to say about film and stories that we don’t already know. The topics covered in class during the final weeks were genre and films impact on society, which maybe should have been in a cultural anthropology class, seeing how it affects large numbers of our culture.

Adelaide's picture

English Senior Seminar

Senior Seminar was a course where I didn't know what to expect.  The title was vague, and because different majors get different seminars, I was not sure what this course was meant to prepare us for.  In the case of the English Senior Seminar, it was all about analyzing lengthy texts and realizing just how difficult English is when compared to other subjects.

Every text was about the entire concept of English and how the Math and Science majors had a solid foundation of their content when compared to English, which is compared of various theories that can't be proven as right or wrong.

For example, the scientist can know all about gravity and how all objects are pushed against.  In the literary world, gravity (and everything else) can only exist should the author let it.  There is also essentially no right or wrong answer to literature.  Where one might see Animal Farm by George Orwell as a strange fable, others will view the book as an allegory for the historic events that occurred during the Russian Revolution.  Another example comes from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  Some scholars have suggested that Dr. Frankenstein made his monster because he was fascinated with the idea of giving birth to something; also that he had an obsession with his mother.  It is all up to the readers' interpretation.

The course was also useful in dimming any possible hopes that an English major could succeed in their fields.  Several guest speakers came to the class to offer 'other' possibilities, such as being a secretary, or working a nice 9-5 office job.  Of course, there are plenty of English teaching positions.  All other options were considered rare possibilities that one could achieve by luck and if they knew the right people.  I know that students don't graduate college and instantly become authors, but the possibility is still there with hard work and dedication, something that Senior Seminar didn't believe in.

The class itself was easy.  Students just discussed the works that they read with fellow students and the professor herself, Dr. Allison Langdon.  The writing assignments were the most difficult, if only because Dr. Langdon graded hard on these assignments.  I still made it out with a B in the class, but I only took the class because it was required, otherwise I would have been happy to skip this one completely.

Adelaide's picture

American Literature

High school never tends to prepare a student for college, even though that's always what they promise.  In this case, I can say that the only piece of American Literature I remember reading was Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.  I'd also known some tidbits here and there about a few authors, just never really enough to recall the difference between them.

Then I took my American Literature class.  Not even a full course but a survey, a brief glance at famous authors and various works of literature.  Taught by Professor Sandy Hughes, I learned to love and appreciate the written works I'd never had a chance to read until that class.

Any class is going to require reading, and this class is no different.  However, the teaching style of Professor Hughes is very open.  She is capable of making anything interesting, from recounting stories that relate to the content we are learning, to really showing passion for her field by setting up displays of her favorite authors.  She is one of those professors that you can enjoy listening to, and one of the few that can make lecture notes compelling.

Her tests can be somewhat difficult.  There are three tests in all, and she requires you to remember a lot of quotes from the authors we read.  That can be difficult, but if you study and acknowledge the different beliefs of each author, it becomes a lot easier to identify what they say.

There is also a  make-up project which she uses in case someone did badly on a test and wants to make it up.  I don't know if she changes this project each semester, but the project we could choose to do was to go for a week without using any technology.  We then had to write about our experiences and what we did with the time.  It was an interesting experiment and one that didn't require any research other than our own time and dedication.

Hughes is an amazing professor and if you are in the English field, be sure to take one of her classes.  You'll come out learning a lot and gaining a thorough appreciation for the authors before our time.

Adelaide's picture

The nightmares of Advanced Composition

There are hard professors and then there are professors who seem out to get you.  My Advanced Composition teacher was something like the latter.  Dr. Judith Szerdahelyi was her name, and she seemed to know the wrong ways of criticizing a person's writing.

Let me rewind a bit.  Even though the course is Advanced Composition, what we learned about the entire time was narrative nonfiction.  Don't get me wrong, any writing class where I can write about my personal events that effected me is a class I usually enjoy, but Dr. Judith seemed to take great pains to offer what she called constructive criticism, which isn't nearly so constructive as she might think.

