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Clubs, Lectures, and Other Opportunities

Bibliophiles Anonymous

As Augustana's English Club, the goal of Bibliophiles Anonymous is to extend English majors' love of literature to the world outside the classroom. One of the club's primary activities is a student-led book discussion group. Approximately twice per trimester, members of the club meet to discuss a novel or a collection of poems or short stories. Through funding from the English Department, Bibliophiles is able to provide free copies of the upcoming book to its members. Other activities of the group include promoting reading on campus, literature-related games and social activities, and participating in trips such as the one to the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago (see below).

Faculty Lectures

During the 2008-09 academic year, the English faculty at Augustana began what promises to be a rich opportunity for English majors at the college: a for-credit lecture seminar series. This course is not taught by a single faculty member--rather, each "class session" features a lecture by a different member of the department. The lectures are centered around a common theme--this past year's theme was "schools of literary criticism"--and students are able to hear a variety of perspectives on this central topic. In 2008-09, professors covered the entire gamut of contemporary schools of critical thought, with lectures on the Chicago New School, New Historicism, Feminist Theory, Marxism, Reader-Response Criticism, Bourdieu and the sociology of literature, Bakhtin and Dialogism, Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory, and the relationship between creative writers and the academy.

After hearing all of the lectures, students are given the opportunity to earn more credit by writing, under the guidance of a professor whose lecture particularly interested them, a modest paper exploring an aspect of the year's theme.

Department-Sponsored Trips

The English department hosts and promotes a great many activities for its majors, ofttimes free-of-charge to students. In the spring of 2009, for example, the department sponsored a field trip for 15 students to travel to Chicago to view the Steppenwolf Theater Company's performance of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Steppenwolf has been the recipient of numerous Tony Awards and is considered the premier theater company in the Midwest.

Also, for the past several years, groups of students have accompanied Jason Peters (English) to the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, to hear speakers on environmental and cultural issues and to participate in field learning. In 2009, Peters'sstudents travelled to Prairie Crossing, a conservation community in Grayslake, Illinois, and Growing Power, an urban farm in Milwaukee.

Other trips have taken place on a smaller scale: Augustana's English faculty frequently host picnics, outings, field trips, and home-cooked meals for their students.

Wendell Berry and Augustana students
Writer, farmer, and environmental herald Wendell Berry (center) poses with Augustana students and Dr. Jason Peters (far right) at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.

Learning Communities

A learning community is a pair of courses, each from a different academic department, taught in conjunction with one another to address common themes and questions. Learning communities exemplify the goals of a liberal education by their interdisciplinary nature and their emphasis on open discussion and self-questioning. Part of the AGES liberal studies curriculum specifies that all students complete either a learning community or a foreign term before graduation. The English department offers some of the most compelling options for learning communities on campus. Read about some of these options below.

Environmental Literature and Landscape

English 315: Environmental Literature (Peters)
Geography 307: Environmental Conservation (Burnham)

Both courses are framed by the question, "How are you going to live?" These courses address the issues of cultural consciousness and responsibility by considering the topics of land use, education, urban and domestic design, economic malfeasance, local and global interests, farming and food distribution, notions of "conservation and development," and doctrines and definitions of "nature." Practical experience in the realm of sustainable living has included such activities as re-fitting a campus-owned house to be environmentally sustainable, volunteering at a local organic farm (Wesley Acres Produce), and planning and planting an urban garden near Augustana's campus.

Imperialism in Experience and Representation

English 333: Anglophone Literature (Tawiah-Boateng)
History 348: Colonialism and Imperialism (Cleveland or Ellis)

This Learning Community examines how the experiences of colonizers and colonized have been represented in historical and literary modes of expression. Both courses share a concern with colonial and postcolonial theory, problematizing the relationship between metropoles on the one hand and colonies or former colonies on the other. "Colonialism and Imperialism" focuses on the British Empire, with special attention to Africa and India. "Topics in Anglophone Literature" concentrates on the efforts of postcolonial authors to come to grips with the effects of the colonial past on the present.

Stories and Soundscapes: Literature, Music, and Life Experience

English 354: Empire and Outsiders (Al-wazedi)
Music 343: Soundscapes (Rayapati)

This learning community examines broad aspects of life experience as expressed in literature and music. Topics such as birth, death, worship, belief, local custom, and migration, among others, are the vehicles by which we will examine the formation and interaction of the self, identity and society. Through fiction, poetry, and film as well as folk or traditional music, this learning community explores the unique artistic contributions of indigenous and immigrant communities in our globalized world.

