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Journey to new destinations with these fall 2021 ASU English courses

March 15, 2021

We now know what the wind on Mars actually sounds like — to a robot’s “ears” anyway. Humans have been imagining this and other particulars of the red planet for decades, in music, visual art, literature and more. As we check in with NASA’s Perseverance rover throughout the next two Earth years, Arizona State University will offer a fall 2021 course exploring Martian-inspired texts.

Alternately taught by rhetorician Peter Goggin and literary scholar Joe Lockard (the latter will lead the course in fall 2021), ENG 369 Red Mirror – The Literature of Mars (class # 82800) reflects terrestrial anxieties about life, death, technology, civilization and the nature of the “other.” The syllabus includes “War of the Worlds” (both the story and the radio drama), Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars” (1917) and Matt Damon ... the 2015 Ridley Scott film “The Martian,” that is. The course is offered through ASU Online; beam in from wherever you are to participate.

If spending time in such uncanny valleys isn’t for you, read on for information about six other courses ASU English is rolling out for fall semester 2021. Some, like ENG 390 Listening to the Impossible, will delve into thorny contemporary issues; others, like ENG 346 The Nobel Prize will dabble in future-telling.

Registration information for these and a sampling of other fall semester classes is provided below. Find more in the ASU class schedule (search by “ENG,” “FMS,” “LIN”  or “APL” prefixes), searchable by both online and in-person options.

1. ENG 349 Contemporary Literature: The Nobel Prize

Photo of a Nobel medal by David Monniaux via Wikimedia Commons. Used under CC 3.0.

Photo of a Nobel medal taken by David Monniaux. Image via Wikimedia Commons. Used under CC 3.0.

What it is: The times, they are a-changin’ — and nobody knew this better than Bob Dylan. Still, who could have guessed that times would change enough for Dylan to win the Nobel Prize in literature? Actually, students in an ASU class did. The fall 2021 iteration of ENG 349 will showcase work by Dylan and other Nobel laureates, including Kazuo Ishiguro, Svetlana Alexievich and Gabriel García Márquez. Students can also submit their predictions for the 2021 awards.

Why it matters: In an age of viral news and information overload, heady questions that this course strives to answer — such as “How does idealism survive despite the politics, marketing and scandals of international prize systems?” and “What counts as ‘literature’?” and “What values do today’s great writers offer?” — are all the more resonant. Plus: You get to predict the Nobel Prize!

Who’s in charge: For more than two decades, Professor Elizabeth Horan has been teaching this literature class. Horan has written or edited four books on Latin American Nobel laureate Gabriela Mistral; the most recent being “Preciadas Cartas (1932-1979)” (Editorial Renacimiento, 2019) with Carmen de Urioste Azcorra and Cynthia Tompkins, both professors in the School of International Letters and Cultures at ASU.

Who should take it: ENG 349 is open to undergraduates of any major with an interest in literature, fiction, nonfiction, music, poetry, global politics, language, writers and writing, or cultural prizes, and who have met basic first-year composition requirements.

If you register: ENG 349 The Nobel Prize (class # 91495) meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus.

2. ENG 394 The Art of Popular Literature: Stephen King

An image of books by Stephen King by John Robinson on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0.

What it is: Aspiring writers can add to their bag of writer-tricks learned from the fiction they’ll read together in ENG 394. In this course, students learn to approach a text as writers, using the “King of Horror’s” work to pay heightened attention to the relationship between the way something is written (its form) and what it’s about (its content).

Why it matters: Like popular songs, popular or “genre” literature is often derided for its lack of literary merit. By considering both King’s short novels and his memoir on writing, students can explore how literary craft underpins the success of these bestselling narratives; and perhaps tap into that success themselves.

Who’s in charge: The course is taught by fiction writer and poet Laura Cruser and was designed in collaboration with Assistant Professor of English Jenny Irish, author of the hybrid story collection “Common Ancestor” (Black Lawrence Press, 2017) and the short story collection “I Am Faithful” (Black Lawrence Press, 2020).

