UMBC COURSES

Years ago, during my formative years in high school, a literary arts teacher once encouraged me to share my gifts with the world. In the years since, I have entered the classroom as a middle and high school teacher and now a college instructor to accomplish that goal: to help students within my local communities better grasp the fields of composition and literary analysis that are ultimately vital to interacting with the surrounding world. Over time, I have taught a variety of courses in these fields. Below are the course descriptions from my years at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. 

First-Year Composition
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

English 100

This course, English 100: First-Year Composition, is aimed at helping students to develop their overall writing skills and integrate these skills into the critical examination of issues that affect our world today. By developing a better understanding of texts, the means for reading these texts perceptively, and basic principles for critically evaluating the texts we read (across a variety of essay styles or rhetorical modes), we will develop an awareness of the power of language and its potential as an influential and informative tool, regardless of our individual prospective fields. This course is, hence, writing and research intensive in order to help students better understand a range of compositional and research techniques that are transferable to other key disciplines. Students will compose a series of essays (varying depending upon the semester) such as a narrative essay, a process analysis, a compare and contrast essay, and an argumentative research paper as the core projects for this course. This course, a General Education requirement, is intended for a two day per week, fifteen-week schedule.

Grammar and Usage of Standard English
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

ENGL 226

Robert Graves once wrote that "Every English poet should master the rules of grammar before he attempts to bend or break them." This course, English 226: Grammar and Usage of Standard English, introduces students (whether poets or not) to the history of conventional usage in written form in order to equip them to do just that. Standard prescriptive rules of grammar will be examined to determine their origins and to assess their current significance for acceptable formal expression in prose. Although this course will not be appropriate for students who need instruction in remedial grammar, it will help those who wish to become better writers as they become more informed about the conventions of writing. Students will also engage in in-depth discussion of the sociolinguistic factors surrounding language usage and the complications of standard English (in terms of society, politics, gender, and race). Together, these different foci will enable students to consider both language and grammar critically as they strive to engage with the wonderful world of the word. This course is intended for a three day per week, fifteen-week schedule.

Currents in American Literature

Race (Un)Masked: Racial Passing in Multi-Ethnic U.S. Literature
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

ENGL 243

Throughout U.S. history, race has been much more complicated to understand than just the perceived color of one’s skin or the box that one selects on a job application. Complicated by the realities of intra- and inter-racial color prejudice, social stigma, miscegenation, and a history of discriminatory practices often based upon flawed notions of inferiority/supremacy, race has become a taboo subject to many, not only because it has served as the source of a dividing line for this country but also because of the intense debates that spark when addressing issues of race in the twenty-first century. This applies also to the topic of racial passing—a practice through which an individual assumes an alternate racial/ethnic identity in order 1) to achieve social, political, and/or economic opportunities often restricted for other races; 2) to pursue freedom at a time of violence against minority bodies (most common during the period of chattel slavery in the U.S.); and 3) to reach newfound discoveries of racial treatment nationwide, among a number of other possibilities. Though some may believe that passing is a phenomenon of the far distant past (and one restricted to people of color passing as white), this belief could not be farther from our present truth. From Rachel Dolezal—who assumed the presidency of the NAACP in Spokane, WA—to Vijay Chokalingam—who posed as Black to gain admittance to St. Louis University School of Medicine, there are a number of incidents of racial passing in the twenty-first century, publicized or not. This course, ENGL 243: Currents in American Literature, will explore the practice of racial passing from the days of chattel slavery to the present, as represented in literature, film, and popular culture in hopes of gaining an understanding of the practice itself, the factors that contribute to racial passing, and the consequences (positive or negative) that it may have on the individual, his/her family, and society at large.

Introduction to Creative Writing: Fiction
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

ENGL 271

This course, English 271: Introduction to Creative Writing—Fiction, is aimed at exploring the myriad ways in which writers of fiction have used descriptive language, imagined characters and settings, and constructed plots to examine the surrounding world. Through this course, students will explore the genre of fiction, in particular the short story by reading classic and contemporary fiction as models before producing creative works of their own. This course is about the process of inventing, shaping, and honing the craft of writing as an outlet of expression and self-discovery through the vehicle of fiction from microfiction (also known as flash fiction or sudden fiction) to extended works. As students will discover, this course offers experimentation with the elements of fiction essential to construct a captivating and engaging tale. Therefore, students will examine the techniques of effective narration, point of view, style, characterization, plot, setting, and theme as they attempt to tap into that “icepick” of fiction that, as Franz Kafka once claimed, enables us “to break up the frozen sea within us.” This course is intended for a two day per week, fifteen-week schedule.