"Empire and Outsiders" focuses on stories told by people who have once been colonized by a different nation and culture. There are also stories that are told by the colonizers as outsiders to a specific culture. As colonies became independent nations, their people claimed the right to speak and to question the concept of "Otherness" that dominated western views of colonized territories and their peoples. Writers emerged to offer complex narratives regarding "native" cultures, racial identity, and positions of authority. Their texts embody creative methods for addressing the trauma of colonial and post-colonial history. This class is an opportunity to explore numerous literary, social and political quandaries as faced by these writers-Exactly what "is" Native? What role does traditional culture (music specially) and oral history play a part in creating the individual? How does such literature reject colonial paradigms? Does post-coloniality have to reject the colonizer's language and culture to be truly decolonized? How does a nation create its own literary heritage? Why are issues of race and ethnicity still problematic in liberated territories?

Teaching at Longfellow
Students from the Learning Community in 2009 teach a class at Longfellow Elementary School in Rock Island, Illinois.

Women at Work: Production and Reproduction in Women's History and Literature

English 315: Literature for Learning Communities (Gillette)
History 342: Women in the U.S. since 1800 (Simonsen)

The two courses focus on women and work in literature and history. We will pay particular attention to ways women have been defined as citizens, workers, writers, and sexual beings through discussions about their contributions to family and the nation as wage workers, homeworkers, and childbearers. Common questions include: How do struggles over women's productive and reproductive work introduce themes critical to U.S. women's history and literature? How do we use tools of historical analysis to understand literature? How do we use tools of literary analysis to understand historical change? Themes for both courses include 19th century domesticity, marriage and economic dependence, women's reform work, race and reproduction, and women's labor activism.

Drawing Fiction
(pending approval)

English 202: Fiction Writing (Daniels)
Art 301: Figure Drawing 1 (Xiao)

All art springs from the desire to give form to the seemingly formless stuff of reality. In this learning community, students will work simultaneously in two modes of expression: writing fiction and drawing the figure. What happens when an artist empathizes with her subject or casts him in a narrative? What happens when a writer gets to know a character so well he can, and does, draw her from various angles? The pairing of these courses will explore those questions. In blurring the line between the visual and the verbal, students will give greater consideration to the implications of working with a specific medium; they will also confront the nature and purpose of representation, and, by extension, the nature of that reality we are trying to replicate and redefine.

Vietnam Term

English 315: Vietnamese Literature (Crowe)
Business 467: From War to Doi Moi (Ericson)
Political Science 340: Politics in the Developing World (Magalhaes)
(taught in Vietnam)

After participating in an interdisciplinary study of war and its aftermath in Vietnam, students complete a seminar intended to bring all of these perspectives together into a comprehensive whole.

The Art of Teaching Writing

English 406: Composition Theory and Practice (Gillette)
Education 382: Secondary Methods: English (Hanson)

This learning community seeks to unlock the mysteries of writing: what exactly do we do when we write, and how did we learn to do it? The first class of the learning community, English 406, introduces students to theories of composition (current traditional, expressivist, cognitivist, social-rhetorical). The second class of the learning community, Education 382, offers practical strategies for putting these composition theories into practice in middle and high school classrooms. For a service learning project, students in this learning community will work with the EXPLORE program to offer a series of writing workshops for first-year students. Note: Enrollment in this learning community is restricted to future secondary language arts teachers who are currently in good standing in the language arts/secondary education program.

The Human Search for the Spiritual

English 309: The Human Search for the Spiritual in Film, Poetry, Fiction and Non-Fiction: The Sacred and the Profane (Al-wazedi)
Religion 378: Muslim Literary Worlds (Zargar)

What do we mean when we say we believe in God or a certain religion? How do we explain our relationship with an omniscient power? Some depend totally on the scriptures to explain the relationship; some try to secularize it through material things; some emphasize an internal search, while some look for the spiritual in the outside world. Many feel that spirituality can only be achieved through the worship of God. Others feel that it is possible to be spiritual through loving other creatures. In this learning community, we will consider a variety of texts from the Medieval Islamic world to twenty-first century America to understand how human beings see their place in the universe, from the world of the soul, to the material world, from the sacred to the secular.

"The Sacred and the Profane" in particular focuses on exploring how people throughout the ages have viewed their relationship with God, and how they have yearned for a transcending understanding of the world and had conflicts with everyday experience. Religion is of vital importance in all societies as it provides a key function in assisting social cohesion. There is a sacred and a profane side to religion. According to Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist, the profane is the realm of routine experience, the secular, everyday world of work, toil and domestic duties. The Sacred, on the other hand, lays somewhere beyond the profane sphere, and evokes an attitude of awe and reverence. The works of literature that you will read and the films that you will watch in this class all show the conflict between the sacred and the profane. We will see characters struggling in trying to put a balance between these two terms, sometimes being successful in understanding their position, sometimes being defeated by the overwhelming pressure that is brought about by the conflict.