Capstone and Open Topic Course Descriptions - Spring 2022

Special Topics Courses

ENG 350N, War Films

Dr. Nalin Jayasena (
TR 10:05-11:25

“There is no war without representation”—Paul Virilio


This course examines a media landscape virtually obsessed with the two world wars; from trench warfare and the rise of Nazism that culminated in the Holocaust to the nuclear bombing of Japan, the two world wars still attract undiminished interest and evoke intense emotions. If as Virilio remarks, war is spectacle and does not exist outside of representation, can war cinema truly intervene in the reigning logic of warfare without also serving the voyeuristic impulse of film spectatorship? In other words, to what extent do war films as a genre belong within the “war machine” and the technologies of warfare? This course will take up these and other questions related to the aesthetics and politics of war films.

The course is organized around the following themes: the Children of War, Women in War, Mainstream War Film, and Indie War Film and will feature some of the following films: Grave of the Fireflies, 1917, Ida, The English Patient, The Testament of Youth, among others.

Counts as an elective in Lit and PW free elective. Contact your advisor in the major or Dr. Bechtel at if you have additional questions on where the course could count on your DAR.

ENG 440Y, Major Authors: Eugene O’Neill

Dr. Katie Johnson (
TR 2:50-4:10

Eugene O’Neill was the first American playwright who rivaled European dramatists with his literary talents. Indeed, O’Neill remains the only American dramatist to have captured the Nobel Prize for literature (in addition to garnering four Pulitzer Prizes).

Ever the innovator, O’Neill crafted fresh voices with Irish-, Swedish-, and African American characters, experimenting with styles and genres (from expressionism to modern tragedy). His plays broke dramaturgical molds and color lines. “Anna Christie” was the first play about a prostitute in which the female character lived. The Emperor Jones broke the color line when Charles Gilpin was the first African American actor to be cast in a leading role on Broadway in 1920. When O’Neill’s play about miscegenation, All God’s Chillun Got Wings, portrayed the first interracial kiss in 1924, O’Neill and the actors received death threats. And the 1933 film version of The Emperor Jones was the first Hollywood picture with a black leading actor, Paul Robeson. Again and again, Eugene O’Neill’s plays became vehicles that allowed performers to break barriers across the U.S. and indeed, across the Atlantic. In addition to reading O’Neill’s collected plays, students will write performance criticism utilizing performance theory, critical race theory, and feminist theory.

As part of the Humanities Works program, this course will offer students the opportunity to develop projects with the Eugene O’Neill Foundation in California. Students will also have the opportunity to develop research papers that they submit for the 11th International Eugene O’Neill Conference (held in Boston in July 2022).

Counts as 400-level elective in Lit and towards distribution requirements (late) in Lit and CW. Contact your advisor in the major or Dr. Bechtel at if you have additional questions on where the course could count on your DAR.

ENG 450D, Revenge Tragedy: Crime & Punishment from Oresteia to Gone Girl.

Dr. Kaara Peterson (
TR 1:15-2:3 

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” What crimes cry out for revenge and what determines the type and magnitude of the revenger's response? This genre course focuses on crime and punishment in a sub-genre of tragedy, from early Greek and Roman plays including Aeschylus’ Oresteia, Euripides’ Medea, and Seneca’s Thyestes (focused on the curse on the House of Atreus), to the blockbuster hits of the Elizabethan era by Kyd and Shakespeare, to less-familiar 17th-c. plays by Middleton and Rowley, Webster, and Ford.

Crucial questions about the ethics of crimes, murder, and revenge are posed by many of our works, pointedly addressing the ímpetus for individual acts of extra-judicial revenge: is “justice” distinct or rendered differently from “revenge”? Moving from early drama to alternate forms of tragedy and revenge, we’ll turn next to Poe’s classic short stories, examining throughout how condign punishment and the question of the revenger’s sanity keep returning to the forefront.

Our last stop is contemporary fiction, including Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl: how do popular novels rework the premises, plot, and outcomes of the theatrical tradition? How has the female revenger evolved? Should these be classified as revenge tragedies at all? Enrollees should have already completed 298 and ideally taken an MU Shakespeare or early modern lit class.


Capstone Courses

ENG 406, Capstone in Linguistics: Computational Linguistics

Dr. So Young Lee (
MW 10:05 - 11:25

This course introduces computational methods in empirical linguistic analysis and natural language processing. In this course, students will learn computer programming in the Python language as well as critical approaches to language. As students master fundamental computational techniques of text analysis, they will produce their own innovative, collaborative research projects that examine the relationship between human language and computers.

Capstone option for Linguistics. Senior registration (96+ credit hours) only. Non-repeatable.

ENG 495E, Capstone in Literary/ Cultural Studies

Dr. Yu-Fang Cho (
TR 11:40 - 1:00 

Capstone option for Lit and CW majors. Senior registration (96+ credit hours) only. Non-repeatable.

ENG 495R, Capstone in Rhetoric and Writing

Researching Writing at (and around) Miami University

Dr. Jason Palmeri (
MW 11:40 - 1:00

In this course, we will learn and apply a range of historical, rhetorical, and person-based methods to study writing in the context of Miami University. Each student in class will develop an original research question about writing (broadly defined) and then pursue that question by collecting and analyzing data related to the writing that happens in and around our school. You might conduct interviews or surveys about writing with particular members of the Miami University community; you might conduct an archival study focused on a particular slice of Miami student writing from the past; or, you might collect and analyze a corpus of public digital texts written by or about Miami students.

Some questions we will take up together include:

  • What kinds of writing are Miami University students doing both inside and outside of school (and how do they learn to compose in these various genres)?
  • How do material spaces and technologies influence the practice of writing among students at Miami University?
  • What can we learn about the historical development of Miami University by studying archives of student writing both within the classroom and beyond? How might the writing of past miami students inspire our own?
  • How does the writing of Miami students (past and present) play a role in the construction of identities and power structures?
  • How is the writing of Miami University students influenced by the previous literacy experiences that they bring with them to college?
  • How do Miami University alums repurpose (or not) the rhetorical knowledge they gain in college in their writing in other contexts?
  • What theoretical concepts and reflective habits of mind might be most useful for you in preparing for a lifetime of writing in your profession and in your broader communities?

In addition to writing regular reading responses, students in class will also compose an original, researched essay, a multimedia research presentation, and a reflective portfolio of their writing during their time in college.

Capstone required in PW, course option for Rhetoric/Writing minor. Senior registration (96+ credit hours) only. Non-repeatable.

ENG 495R, Capstone in Rhetoric and Writing

Dr. Elizabeth Wardle (

TR 11:40–1:00

In this course, students will investigate the uses of writing in their lives and all around them, and compare them to research-based “threshold concepts” about how writing works. They will consider how popular misconceptions about writing inform policy, pedagogy, high-stakes assessment, workplace practices—and the daily lives of millions of everyday writers. Students will investigate their own conceptions of writing and create multi-modal collages; read and blog their reflections on research-based ideas about writing and rhetoric; conduct an investigation of how writing works and circulates; and create a public awareness or policy campaign to change ideas and practices around writing. In doing so, students will take up questions such as:

  • What popular conceptions about writing circulate in our culture?
  • How do these conceptions line up with up research about how writing works?
  • How do popular (mis)conceptions about writing inform policy, curriculum, and the daily lives of writers?
  • How can people with expertise in writing work to change popular (mis)conceptions and practices around writing?

Capstone required in PW, course option for Rhetoric/Writing minor. Senior registration (96+ credit hours) only. Non-repeatable.