Introduction to Writing Creative Essays
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

ENGL 291

This course, English 291: Introduction to Writing Creative Essays, is aimed at exploring the myriad ways in which writers of creative non-fiction prose have used language to examine the surrounding world, to move readers through conveying personal experiences, and to make compelling observations about society and ourselves. Students in this course will explore the genre of creative non-fiction prose by reading examples of classic and emerging non-fiction as models before producing creative works of their own in four ways: an autobiographical essay, a biographical essay, a place essay, and a meta-writing essay. This course is about the process of inventing, shaping, and honing the craft of writing as an outlet for self-expression and self-discovery, but more importantly, as author Gloria Anzaldúa expresses in her essay, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” this is a class about how language defines as well as changes our understanding of the world and who we are in that world. As students will discover, effective writing is drawn directly from past personal experience and our dynamic sense of ourselves. Therefore, students will engage these experiences in “an effort to make sense of life—not the whole of life, but some confusing or intriguing portion of it,” even if the truths that they discover are only tentative (Sanders, Touchstone Anthology xvii). This course is intended for a two day per week, fifteen-week schedule.

General Honors Seminar

Global Civil Rights Literature

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

HONR 300

Hoping to transform the social, political, and cultural landscape of society, civil rights literature historically has had far-reaching implications for its authors and its audiences. Such texts challenge the rich tradition of silence on issues such as racial violence, rape, and genocide that take place even today within the United States and beyond. This course, Honors 300: General Honors Seminar—Global Civil Rights Literature, examines a selection of texts that combat the silence and the marginalization of oppressed or disadvantaged communities across the globe in order to better understanding the ways in which authors work alongside politicians and social activists to usher in real world social change. This course often asks its students to examine difficult subjects regarding human rights and civil rights violations across time; some readings and images are graphic in nature. This course is intended for a two day per week, fifteen-week schedule.

General Honors Seminar

Rhetoric at Work: Writing in the Professional World

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

HONR 300

This course, Honors 300: General Honors Seminar in Rhetoric at Work: Writing in the Professional World, will examine rhetoric--the art of communication--from theory to practice. Throughout the semester, we will draw upon the scholarly thinking about the process of writing while also surveying exemplary writing in your disciplines/fields. And through that work, you will 1) gain a better understanding of the tools, techniques, conventions, and approaches to effective communication (written and oral) in academic and professional settings while 2) preparing a portfolio of polished materials (such as personal statements, resumes, and articles) for use in your professional futures, whether that be graduate or professional school, internships, or jobs. Note that this course, upon successful completion, will satisfy the Honors College expository writing requirement for students who received AP or IB test credit for ENGL 100: Composition. This course is intended for a two day per week, fifteen-week schedule.

General Honors Seminar 

Black Ink Revisited: Graphic Memoirs and Novels of the African Diaspora
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

HONR 300

This course, ENGL 391: Advanced Exposition and Argumentation, is aimed at exploring the art and craft of writing that attempts to inform and writing that strives to persuade readers to adopt a new position on a given topic. Through engagement with published writing samples and an intensive writing workshop process, students will continue to hone the writing skills most prominent in academic and professional settings while also gaining a stronger understanding of the ways in which we can employ the written word to observe, describe, critique, and assess various issues that shape daily the human experience in the world. If language is a vehicle of power as well as active citizenship, then this course strives to empower students with the tools for a platform of effective communication through the study of rhetorical techniques and models of exposition and argumentation all while they begin to craft their own philosophies of writing. Most importantly, however, this course aims to engage the world outside the classroom as we seek to respond to real-world issues, experiences, and debates that we must tackle as the next generation of leaders, innovators, and thinkers who will shape and reshape the world. This course is intended for a two day per week, fifteen-week schedule.

