ENGLISH 304 - Critical Reading
Fall 2023, Section 001 - Contemporary Michigan Narratives
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
Advisory Prerequisites:
Completion of 200-level Foundations and Methods course.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 8/28/23 - 12/6/23 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


When most people think of literary culture, Michigan doesn't naturally spring to mind. Yet Michigan is fertile ground for writers — Ernest Hemingway, who spent every summer on Walloon Lake until he went to World War I, won the 1954 Nobel Prize for literature, and Detroit-born authors Jeffrey Eugenides and Philip Levine have both won Pulitzers. Likewise, writers with international name recognition such as Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Hayden, Theodore Roethke, Jim Harrison, Elmore Leonard, Gloria Whelan, and Charles Baxter all have deep connections to this state. 

So why do readers envision pastoral quaintness when they think of Michigan writing, rather than these prominent authors? And why is it typically cornfields and small towns that they imagine rather than the grit of Detroit or the hustle of a college campus?

Perhaps this has to do with the varied landscape of Michigan, which makes both the place and its people hard to pin down. The geographic boundaries of this state stretch from the flat farmlands in the lower peninsula to the Porcupine Mountains in the upper peninsula, from the automotive plants of Detroit to the affluent homes on Lake Michigan’s shoreline. As such, it's often difficult to categorize literature from this place as a particular "type."

This class, then, will attempt to define — and, thereby, to re-define — contemporary Michigan writing. We’ll also use Michigan as a microcosm of the Midwest, viewing the region as a whole through the lens of the work being produced in this state. How do you write Michigan (and the Midwest) today? What embodies it in the twenty-first century? Who's writing it? And what's being captured in the process?

Similarly, what is literature? How does it operate? What are its concerns? Does it have a larger purpose? What is a reader's relationship to a text? These questions, among others, will guide our inquiry.


This course satisfies the following CURRENT English major/minor requirement: American Literature, Identity/Difference

This course satisfies the following NEW English major/minor requirements: Foundations & Methods (300/400-level), Regions: Americas, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Time: Contemporary/Modern

Course Requirements:

Readings will comprise novels, short stories, poetry, and various essays on craft and literary theory. The workload will include several short critical analysis assignments (750 words each) and a final essay. Primary texts will be selected from such books as:

  • Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon, by Dean Bakopoulos (2005)
  • Words Like Thunder, by Lois Beardslee (2020)
  • Marlena, by Julie Buntin (2018)
  • The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, by Anissa Gray (2019)
  • Short Girls, by Bich Minh Nguyen (2010)
  • How to Interpret Literature - 4th edition, by Robert Dale Parker (2019)

Intended Audience:

This course is accessible to all undergraduate students, regardless of major. The only requirements are an interest in reading and thinking critically and creatively about texts. And because this course is discussion-based, students will be asked to be engaged and contributing members of the classroom community.


ENGLISH 304 - Critical Reading
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23
002 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23
003 (LEC)
 In Person
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23

Textbooks/Other Materials

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