We had writing assignment after writing assignment in the class.  The two major projects were to write two memoirs, gain feedback from classmates and the teacher, and then revise the work.  The problem with this assignment was that Dr. Judith was incredibly picky with what she wanted to see.  The only tip I received from her was to show, don't tell, which is something all writers aim to do.  That suggestion was okay.  What was not okay was how she redlined almost every other sentence saying that they were pointless and had no reason to be there.  She also then ordered that I redo both memoirs because they weren't to her liking.  I know that I'm a decent writer, and I know that while I could always use some development, I felt like Dr. Judith crushed what I considered to be my writing style and my memoir as a whole.  It took several days to fix the pieces how she wanted it, and I somehow made it out of that class with a B.

I didn't like the feeling of someone stomping out what I considered to be my talent, and that's what Dr. Judith can and will do if she reads something she doesn't like.  On the other side of the spectrum, I did receive good feedback from my classmates.  It was required for each student to get feedback from two other people.  If anything in the class, I felt more value when it came to sharing work with classmates.

Otherwise, the woman terrified me, and I never worked so hard to prevent myself from failing because my writing wasn't up to par.

Joshuah Tiesman's picture

Creative Writing

I am a journalism major, which also means a lot of reading a lot of the time, and a lot of english classes! I have taken many other classes that have concentrated on grammar and sentence structure, but it seems that the creative writing class you experienced was well controlled and guided. I have this class coming up, and I am glad I took the time to read your post. I now have an idea of what to expect in the semester to come. The teacher you had sounds like he pushed you all very hard, but not to the point of breaking a dedicated student, and I think most are better for it. 

I loved the fact that the class you took had a short story as a final. That is a brilliant way to test what the student has learned and the their writing talent. I have to say I think I will enjoy taking this class, if my experience turns out to be any thing like yours. With all the work, was the teacher fair with the grading, or did the class work off a curve? I'm just curious, I know it changes with each teacher and class. 

ASNewYork90's picture

English Literature Before the 1800s

English Literature before the 1800s was a core requirement for my Comparative Literature degree. In all honesty, I put off taking this course as long as I could because anything written before and during Chaucer seemed unbearably boring. I also did not believe that anything I learned in this course would be applicable to any of my other classes; even my literature-based ones. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of information I learned in the course and how it did help me make connections between literature and other disciplines.
    The course itself was a mixture of crucial knowledge about history, social and political conditions, and close readings of the written work produced during that time period. The history of how England came to be served me well as I studied French and French Literature. Also, not all old and middle English works were as complicated as Chaucer. Writings such as Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal provided the class with a satirical and hilarious suggestion on how to fix a serious, social problem. This course was actually much more interesting and enjoyable than it appeared to be at first glance. It just goes to show that a book cannot be judged by its cover.

Adelaide's picture

Theories of Rhetoric and Composition

With a good professor and a good class, you can go leaps and bounds in terms of learning.  This was the case for Theories of Rhetoric and Composition.  I've learned so much from this class that I continue to practice some of the strategies I've learned in the classroom.

Don't let the name confuse you too badly.  It sounds difficult, but with Professor David Lenoir, everything was easy to understand.  Basically we went over various teaching strategies for high school English teachers.  We read from three different books and had to write a response for each one before class but the class only met once a week so there was plenty of time to get that done.  Responding to the text also helped generate discussion during the class period, which was the whole point of it.  These discussions were actually fun and interesting to listen to; quite possibly the one class where I never felt a need to fall asleep!

There is a lot of reading involved though, and this you cannot fake since you need to respond to each one.  Depending on the book portion assigned, it can be difficult getting through a chapter and understanding the gibberish that the author wrote.  That one I skimmed through rather than read.  The other two are more interesting and should hold your attention.

After each discussion we would do a little writing activity that could be incorporated easily into a high school classroom.  For one exercise, we picked a random adjective and a random noun from a cup, then had to develop a poem about it.  For another example, we would give opinions to a text via a small piece of paper.  The papers would be shuffled and given out to random classmates who would address this opinion and what they thought.  It was all really interesting.

The big grade was to compose a green folder with four pieces of writing.  Professor Lenoir is very lax about it, and some classmates even used the writing exercises in class as portfolio pieces.  When all the pieces are finished, he allowed two students in the class to grade the portfolio anonymously, then grades it himself, combining the three grades to form one final one.  This was not a bad class at all, and for all the reading that was required, it was to be expected- this is a college English class after all!  The atmosphere was fantastic, and I hope that Mr. Lenoir goes on to teach that class for many years to come.