Who should take it: ENG 394 is open to undergraduates of any major currently enrolled in ASU Online with interests in fiction, literature, popular culture, horror, science fiction, publishing, memoir or writing, and who have met basic first-year composition requirements.

If you register: ENG 394: Stephen King (class # 81794) is offered through ASU Online in Session B.

3. FMS 474: Women and Power in Media

Image of a Wonder Woman cosplayer at the 2018 WonderCon at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0.

Image of a Wonder Woman cosplayer at the 2018 WonderCon at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0.

What it is: Students who relish the chance to discuss Wonder Woman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Janelle Monáe in the same breath will have the opportunity in this course. FMS 474 is a critical examination of how women and other feminized subjects function as protagonists in so-called “heroic” roles — whether as detectives, vigilantes, saviors or warriors — in film, television, music videos or other media. Ready to get your “Buffy” on?

Why it matters: How does gender influence the cultural selection of heroes or heroines? Are the rules the same for everyone? With “girl power” a fixture in contemporary media programming for children and adults, it’s important to learn how to interpret each iteration of the trope through the lens of its historical/social context.

Who’s in charge: Assistant Professor Aviva Dove-Viebahn is a specialist in film and media studies in the Department of English. She’s also a contributing editor at Ms. Magazine and the co-editor of “Gender, Race and Class: From the Pages of Ms. Magazine, 1972-Present,” 2nd ed. (Ms. Classroom, 2020).

Who should take it: This course is best for undergraduates of any major who have an interest in film and television, media, storytelling, analysis, history, cultural studies, popular culture, gender studies, sexuality or feminism, and who have met specific English and film course prerequisites; see course catalog for details.

If you register: FMS 474: Women and Power in Media (class # 92977) meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 1:15 p.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus. 

4. ENG 390 Methods of Inquiry: Listening to the Impossible

Photograph of an eraser making the impossible, possible by Niklas Morberg on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0.

What it is: ENG 390 will explore a range of difficult issues, focusing not only on how to read impossible texts that direct and misdirect our attention in powerful ways, but also how to move beyond that text into action. Topics to be covered include trauma testimony, human trafficking, gender discrimination, racial violence and more via a reading list that includes authors Michael Eric Dyson (“Long Time Coming”), Art Spiegelman (“Maus”) and Alison Bechdel (“Fun Home”). Students in this course will learn how to hold an open stance toward difficult arguments, track their reasoning processes, identify their unstated assumptions, locate them within broader cultural logics, and then choose how best to proceed in light of their new understanding.

Why it matters: The media often bombard us with stories that, for one reason or another, are impossible to hear. Perhaps the story cuts across closely held political values, reports on incomprehensibly violent crimes, or simply repeats an argument so often that we grow numb to its details. It’s critical to learn how to slow down the argumentative process — via critical thinking, reading, writing and listening methods — so that we all can participate more fully in a complicated world.

Who’s in charge: The course is taught by Professor of English Kyle Jensen, who directs ASU’s Writing Programs and who is the author of “Reimagining Process” (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014) and co-editor of the forthcoming “Responding to the Sacred: An Inquiry into the Limits of Rhetoric” (Penn State University Press, 2021).

Who should take it: ENG 390 will appeal to undergraduates of any major with an interest in writing, rhetoric, literacy, communication, negotiation, mediation, research, language, public speaking, activism, contemporary issues, cultural studies, advocacy, media or journalism and who have met basic first-year composition requirements.

If you register: ENG 390 Listening to the Impossible (class # 78442) meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 to 10:15 a.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus. 

5. LIN 620 Advanced Studies in Second Language Acquisition: Emotion and Second Language Learning and Teaching

Emotion plays a role in learning. ASU photo by to ASU Enterprise Marketing Hub, Ogilvy, 2020.

