You are here

ENGL 494 B: Honors Seminar

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
ECE 026
Jesse Oak Taylor smiling
Jesse Oak Taylor

Syllabus Description:

ENGL 494b: Novel Extractions


M/W 1:30 – 3:20

ECE 026



Jesse Oak Taylor

Office Hours: W 10-11 and by appointment
Padelford A-408; 206-747-4818 (cell)




We live in a world thoroughly structured by extraction. Even the most basic habits and intimate experiences of daily life are mediated through products, ideas, and energy regimes that rely on materials extracted from distant continents and/or deep within the Earth. The consequences of this regime extend from the outer atmosphere to the deep sea, and include numerous human communities who either labor in extractive industries or live with its consequences. In this course, we will think about what it means to inhabit an extractivism world system. Our primary archive will be Victorian novels. While storytelling is among the oldest of human art forms, the novel rose to prominence in the midst of the social and ecological transformation of the planet wrought by empire and industrialization. Victorian Britain was arguably the first society in which extractivism became woven into the substance of everyday life. While mining and other extractive practices have much deeper histories, several key shifts took place in the nineteenth-century, most notably the shift to fossil fuels. Hence, our discussions will plumb the geohistorical imaginary of Victorian fiction, while also asking what it means to read these novels now, as we attempt to sever the connection to fossil fuels and imagine new worlds into being in the midst of climate emergency and ecosystem collapse, finding ways to move beyond the extractivist paradigm. In so doing, we will think about the propensity for extractive reading—selecting a few words or passages from a work—and its centrality to literary-critical methods, thinking both about what it enables and what a non-extractive mode of literary criticism would look like.


Readings will include Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone (1868), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), Joseph Conrad's Nostromo (1902), and R. F. Kuang's Babel: An Arcane History (2022), alongside supplemental material drawn primarily from ecocriticism and the energy humanities.


Because this is an Honors Seminar, assignments will be designed to help prepare you to write your thesis in Spring Quarter. With this in mind, the Final Project is itself a proposal (technically a prospectus) rather than a finished product, asking you to conceive a major project, do preliminary research for it, and advocate for its importance. This is also the kind of writing demanded by grant proposals and job or graduate school applications, and thus worthy of consideration in its own right.


In order to scaffold toward this major proposal, assignments will include: circulating discussion questions on a supplemental reading; a reading journal; preliminary proposals for at least two (preferably three) possible projects; and a robust prospectus for a final project of your choice, shared in both draft and final form. Public-facing and alternative-format projects welcome! 



Grades & Assignments:

Participation: 20%

Reading journal: 10%

Supplemental Reading Synthesis & Discussion Questions: 10%

Research Project Preliminary Proposals: 20%

Final Project Presentation: 5%

Final Research Project / Thesis Prospectus: 35%



A seminar is a collaborative enterprise. This is a small class, in which we will all talk through the texts and ideas together. That means you must talk. Please come to class prepared to ask questions, to share your ideas, and to respond thoughtfully and respectfully with the group, and to work through these difficult books together. Being a good seminar participant is not just about talking a lot: it’s also about engaging with your interlocutors in a productive way, even if they have different ideas or goals from your own.


Reading Journal:

Good reading is a dialogue between reader and text. It isn’t simply about absorbing information, but engaging with the novel and thinking about how it might move through time. In short, it is active. In order to underscore this active dimension – and to help elevate our seminar discussions – I expect you to keep a reading journal (by hand, unless this is a problem for you for some reason), in which you record your thoughts, responses, questions, and speculations about what we are reading. Please bring these to class so that they can help prompt you in discussion. At the end of the term, I will assign a grade to these strictly on level of engagement. I not be reading them in detail. However, if there are parts that you want to keep actually private, you may simply fold the page over, and I will respect that. If you want to hand in copies of the novels full of detailed marginalia, I’m OK with that too, though I do expect it to be substantial.


I would prefer that you not have laptops in class. Thus, if you could keep the journal in a notebook (or a tablet if you must) that would be ideal.   


Reading Synthesis & Discussion Questions:

Each week, there will be 1 or 2 supplemental readings alongside the novel. Groups of 2-3 students will share a brief synthesis of that reading along with a few discussion questions about it. I will share a basic template. Please note that these are due by noon on Tuesday for Wednesday’s class, so that your classmates have a chance to think about them. This deadline is firm. Each student will be responsible for 2 readings during the term. 