Adelaide's picture

African-American Literature

Lou Ann Crouther was my professor for this class and she offered one of the most difficult classes I've ever had.  It wasn't because the content was hard.  No, in fact Mrs. Crouther chose excellent selections to read from a variety of different African-American authors I'd never known about.  It's when you get into writing for this woman that you know the true meaning of pain.

She is very critical when it comes to grading papers.  It looked like a bomb of red ink went off on my paper comparing two African-American authors.  Every sentence had underlines or scribbles about how I worded things wrong or used bad grammar.  If it weren't for my classmates receiving the same criticism and failing grades, I would have thought that I must not have learned how to write according to the professor.  If you're at all sensitive about your writing, don't take this woman.  She really knocks you down a peg.

Also, rather than learn something, the first three weeks of class will be spent covering her syllabus and watching a video about plagarism.  I personally didn't mind this, but the rest of the curriculum seemed rushed because she spent so much time on it.

Otherwise, Mrs. Crouther is a nice woman.  Not the worst, but not the best English teacher I've had.  She tries to push the class into discussing what we've read, but because she never gives any clear direction or focus for each class period, most students end up rambling about what they liked or didn't like about it.  Occasionally we'd have a thoughtful discussion, but we would have had several more if Mrs. Crouther had directed us in some manner. 

Again, the main reason I just couldn't like this class was because of the harsh grades I received on my papers.  Because Mrs. Crouther insisted that our class paper grades were terrible, she let us redo one paper to raise our grade a bit.  My D in the class went up to a low B, which I was happy enough about.  I really didn't want to have to take this class or this professor again.

ws105ws's picture

English 100-Basic English Review

English 100 is my school’s introduction to English for all freshman students. I love writing but I didn’t love the class. We wrote a lot of papers and received good feedback from our professor on our papers but I didn’t really learn anything new. The corrections made on my papers may have been helpful but it still felt like a high school English class. Through middle school and high school I remember learning about things like persuasive essays, determining the audience you are writing to, grammar, format, etc. This class basically just took everything we had previously learned about writing and tried to show us how to use our knowledge of writing effectively.

We would have a lecture every week that I surprisingly enjoyed. I would take some notes during the lecture and I usually found a few things in each lecture that I would try to use in my next essay. This is a good class for students who don’t love English because it fills a requirement and isn’t too challenging. For students who really love English and want to do things with writing that they have not done in the past, they will not find what they are looking for in this class. With that said, the class is supposed to be a review class and it does offer a review on high school English.

jessi246's picture

Creative Writing

What a fantastic class! Whether you’re an English major or not, I definitely recommend taking a course in creative writing. I’m studying Molecular Biology and took the class on a whim since I also love to write. I was trying to fill up my schedule to get to the full-time student status without overloading myself with science classes, and I stumbled into this gem. Creative Writing was definitely one of my favorite classes that I’ve ever taken.

            The class strengthens your writing (which is a skill that we all need, no matter where we’re headed), and makes writing fun! We got to write a fiction piece, a creative non-fiction piece, and some poetry. I love fiction and devour fantasy avidly, but poetry? No way. Creative non-fiction? I didn’t even know what that was! (The genre involves turning a non-fiction story into a creative piece, for those who were like me.) But I found that I loved all these genres and my skills within each developed profoundly.

            I recommend this class to anyone who’s got even a slight interest in writing creatively and wishes to develop this skill. Writing is a great skill for any student to have; I can guarantee without any doubts that you will use this. I looked forward to this class every day that I had it. The class taught me a great skill and was a welcome break in my busy day. It did take time, however; writing’s not easy. So prepare for that, leave some room in your schedule, and you’ll love this class! 

jessi246's picture


It’s all about the greats. For avid readers, this is the perfect class! In this class you will read only classics, the books that have gone down in history as being fantastic for one reason or many. You’ll read the books and learn why it was that they became so famous. If you’re an English major taking the class or just someone who loves to read (like me!) than I would definitely recommend taking a Literature class.

            In this class you will read, read, and read. I loved having to put aside time I normally spent doing homework to relax and read a great book. Finding good books can be hard to do, and having so many presented to me was a treat. You will talk about your views on the book with other students and interpret meanings in the text. Being able to analyze a book in this way is a mark of great writing on the author’s part. You just can’t do that with most modern books!

