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ENGL 494 B: Honors Seminar

Meeting Time: 
MW 11:30am - 1:20pm
MGH 248
Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges
Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges

Syllabus Description:


English 494 focuses on the possibilities and limitations of imagined worlds. As we read, view, and immerse ourselves in a range of textual forms—including novels, films, comic books, games, and XR narratives—we will explore how texts build imagined worlds, how we position or resist positioning ourselves within imagined worlds, and how we create our own imagined worlds. We will use multiple, sometimes overlapping critical lenses, including but not limited to Afrofuturism, future studies, ecocriticism, gender studies and queer theory. We will also investigate the contexts shaping speculative worlds, asking how imagined worlds intersect with historical and current realities, showing us institutions, modes of existence, and social structures we have yet to experience. In doing so, we will also consider the limitations of imagined worlds, asking whose speculative worlds receive broad distribution and what different audiences seek—and perhaps do not find—in speculative worlds.


Goals and Methodology


Students in the course work toward several goals:


  1. Analyzing how texts build imaginative worlds using expressive tools of their genres.
  2. Describing connections among texts, considering how texts speak to one another, whether explicitly or implicitly.
  3. Applying scholarly theories to the study of creative works.
  4. Analyzing how texts invite readers/viewers/players to position themselves within storyworlds and positing how readers/viewers/players might position themselves.
  5. Identifying selected historical, political, cultural, and industrial contexts that shape texts.
  6. Constructing substantive, researched arguments and supporting those arguments with strategically selected, fully explicated evidence.


Course activities promote active learning. Expect a blend of short lectures, discussion, polls, and individual writing. My role is to provide the tools and resources; you will need to advance your own thinking and writing. I will pose questions, design activities to help you think through these questions, and respond to your ideas. Your role is to do the hard work—the critical reading, discussion, and writing. You will analyze texts, present your interpretations via class discussion and written assignments, and critically respond to others’ interpretations.







Class Participation


Class discussion constitutes one key method for developing your analytical skills. Thus, I expect regular, active participation in discussions of texts. You should prepare for each discussion by annotating or taking notes and screenshots on assigned readings, films, or gameplay, noting content you’d like to explore further. Expect to ask questions, share interpretations, reference texts, respond to others’ comments, or contribute to small-group exchanges. You should also expect to lead discussion with a partner during one class meeting.


Like all skills, participating in class becomes easier with practice. I do not expect fully polished analyses; rather, your contributions spark further discussion and may become the basis for other assignments. There are several ways you can participate in the course:


  • Leading discussion on your selected day.
  • Speaking to the whole class or small groups of peers during class sessions.
  • Taking and/or adding to group notes during class meetings.
  • Responding to polls during class discussions.
  • Posing or answering questions on the Community Forum.
  • Giving feedback on peers’ work-in-progress.
  • Discussing course texts, ideas-in-progress, or questions with Kimberlee during drop-in hours.


Because students will have multiple, sometimes conflicting, interpretations of course films, we will establish norms for maintaining a respectful learning climate early in the quarter.


I assess participation weekly on a credit/partial credit/no credit basis. Students who participate in good faith receive full credit. Lack of engagement in class activities, inadequate preparation, and failure to adhere to classroom climate norms will lower your participation grade for the course.


Short Assignments


Students will use the Canvas discussion area to analyze readings, explore theoretical approaches to textual analysis, share work-in-progress, and reflect on learning in the major. They will also respond to each other’s ideas. Each week, I will provide questions or guidelines to help you structure your remarks. Short assignments typically range from 250 to 300 words each. Please note, though, that selected assignments require longer responses. Short assignments allow us to raise issues for further discussion, expand on previous conversations and develop project ideas. I assess short assignments and replies weekly on a credit/partial credit/no credit basis, with full credit granted to on-time work that meets minimum content requirements and demonstrates serious engagement with the prompt and texts.




Students will compose three projects: two case studies that apply theoretical concepts to creative texts and a final project that expands on a previous project or explores a critical approach or text(s) not addressed in previous projects. The final project will also incorporate additional research on both critical approach and text(s). Your projects may take traditional essay form or you may produce them in multimedia form (video, podcast, game, map, etc.). Moreover, select projects may combine creative writing and critical analysis. Each project requires a proposal or draft that receives peer feedback, and I will be available to discuss work-in-progress. You can also seek feedback from consultants at the Odegaard Writing and Research Center or the CLUE Writing Center, both of which will offer online sessions during fall quarter.




During the last week of the quarter, students will give short, Ignite-style presentations based on their final projects, answer audience questions, and receive feedback.





Lateness Policy


I do not accept late short assignments or replies to peers’ short assignments, nor do I allow students reschedule presentations. Projects are due on the dates/times indicated on the schedule. Late projects will receive a 10-point deduction per day late, including weekends and holidays. I will make exceptions to the lateness policy only when students are ill, experience family emergencies, or make prior arrangements with me.


Technology glitches do not constitute valid excuses for lateness. To avoid computer problems, you should save frequently while working, and you should back up work saved on a hard drive to Dropbox, iCloud, UW Google Drive, or your personal file space on Canvas. When submitting files or URLs to Canvas, you are responsible for copying/pasting the correct URL or selecting the correct file. If Canvas breaks down, contact UW-IT technical support ( and email your work directly to me ( 


Academic Integrity


English 494 adheres to the University of Washington’s Student Conduct Code, which prohibits academic misconduct like distributing instructional materials outside class without permission, cheating and plagiarism, or the unacknowledged use of others' words or ideas. All readings, visual aids, lectures, discussions, and other handouts are for enrolled students only. When drawing upon sources in short assignments, presentation, and projects, make clear to your audience that you are incorporating others’ work by placing quotation marks around exact words and noting the author’s name whenever you quote, summarize or paraphrase. Failure to credit sources, submitting work produced for another class without permission, or submitting work authored by another may result in a failing grade for the assignment, a failing grade for the course, or other disciplinary action. Disseminating course materials without permission may result in sanctions, including dismissal. If I see evidence of academic misconduct, I will make a report to the Community Standards & Student Conduct Team.