Emotion plays a role in learning. Photo by ASU Enterprise Marketing Hub, Ogilvy, 2020

What it is: While centered on the intellectual practice of language, this graduate-level linguistics course focuses on the dynamic relationship between emotion and language learning. Through readings, discussions, guest speakers and hands-on activities, students in LIN 620 will investigate how both language learners and language teachers shape and are shaped by their emotional worlds within and beyond the classroom. Topics to be covered include the relationship between emotion and cognition, anxiety, motivation, teacher burnout, positive psychology, empathy and more.

Why it matters: There is a newfound recognition that to understand the dynamic relationship between language and emotion is to understand what makes us human. Students who are armed with this knowledge can more effectively implement their own strategies for classroom success, as both learners and teachers.

Who’s in charge: Associate Professor Matthew Prior, who directs the program in linguistics and applied linguistics / TESOL at ASU, guides this course. Prior is the author of "Emotion and Discourse in L2 Narrative Research" (Multilingual Matters, 2015) and co-editor of "Emotion in Multilingual Interaction" (John Benjamins, 2016).

Who should take it: LIN 620 is appropriate for graduate students of any discipline with basic knowledge of and interest in second-language acquisition, educational psychology, linguistics and/or language education.

If you register: LIN 620 Emotion and Second Language Learning and Teaching (class # 91347) meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus.

6. ENG 486 Teaching Text

Photo of the young adult collection in the Salem Public Library in Salem, MA via Flickr. Used under CC 2.0.

Photo of the young adult collection in the Salem Public Library in Massachusetts. Via Flickr. Used under CC 2.0.

What it is: ENG 486 is a secondary education course all about what to teach and why. What counts as a text? How do I prepare students to read and work with a variety of texts? How can I effectively teach reading? Students in the course learn hands-on strategies for supporting all both struggling and avid readers and for teaching reading through a critical lens.

Why it matters: In our ever-changing and text-filled world, our students need to be critical readers of multiple kinds of texts and we want them to love that critical reading process.

Who’s in charge: This course is led by ASU English education doctoral student Rebecca Chatham, a veteran teacher and current president of the Arizona English Teachers Association, a statewide local affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Who should take it: ENG 486 is best for pre-service teachers or undergraduate students of any major with an interest in education — especially secondary education (grades 6-12) — and reading, writing, literature/young adult literature, or language arts who have met specific English course prerequisites; see course catalog for details.

If you register: ENG 486 Teaching Text (class # 91331) meets Thursdays from 4:30 to 7:15 p.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus.

This list is just a sampler of what you can explore in the Department of English, a unit in the Humanities Division of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, during fall 2021. Taught by award-winning faculty from myriad specialties, the courses cross disciplinary boundaries and are designed to reach students where they are.

Top image: In early 2021, NASA's Perseverance rover landed in the Jezero Crater on Mars. This topographic map of the landing site was created using observations from Mars Express’ High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) and is courtesy of the European Space Agency. Image via Wikimedia used under CC 3.0.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications , Department of English


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ASU student inspired to help homeless — and bring a little joy

March 15, 2021

AZ Hugs for the Houseless helps those in need get the essentials, along with special requests like a deck of cards

July 2021 update: Austin Davis is releasing a jazz-poetry album with musician Joe Allie called “Street Sorrows,” about homelessness and Davis’ experiences with AZ Hugs for the Houseless during the pandemic. All proceeds from the project will be donated to AZ Hugs to help the group continue its work. The album, which will be released on all streaming services July 30, will go up for pre-sale on July 16. An August release show is in the works; follow Davis on Instagram @austinwdavis1 for updates about the show.

In March 2020, as college students were scrambling to adjust to the sudden changes wrought by the pandemic, Arizona State University undergraduate Austin Davis kept his focus on others — specifically the homeless population of the metro Phoenix area.

He joined his friend Eddie Chavez Calderon, the campaign organizer for Arizona Jews for Justice (AJJ), to hand out water bottles and face coverings to this most vulnerable part of the Arizona population, particularly hard-hit by the pandemic.