            The major downfall of this class is that it takes time. You’ve got to be great at organizing your time to get in enough reading to do a good job in the class, so prepare for that. Another warning: don’t take this class if classic literature is not your genre of choice. Some of these classic books are a different style than we’re used to, and the writing may be hard to understand at times. Take these things into account, and you’ll definitely love this class. 

jessi246's picture

University Writing

For my university, this class is the equivalent of freshman English, so if you’re looking for a review about a class like that, look no further! I loved this class, and it was one of the first I ever took. I would almost say that it was the blaze that ignited my love of writing, for it was an English class heavily focused on that.

            In this class you will learn how to write better. We read books about writing, we studied the craft, and, most importantly, we wrote and wrote and wrote. It took time, but it was time well spent and time that I thoroughly enjoyed. As long as you did your work, you got a good grade. (They don’t expect us to be professional writers at age 18.) The class was very doable in this way. You just had to put in the effort, and you made it out just fine. We did self-critiques and peer-critiques, which was one of the most helpful parts. I got personal feedback from people in my same situation, and I definitely used their suggestions.

            For anyone looking for a freshman English class that’s out of the ordinary, take this one. With its fantastic focus on writing, a skill that everyone should have, it truly is a wonderful class. 

jessi246's picture

English Department Reading Series

I’m sure that not all universities have this class. It’s pretty unique! It was a class that met once a week in the campus library. For one amazing hour every week, students enrolled in the class had the opportunity of listening to local authors come and share their work. It was incredible! For someone who likes to read and hear new works of art from the creators themselves, this class is for you. If your university offers something like this, go for it!

            We got to hear all kinds of writing, right from its source. We listened to local authors of creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. They would read to us excerpts from their work and then discuss what they had read. It was truly amazing to listen to the authors telling their own work and then filling us in on how it came to be or their experiences with it. I devour almost any kind of writing, and so this class had me on the edge of my seat, scribbling down notes, my eyes and smile wide.

            It was also a very easy class. We had to submit a write up about each author (piece of cake) and purchase one book by one of the authors of our choice and read it that semester. We then gave a review of that book on a book selling website. That was it. No tests, nothing. If you love to read or you love to write, take this class! 

abnormalalien's picture

Ethics Concerning Technology

Course: Ethics in Technology
School: SUNY Plattsburgh

New technologies are developed everyday. As a consequence of this, rules concerning the ethics around technologies are debated quite frequently? Some of the problems occur between social networks and privacy, others occur when companies develop competing software, and others occur for various different reasons.

This course is taught frequently at SUNY Plattsburgh. It is taken as an upper level elective for a lot of Computer Science majors and minors but it is more like an advanced writing course. Various professors have taught the course, so there is is not really a set course content and structure that has been followed year after year. However, it has recently been taught more seminar style than the rest of the computer science courses. Assignments included two essays a week (short, leniently graded) to show the instructor that students were paying attention to the issues being discussed.

The first essay of the week was a question given by the instructor and students were expected to understand the topic and back their opinions with a little bit of logical justifications. The second weekly essay required students to find a news article that had something to do with one of the ethical concerns discussed. Then the student had to respond to the news article. Neither of these essays was difficult, and the instructor was a quite lenient grader. Not only do students need to be aware of these difficulties concerning technology, but they will also need to be able to logically defend their positions to peers and authorities. This course gave students both subject knowledge and practice.

ASNewYork90's picture

Key Texts of Greek and Roman Antiquity


This course was taken as a required literature course in order to fulfill my ancient texts requirement. This class was mostly discussion based and the topics were very broad. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to scratch below the surface to look for meanings. While the course looked at many texts from the Greek and Roman worlds, a large portion of the semester focused on Plato’s Republic along with the dissection and application of the Socratic Method.

                I do not recommend a course such as this one for someone who lacks a very strong classical or philosophical background. While I’m sure that my classmates did learn from the course, it was obvious that they did not take away as much from it as they would have liked. Having been educated in classics, I managed to use my prior knowledge as a foundation and lens for analysis. If taking such a course is still of interest, I strongly urge the student to take at least one introductory course regarding ancient civilizations with an emphasis on the classical world. In addition to this, it would be wise to familiarize themselves with the great philosophers of Greek and Roman times. There is no need to take a course on this. Having some general knowledge about Plato, Sophocles, and Aristotle and their contributions to philosophy can go a long way in a course such as this one.

