English Courses - Literature

The English Department serves all Fisher students,
from beginning through advanced, majors and non-majors.  Because most Fisher students satisfy their core requirement in literature with a combination of English courses,  we offer a wide variety of courses in writing and literature.  We also offer a wealth of specialized courses in literary eras, genres, and topics.  Our two-track major and minor enable students to focus on either writing or literature.  Most of our courses are writing-intensive, discussion-oriented, and designed to enhance students' ability to think critically.

Introductory courses / Literature / Writing / Honors / Sample Syllabi

Download the checklist for: English Major and Minor requirements / Ad-Ed English requirements

Literature Course Descriptions (ENGL)

170 Fantasy and/in History (3)
What do cultures value? How do their intellectual perspectives shift as change occurs in politics, religion and industry? What can literary fantasy tell us about these processes? This course examines the intellectual perspective of the Oxford Christians as represented primarily by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, members of the literary circle known as “The Inklings.” These writers responded to the major events of their time, such as WWI and WWII, as well as changes in the physical and cultural landscape of England, by emphasizing the values of an England of days long past.

Offered only as part of a Learning Community.

203C The History of English (3)
This course has two parts. The first half introduces basic linguistics, exploring language acquisition, morphology, and phonology. The second half traces the development of the English language from its Indo-European roots to its current forms, examining elements such as syntax, grammar, vocabulary and semantics. (See Sample Syllabus)

207C The Bible as Literature (3)
The English Bible is read and examined as a literary work, with special attention to the themes, structure, and style of biblical narrative. The course considers selected books of both Hebrew and Christian scripture, along with works that adapt biblical materials to modern purposes, demonstrating the ongoing life of biblical texts in our culture. (See Bloom Syllabus) (See VanderBilt Syllabus)

210 Literature and Healing (3)
This course examines how creative and analytical writers have addressed issues of health, illness, and healing. Are mind, body and spirit separate entities, and how are they reflected in literature and affected by self-expression? Texts and discussions may include issues such as cancer, AIDS, and mental illnesses; fertility issues; grief; epidemics and war; drugs and altered states of consciousness; stages of life and death; the ethics of healing; and different cultures' approaches to sickness, health and healing.

212C P1 Shakespeare at the Movies (3)
Shakespeare wrote his plays to be seen on stage, and many people think if he were alive today he would be making movies. In this class we spend plenty of time reading Shakespeare’s works to understand his use of plot, character, structure, language, and genre, and we also put ourselves in the position of his audience. Viewing multiple film versions of plays such as Hamlet , Macbeth , Twelfth Night , and Henry V , we consider how various interpretations are projected on screen, and we discuss what is gained and lost by close and loose adaptations of Shakespeare’s works. Formerly: Shakespeare in Performance.

214 P1 Reading Gender: Feminist Literary Theory (3)
This course is an introduction to feminist literary theory. Students will learn some of the major schools of feminist literary thought over the centuries and learn to apply these perspectives to a number of literary works. Major issues will include concepts of authorship and voice, representations of gender roles, and ideas of identity and agency. In addition, students will develop skills in close reading and critical analysis. (See Sample Syllabus)

215C P1 Getting the News from Poems (3)
“It is difficult to get the news from poems,” wrote American poet William Carlos Williams late in his life, “yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” This course investigates both the kind of news that poems bring—about who we are and what we do; about what we know and what we dream—and the challenges of getting that news. Readings include poems in English reaching back to medieval ballads, but the course emphasizes the work of poets writing the news of our own time and considers forms of poetry ranging from the epic to the popular song. No special prior knowledge of poetry or poetic forms is expected.

218C P1 The Play’s the Thing: Introduction to Drama (3)
A number of plays from different theatrical traditions and from different positions within the Western tradition are read in this course. The course also focuses on plays that are, in one way or another, conscious of themselves as drama, or as performance. In some cases, this comes through in an intentionally artificial surface, in others as an overt debt to an earlier play. The course considers cultural and performance histories, self-conscious literary traditions, and the ways a present-day audience might “read” the plays. (See Sample Syllabus)

220D P1 Modern African American Literature (3)
This course explores the range of Black writing in America and its history, its particular sources in African culture, its involvement in and revisions of traditional American culture, and its remarkable vitality. Though it may begin with earlier material—a slave narrative, for example—the course will focus primarily on Black writers of the twentieth century, including such writers as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and other writers of the Harlem Renaissance, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks, writers and theorists of the Black Arts Movement, and Toni Morrison.