Food, water and hygiene products were the essential items supplied to people without homes during the weekly deliveries. However, as Davis’ experience and the pandemic progressed, he noticed that people were beginning to request specific items they were yearning for, whether it was a meal from their favorite restaurant or a deck of cards.

This was the spark that began the Arizona Jews for Justice Unsheltered Outreach program, now called AZ Hugs for the Houseless since January 2021. “Hugs” is actually an acronym explaining the mission of the group: to provide Houseless dignity, Understanding and empathy, Generosity, and Soul and smiles.

“We noticed that people were asking for very specific things, stuff that would make them happy,” said Davis, a poet studying creative writing at ASU. “That’s the biggest portion of this project, trying to bring these little items to people to bring them joy.”

Every week during deliveries of essential items, Davis asks people what he can get for them to bring them happiness, jotting down the specifics in his phone. These items are put on the AJJ website so volunteers and donors can buy items such as a “duffel bag for Robert” and a “wagon for James,” both of which the site currently features. The items are mailed to the AJJ office and then are distributed.

“When you're living on the streets and your first priority is survival, I think that these little things to ease your mental health are just so incredibly valuable,” said Davis.

With requests of specific clothing items in different sizes, AZ Hugs for the Houseless partnered with ASU Project Humanities during mid-summer 2020. The Project Humanities partnership has allowed AZ Hugs for the Houseless to provide clothing, blankets and sleeping bags to the homeless community.

“Project Humanities has been such a blessing,” Davis said. “I’m super blessed and grateful to be partners with them because they really allow us to get these specific clothing items to those in need.”

As a poet, Davis has seen numerous unsheltered artists including rappers, poets, storytellers and writers living on the streets. Davis says he struggles with his own mental health and finds his writing to be therapeutic. He has a long-term goal of providing art supplies through AZ Hugs for the Houseless.

“Creating art for me is therapy; I can only imagine that for someone on the streets who is already struggling with their mental health, along with the daily task of survival — not being able to create your art, I can’t even really imagine that. It just seems so difficult,” Davis said. “Some of the most creative people that I’ve ever met are sleeping on the streets at night.”

For the past year, AZ Hugs for the Houseless — which is open to all community members — has been growing in terms of the number of volunteers and the donations the organization receives.

Currently, AZ Hugs for the Houseless has a donation drop box in the Digital Creative Studio, part of the Sparky’s Den area of the basement of the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus. ASU community members are encouraged to donate any items they are able to. Additionally, Davis has a growing list of volunteers who go with him on daily deliveries in the greater Phoenix area.

“I encourage anyone and everyone, if you want to, get involved if you can,” Davis said. “If you want to get involved in this project, there’s a place for you. I hope more people want to get involved because collaboration is the key to progression.”

AZ Hugs for the Houseless was created with the goal of providing care and friendship to those experiencing homelessness.

“In your day-to-day lives, if you see an unsheltered person, don’t look away,” Davis said.  “Smile at them, talk to them, have a conversation with them — because they’re human too.”

The ASU donation drop box is located in the Digital Creative Studio in the basement of the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus. The hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays –Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays. Follow the group on Instagram @azhugs and @az_jews_for_justice

Donations accepted through the nonprofit Arizona Jews for Justice website. Small donations can be sent through Venmo to Austin Davis @austin-davis-399 or through PayPal so that he is able to buy items such as tents, outerwear and food for those in need.

Top photo: Third-year creative writing student Austin Davis offers water and a sandwich to one of the men at the tent village near 12th Avenue and Madison Street in downtown Phoenix on Feb. 27. Davis spends part of most days delivering food and supplies as part of AZ Hugs for the Houseless. He frequently brings what the community provides — water, fruit, sandwiches, clothing and bedding, and sometimes special requests such as a pair of boots, radios or nice meals. He works in conjunction with Arizona Jews for Justice. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Constance-Sophie Almendares

Student reporter , Media Relations and Strategic Communications