Assistant Professor of Humanities
Workshop Coordinator, Eastman Writing Center and English for Global Communications, 2014-16Department:
- (585) 274-1254
Photo Credit: Gerry Szymanski
Susan Uselmann was born in Chicago and pursued her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and completed her M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003. Before coming to Eastman in 2010 she taught for five years at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, and then at St. John Fisher College. She is currently at work on a book, entitled Imaginary Readers: Lay Literacy, Memory and Devotional Reading in Late-Medieval England.
Although her Ph.D. and publications focus on literature written before 1600, Professor Uselmann’s research and teaching encompass a range of interests, including the history of languages and reading practices; composition and rhetoric; mythology and folklore; gender and women’s studies and literary theory; as well as the bible as literature, creative writing and contemporary poetry. At Eastman she has taught the Freshman Writing Seminar, as well as courses on the legacy of Jane Austen, Fairy Tales, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and the History of the English Language.
ENG 274: J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of The Lord of the Rings is alive with marvelous details about elves and dwarves, hobbits and wizards. Yet many of the most fantastical aspects of Tolkien’s works are informed by a deep knowledge of language, literature, mythology and legend. In this course, we will read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as well as some of Tolkien’s other works and explore the themes that captivated his imagination, such as the power of myth, the role of creativity in the world, the nature of beauty, evil and power, as well as the role of monsters in imagination. Along the way, we will also explore how these issues may (or may not) have made it to the film version of Tolkien’s stories.
ENG 282: Children’s Literature
This course explores award-winning and popular literature for children from preschool through adolescence. We will focus on appreciating the literature itself and the use of pictures as well as the criteria for evaluating and selecting material written for children. Readings include a wide variety of contemporary children’s literature from various genres, including picture books, transitional readers, science fiction, fantasy, modern fiction, poetry and non-fiction.
ENG/HUM 282: Myth, Folklore and Fairy Tales
This course explores myth, fairy tales, and folklore as forms of cultural expression and the human imagination. Why do certain stories seem to endure? To answer this question, we will look at several well-known myths and their relation to popular fairy tales (such as “Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Cinderella”), and explore the possible origins and various reinventions of these stories. We will also look at their ever-changing roles in media and popular culture (such as Disney movies or recent television programs like Once Upon a Time). Our investigation will be interdisciplinary, using approaches from folklore, literature and history, as well as psychoanalysis, feminist theory, sociology and anthropology.
FWS 121: Freshman Writing Seminar: Ancient Heroes in the Modern World
Our current age has been called the twilight of the superheroes. Yet although ancient, mythic heroes like Odysseus or King Arthur have been declared lost, dead, or irrelevant to modern concerns, the archetypal image of the hero remains pervasive in literature, music, film and history. From Harry Potter to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the image of the hero powerfully informs our worldview, influencing our choices and functioning as a metaphor for our journeys through life. In this section of FWS, we will explore the characteristics that defined a hero in the ancient world, how those have changed over time, and whether the mythic notion of a hero is truly dead. Why do certain deeds remain compelling and how does the nature of the hero fit into the modern world? Coursework will focus on honing the relationship between the craft of writing and rigorous thinking as we examine heroes from past and present, literature, film and history.
ENG 151: Creative Writing
An introduction to the creative writing process, with emphasis on poetry and short stories. Includes reading and discussion of student work.
ENG/HUM 282: The English Language
The course examines the weird and unique nature of the English language. Have you ever wondered why the “k” is not pronounced in the word knee? Or why Americans spell the word color without a ‘u’? Do Southerners speak ‘incorrect’ English? When did the f-word become crude? What cultural and political forces have shaped English education around the world? In an effort to answer these and other questions, we will explore the prehistoric roots of English in Indo-European, and trace the historical development of its peculiar sounds, structure, vocabulary and dialects. We will also examine the concept of language and the psychological, social, cultural and political forces that have influenced the perception of English around the world.
ENG 282: The Legacy of Jane Austen
In novels like Pride and Prejudice and Emma, Jane Austen helped to create a type of story that later became a sensation in America with writers like Edith Wharton (House of Mirth) and Henry James (Portrait of a Lady). This course will explore how the novel of manners was articulated in the eighteenth century, adapted by American writers and later moved to Hollywood. In addition to the novels themselves, we will examine a variety of films – from loose adaptations (like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Clueless) to films that try to remain faithful to the novels – and consider why this author of almost 200 years ago remains so appealing today.
ENG 282: Medieval Women Writers: Nuns, Mothers and Others
In a hidden corner of the literary world, medieval women writers – living in the “Dark Ages” – were often seen as illiterate, yet somehow managed to challenge orthodox Christianity, gender stereotypes, and political and social structures. The stories they wrote recount strange romances, miraculous visions, and women who “buried” themselves alive. Why did some women become celebrated literary figures while others were burned at the stake? To answer this question, we will try to uncover this silent tradition by not only by reading what they left behind, but also by exploring contemporary gender theory and portrayals of medieval women in film. In the process, we will explore how and why literary history has buried these voices.