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English Department
Superintendent talking to Midshipmen

Courses

All midshipmen are required to complete or validate two semesters of English during the fourth-class year: HE111 and HE112. Validation of HE111 is awarded for: exceptional performance on the Validation/Placement Exam that all 4th class midshipmen take soon after their arrival at the Naval Academy; or an Advanced Placement score of 5 on the Composition and/or Literature exam; or a score of 7 on the International Baccalaureate Higher Level (HL) English Exam (A1 Exam).

Students who have taken the AP or IB English exams and have earned a 5 on the AP or a 7 on the IB, must have their scores sent to the Naval Academy. Official documentation is required for validation credit. Transfer credit is not accepted for core English courses.

See the official USNA English Course Catalog in the USNA Academics website.

Core Courses - All Semesters

HE101

Practical Writing (3-0-3) [Fall] 

The study and practice of grammatically correct and rhetorically effective expository prose, supplemented by the analysis of essays by professional writers. 

HE111

Rhetoric and Introduction to Literature I (3-0-3) [Fall]

The first of a two course sequence stressing the writing of rhetorically effective and grammatically correct expository prose. Readings include essays, short stories, and plays. 

HE111W

Rhetoric and Introduction to Literature I (3-0-3) [Fall, Spring]

A course similar to HE111 but for students who need more concentrated instruction in writing. Section size limited to 16 students.

HE111S

Rhetoric and Introduction to Literature I (3-0-3) [Fall]

An honors level of HE111 for students with well-developed writing skills.

HE112

Rhetoric and Introduction to Literature II (3-0-3) [Spring]

The second of a two course sequence stressing the writing of rhetorically effective and grammatically correct expository prose. Readings include novels and poetry. Prereq: HE111.

HE112W

Rhetoric and Introduction to Literature II (3-0-3) [Fall, Spring]

A course similar to HE112 but for students who need more concentrated instruction in writing. Section size limited to 16 students. Prereq: HE111W.

HE112S

Rhetoric and Introduction to Literature II (3-0-3) [Spring]

An honors level of HE112 for students with well-developed writing skills. Prereq: HE111S.

HE112V

Rhetoric and Introduction to Literature II (3-0-3) [Fall]

A one-semester course in writing and literature, focused on novels and poetry. Prereq: validation of HE111.

Electives - Fall Semester

HE217

Early Western Literature (3-0-3)

A balanced survey of the Western literary tradition and its backgrounds, from ancient Greece through the Middle Ages. Readings may include classical Greek and Roman epic, drama, and philosophy; selections from the Bible; and medieval poetry, drama, and philosophy.

HE242

Methods of Literary Analysis (3-0-3)

The gateway course into the major. Introduces students to the critical vocabulary used by literary critics in textual readings and the skills necessary to conduct in-depth research projects. Readings will focus on a small selection of primary sources coupled with a representative sampling of advanced critical methodologies.

HE301

Patterns in Drama (3-0-3)

A study of drama, emphasizing reading, viewing, and analyzing dramatic literature and performance. 

HE302

Forms of Poetry (3-0-3)

A study in the analysis of poetic form and expression.

HE306

Types of Fiction (3-0-3)

A study in the novel and short story with particular emphasis on the conventions, techniques, and innovations in the form. 

HE313

Chaucer and His Age (3-0-3)

The literary and philosophical traditions of Chaucer, the Gawain poet, and other contemporaries, including early and late medieval writers from England and the continent.

HE315

Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature (3-0-3)

The literature of the period 1660-1780. Readings may include the plays, novels, satires, and poetry of such writers as Behn, Dryden, Swift, Defoe, Fielding, Pope, Steele, Sheridan, and Johnson.

HE319

Victorian Literature (3-0-3)

British literature from the 1830s to the end of the nineteenth century. Readings may include works from authors such as Dickens, the Brontes, George Eliot, Hardy, Tennyson, the Brownings, Arnold, Carlyle, and Darwin.

