English January-Term Classes
January-Term (or J-Term, as you’ll hear it referred to on campus) offers unique opportunities to focus exclusively on a single course for a three-week term. In addition, J-Term courses are particularly experiential, taking students out into the community or engaging them in other hands-on activities that augment the classroom experience. Some J-Term courses travel internationally or domestically, and some stay right here, but all are focused on active learning.
English J-Term courses, typically offered every other year, have included:
Creative Nonfiction—Writing the Midwestern Landscape with Drs. Koch and Strickler: Students combine digital photography with nature writing in Midwest winter landscapes. Dr. Koch, along with Dr. Strickler, have led students on snow-shoe-ing hikes at Mines of Spain and Swiss Valley nature reserves as part of the writing process. Students projects, which include photography, have focused on environmental issues related to the Mississippi River as well as historical studies of Native Americans and miners in the area.
Travel Writing: Guatemala with Dr. Strickler:
In this creative non-fiction class, students created travel narratives that focused on a theme and then conducted interviews and research in a remote Mayan village called Semachaca. The students lived rough for a week, working to build a medical clinic and learning some soccer tips from the locals. Student projects, which included photography, focused on the intersection between Mayan spirituality and Catholicism, traditional medicine and the impact of western medicine, international service, and the efforts to improve opportunities for women.
Native Voices, Native Lives with Dr. Stone: The most rewarding things that resulted from our Native Voices, Native Lives J-term course were the relationships. Every day, we made new friends and learned about their stories and culture personally and in context. We practiced the Ho-Chunk language at the immersion school in Mauston and the Youth Center in La Crosse, laughing alongside Native teens, teachers, and elders. We learned about the importance of home and family, talking with members of the bear and eagle clans around a wood-burning stove in a traditional, dirt-floor ciiporoke. We listened to the Bible being read in Ho-Chunk and had a prayer said for us by a new friend who was the great, great grandson of one of the founders of the very one-room Missionary church we were sitting in. And, we studied Ho-Chunk history and government, gathering with the Vice President and cultural preservation representatives for coffee around the large, square Council table in the technologically sophisticated Tribal Office Building. Everything was experienced, personal, and memorable because of the people we met and the relationships we formed--even cooking Ho-Chunk foods like wild rice, fry bread, and muskrat over an open fire to share with our new friends at a feast before we left Black River Falls. Through their stories and acts of kindness and generosity, we definitely saw why the Ho-chunk are called "The People of the Big Voice," even though they are small in numbers.
Ireland in Film with Dr. Auge: In the three short weeks of J-Term, our Ireland in Film class was immersed in Irish culture. While taking the time to discover messages within the movie, we also critically analyzed different cinematic features laced throughout Irish films. After diving into topics such as geography, politics, religion, and class distinctions, we faced a large task at hand: plan a film festival. Decisions had to be made and films had to be chosen. Presentations full of plot lines and pleas were dutifully given to sway classmates. The battle was fierce and the winners were settled. The Wind that Shakes the Barley and Angela’s Ashes were selected to represent our Irish culture experience at the festival. Ireland in Film challenged everyone in ways we had not previously encountered. We were encouraged to see more in the films than we ever thought possible. The class left us with a new foundation of Irish culture and cinema which also left us thinking in Irish accents for weeks to come.
Bleak House in Context with Dr. VanLaningham: The amount that one can learn from simply taking the time to observe the world is astounding. However, it is easy to forget that it is possible to gain an abundance of valuable knowledge not only by looking around, but also by looking back. In the Bleak House in Context course, we spent three weeks reading Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, which was originally published in monthly installments in 1852 and 1853. Instead of examining the Victorian Era from a purely outside perspective, our class tried to recreate the experience of readers in Victorian England.
We were privileged to have the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Special Collections room reading a variety of works from the time period. Writings such as the original Bleak House
installments, periodicals, and crime reports were included. In order to gain a better understanding of these materials, our class made blogs inspired by the Victorian periodicals. Representing various facets of society, we were split into groups of the courts, the house, travel/money, and the streets. We also created role plays that placed some of the Bleak House
characters in a broader setting. This J-term course was a unique and interactive way of reading a novel that was very new to me. These few weeks were sufficient for me to more fully appreciate the Victorians for their wit, realism, and curiosity. The characters of Dickens really came to life in Bleak House
, and his moving sympathy for the downtrodden has been impressed upon my memory.