223C P1 Marriage in Contemporary Literature (3)
As a structure deeply important in both individual and social realms, marriage provides a rich setting for examining some enduring human concerns. With readings from contemporary literature by male and female writers, the course explores the dynamics of relationships extended over time, the connection between gender identity and personal identity, the evolution of gender roles, and the tension between individual desires and social pressures. Readings include poetry and prose fiction, and sometimes biography and autobiography.

226C P1 Arthurian Legend (3)
A study of the historical beginnings and literary development of the legend of King Arthur. The course concentrates on medieval literature, the time in which the legend came to have wide popular appeal, but includes some examples of later use of the legend as well. Authors to be studied include Geoffrey of Monmouth, Marie de France, and Sir Thomas Malory. The course explores how elements of the legend appeal to various authors and how that appeal is linked to the cultural contexts in which authors write.

227C P1 Visions of Childhood (3)
What are the tasks of childhood? How does the child respond to the demands of family and society? What changes and choices do adult roles require, and how does one balance the needs of community and self? How does the child’s experience offer special perspectives on the world we know as adults? The course looks at ways in which writers have responded to such questions in literary form. Reading includes Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the work of contemporary writers who see childhood as a crucible for issues of enduring concern.

230 P1 Literature of Travel (3)
Martin Buber said, “all journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” In this course, we investigate why humans willingly pull up stakes and travel to unfamiliar places—and write about the experiences. We read fiction and nonfiction narratives that investigate the human desire to leave home, see other lands and people, and learn about the self in the process. We also investigate anthropological theories about travel and its uses. Authors may include Mark Twain, Isabella Bird, Mary McCarthy, Bruce Chatwin, Mary Morris, Jon Krakauer, Andrew Harvey, Douglas Preston, and others.

231C P1 Detective and Mystery Narratives (3)
Detective and mystery narratives raise fascinating questions about the process of reading and interpretation; the detective, like the reader/critic, reads “signs” in order to transform chaos into order. Beginning with the Old Testament and ending with The Silence of the Lambs (both novel and film), this course considers detective and mystery narratives by such writers as Poe, Conan Doyle, Collins, Sayers, Christie, Du Maurier, Hillerman, and others. By giving highbrow and lowbrow mysteries equal footing, the course challenges traditional notions of canonicity, including the distinction between literature and film. Students are responsible for applying major theoretical arguments to texts that focus on “reading,” while they study the changing cultural implications of “mystery.”

236D CC The American Dream (3)
What is the American Dream? What is “American?” This course explores the American Dream—the dream of financial success, independence, tolerance, religious freedom—through the eyes of disparate groups. We emphasize the problem of cultural integration/assimilation alongside attempts to define a diverse culture as “one nation, indivisible.” (See Sample Syllabus)

238D CC Postcolonial Literature (3)
A study of the writing from former colonies during the 20th century. The course explores the perspectives on their own and on Western culture of African, Caribbean, and Indian writers such as Achebe, Kincaid, Naipaul, Gordimer, Coetzee, Narayan, Walcott, and Rushdie.

239D The Development of the Modern Gothic (3)
A study of the major themes and development of the British and American Gothic, including genre archetypes, connections to the sentimental/domestic genres, its focus on storytelling and narrative making, and its position in the canon. We trace the development of the Gothic from British Romanticism to current popular culture, paying particular attention to the ways in which the genre revises itself. Readings include works by Coleridge, Shelley, Stoker, Louis Stevenson, Poe, Hawthorne, James, Freud, Lovecraft, and Stephen King.