Assessment System


Grades in English 494 will be computed by points, with 400 points equaling a 4.0, 300 points a 3.0, and so on. If your total falls between grades, I will round up if you score one to five points below the higher grade and round down if you score one to four points above the lower grade. For example, 274 points equals a 2.7 and 275 points a 2.8. Students who score less than 65 points total will receive a 0 for the course, as the UW grading system does not scale grades lower than .7. I also assign a 4.0 to students who score between 385 and 400 points.


Short assignments and replies receive full credit for meeting minimum length requirements and thoughtfully engaging with instructor prompts. Students who regularly participate as outlined in “Class Participation” will receive full participation points. All other assignments are evaluated based on quality of work submitted. Assessment comes in the form of grades and instructor feedback, either free-form or within a rubric. If you do not understand course readings, instructional materials, or assignment prompts, ask questions in the Community Forum.



Total Points for the Course


Each component of the course is worth the following number of points. Please note that Canvas does not integrate well with my point schema. Canvas automatically converts points into percentages, a conversion that can make your grade seem lower than it actually is. For example, 10/20 points represents the C range under my system and the F range (50%) under a percentage system. For this reason, I include point range information on each assignment. In short, keep track of your total points and ignore Canvas's percentage conversion.


Grade Component

Possible Points

Class Participation

60 points

Short Assignments

100 points (10 points each)

Projects 1 and 2

120 points (60 points each)


20 points

Final Project

100 points


400 points





We will read and view the following texts. Note that the list is partial—students will offer input on a novel, short story, or film assigned during the last third of the quarter. The Butler, Liu/Takeda, and Walden books are available via the UW Bookstore. Course films are available via multiple streaming services.




  • Butler, Octavia. Dawn. Reprint edition. Grand Central Publishing 2021.
  • Liu, Majorie and Sana Takeda. Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening. Image Comics, 2016.
  • Walden, Tillie. On a Sunbeam. First Second, 2018.




  • Black Panther. Dir. Ryan Coogler. Marvel Studios/Disney Pictures, 2018.
  • Neptune Frost. Dir. Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams. Kino-Lorber, 2022.
  • Twelve Monkeys. Dir. Terry Gilliam. Universal Studios, 1995.


Short Stories


  • Chiang, Ted. “Story of Your Life.” Stories of Your Life and Others. Reissue edition. Vintage, 2016.
  • Elison, Meg. “The Pill.” Big Girl. PM Press, 2020.
  • Jemison, N.K. “The City Born Great.”, 28 Sep. 2016.


Additional Readings


Throughout the quarter, we will read scholarly articles outlining theoretical approaches, critical articles on course texts, and supplemental interviews. These readings will be available on the course Canvas site.


Technology Requirements


You will need the following technology to access materials and submit assignments:


  • Reliable Internet access
  • Web browser and computer specifications adequate for using the Canvas Learning Management system.
  • Webcam and microphone or phone camera and microphone or computer/phone audio to record audio/video feedback in Canvas.
  • Word processing software. Note that although you may use any software, you must submit written assignments in PDF or Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx). If you use any other program, use the Help function for instructions on converting your files to PDF or Word format. Students may get Microsoft Office 365 and Windows 10 for free via UWare (
  • Headphones or speakers (internal or external) to hear video content.
  • PDF viewer (Adobe PDF Reader or Apple Preview)
  • Basic image editing tool that allows image cropping and markup (Paint, Preview,, Photoshop Express)
  • UW Net ID and Email. The class email list uses your UW email. If you want UW email to go to another account, you must configure forwarding preferences with UW Net ID account management tools.




Connecting with Others


In addition to interacting with others during class, you have other opportunities to connect with peers and the instructor:


  • Community Forum: The Community Forum is an asynchronous space where you can ask general questions about the course, readings, or assignment prompts. Posting questions in the Community Forum helps others with the same question. It also allows students to share answers the instructor might not have.
  • Drop-in Hours: You need not have a specific question about the class, course texts, an assignment, or work-in-progress to attend drop-in hours. I’m available every Monday and Wednesday from 9:30-10:30 a.m. to talk about your interests, experiences at UW, or even the class. Feel free to visit me in person in Padelford A-305 or via Zoom ( If you cannot make my scheduled drop-in hours, please contact me to set up an alternative time.





Disability Accommodations


Disability accommodations grant students with ongoing or temporary disabilities access to educational opportunities. Disability Resource for Students (DRS) works to ensure access for students with disabilities by designing and implementing accommodations. If you experience educational barriers based on disability, please visit Disability Resources for Students (DRS) online for more information about requesting accommodations. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.


Your experience in this class is important to me, and you may have accessibility needs not covered under DRS’s umbrella—for example spotty internet access, an unreliable computer, etc. Please talk with me as soon as possible so we can brainstorm solutions.



Religious Accommodations


In accordance with state law, UW provides reasonable accommodations for student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (



Catalog Description: 
Survey of current issues confronting literary critics today, based on revolving themes and topics. Focuses on debates and developments affecting English language and literatures, including questions about: the relationship of culture and history; the effect of emergent technologies on literary study; the rise of interdisciplinary approaches in the humanities.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Other Requirements Met: 
Honors Course
Last updated: 
October 1, 2022 - 2:25am