ASNewYork90's picture

Literary Theory and Criticism


Literary Theory and Criticism was by far the most difficult course I had ever taken in my academic career. As a literature major, the majority of students will be required to take one criticism class. However, the criticisms of theories, such as those of Simone de Beauvoir or Joan Scott, are very different from analyzing and critiquing other bodies of literature. Critiquing literary theories are like critiquing works of philosophy, and it is sometimes difficult to separate the two. It is almost as if one must learn to read again. Sometimes, theorists will build up an entire argument, get you to believe it, and then begin the painstaking process of pulling it apart. It is extremely difficult to keep motivated during this course, even though I had a wonderful professor.

I really did think I could handle this course. It did not help that I was informed early on that the people with a strong literary background would have the most problems with theory. There were many people who dropped the course and planned on taking it again when they were ready for it. I actually considered doing just that. However, I stuck with it and it did manage to get a bit easier as I got used to how the theorists operated. Don’t search for too many meanings within the texts; it’s unhealthy for the average college student.

ASNewYork90's picture

Ulysses and British Modernism


This course focused on the birth of British Modernism as well as the epic Ulysses by James Joyce. Honestly, I did not think this would be a likeable course, but I was proven wrong on so many levels. My first doubts came as we read Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. This is perhaps due to the fact that I had never been a fan of Virginia Woolf since I had read The Lighthouse. The writing seemed cardboard and just so ordinary. There was nothing more that grabbed my attention until we dived into Ulysses.

Now, Ulysses was a daunting book well over four hundred pages. Not to mention, there was almost always some obscure reference which had to be decoded or researched. It also did not help that Joyce decided that he wanted to write this work as an experiment and experimented with different styles and forms in every chapter. Funnily enough, the whole story is about what happened in a twenty-four hour day in Dublin, Ireland.  It was hilarious, and there was something that everyone liked about the book. It was also one of those books that a student could open to the middle in order to begin reading. They would not have missed anything from the first half of the book that they would need later on to understand the story. I recommend a course like this to anyone who is looking to take a course centered around a specific author.

ASNewYork90's picture

Shakespeare In Context


Having spent my entire academic career in the American education system, I was sick and tired of Shakespeare. However, I was below the workload for a full-time student so I had no choice but to register in a Shakespeare course. I was extremely surprised and delighted by what I learned.

The professor was adamant that Shakespeare was meant to be performed and not read. We spent our time in class learned about how theater in Shakespeare’s time functioned. This was extremely interesting since, in today’s classrooms, Shakespeare’s plays have become something to be read more than performed due to the tricky, Shakespearean English. The best part of the course was when the professor told us about Shakespeare’s rivals and how almost everything from that time was attributed to Shakespeare the Bard because there was no copyright and everyone stole material from one another.              I was relieved that she chose to deflate Shakespeare a bit. She also told us where Shakespeare possibly got his material (which were usually mythological stories or he condensed plays from traveling actors). I was highly impressed by this course and, at the end, the entire class went to London in order to see Shakespearean plays performed on stage.  I had managed to learn something new about Shakespeare.

ASNewYork90's picture

English Literature After the 1800s


This class was definitely one of my favorite literature courses. I had a very enthusiastic professor; but even if this wasn’t true, the course material was interesting enough that it kept us motivated to do the readings. The material ranged from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to poems by Shelly and Coleridge. I was not a fan of some of the poetry we read; but I did take quite a liking to Shelly and some of the Romantic poets. The writers also had very interesting lives! Many people do not know about Shelly’s Casanova-esque lifestyle or how his wife came to write Frankenstein (she won an informal contest held with Shelly and a friend of his).

For students who cannot bring themselves to work through writing similar to Beowulf or Chaucer’s (Early English and Middle English), I recommend that they take a literature course which focuses on works written after this period for a more enriching experience. The writer’s and poet’s works will be in more modern English which will make the reading process easier (especially if this is just taken as an elective or a course of interest). During the first week, make sure to take a look at the syllabus to see if the workload given by your professor is manageable. My class had to have a discussion with the professor that his workload was unreasonable since it was too much to handle with other courses and, to add more weight, that we could not cover all of the material in class.

