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Looking forward: ASU English fall 2020 courses to prep for the future

March 27, 2020

Although uncertainty abounds today, there is at least one thing you can count on: this fall 2020, edifying and mind-bending courses will be available to you from the Arizona State University Department of English.

Learn how to build alternative worlds in our sci-fi writing class. Or, consider how global events have and will continue to shape both the emergence and the decline of languages. Or get your warm fuzzies in an intellectually rigorous course devoted entirely to the art and industry of Scooby-Doo.

Information about these and other courses is below — but there are even more offerings by the Department of English in the ASU class schedule (search by “ENG,” “FMS,” “LIN”  or “APL” prefixes), where you can find both online and in-person options.

ENG 307 — Writing Science Fiction: World-Building in Science Fiction and Fantasy

The author of the dystopian thriller “Scrapper” and the forthcoming eco-fabulist novel “Appleseed” (2021), Matt Bell knows sci-fi. Besides being a serious literary fiction reader and writer, the associate professor of English has been a gaming aficionado for decades. Bell co-wrote “The Last Garrison,” a Dungeons and Dragons novel, and has even published a sort of gaming memoir: “Baldur’s Gate II.”

“I grew up as a reader of science fiction and fantasy, and still am,” Bell said. “My next novel has many science-fictional elements, and the one I'm working on now takes place in an invented world of my own.”

Students in Bell’s “World-Building” course will have access to his considerable, award-winning imagination. He’ll coach participants through drawing maps of planets, continents and cities; creating new languages; designing alien landscapes and then seeding them with ecosystems; and building urban spaces to populate with competing political factions and new forms of government. “During the course of the semester, every student who begins with a blank page will — 15 weeks later — leave with a brand new world, all their own," Bell said.

If you register: World-Building in Science Fiction and Fantasy (class #90344) meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus.

ENG 318 — The Life and Death of Languages

Image of “The Tower of Babel” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1526/1530–1569), oil on panel, collection of Emperor Rudolf II in Kunsthistorisches Museum, from Wikimedia Commons

Professor and sociolinguist Karen Adams is the creator of this survey course, which features, essentially, the “back story” of all language. In addition to learning how languages differentiate and become new ones — and how we ended up with 6,000 of them! — students in the class will explore endangered languages, fictional languages like Dothraki and aspects of interspecies communication.

After that? The future! Can we make better machine translation systems? Will brain-to-brain communication be the norm? Will we be able to communicate with aliens at some point and what would an intergalactic language be like?

Nothing will be lost in translation during this course, which will be guided in its online environment by a teaching assistant in the Department of English.

If you register: The Life and Death of Languages (class # 90346) is offered through ASU Online in Session A. It is open to any currently enrolled online student.

ENG 335 — Slam Poetry

Image of Slam poet Myrlin Hepworth at ASU Night of the Open Door in 2013, photo by Bruce Matsunaga

It didn’t start in coffee shops of the 1990s. In this course, you’ll learn the real roots of slam poetry — the Harlem Renaissance, confessional and Beat poetry, the Black Arts Movement, performance art and hip hop — as well as the genre’s history, from its birthplace in Chicago to its development in New York City and other parts of the U.S.

Associate Professor Heather Maring, a literature expert and author of “Signs that Sing: Hybrid Poetics in Old English Verse,” is the instructor. “I study medieval literature, which may seem very distant from slam poetry,” Maring said. “But I was drawn to my subject area because I love oral poetry, oral traditions and verbal art that truly lives in performance and in connection with communities. Teaching slam also gives me a chance to reconnect with my roots in creative writing and experimental poetry.”

The syllabus was forged in consultation with past course participants, and the result is a student-centric experience. Fall 2020 Slam Poetry enrollees can choose one or more of three paths through the class: analytical, pedagogical or performative.

If you register: Slam Poetry (class #90348) meets Fridays from 3:05 to 6 p.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus.

FMS 354 — Critical Studies in Animation: Scooby-Doo

Image of Scooby-Doo and the gang at ASU Open Door in 2020, photo by Bruce Matsunaga

You probably already knew ASU had the world’s foremost Scooby-Doo authority on its faculty. But did you know that you, too, can be an expert?