Research Project Preliminary Proposals:

By Week 7 you should begin to have an idea of some possible project ideas. Thus, you will hand in preliminary proposals for at least two (three is great!) different thesis projects. While these are preliminary, you will need to have given each some real thought. For each project, you will need: A research question; a primary archive (i.e., not just a novel but specific passages); a brief statement of methodology (i.e., what you are going to do, what skills the project requires, and whether you have them and/or how you will acquire them); a description of research, including the kinds of sources you would need and how you plan to use them, along with at least a few examples. A bibliography is not required at this stage. Each proposal should be around 4-7 double-spaced pages, acknowledging that if you are doing three it’s fine for them to be a bit shorter, and that they do not necessarily need to be the same length. See Assignments page for further details.


As the term progresses, we will have periodic check-ins about possible research topics, so I encourage you to start brainstorming about what you might do with each novel we read.


Final Project:

Your final project for this class is a Thesis Prospectus, which is to say a detailed proposal for a major research project which you could (though you don’t have to) pursue as your senior thesis in spring quarter. The thesis is a major research project, generally around 35 pages with a substantial bibliography, which is to say the equivalent of a significant scholarly article. While the paradigm is set by a “traditional” scholarly essay, you are also welcome to pursue multi-modal or creatively formatted research projects of equivalent scope. Regardless of format, please keep in mind that these are research projects. While they might involve the production of a piece of creative artwork (a song, poem, short story), any such projects will need to be accompanied by a methodology essay in which you describe the research you carried out and the choices you made.     


With that in mind, the Prospectus you will write for this class is a chance to envision such a project. You are not committing to this topic for your thesis (though if you do you will have a nice head start). However, even if you pursue another topic hopefully this exercise will help you think about how to conceive and develop that project.


Your Thesis Prospectus should include the following: 1) a detailed research question and/or project description, outlining what you plan to do and why you think it matters. This should include either a preliminary thesis or, if you prefer, hypothesis: something you think might be true. 2) a methodology section, in which you explain what you plan to do, what skills or resources you will need, whether you have them, and how you plan to acquire them, if not. 3) a research overview, including what kind(s) of research you are doing and the field(s) with which the project is engaged. This should be part of the written document, and supplemented with a preliminary bibliography. 4) a statement of the audience and/or stakes of the project: who are you trying to reach, and what are you trying to accomplish? You do not necessarily need to include these sections in this order, but they do all need to be represented in the proposal, the overall formatting of which will be modeled on the UW Simpson Center for the Humanities Proposal Guidelines. Further details will be provided.


Final Project Presentations: 

During the last week of class, you will give a short (5-7 minute) presentation on your Final Project to the seminar. This presentation should distill the key ideas/questions from your project without getting into the details.  You may include a/v, handouts, or other materials, though that isn't necessary.





The editions listed below have been ordered to the University Bookstore. You are welcome to use other editions, but it will be up to you to match the pages. I do ask that you have the books in hard copy.


  • Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (1868), Penguin.

  • Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897),

  • Joseph Conrad, Nostromo (1902), Penguin.

  • F. Kuang, Babel: An Arcane History (2022), Voyager.


Supplemental Readings:

Supplemental readings will be available either electronically through the library, or as PDFs on Canvas, and are also listed under each week in the schedule. However, we will be reading the Introduction and several selections from Elizabeth Carolyn Miller’s, Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion (Princeton, 2021). Thus, you might consider purchasing a copy.




Week 1:

  1. 9.27: Szeman & Wenzel, “What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Extractivism?” (PDF on Canvas)


Week 2:

  1. 10.2: Collins, The Moonstone 1-129
  2. 10.4: Collins, The Moonstone 129-238; Elizabeth Carolyn Miller, “Introduction” Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion (e-book in library)

    [Discussion questions: Wen, Adam, Ryan]


Week 3:

  1. 10.9: Collins, The Moonstone 238-382;
  2. 10.11: Collins, The Moonstone 382-472; Miller, “Ch. 2” from Extraction Ecologies, esp. pp. 105-122. (e-book in library)

 [Discussion questions: Feli, Jordan, Annie]

Week 4:

  1. 10.16: Stoker, Dracula 7-113;
  2. 10.18: Stoker, Dracula 114-206; McKittrick, “Plantation Futures” (e-copy available from library) Note: McKittrick will deliver the Katz Distinguished Lecture on 11.30. Extra participation credit if you attend!