HE320

Contemporary British Literature (3-0-3)

British Literature from 1945 to the present day. Reading may include the novels of Orwell, Greene, Murdoch, Naipaul, Barnes, Ishigura, and Zadie Smith; the plays of Beckett, Pinter, Orton, Stoppard, Churchill, and Friel; and the poetry of Larkin, Heaney, Hughes, Gunn, and Motion.

HE326

Early American Literature, 1607-1860 (3-0-3)

A survey of American literature including Native American tradition from European settlement to the Civil War, emphasizing the relationship between the emerging culture and literature. Readings may include works from such authors as Bradford, Bradstreet, Franklin, Wheatley, Cooper, Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, and Douglass.

HE329

Modern American Literature, 1914-1945 (3-0-3)

A survey of American literature between the wars. Readings may include works by such authors as Stein, Eliot, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Hughes, Hurston, Larsen, O'Neill, Steinbeck, West, and Wright.

HE333

Shakespeare (3-0-3)

A study of a representative sample of Shakespeare's tragedies, comedies, and histories. Readings may also include works by Shakespeare's contemporaries. 

HE340

African-American Literature (3-0-3)

A survey of representative African-American literature from such major figures as Wheatley, Toomer, Hughes, Hurston, Wright, Ellison, Baldwin, Baraka, Brooks, Hayden, Wilson, and Morrison.

HE343

Creative Writing (3-0-3)

An introduction to the writing of prose, poetry, and drama.

HE344

Professional Communication (3-0-3)

A study of advanced methods of presenting information in a wide variety of forms. Assignments may include preparing articles, reports, and military documents. Students may be asked to design and present a persuasive or analytical speech. 

Electives - Spring Semester

HE217

Early Western Literature (3-0-3)

A balanced survey of the Western literary tradition and its backgrounds, from ancient Greece through the Middle Ages. Readings may include classical Greek and Roman epic, drama, and philosophy; selections from the Bible; and medieval poetry, drama, and philosophy.

HE222

The Bible and Literature (3-0-3)

The Bible and its influence on European and American literature. Emphasis will be placed on modern biblical literary-critical methodology and on the symbolic richness of derivative literature from Dante to Nikos Kazantzakis.

HE242

Methods of Literary Analysis (3-0-3)

The gateway course into the major. Introduces students to the critical vocabulary used by literary critics in textual readings and the skills necessary to conduct in-depth research projects. Readings will focus on a small selection of primary sources coupled with a representative sampling of advanced critical methodologies.

HE250

Literature of the Sea (3-0-3)

Study of sea literature from the epic to the novel, with an emphasis on literary qualities, human relationships with the sea, and problems of command.

HE260

Literature of War (3-0-3)

A multi-genre survey of war and its consequences as represented in classic and contemporary literature with an emphasis on such issues as individual responsibility, leadership, societal values, and military culture.

HE301

Patterns in Drama (3-0-3)

A study of drama, emphasizing reading, viewing, and analyzing dramatic literature and performance.

HE302

Forms of Poetry (3-0-3)

A study in the analysis of poetic form and expression.

HE306

Types of Fiction (3-0-3)

A study of the novel and short story with particular emphasis on the conventions, techniques, and innovations in the form. 

HE307

Topics in Film and Literature (3-0-3)

A study of American, European, and world film in conjunction with relevant literary works. 

HE314

The Renaissance Mind (3-0-3)

Literature and thought of the period bracketed by the two great English epics, Spenser's Faerie Queene and Milton's Paradise Lost. The course includes a continental perspective, with readings from authors such as Machiavelli, Rabelais, Cervantes, Montaigne, and Castiglione.

HE317

The Romantic Period (3-0-3)

Literature and culture of the Romantic period in Britain from the 1780s to the 1830s. Readings may include works by such writers as Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Austen, the Shelleys, Byron, and Keats.

HE318

Modern British Literature (3-0-3)

The literature of Great Britain and Ireland since 1900. Readings may include the novels of Conrad, Joyce, Lawrence, Woolf, and Lessing; the plays of Shaw, Synge, O'Casey, and Pinter; the poetry of Hardy, Yeats, Eliot, Auden, and Dylan Thomas.

