History of the English Language
Upper-level linguistics course which fulfills continuing writing requirement. Click here for syllabus (spring 2018).

This course surveys the linguistic and cultural development of the English language, from Indo-European origins to its status as a global language in the twenty-first century. We will explore the language and pronunciation of Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English, and contemporary dialects. Along with linguistic concepts like semantics, phonology, morphology, and syntax, we will also study the cultural and historical context for language change, including the influence of invasions and wars, literary and material culture, and social identities such as gender, race and ethnicity, social class, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, and age. To understand the effects of material culture on the development of the English language, we will complete several hands-on activities, including writing with goose feather quills on vellum, an exercise in making a quarto manuscript, and practice with a printing press.

Literature and the Arts: Medieval to Modern
Upper-level literature course which fulfills continuing writing requirement. Click here for course website (fall 2017).

We will read medieval literature within its original multimedia context, an artistic culture which includes painting, manuscript illuminations, architecture, sculpture, and more. We will extend our analysis outside the chronological bounds of the Middle Ages (500–1500), pairing medieval works with later text(s) and/or image(s) inspired by a medieval story or theme. Through our readings, we will discuss the place of medieval literature as a form of “making” within a flourishing artistic culture, the ways that different art forms allow us to tell different types of stories, and how medieval narratives and themes permeate literature and art to the present.

Women’s Auto/Biographies from the 3rd Century to the 21st
First-year writing course. Click here for course website (spring 2016).

In this course, we read excerpts from biographies and autobiographies dating from the early 3rd century all the way up to 2013. Readings include female saints’ lives (textual and visual) and autobiographical writings by Hildegard of Bingen, Margery Kempe, Harriet Jacobs, Maya Angelou, Marjane Satrapi, Mindy Kaling, and Allie Brosh. We consider the function of different media in life writing by reading not only texts but also graphic novels and visual biographies. Students compose in a variety of media and genres with assignments such as weekly blog posts, a social media biography, a visual rhetorical analysis, a visual memoir, and a researched rhetorical analysis. We consider the relationship between auto/biography and other genres, and we explore strategies female writers use to construct their authority. Click here to view a gallery of students’ research projects from the course.

One student’s reflection on the course in her final portfolio:

English 101 introduced me to new techniques for writing, drafting, and research, along with an introduction to new genres and literary subjects. Before this First Year Writing class I was unknowledgeable about the genre of women’s auto/biographies. After this course, however, I am now versed in the genre and all of the recurring subjects and themes. Through the works of Hildegard of Bingen and Margery Kempe I now know about the subject of Saint’s lives and how they are conventionally represented through text. Works by authors such as Harriet Jacobs and Maya Angelou brought a unique perspective to the lives of African American women. Contemporary works, such as those by Marjane Satrapi and Allie Brosh introduced me to the genre of graphic novels. Allie Brosh and Mindy Kaling also incorporated the idea of humor and informal, conversational styles of writing that further connected with the audience.

This class not only introduced me to these genres within the literary realm, but also allowed me to analyze such works through writing and gain a better understanding through writings of my own in the different genres. The social media autobiography assignment required me to explore my own identity through the medium of social media and then relay that information through a piece of formal writing. The visual rhetorical analysis allowed me to further explore the genre of the graphic novel by requiring me to analyze the book Persepolis as if it were a movie. Each frame of the graphic memoir invited a close reading that gave more insight into the narrative than just text alone. The next assignment, the visual memoir, combined elements of both the social media autobiography and the visual analysis. The ability to create an autobiography in the graphic memoir genre fostered a chance to completely explore both genres and the unique product of text and visuals that emerges from the two. Like the visual rhetorical analysis, the researched rhetorical analysis required a deep analysis of one of the works we read, in my case Persepolis. The ability to explore, not only Persepolis, but also other secondary sources on the topic of feminism introduced me to so many new perspectives and allowed me to fully engage with my analysis. The oral presentation diverged from the usual written assignment, but provided me with a chance to better understand rhetorical strategies and specifically how they relate to audience. From this assignment, I gained a better understanding of the rhetoric behind all elements of the oral presentation: delivery, slide design, and visuals. The final assignment, the portfolio, engaged all elements of the other assignments and allowed me to reflect on my writing and drafting skills throughout the course.