[Discussion questions: Atticus, Masaru, Wen, Heidi]

Week 5:

  1. 10.23: Stoker, Dracula 207-307;
  2. 10.25: Stoker, Dracula 308-402; Taylor, Ch. 5. “The Death is the Life,” from The Sky of Our Manufacture (e-book in library)

[Discussion questions: Sedona, Jordan, Chloe]

Week 6:

  1. 10.30: Conrad, Nostromo 5-105;
  2. 11.1: Conrad, Nostromo, 107-176; Gómez-Barris, “Introduction,” from The Extractive Zone (e-book in library)

[Discussion questions: Atticus, Max, Jaden]

Week 7:

  1. 11.6: Conrad, Nostromo 176-301; Preliminary Proposals DUE
  2. 11.8: Conrad, Nostromo 301-374; Miller, Ch. 1 from Extraction Ecologies, esp. pp. 37-44 (e-book in library); 

[Miller discussion questions: Adam, Masaru, Feli]

Week 8:

  1. 11.13: Nostromo, (FINISH). Recommended: "Author's Note"; Royle, “Reading Joseph Conrad: Episodes from the Coast” (e-copy in library)
    [Royle discussion questions: Sam, Ryan, Preston]

  2. 11.15: Kuang, Babel pp 3-132;  Lowe, Chapter 1, from Intimacies of Four Continents (e-book in library)

[Discussion questions: Max, Jaden, Chloe]

Week 9:

  1. 11.20: Kuang, Babel pp 133-268; Tegel, “The Race to Extract an Indigenous Language from Its Last Lucid Speaker”(e-copy in library)

  2. THANKSGIVING / NO CLASS – keep reading!!!

[Discussion questions (due Sunday!): Sam, Annie, Stephanie]

Week 10:

  1. 11.27: Kuang, Babel pp 268-429;
    W. 11.29: Kuang, Babel pp 430-542; Malm, How to Blow Up a Pipeline (excerpts will be posted on Canvas)

[Discussion questions: Heidi, Stephanie, Preston]

Th 11.30: Katherine McKittrick Katz Lecture @ 6:30. Extra participation credit if you attend. 


Week 11:

  1. 12.4: Presentations
  2. 12.6: Presentations



Final Projects DUE Dec. 13th (on Canvas).





Additional Course Policies:

Computers and Electronics:

Unless you have a specific reason for requiring them, I would prefer that you not use laptops in class. Tablets and e-readers are OK as long as you use them exclusively for note-taking and/or readings.


Extensions and Due Dates:

My policy is to grant all extensions requested at least 24 hours in advance. However, when you request an extension, I expect you to propose a new due date, and to stick to it. Work received after an extended deadline will be penalized at a rate of .2 points per calendar day (on a 4.0 scale), as will any late work without a prearranged extension.

Please note: If you take an extension on the Final Project, I may not be able to get your grade in on time. This should not cause problems for you unless you are graduating this quarter. If that is the case, let’s talk.



Disability Accommodations:

Your success in this class is important to me. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please activate your accommodations via myDRS so we can discuss how they will be implemented in this course. If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), contact DRS directly to set up an Access Plan. DRS facilitates the interactive process that establishes reasonable accommodations. Contact DRS at



Religious Accommodations: 

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of 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 (




Academic Integrity:

When quoting, paraphrasing, or referring to another writer’s words or ideas (including any you might find on the Internet), you must cite the source properly using either MLA or Chicago-style citation guidelines. Don’t hesitate to ask me if you have questions about proper attribution.  I will hand over any plagiarized work to the Dean’s Committee on Academic Conduct, and plagiarism may result in a failing grade on the assignment or the course. Use of ChatBot or other AI software for course assignments (unless specifically proposed as an element of the assignment) is considered cheating, as is submitting work written by someone else.

For further information on what constitutes plagiarism, see:



English Department Statement of Values:

The UW English Department aims to help students become more incisive thinkers, effective communicators, and imaginative writers by acknowledging that language and its use are powerful and hold the potential to empower individuals and communities; to provide the means to engage in meaningful conversation and collaboration across differences and with those with whom we disagree; and to offer methods for exploring, understanding, problem solving, and responding to the many pressing collective issues we face in our world--skills that align with and support the University of Washington’s mission to educate “a diverse student body to become responsible global citizens and future leaders through a challenging learning environment informed by cutting-edge scholarship.”

As a department, we begin with the conviction that language and texts play crucial roles in the constitution of cultures and communities, past, present, and future.  Our disciplinary commitments to the study of English (its history, multiplicity, and development; its literary and artistic uses; and its global role in shaping and changing cultures) require of us a willingness to engage openly and critically with questions of power and difference. As such, in our teaching, service, and scholarship we frequently initiate and encourage conversations about topics such as race and racism, immigration, gender, sexuality, class, indigeneity, and colonialisms. These topics are fundamental to the inquiry we pursue.  We are proud of this fact, and we are committed to creating an environment in which our faculty and students can do so confidently and securely, knowing that they have the backing of the department.

Land Acknowledgment:

The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations.


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: 
April 15, 2023 - 6:24am