241D CC Asian American Literature (3)
This course will serve as an introduction to Asian-American literature, offering both American perspectives on Asia and Asian perspectives on America. These perspectives will include both naturalized and native-born Asian-Americans as well as Asian "aliens." Important themes in the course are the American myths which drew Asians in large numbers as well as their actual experiences on arriving; the American "melting pot" and the related issues of assimilation and acculturation; cultural transmission to the second and ensuing generations, the Asian diaspora, and the "model minority." Course readings will examine the interactions between the peoples of China, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, and India with Americans, and vice versa. Main texts include Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club, John Okada's No-No Boy, F. Sionil Jose's Viajero, and Anh Junghyo's Silver Stallion.

247C P1 War in Literature (3)
This course examines literary and filmic depictions of U.S. wars (though not always from an American perspective), focusing mainly on the colonial era’s “Indian Wars” to the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and finally the Vietnam War. This class takes an inclusive, multifaceted look at our nation at war-—at war with racial “Others,” at war with itself, at war abroad—and how war has affected not only the men who fight but also women, children and non-combatants. Because this class focuses on war in literature (whether printed or filmic), we also focus on how form affects content—i.e., how the text’s literary form (poem, short story, novel, film, nonfictional prose, or government document) affects the material it relates. Texts include U.S. government-produced guidelines on films produced for the war effort, novels, poems, High Modernism, and “lowbrow” popular war films.

248 P5 World Literature (3)
This course introduces students to a wide variety of literature from around the world, in translation, with attention to how such literature communicates the values and traditions of the cultures in which the writers live. The course helps students learn to analyze literature through written and oral assignments.

257 Memoir in the 21st Century (3)
Since the commercial success of Angela's Ashes, memoir writing has become a compelling genre. While containing many elements of prose fiction, it focuses primarily on meaningful events in a person's past, asking the writer to reflect and evaluate the significance of those moments with the wisdom of the present. Besides memoirs, this course will study such additional introspective forms as autobiographies, confessions, diaries, logs, and letters. Activities will include reading and discussing several current memoirs, but the primary objective will be writing personal pieces which may serve as the foundation of a book-length work.

Topics in Literature Series

The English Department offers a series of special topic literature courses. These courses examine both traditional literary works and works intended to broaden and redefine the canon. Each topic reflects an important component of social formation and is concerned with issues and themes that arise in literary works from various cultures and periods. Instructors and topics change and students are urged to explore a variety of topics and courses.

261C Topics in Sexuality and Literature (3)
Past courses include: Queer Literature
262P CC Topics in Ethnicity and Literature (3)
Past courses include: American Immigrant Literature and Multicultural Literature.
263C P1 Topics in Literature and the Arts (3)
Past courses include: Images of Urban America and Modernism in the City. Cross-listed with ARTS 263C. (See Sample Syllabus)
264C P5 Topics in Literature and Politics (3)
Past courses include: Dangerous Words: Censorship and Literature. see sample syllabus
268 "Did you see the movie?": Learning to Analyze Film (3)
This course will begin by defamiliarizing the apparent accessibility of film. It will acquaint students with the basic tenets of film studies, including the technical aspects of film production, visual communication theory, and theories of film 'authorship.' Then we'll study a wide variety of films, including early silent movies, canonical classics like Citizen Kane, and films from divergent genres and traditions, like The Draughtsman's Contract, Do the Right Thing, and Friday the Thirteenth. Student writing will focus on three areas: on how technique (form) creates content; on theories of visual pleasure; and on the politics of film ideology.

Literature Survey Courses

These courses provide a foundational background for the study of literature written in English by offering an overview of the main writers and texts in British and American literature and placing those individual writers and texts in a historical and literary context.