Medieval Heroes and Monsters
First-year writing course. Click here for course website (fall 2015).eng181

In this course, students develop critical reading, analytical writing, and rhetorical presentation skills while exploring the way that exemplarity and monstrosity are constructed in medieval literature and art. Reading assignments include The Voyage of St Brendan, John Mandeville’s Travels, The Hammer of Witches, medieval saints’ lives, romances, sermons, chronicles, and visual narratives of monsters and heroes in manuscripts, stained glass, and wall paintings. All texts in the course engage with the question of exemplarity broadly, including the rhetorical strategies authors use to construct heroes and the ideological motivations for labeling certain figures as monstrous. Reading and writing assignments will engage with the visual as a form of “text” or argument, and students will compose in multiple modes and genres, including a rhetorical analysis, a visual analysis, an analysis of the materiality of a medieval manuscript, and a final multimodal research project and presentation. Click here to view two galleries of student projects from the course.

One student’s reflection on the course in his final portfolio:

I entered this class with a reluctant feeling after reading the course title, “Medieval Heroes and Monsters.” Little did I know that this class would result in an overwhelming amount of benefits, not only to my writing skills, but my holistic academic experience. I came into this class with a very premature idea of the writing process based on my work in my high school career. Upon leaving this class, I know that through several key assignments, as well as the class in general, I now have a more academic and advanced style of writing. …

The materiality analysis was the assignment that really allowed me to discover all the many ways that audience, purpose, genre, and content affect my rhetorical understanding of literature and how to write in a way that reflects my knowledge of rhetoric in literature. There were several activities that specifically advanced my knowledge of the many variables that affect the materiality of literature.  The activity where we wrote on vellum with quills helped to gain a deeper understanding of the lengthy process it took to complete a manuscript. It showed me how much value and time it took to produce a manuscript. We also got to have a library session to touch and analyze authentic manuscripts. This activity was helpful and allowed me to analyze the components of real manuscripts that collectively tell powerful rhetorical stories of their pasts. …

I am so thankful for being able to take this course. I feel as though I have left this class with a sense of confidence in my writing ability. It has taught me much more than just to be a better writer. It has given me the tools and knowledge to present my ideas and arguments in a much more effective way across all modes. It has also given me the ability to have a far deeper understanding of the many forms of literature and how to analyze works in a clear, precise, and academic style. The course title, “Monsters and Heroes,” personally became quite relatable. I came into this class thinking it was a “monster,” but thanks to the class, students, and especially Professor Bledsoe, I finished this class realizing it was a “hero” to my writing ability and the future of my academic career.


Women’s Life Writing
First-year writing course. Click here for syllabus (spring 2017).





Writing plays an important role in civic engagement and in all facets of intellectual and professional life; it is an act of discovery, a site of analysis and expression, an enduring means of communication, the foundation of effective leadership, and an avenue for change. This course engages students in critical inquiry through reading, discussion, oral presentations, and writing, emphasizing an in-depth exploration of the writing process from generating ideas, to revising, to polishing the final draft. With literature as a context, students will learn to analyze texts and other materials; develop a significant and focused controlling idea; construct a well-organized argument or narrative that makes a case for their considered and well researched perspective; use sources effectively; and write and speak with clarity, creativity, depth, and power. Students will write and revise frequently and will receive regular commentary on their writing.

In this course, we will read autobiographies of women from a range of periods and cultures. Readings will include graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi and Allie Brosh as well as memoirs by Harriet Jacobs, Maya Angelou, and Mindy Kaling. We will consider the function of different media in life writing by reading not only texts but also graphic novels. Students will compose a variety of assignments including forum posts on Moodle, a social media auto/biography, a visual rhetorical analysis, a researched rhetorical analysis, and a final portfolio. We will consider the relationship between autobiography and other genres, and we will explore strategies female writers use to construct their authority