HE328

American Literature from the Civil War to World War I, 1860-1914 (3-0-3)

A survey of American literature from the Reconstruction through the Gilded Age, emphasizing the rise of realism and naturalism. Readings may include works from such authors as Whitman, Dickinson, Twain, Howells, Crane, Dreiser, Chesnutt, Chopin, James, and Wharton.

HE330

Contemporary American Literature, 1945-Present (3-0-3)

A survey of American literature and culture since World War II. Readings may include works by such authors as Ellison, Ginsberg, Lowell, Bishop, Baraka, Heller, Pynchon, Bellow, Plath, Sexton, Rich, Roth, Updike, DeLillo, Mamet, McCarthy, and Morrison.

HE333

Shakespeare (3-0-3)

A study of a representative sample of Shakespeare's tragedies, comedies, and histories. Readings may also include works by Shakespeare's contemporaries. 

HE343

Creative Writing (3-0-3)

An introduction to the writing of prose, poetry, and drama.

HE344

Professional Communication (3-0-3)

A study of advanced methods of presenting information in a wide variety of forms. Assignments may include preparing articles, reports, and military documents. Students may be asked to design and present a persuasive or analytical speech.

HE355

Topics in Multi-Ethnic Literature (3-0-3)

This course considers literature that raises questions of race and ethnicity, postcolonial responses to hegemonic culture, canon formation, and shifting definitions of nation and subjectivity. Readings may include the works of Achebe, Cisneros, Coetzee, Desai, Diaz, Erdrich, Gordimer, Hagedorn, Hong Kingston, Llosa, Mahfouz, Mishima, Marquez, Naipaul, Neruda, Ngugi, Puig, Rushdie, Soyinka, Tan, and Walcott.

HE442

Literary Theory (3-0-3)

A survey of key problems, figures, and texts in the history of literary and cultural thought. Required of all honors majors. 

Special Topics - Fall Semester

Special Topics - Fall 2017

HE360 Winged Words: Running and Literature - Professor Temple Cone

With its long stretches of boredom and suffering, as well as its occasional moments of exhilaration and transcendence, running is a strikingly apt metaphor for the human experience and the process of writing alike. In this course, we will examine the representation of running in literature from the poetry of classical Greece to the prose memoirs of today’s ultramarathoners. Along the way, we will read several philosophical works that explore the reasons why we humans run and what we experience when we do so. And since, as Kipling writes, “If you can fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds of distance run, / Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it,” this class demands that students lace up their trainers and hit the roads. We will meet for weekly group runs, which will provide the basis for a variety of journal assignments, culminating in a competitive long-distance race (of each student’s choosing), which will be the subject of their final writing project, an extended narrative essay that reflects on the race, the student’s experience of running, and the literature and ideas we have encountered.

Capstones - Fall 2017

HE462 Spirituality in African American Literature - Asst. Professor Marlon Moore

This capstone seminar focuses on the influence and representations of theological, cosmological, and supernatural beliefs in African American literature. We will survey the presence of magical characters, such as conjurers, healers, prophets, demons, spirit guides, and religious figures in poetry, fiction, and autobiographical writings. Authors will be drawn from a range of ethnic communities within the African-descended peoples in the US. A major point of focus will be the ways these depictions of spirituality intersect with the characters’ and narrators’ notions of kinship, sexuality, ethnic identity or socioeconomic status.

HE467 Life on the Brink: Dystopian Fiction - Asst. Professor Calina Ciobanu

What is (human) life worth, and at what cost—to our planet, to other species, to our own future—do we secure its well-being, convenience, and comfort?  Scientists have proposed that today we inhabit an epoch, known as the Anthropocene, in which mankind has become a driving force of geological change on Earth.  This means that as we wield unprecedented scientific, industrial, and technological power, we are also pushing our world to the brink—we are warming our atmosphere, polluting our oceans, and driving other species to extinction.  The works of dystopian fiction and narratives of apocalypse we take up in this class all interrogate, in one way or another, the narrative of human exceptionalism that provides the justification for the violence we inflict upon our environment, other species, and even each other. The first unit, “Human, Non-human, Inhuman,” in which we will read works like Coetzee’s Disgrace and Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, considers how the category of “the human” is constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed through the stories we tell about it.  Tracing the ways in which the value of human life is constituted in opposition to lives that are devalued or even rendered disposable, we will ask, who is (or can become) an “other,” and what is our ethical responsibility toward him, or her, or it?  In our second unit, “After the Apocalypse,” we will turn to works like Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to explore what remains of “the human” when mankind has driven itself to the brink of extinction.  What does “human nature” look like after “human culture” has been decimated? On what basis, in other words, might human community begin to reconstitute itself after the apocalypse?  Finally, in our last unit on the literature of the Holocaust, we will consider what happens to our understanding of “the human” in the wake of the kind of historical violence that calls our very humanity into question—as in Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus and Primo Levi’s memoir Survival in Auschwitz.    