Individualized Degree Plan Writing Seminar

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

INDS 335

This course, INDS 335: Individualized Degree Plan Writing Seminar, will examine 1) the art and craft of effective writing across rhetorical modes in an effort to develop a strong understanding of approaches to writing in academic/professional settings, 2) strategies for integrating different disciplines or professional fields to unlock new ways of seeing and analyzing problems/solutions, and 3) approaches to academic and career planning in order to help students establish a solid foundation for future success. Through this work, students will produce either an integrative degree combining two or more disciplines (preparation for the INDS major) or a plan for claiming their education through a traditional degree (preparation for transition to another department at UMBC). This course is intended for a one day per week, fifteen-week schedule.

Masterworks for Creative Writers

The Multi-Genre Project of Langston Hughes

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

ENGL 375

In recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of Langston Hughes' passing, this special section of ENGL 375: Masterworks for Creative Writers is intended to expose students to a multi-genre study of the art, theory, and cultural perspective of one of the most influential American authors of the twentieth century. From his poetry to his non-fiction, short stories, and plays, Hughes was a polystylistic author, maneuvering across a variety of genres not only to appeal to different audiences at a time when the Negro was in vogue but also to call attention to real world issues of race, class, and cultural identity that shaped the American experience at large. Students will study the themes and approach in Hughes’ seminal works before composing creative pieces of their own inspired by the techniques that Hughes employed. This course is intended for a two day per week, fifteen week schedule.

Advanced Exposition and Argumentation
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

ENGL 391

This course, ENGL 391: Advanced Exposition and Argumentation, is aimed at exploring the art and craft of writing that attempts to inform and writing that strives to persuade readers to adopt a new position on a given topic. Through engagement with published writing samples and an intensive writing workshop process, students will continue to hone the writing skills most prominent in academic and professional settings while also gaining a stronger understanding of the ways in which we can employ the written word to observe, describe, critique, and assess various issues that shape daily the human experience in the world. If language is a vehicle of power as well as active citizenship, then this course strives to empower students with the tools for a platform of effective communication through the study of rhetorical techniques and models of exposition and argumentation all while they begin to craft their own philosophies of writing. Most importantly, however, this course aims to engage the world outside the classroom as we seek to respond to real-world issues, experiences, and debates that we must tackle as the next generation of leaders, innovators, and thinkers who will shape and reshape the world. This course is intended for a two day per week, fifteen week schedule.

Tutorial in Writing
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

ENGL 392

This course, English 392: Tutorial in Writing, is an advanced tutorial course aimed at helping students to hone their overall writing skills and integrate these skills into the development of polished, well-researched pieces in their prospective fields. By developing a better understanding of research techniques and approaches to research writing, students will develop an awareness of the power of the written word and its potential as an influential as well as informative tool. Students will therefore produce work in a workshop style environment in hopes of crafting potential pieces to support their professional endeavors or future graduate studies. This course is, as a result, writing intensive in order to help students better understand a range of compositional and research techniques that are transferable to other disciplines, exposing them to more in-depth components of the writing process from the concept inception to the proposal to the production of a polished “full-length” draft. This course is intended for a one day per week, fifteen week schedule.

Individualized Study Capstone Project Development Seminar

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

INDS 480

This course, INDS 480: Capstone Project Seminar, will examine the research and research writing processes, from project conceptualization to design, in order to help prepare a comprehensive and viable plan for the INDS capstone project--a portfolio or thesis that serves as the culminating assignment in the INDS curriculum. Throughout the semester, we will draw upon scholarly thinking about best practices in synthesizing research across disciplines, developing effective research questions and thesis statements informed by extant or developing scholarship, and conceptualizing and planning intensive research-based projects to engage those very questions we design. Through that work, students will 1) gain a better understanding of how to approach, plan, and carry out research projects in academic and professional settings and 2) set the foundation for a polished portfolio or thesis for use in their professional futures. This course is intended for a one day per week, fifteen-week schedule.

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"I will have my voice . . . 
I will overcome the tradition of silence."

—Gloria Anzaldúa

"There is no greater agony 
than bearing an untold story inside you."

—Maya Angelou

Contact Dr. Varlack directly via E-mail at cavarlack@gmail.com for inquiries regarding speaking engagements and more.