“Critical Studies in Animation: Scooby-Doo” deconstructs this much-loved children’s series, approaching it as a microcosm of television history. Instructor Kevin Sandler, an associate professor of film and media studies in the Department of English, is at work on a book about the famous talking Great Dane; Scooby-Doo turned 50 in 2019 — and so did Sandler.

“It’s hard to imagine Scooby-Doo not being part of my life,” Sandler said. “He’s a touchstone for several generations.”

Lest you think the course is a walk in the dog park, Sandler set the record straight on its rigor.

“This class provides a critical history and understanding of Scooby-Doo from its early incarnations on Saturday morning to 24-hour cable channels to feature films to LEGOs,” he said.

Discussions will center on issues related to the nature of children’s entertainment, free-market vs. governmental regulation, the changing face of network viewership, media conglomeration and globalization and more.

If you register: Scooby-Doo (class #88259) meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus.

ENG 311 — Persuasive Writing

Image of ASU students writing with chalk during National Day on Writing activities 2019, photo by Bruce Matsunaga

If you’ve ever struggled to get your point across, learning how to construct a more powerful argument might be in your best interest. This hybrid class with Associate Professor of English Mark Hannah, a frequent collaborator with ASU scientists on projects related to issues of communication, covers that and more.

“Language is not neutral,” emphasized Hannah, who practiced law before joining academia. “The ability to analyze complex, real-life scenarios and develop arguments responsive to unique, contextual circumstances is essential.”

Besides helping students wrap their brains around writing the ever-necessary persuasive argument, the course explores issues of strategy, considers the nature of “argument” itself and engages processes of consensus-building and decision-making.

If you register: Persuasive Writing (class #87278) meets virtually one day per week as well as in-person on Thursdays from noon to 1:15 p.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus.

ENG 480 — Methods of Teaching English: Composition

Image of Students writing at ASU’s annual Día De Los Niños, Día De Los Libros celebration 2019, photo by Bruce Matsunaga

Those aiming to teach language arts in a K–12 setting — or those with simply a curiosity in it — will find this course content compelling. The focus is on a creating “real-world” writing curriculum and delves into adjacent topics, like using technology to teach writing and helping students develop writing portfolios.

Veteran secondary English teacher Michelle Glerum, a fellow of the National Writing Project and summer instructor for ASU’s Central Arizona Writing Project, is the course instructor. Glerum is pursuing a doctorate in English education at ASU, where she focuses on multiliteracies and developing student-centered pedagogy.

“’Methods of Teaching English’ is one of my favorite courses to teach,” she said, “because we focus not only on fostering pedagogical prowess but also on understanding the facets of our own identity as educators and people, developing as teacher-researchers, and understanding sustainable teaching practices that allow us to create a support system for personal and professional growth.”

If you register: Methods of Teaching English: Composition (class #79460) meets virtually one day per week as well as in-person on Tuesdays from 3 to 4:15 p.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus. 

Images: Public domain image of orbital colony Stanford torus, painted by Donald E. Davis, oil on board, for NASA Ames; “The Tower of Babel” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1526/1530–1569), oil on panel, collection of Emperor Rudolf II in Kunsthistorisches Museum, from Wikimedia Commons; Slam poet Myrlin Hepworth at ASU Night of the Open Door in 2013, photo by Bruce Matsunaga; Scooby-Doo and the gang at ASU Open Door 2020, photo by Bruce Matsunaga; ASU students writing with chalk during National Day on Writing activities 2019, photo by Bruce Matsunaga; secondary students writing at ASU’s annual Día De Los Niños, Día De Los Libros celebration 2019, photo by Bruce Matsunaga.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications , Department of English


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When will we move fossil fuels off the grid?

March 27, 2020

ASU sustainability scientist predicts a complete switch to renewable energy will most likely come at the turn of the century

For decades, the United States has attempted to wean itself from fossil fuels but with limited success. Coal, natural gas and oil still comprise about 80% of our energy supply, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

It’s cheap, and it’s in abundant supply, but it’s not renewable energy.

Renewables accounted for almost 12% of U.S. energy consumption in 2019 and are slowly trending upward. But the transition is not happening fast enough in light of greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and global warming.

