Literary Arts Foundations: Texts and Contexts

Winter 2020
Spring 2020
Class Size: 15
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

Elizabeth Williamson
English literature, theater studies

This intensive, introductory program is designed for students who want to discover, develop, and deepen their understanding of literature through critical, creative, and interdisciplinary modes of inquiry. This will entail developing habits of thought that continually integrate reading and writing. No writer can avoid reading; no reader should deprive themselves of the opportunity to write.  

Our study of existing literary texts will range from canonical European writers to as-yet-uncategorized contemporary writers. For instance, we will read and respond to texts by Shakespeare and his peers, as well as to texts by Sor Juana, Claude McKay, Aimé Césaire, Samuel Beckett, M. NourbeSe Philip, and others writing within and against the grain of inherited traditions.

As we read, we will consider how these writers take up, invent, and transform specific literary forms and genres, as well as how these choices relate to historical context. We will sharpen our analysis of these texts by familiarizing ourselves with key movements in literary criticism and literary theory (including formalism, historicism, post-colonialism, and gender theory). 

Frequent writing assignments will give students the chance to exercise their writing skills in relation to our reading. Midterm exams will allow students and faculty alike to gauge the learning underway. And in both quarters, each student in the program will design and complete substantive research projects in consultation with faculty and peers. These projects will include critical and creative components and will be anchored in and informed by our study of other writers.

Our time in class will be organized around lectures, text-based seminars, exams, writing and reading workshops, research workshops, and peer review. Students will develop skills in close-reading, critical inquiry, argumentation, and independent and collaborative research. You will become familiar with a variety of modes of writing as well as with a variety of literary traditions, and you will learn how to approach literary texts through both historical and theoretical frameworks. Perhaps most important, you will come to see your own texts in the context of texts composed by others.

This is an annually repeating program designed to prepare students for capstone and other upper division programs in creative writing and literary study. Students who successfully complete both quarters will leave the program in a good position to pursue advanced projects in the literary arts and beyond. 

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

writing, literature, editing, publishing, and the arts.  


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Winter: Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.
  • Spring Complete Online Learning - This offering delivers all of its instruction online.
Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 15

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Monday, March 30, 2020 - 10:00 am
SEM 2 A3105 - Workshop

Advertised schedule:


Located in: Olympia

2020-02-04This program is not accepting new students in spring quarter