Inside English Courses

Experience an English course at Duke through the lens of another student.

Duke English recently hosted its first "Fiction Open House," and more than two dozen students attended. Creative writing faculty members met with students to discuss courses offered by the department and future offerings. This event served as an opportunity for students to learn about writing fiction and the courses Professors Mesha Maren, JP Gritton, and Amin Ahmad will teach next semester. The idea for the "Fiction Open House" came from an experience Professor Maren had during her residency… read more about Students and Faculty Exchange Ideas  »

During the Spring 2022 semester, Professor Sarah Beckwith was asked to teach one of Duke English's gateway courses. "When the department asked me to teach a 101 class, I knew I wanted to call it ‘Arts of Attention,” stated Professor Beckwith.  We are living in an "attention economy" where our attention is grabbed, bought, and sold. It is a commodity. Our interests, desires, and preferences are data mined for advertising and are funding a new generation of unscrupulous media enterprises. And it is making us all distracted… read more about Professor Beckwith’s English 101S – Arts of Attention »

Traditionally when one thinks of a college English course, they would not be surprised to study someone who has won a Nobel Prize in Literature (2016) and a Pulitzer Prize (Special Citation, 2008).  What about someone who has won Grammy Awards, Kennedy Center Honors, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and even a Golden Globe for Best Original song? Surely, that would make sense for a Music class, but in English? In Professor Taylor Black's English 290S-01 course, "Bob Dylan," however, you get both and so much more.  This… read more about Professor Black’s Class Field Trip to Bob Dylan Concert »

Do you read crime novels, find yourself scanning the daily newspaper crime report, or love watching true crime television shows? During the 2022 Spring semester, Professor Michael D'Alessandro introduced an updated version of English 290S-2.01, "American Crime, 1800-1914: Fiction and Film."  The concept for this course developed from research that Professor D'Alessandro conducted about nineteenth-century American crime, including some "eye-opening" statistics that left him horrified. He knew right away that, when the… read more about American Crime: Fiction & Film 1800-1914 Taught by Professor D'Alessandro »

This spring, Duke English has had the honor of hosting Kenyan author and journalist Peter Kimani as its Blackburn Artist in Residence. His novel, Dance of the Jakaranda – a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year" – was nominated for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the inaugural Big Book Award in the UK. Kimani currently writes a weekly column for The Standard.  During his time with the department this semester, Kimani  taught two fiction writing courses:    English 221S: Introduction to the Writing of Fiction … read more about Blackburn Artist in Residence, Peter Kimani »

VMS 355 / ENGLISH 288 / CINE 212: American Dreams American Movies We have always been told that “art reflects life” and vice versa. This is rarely as true as the reflection of life brought about by American cinema, which is much of the focus of American Dreams American Movies.  Through studying films like "Rear Window," "Casablanca" and "Dr. Strangelove," students in this course examine the cultural history of America and perform some fundamental film analysis. It is an opportunity to “[understand]… read more about Six ALP Courses To Round Out Your Fall Schedule »

This semester's David L. Paletz Creative Writing Guest Series kicked off with a visit from psychiatrist, poet, and fiction writer, Dr. Joanna Pearson, to Professor JP Gritton's "Intro to the Writing of Fiction - Great Artist Steal" class. Before her visit, Gritton's class read Pearson's short story "Riding," which primed students for a discussion of Dr. Pearson's approach to writing, especially the writing of fiction. In undergrad, she was a pre-med English major and has always felt drawn to writing. Due to her pre-med… read more about Spring 2022 David L. Paletz Creative Writing Guest Series »

This semester Professor Faulkner Fox had the opportunity to finally include a field trip to see a play in-person in her creative writing course, "Plays that Change the World." Professor Fox designed "Plays that Changed the World" as an opportunity for students interested in playwrighting to learn that plays are more than just stage productions. As part of the course, she planned to include at least one field trip to attend an in-person production.  However, the first time the course was offered in the fall of 2020, it had… read more about Class Field Trip: "Peace of Clay" at Raleigh Theatre »