What will it take to get there?

“A globally concerted effort,” according to Arizona State University sustainability scientist Meng Tao.

A professor in ASU’s School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, Tao’s research covers a wide range of topics in sustainable and terawatt solar photovoltaics, including solar energy storage, solar charging of electric vehicles and solar-powered industrial electrolysis.

In the lead-up to Earth Day, ASU Now turned to Tao to discuss renewable energy, why our country is so dependent on fossil fuels, and how long it will take decarbonize the country.

Man with black hair smiling

Meng Tao

Question: What is renewable energy and how many different categories are there?

Answer: Renewable energy is energy that will not be depleted for the foreseeable future. There are six categories: solar energy, hydropower, biomass, wind, ocean energy (waves, current and tides) and geothermal energy. Notably, most of these renewable energy sources originate from solar energy, including hydropower, biomass, wind, ocean waves and ocean currents. Ocean tides are due to the gravitational effect of the moon. Geothermal energy is from the high-temperature Earth’s mantle.

Q: America wants renewable and solar power to replace energy that is reliant on fossil fuels, but how realistic is that and how much time are we talking about until a complete switch over?

A: It is hard to predict the future but my hope is that by 2050 half of the energy we use will be drawn from renewable sources and by 2100 we completely switch over to renewable energy. Unfortunately, this timeline is likely inadequate if we consider how fast Earth’s temperature is rising. We are facing a daunting but inevitable task. It is also important to remember that an America-alone action means little in this transition if 95% of the world’s population continues to depend on fossil fuels. We need a globally concerted effort.

Q: What is keeping us from reaching that goal?

A: There are multiple bottlenecks to our adoption of renewable energy. We have many promising technologies now but not every technology needed for us to live 100% on renewable energy today. For example, we do not know how to store summer solar energy for future winters or sell Arizonan solar energy to Sweden in the way that we buy Saudi oil for America. In other cases, the cost of the technologies is prohibitively high. The cost of solar systems has come down dramatically in the last 15 years, but if you consider the cost of a solar system with storage, it is more than doubled. Of course, there are also special interests, inertia in people’s mindset and behavior, and the huge financial barrier which all hinder our progress.

Q: What countries, in your opinion, are leading the way in using renewable and solar power and how can we better learn from them?

A: Several countries come to mind but I will just mention one: Sweden. I spent a year in Sweden as the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Alternative Energy Technology and learnt firsthand about the Swedish experience. Public consensus in Sweden pushes government support and private investment into renewable energy. Now the electric grid in Sweden is 100% fossil fuel free: 45% from hydropower, 45% from nuclear energy and 10% from wind. The Swedish experience does not necessarily apply to other countries, as each country has its own unique combination of renewable energy sources, but achieving a public consensus is the first step in speeding up the transition.

Q: What are you doing at ASU to further the cause of renewable/solar energy?

A: My research focuses on sustainable solar technologies. It is ironic that we pursue solar energy for sustainability, but most of the solar technologies we have today are neither scalable nor sustainable. The roadblocks to sustainable solar technologies include the scarcity of the raw materials used in solar modules, the high energy consumption in producing solar modules, storage of intermittent solar energy, recyclability of end-of-life solar modules, in addition to cost and efficiency. We are developing technologies to remove these roadblocks, and our ultimate goal is to drive solar energy into a mainstream energy source by 2050.

Q: What are the most impactful trends for solar energy in the next 10 years?

A: My personal view is that there will be a shift in focus from cost and efficiency to systems, applications and sustainability. The scarce materials used in solar modules must be substituted with Earth-abundant materials. More energy-efficient methods for solar module production are in demand. Innovative storage technologies beyond batteries are needed for long-term storage and global trade of solar energy. Recycling of end-of-life solar modules is barely practiced today. In addition, systems and applications that take advantage of the intermittent nature of solar energy are desirable. Integration of solar energy with transportation electrification will certainly be pursued. The nexus of solar energy, water and food is a high priority for the growing population and prosperity. Grid integration of solar energy has been widely recognized. This is not an exhaustive list but just a few things which pop up first in my mind

Top photo: Renewable energy in action. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.