293 P1 Early English Literature (3)
This course covers English literature written between the 10th and 17th centuries. Students become familiar with earlier forms of the English language, the genres which characterized literature of this period, and the cultural contexts which valorized and continue to valorize certain authors, subjects, and narrative styles in the literature of that period. (See sample Uman Syllabus) (See sample VanderBilt Syllabus)

294 Milton through the Romantics: Reason and Imagination (3)
John Milton, who published Paradise Lost in 1667 at the end of his career, influenced every major writer in English for the next 150 years, yet each responded differently to Milton as a literary forebear. What did Milton mean to writers as different as Alexander Pope and William Wordsworth, and what accounts for their difference? How do England’s changing literary tastes reflect the social and economic changes that made it, by 1820, the world’s foremost industrial power? Why do classical literary forms give way to native English models, lyric displacing satiric verse? How do the poems of Wordsworth and Blake reflect the revolutionary impulse felt throughout Europe? The course considers these among other questions. Besides Milton, it includes such writers as John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, Thomas Gray, Robert Burns, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and John Keats. See sample syllabus

295 English Literature from the Victorians to the Present: Through a Looking Glass (3)
This course traces the evolution of English literature from roughly the 1840s to the present day, a period of extraordinary intellectual and social upheaval. Emphasis falls on novels and poetry. The readings investigate imaginative responses to such issues as the challenges of science to traditional, religiously based conceptions of reality; the reorganization of communal and even private life by the industrial revolution; the rise and then the disintegration of the British Empire; and the impact of two world wars. In this literature of our own time, we see ourselves reflected in ways both revealing and disturbing. Readings include the work of such writers as Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, George Eliot, W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, W. H. Auden, Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney, and others.

297 The Emergence of American Literature (3)
Beginning with the Puritan arrival in the “ New World,” this course traces the development of an American national literature through the national upheaval of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The course considers topics including the Puritan vision of the new world, conflicts between white colonists and native peoples, tension between the ideal of republicanism and the presence of slavery, and the search for a national culture. Students read the works of a variety of Puritan figures, political writings of such important early Americans as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, the philosophical writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, the poetry of Walt Whitman, and fiction by such writers as Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Louisa May Alcott.

298 American Literature from 1880 to the Present: Realism to Postmodern Literature (3)
This course surveys American literature representing a period that ranges from the consolidation of a national culture following the Civil War to the current paradoxical condition of a sole global super-power whose national culture has seldom seemed more fragmented. Topics to be explored include intellectual and imaginative responses to industrialization and urbanization, to the culmination of westward expansion and the loss of the frontier, to the integration of free African Americans and millions of immigrants into the culture and the economy, and to the challenges and responsibilities of world power. Readings include the work of such writers as Mark Twain, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Wallace Stevens, Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, Elizabeth Bishop, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Adrienne Rich, and others.

Advanced Literature Courses

Building from the foundation laid in the literature surveys, these courses provide students the opportunity to investigate in depth a particular topic, genre, writer, or literary movement by situating individual works of literature within clearly defined historical, social, and/or cultural contexts.

When any of the following upper-division courses is offered, it will have a specific focus within the general rubric of its catalogue title. May be repeated for credit if the focus is different. These courses are designed for English majors. ENGL200C is a pre-requisite for all of the following:

305 Structure of Language (3)
This course allows students to study the English language by looking at its component parts - syntax, morphology, semantics - and how those elements help explain the power of language in the contemporary world. Possible topics include gender differences in language use, world-wide English as a colonial phenomenon, and the "science" of grammar.

312C P1 Advanced Shakespeare Seminar (3)
This course explores the way Shakespeare’s plays have been and are interpreted by critics, theatrical and film productions, and audiences. Students investigate what literary interpretation is and how it is affected by historical and cultural contexts. In doing so, students read the assigned texts both as works of literature and as scripts for a stage performance. In addition, students study current critical approaches to these plays to develop a sense of their own cultural lens for interpreting Shakespeare. May not be repeated for credit. (See Uman sample syllabus 1) (See Uman sample syllabus 2)

318 English Literary Renaissance (3)
In the sixteenth and early seventeenth century, writers saw themselves as participating in a time of artistic rebirth. This course offers an in-depth study of literature from this vibrant literary era. Reading literature of the time within a social and historical context, students focus on issues such as the emerging ideas of authorship, nation, and gender in the English Renaissance.

