About the Course

Eng. 216 Fall 2011

Ryland 212 MW 9-10:15
Dr. Joseph J. Essid, Writing Center Director
jessid@richmond.edu Personal Web page

Office Hours: Weinstein 408
T/ Th 1-2 pm and by appointment


We will look at a range of fiction and films, mostly American though a few from other nations, that explore the ways in which individuals invent worlds for themselves in the wilderness, in their heads, after a disaster, to make a better future, and in cyberspace. Along the way, you will practice skills related to close-reading of literary work or cinematic work, crafting analyses based on solid evidence, and learning specialized vocabulary about literature and film-studies.

One of our authors will even "join class" at Midterm, taking questions for a podcast he does weekly.

Be warned: the exams, except for part of the final, are closed-book and in-class. The reading load is not excessive, but if you do not read all the works and see the films, you will fare very poorly. The class will still be quite demanding of your time and intellectual efforts unless you pace yourself well.

Toward the end of the term, you will enter an invented world: an online simulation I designed based upon Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," where your avatars, working in a team, assume the role of Poe's narrator. You will try to solve the mysteries of the Usher family and save them from an ancient curse. This project will be part of your final exam.

Some big questions we will explore:
  • Why do people invent a world for themselves? 
  • What do people do when they are forced to do so?
  • When does such invention become dangerous? Helpful?
  • How do invented worlds come to influence the actual world?
  • How does your own journey online resemble those of the world-builders we study?
image credits: Pin from General Motors' Futurama, 1939 New York World's Fair (Joe Essid's collection)
Virtusphere virtual-reality rig, company Web site.