Recent Capstones

Fall 2016

Representations of Race/Ethnicity in American Film (Garcia-Crespo)
Graham Greene (Parker)

Fall 2015

Revenge Tragedy (Ward)
How We Read Dickens Now (Allen-Emerson)

Fall 2014

The Literature of Death and Dying (Parker)
Byron and the Byronic Hero (Comet)

Special Topics - Spring Semester

Special Topics - Spring 2018

HE360 Fairytales: The Evolution of "Happily Ever After" LT Solmonson

This course will explore the fairytale genre and establish the origins of popular fairytales by tracing the evolution from folklore and the brothers Grimm, to Disney and beyond. We will examine how single tales have evolved to reflect changing beliefs in society and how fairytale narratives shape adolescent (and adult) development.

Capstones - Spring 2018

HE461 Word Up! History of the English Language - Asst. Professor Jill Fitzgerald

This course examines the evolution of the English language from its origins to its present (and its future). We will apply technical linguistic methods and concepts as we consider how historical and cultural forces – invasion, revolution, migration, colonization, and globalization – shape the language. We will pay specific attention to the function of verbal and written communication in human society, issues of orality, pidgins and creoles, dictionaries and their ideological investments, dialectal and regional varieties of English, and Englishes in their diverse configurations throughout the globe. While much of this class will involve linguistic laws and equations, we will also ask timely questions with less straightforward answers: What are the principle characteristics of a “successful” language? What happens when languages “die”? How do dialects operate in English speaking society today? How has military terminology played a determining role in the shaping of the language, and how can future leaders play an ethical role in its future? What is “standard English,” and what are the ideological investments of such a construct? By the end of the course students should be able to demonstrate a knowledge of the history of English, a command of historical linguistics (phonology, morphology, semantics), and explain the social dimensions of languages in general and English in particular.

HE462 Blackface, Yellowface, and Redface in American Literature and Culture - Asst. Professor Megan Geigner

While blackface, yellowface, and redface are perhaps easiest to identify in performance, these forms do not exist onstage alone; American literature gives ample example of each. From noble savage narratives to “Uncle Tom” figures to “model minority” stories, stereotyped minority characters haunt the American literary canon. This course teaches students to identify blackface, yellowface, and redface by reading and analyzing across genres—from dramatic literature to novels to songs to film—in order to see how authors and artists represent racial minorities. Furthermore, students will read secondary sources to synthesize why and how these forms were used in politically and culturally potent ways in different eras in America. The course includes two major American novels—Uncle Tom’s Cabin and East of Eden—as sites of analysis for how American literary traditions create archetypal characters while simultaneously challenging stereotypes. The focus on film in the twentieth century allows students to apply the novel-, play-, and lyric-analysis skills they develop early in the semester to both the text and visual composition of the genre. As an upper-division course, this class develops students vocabulary of blackface, yellowface, and redface criteria; helps them make connections between different media, different types of representation, and different time periods; and, ultimately, asks them to propose “solutions” to the problem of blackface, yellowface, and redface in the American canon. 

Recent Capstones

Spring 2017

Milton (Ward)
Introduction to Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Studies in Literature (Moore)

Spring 2016

August Wilson's "Century Cycle" and the Blues Tradition (Handley)
Literature of the Vikings (Fitzgerald)

Spring 2015

The Art and Literature of Augustan Rome (Mace)
Hemingway in the 21st Century (Nolan)

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