319 Satire (3)
Most often political, seen as destructive but claiming to be medicinal, satire is an old and respected literary form that goes far beyond the parody and sarcasm with which it is now most frequently associated. This course focuses on works from one of the great ages of satire, works that fall under many different generic categories - epic poetry, the epistolary poem, newspaper prose, short fiction, comedies, and tragedies. See syllabus

325 The Romantic Tradition (3)
Romanticism is a comprehensive label given to movements in politics, philosophy, and art rooted in the mid to late eighteenth century. While the range of its ideas and expressions is vast, the Romantic outlook can be broadly characterized by three principles: the central importance of the individual (and the individual's perceptions, emotions, and attitudes) in life and art; the value of imagination as a source of experience and even understanding, a faculty to be stimulated and nurtured, and a measure of genius; and a reverence for nature as a revelation of truth, a source of both wisdom and ideas of form, whether social or aesthetic. This course examines the expression and evolution of these principles in selections of texts representing the Romantic tradition in England and America, from its origins in the eighteenth century to its echoes in the twentieth.

327 Studies in Victorian Literature (3)
Queen Victoria's sixty-four-year reign (1837-1901) witnessed sweeping social changes - the growth of industrialization, imperialism, nationalism, and the struggle for women's rights. At the same time, the writings of Marx and Engels, Darwin, Freud and others challenged long-held ways of understanding the world. These profound social and intellectual changes paralleled the rise of narrative fiction and poetry, which achieved unequaled popularity with both writers and readers during this period. Because it is impossible in one semester comprehensively to "cover" Victorian literature, and because literature is inextricably linked to culture, we study several writers' imaginative responses to the sense of dividedness and loss that characterized Victorian culture.

335 Studies in African American Literature (3)
Through close attention to texts grouped by topic, genre, or historical moment, this course explores how race serves as a foundational means of thinking about America and the American experience. We focus on texts produced by both white and black writers as we consider ways in which writers have sought to represent the African-American experience. Themes and issues might include the institution of slavery and the slave narrative; uplift; passing and identity; assimilation vs. isolation; double-consciousness; the emergence of a distinctly black culture in America; manners and modes of representing African-American life and culture; and notions of America as filtered through African-American consciousness and literary production. See syllabus.

336 Studies in Native American Literature (3)
This course explores the means, styles, and purposes of self-representation, at both the individual and the communal levels, in a variety of texts by Native American writers. Themes and issues might include the struggle for cultural authenticity, the experience of conquest and the idea of the reservation, ideas of nationhood and the relations of tribal nations to the United States, and the pluralism of cultures within the Native American community itself.

337 Ethnicities in/and Literature (3)
Ethnicity, often linked to but not the same as race, has a complex history in this nation whose motto is "E Pluribus Unum" (from Many, One). It has been an obstacle to achieving our motto's unity, and it has been a sustaining value to many of our citizens. Often it has been both these things simultaneously. This course examines literary representations of ethnic identity and culture, inviting students to explore definitions of ethnicity and their implications in the daily operations of peoples and nations. The course considers such questions as these: what is the difference between race and ethnicity? do only "minorities" have ethnicity? how might we define ethnicity in an increasingly multiracial society? how do we handle the history of discrimination in today's world?

Topic: Jewish-American Poets

This course will investigate some of the possible operations of ethnicity in literature by looking at the work of a half dozen or so important 20th Century American poets who were or are Jews. We will be particularly interested in whether (and if so, how) their ethnic identity informs the lenses, especially the relatively panoramic ones, they turn on America and American experience. Might there be an ethnically based component in the roles they’ve chosen—reformer, witness, exile, prophet—for their personae? How do Jewish poets insulated in and by America register elements of 20th Century Jewish history—the evolution of modern Zionism, the Holocaust—seen from a distance? We will explore these questions through the work of a variety of poets.

339 American Literatures (3)
This course explores the ways in which American writers have conceptualized the American experience and America as a nation. The plural in the title is deliberate; variety is a key concept. Possible areas of focus include key genres such as the Romance, realism, regionalism, and naturalism; central themes such as race and ethnicity, religion, technology and the self-making narrative; and repeated motifs such as the American Adam and the American abroad.