ASNewYork90's picture

Contemporary World Literature


I went into this course with a strong dislike of contemporary literature in an academic setting; and I finished the course with a smidge of hope for the future of literature. When I think about contemporary literature, I think about poets who write non-rhyming poetry in the shape of their topics (like an apple or a tree). In all honesty, there was some of that and I completely tuned it out. There were also so modern, sufferings artists whose work I found drab or lacking depth. I would say I was disappointed with seventy-five percent of the writers we studied. However, there were one or two choice writers who stood out. We studied Borges; he was good but nothing exceptional. It was only when I read Adichee (whose work can be found online and recommended) that I decided contemporary literature was worth a fair shot.

                While this course did nothing to change my literary tastes, it did introduce me to some new writers. Also, the question of what constitutes world literature was explored and we read contemporary authors from all over the globe. We finally came to the conclusion that world literature is something that, while written in one language and pertaining to one culture, can bring something to another culture with its translation. With translation, in another respect, something is lost from the original work when it is translated out of the original language and something else is gained as it is translated into the new language.

ASNewYork90's picture

Dante and Medieval Culture


                I was not looking forward to looking at Medieval works and a little excited about finally getting to read Dante’s Inferno (which was the only part focused on in this course). I was happily surprised and found myself voraciously reading all of the material provided in class. This class really gave Medieval Literature another dimension which was deeper than just an undecipherable mix of languages written about holy saints and kings.

                There were mentions of saints (Eulalie) and kings (Charlemagne), of course. However, the writers of the middle ages also had an amazing sense of humor! There is one unicum (only one copy exists) of The Pilgrimage of Charlemagne. There is probably a very good reason there is only one copy. This story represents Charlemagne of France, who was painted as a noble king in other works, as a vain, petty leaders who wages war against another, more noble, king just because his wife said the other king was more majestic, taller, and wears his crown better. This shows that not all Medieval writings are stuffy or serious. Dante’s Inferno was everything the class had hoped it would be and I recommend that every university student should read once (and then read it again with footnotes).

jvstanley's picture

Advanced Grammar and Composition

I found the course ENG 201, Advanced Grammar and Composition offered by Finlandia University to be quite challenging.  As an English major I assumed basic grammar would be enough to help me through the course but alas there is significantly more to sentence structure than subject and predicate, nouns, pronouns and adjectives.  This course delved deep into dissecting sentences and was mandatory for those who were in the teaching program. 

The textbook was extremely handy and was more like a workbook with tear out pages.  Within the class I remember working in groups rewriting sentences, identifying gerunds and other obscure terminology that identifies different parts of a sentence.  During the course we were also given the task of being the teachers as well, which I found rather challenging due to the extreme depth of the course.  We were given the task to take a chapter and teach the class from the text book.  The intensity of this class demanded a significant amount of study and attention is mandatory.  I found it to be very beneficial  to do the teaching,  gaining the experience  from the education program in that respect.  I would highly reccomend this class to anyone in the Education program, especially for English majors or writers because having the ability to identfy how to correctly form a sentence will provide more fluidity within one's own personal writing. 

jvstanley's picture

Creative Writing

The ENG 219 Creative Writing class offered by Finlandia University was probably one of my favorite classes offered.  As an aspiring writer myself, I found the class both informative as well as inspiring.  We studied different short stories, wrote some of our own, and after each assignment was completed, turned in, graded, and handed back we would take turns and share what we had written for a peer review.  I found it extremely interesting the way my classmates worded their comments after I had read my material aloud and by having the experience of sharing what I had written, the experience gave me significantly more confidence in my future writings.

During the poetry section of the course, we were to share a poem that we had written, and the class would take turns trying to identify what the original intent of the poem was.  Although my poetry tends to be more on the esoteric side, I found it quite peculiar how my classmates interpreted the meaning behind them.  We also learned about different styles and formats of poetry writing, identified the different tones and points of view.  I was also introduced to the different ways a poem can be written, that poetry does not necessarily have to rhyme but has to have a certain flow to it.

If given the chance, I would not hesitate to take this class again.  The instructor was extremely helpful and insightful (Timo Koskinen) and I really admired his perspective and knowledge.