This fall, Welsh novelist Sophie Mackintosh, American poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi, and Mexican novelist Fernando Flores visited Professor Maren’s English 290S class, “World Building: From Genesis to Lil Nas X.”  Students had the opportunity to ask these authors questions about elements of their writing.  Each writer shared their experiences with working through pieces from beginning to end, including how they overcome writer's block or editing concerns.  Professor Maren explained why she selected these particular writers… read more about In English 290s, Conversations with Authors Enhance Assigned Readings  »

Oftentimes, in my classes, you can hardly distinguish a current syllabus from one of years past. My teachers usually follow a fixed curriculum, a tried-and-true set of lesson plans, course readings, and homework assignments.  But for Professor of English Thomas Pfau, PhD, that’s not the case at all. Even after thirty years at Duke, Pfau still searches for novel subjects to teach. “There are not many classes I repeat,” says Pfau. “I tend to always be prowling out for new materials and configuring new books.” This semester… read more about Designed for Digital: English 101, 2021 Edition »

When I was younger, I always fantasized about heading up North. I wanted to leave my hometown in Mississippi behind, and say farewell to the magnolia trees, to the humid summers and SEC football. The North was where culture was, and in my mind, it was where writers went.   I had a particular fascination with New York. I associated the city with writing workshops, like Sackett Street or Gotham Writers. I was drawn to the intimacy of those spaces, and their dynamism, too—places where my prose and ideas… read more about English 322: An Exercise in Writing and Self-Kindness »

Duke English creative writing students have had the pleasure of creative writers visiting their classes to share their experiences, answer students' questions about writing, and provide tips on improving their writing skills.    Guest authors to Professor Maren's "Intro to Creative Writing" class this spring have included Kendra Allen, Tyree Daye, and Paul Yoon.   Professor JP Gritton’s “Intro to the Writing of Fiction” class enjoyed virtual visits from Cidinha da Silva and Adrienne Perry.  "Overall, it was cool to read… read more about David L. Paletz Creative Writing Guest Series Last Two Visitors for Spring Semester  »

Two of the English Department's creative writing classes have had the pleasure of authors visiting their classes this semester as part of the David L. Paletz Creative Writing Guest Series.  Author Kendra Allen visited Professor Mesha Maren's English 110S "Intro to Creative Writing" class on February 11th.  Cidinha da Silva visited Professor JP Gritton's 221S "Intro to the Writing of Fiction" class February 15th.  Poet Tyree Daye, a North Carolina native, visited Professor Mesha Maren’s “Intro to Creative Writing” class… read more about Allen, Da Silva, & Daye’s David L. Paletz Creative Writing Guest Series Visits  »

Collen Flaherty's recent article in Inside Higher Ed looks at the growing diversity of what is being taught in English departments. read more about Not the Queen's English Department »

In the midst of a global pandemic and daily protests over the death of George Floyd, Professor Tsitsi Jaji had a realization.  She was slated to teach African Diaspora Literature in the fall, a cross-listed course in the English and African & African American Studies departments. An associate professor of English with expertise in African and African American literature and cultural studies, Jaji had taught this course, or similar variants, numerous times before.  But something was… read more about Black Lives Matter: How an English Class Became a Hub for Conversations on Race and Progress »

In Professor Mesha Maren’s introduction to creative writing course, we looked at various styles and forms — personal essays, profiles, fragmentary pieces, poetry, plays, and short stories, to name a few. Although this semester has been different from the norm, we were still able to have the unique opportunity of engaging and interacting with some very talented authors. It was invaluable for us as young writers to improve our skills and broaden our perspectives in this field. It’s one thing to read great literature, but it’s… read more about The David L. Paletz Creative Writing Guest Series Experience »

A bar mitzvah gone wrong. A thief supporting his family. “Fight Club meets Perks of Being a Wallflower.” These movie premises are just some of the ideas that students are developing into screenplays for Professor Cole Russing’s “Writing the Movie” course, offered as part of both Duke’s English Department and the Arts of the Moving Image Department. The class centers around one large project whose creation spans the semester: writing a full-length, two-hour long, 120-page movie screenplay. After finishing a draft of their… read more about Write Your Own Adventure »