341 Studies in Poetry (3)
The particular poets and poems for versions of this course can be selected according to several different criteria: by historical period, for example, by particular genre (epic, lyric, etc.), by adherence to a theory of composition (e.g. projectivists, Language poets, surrealists, new formalists), and by other categories, no doubt. But however the writers and texts are chosen, the course focuses on issues specific to the genre and history of poetry, including the very definition of poetry in various places and times, the resources of prosody and form, and the relations of the art to its audience.

342 Studies in the Novel (3)
However the particular texts for any version of this course are chosen, it focuses on issues related to the nature and history of the novel, the literary form that has, over the last two hundred fifty years, become the dominant mode of literary production. The course explores conventions, traditions, and innovations in point of view, narrative structure and style, and the cultural place of the novel in relation to its historical moment and it’s audience.

343 Studies in Drama (3)
Writers of drama rely on living people - actors and auditors - to make their works fully real. Studies in drama therefore rely on an understanding of those contemporary audiences, the conditions of theater, and the politics of the day, as well as shifting generic conventions. In some semesters, this course focuses on Renaissance drama, of which Shakespeare makes only a portion, in others Restoration Comedies, or Theater of the Absurd, or any of a number of periods in which the English language theater flourished.

344 Popular Genres (3)
While it is common to distinguish between "high" culture and mass culture, that distinction is often blurred, and more and more consistently, critics have devoted concentrated attention to the products of mass culture, arguing that their widespread popularity and large audiences suggest that they may be especially revealing about the structures and concerns of the public mind. Moreover, the various forms of popular culture have their own sets of styles and conventions, just as the traditional arts do, that help us to define them and to recognize innovation within them. This course focuses on such popular genres as (mass market) films, TV series, music videos, genre fiction (e.g. romances, detective novels, westerns), and comics to investigate both the nature of the forms themselves and what they may tell us about their social and cultural contexts.

347 Studies In Postcolonialism (3)
This course introduces students to postcolonial theory to help them develop an understanding of the historical forces and literary influences shaping writers in both the colonial and postcolonial eras. Reading classic literature of Empire along with emerging literature from the postcolonial world, students put texts into dialogue with each other and examine how the experience of colonization affects individual authors and the process of cultural production.

348 Women Writers (3)
An exploration of major works of English and/or American women writers often grouped by historical period. This course attempts to discover common themes and images in women's writing that we place in a cultural and historical context. Mindful of the astonishing variety in this literature, student try to discern whether there is what Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar call " a strong continuity" in the writings of English-speaking women, and if so, to what degree as Virginia Woolf contends, books (particularly by women) "continue each other. "

349 Major Authors (3)
In this course, students focus on the works of a singe author or closely allied group of authors. In addition to studying the literature in depth, students examine the literary and social context which brought these authors to a place of prominence and the ways in which literary critics have approached their work. (See sample syllabus)

350 Literary Theory (3)
This course focuses not on particular works of literature, but on methods of interpretation. Students read works of theory and learn to apply their theoretical perspectives to works of literature. In some semesters, the course might focus entirely on one branch of literary theory. In another, the course might more fully survey the history of literary theories, including new criticism, structuralism, deconstruction, feminism, race relations, and marxism, or might cover more thoroughly three of four very different moments of literary theory.

351 Literature and Other Discourses (3)
Literature, by its very nature, incorporates a multitude of topics and discourses. This course focuses on the relationship between literature and other discourses, including such diverse expressive systems as law, medicine, foreign or imaginary languages, the visual arts, and the "language" of animals. The course features a focus on these alternative systems as topics within works of literature, and as a structuring element that may radically affect the way literature is perceived by the reader. We also focus on the transformation of literary works into other forms of communication, such as films, television productions, works of art and other phenomena.

Seminar for Literature Majors

420 Senior Literature Seminar (3)
This is the capstone course for senior English Department majors, culminating in an extensive research paper (20-25 pages) of each individual student's own design, along with an oral presentation. During the semester, students read articles from academic journals in order to become familiar with critical perspectives on literary and cultural texts. In their research papers, the students then situate their own critical perspectives on a text(s) within the context of established critical discourse.


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