MWF 10:20-11:20, 1:50-2:50, and other times by appointment
Ferguson et al., eds., The Norton Anthology of Poetry (shorter fourth edition) [NAP]
Hacker, A Pocket Style Manual (third edition) [Hacker]
Murfin and Ray, The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms [Bedford]
Shakespeare, The Tempest: A Case Study in Critical Controversy [Tempest]
Texts recommended but not required:
Cassil, ed., The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction (fifth edition) [NASF]
Culler, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction [Culler]
Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (fourth edition) [MLA]
A good dictionary: e.g., a Webster's Collegiate
A classical reference: e.g., Smith's Smaller Classical Dictionary
Goals: The purpose of this course is to improve, through study and practice, students' critical reading and critical writing skills. The course will give particular attention to analysis of poetry, and will consider drama, prose fiction, and critical theory. Students will become conversant in literary and critical terminology and traditions.
Discussion: Each student should come to class having read the assigned material, having thought about it, and having questions or ideas about it. Each student will be responsible for using class discussion as a vehicle for analysis and discovery, as a way of demonstrating a command of the assigned reading, and as a way of turning the course to individual advantage.
Writing: This is a writing-centered course, and informal writing will be a primary mode of learning. In addition, the course requires four critical essays, in on time. Brief in-class and at-home writing assignments and peer editing will contribute directly or indirectly to the development of these essays, as will research projects and oral reports. Two formal essays will be revised for your final portfolio, for which you will also write a brief introduction. Note: keep a file of all your writing for this course, including informal writing, outlines of oral reports, drafts, and so on.
Expectations: I expect you to come to class having done the assigned reading, having thought about it, having questions or ideas about it, and having done any other assignments with care and attention. We can use class time most effectively if everyone is mentally as well as physically present in class, and if we all give each other attention and respect. Please turn in assignments on time, and please speak with me individually in conference if you will need to turn an essay in late or if you will be missing class. Ask questions. I encourage you to schedule individual conferences for reviewing essays and discussing work in progress; please come to conferences with copies of the relevant material and with questions. Please let me know if you have disabilities for which I can make accommodations. For more information about course policies and evaluation criteria see below.
Tentative Schedule of Readings
Changes to this schedule will be announced once in class and posted to a class email list.
Wed Sep 3 Kincaid, "Girl"
F Sep 5 Poems: Bishop, "One Art"; Cullen, "From the Dark Tower"; Hogan, "The History of Fire"; Chin, "We Are Americans Now, We Live in the Tundra"; Soto, "Mexicans Begin Jogging"; follow the guidelines on reading poetry distributed in class.
M Sept 8 Read "Versification" in NAP, 1103-1122, but don't panic; we'll be returning to these terms. Introductions.
W Sep 10 Bring to class your (written) observations and inferences about the poem you will discuss in the first essay.
F Sep12 Draft of first essay due; peer editing.
M Sep 15 NAP, "Sir Patrick Spens," "The Unquiet Grave," "Bonny Barbara Allen," "Mary Hamilton" versions A & B; Bedford, "scansion," "ballad," "stanza," "ballad stanza," "incremental repetition" "Renaissance," "Renaissance Period, " "poetry," "periodicity," "genre"
W Sep 17 library visit; sign up for oral reports
F Sep 19 First essay due; NAP, Wyatt, "Whoso List to Hunt," "My Galley"; Spenser, Sonnets 67 & 75; Sidney, "Astrophil & Stella, #s 1 & 71; Shakespeare, Sonnets 116 & 130; Bedford, "sonnet," "sonnet sequence," "Italian sonnet," "Shakespearean sonnet," "Spenserian sonnet," "iamb," "pentameter," "eye rhyme," "half rhyme," "figurative language," "figure of speech"
M Sep 22 The Tempest, Part One, 3-88
W Sep 24 Tempest: Part Two: Why Study Critical Controversies; Literary Study, Politics, and Shakespeare, 91-115
F Sep 26 Tempest: Sources and Contexts, 116-118, and either 119-140 or 140-172
M Sep 29 Tempest: Shakespeare and the Power of Order, 173-202
W Oct 1 Tempest: The Postcolonial Challenge, 203-204, 246-254, and either 205-229 or 229-246
F Oct 3 Tempest: Responding to the Challenge, 255-256 and either 256-286 or 286-322
M Oct 6 Tempest: The Feminist Challenge, 323-247
W Oct 8 NAP: Donne, "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning," "The Flea," Holy Sonnet #10; Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress"; Bedford, "metaphysical poetry," "metaphysical conceit," "paradox," "New Criticism"
F Oct 10 NAP: Milton, "L'Allegro," "Il Penseroso," "When I Consider How My Light Is Spent," from Paradise Lost; Bedford, "reader-response criticism"
M Oct 13 draft of essay 2; peer editing
W Oct 15 NAP: Behn, "To the Fair Clarinda"; Rochester (John Wilmot), "The Disabled Debauchee"; Bedford, "neoclassicism," "Restoration Age"; Bedford, "gender," "gender criticism," "gay and lesbian criticism"
F Oct 17 NAP: Pope, "The Rape of the Lock"; Bedford, "mock epic," "zeugma"
M Oct 20 Essay 2 due
W Oct 22 NAP: Bradstreet, "To My Dear and Loving Husband," "The Author to Her Book"; Massachusetts Bay Psalm Book, Psalm 58; Taylor, "Meditation 8"; Wheatley, "On Being Brought from Africa to America"; Bedford, "Colonial Period," "Revolutionary Period"
F Oct 24 Midsemester day
M Oct 27 NAP: Blake, "The Lamb," "The Little Black Boy," "The Tyger," "London"; Wordsworth, "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal," "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge," "Nuns Fret Not," "The World Is Too Much with Us"; Bedford, "Romantic Period (in English Literature)," "class," "Marxism," "Marxist criticism," "cultural criticism"
W Oct 29 NAP: Shelley, "Ode to the West Wind"; Keats, "Ode to a Nightingale," "Ode on a Grecian Urn"; Bedford, "ode," "new historicism" "terza rima," "apostrophe," "synesthesia"
F Oct 31 NAP, Whitman, from Song of Myself; Dickinson, 754 ["My Life had stood"];Bedford, "Romantic Period (in American Literature)," "free verse"
M Nov 3 draft of third essay due
W Nov 5 NAP: E.B.Browning, from Aurora Leigh; Tennyson, "Ulysses"; R. Browning, "My Last Duchess"; Arnold, "Dover Beach"; Bedford, "Victorian Period," "dramatic monologue," "persona"
F Nov 7 NASF: Chopin, "The Story of an Hour"; Freeman, "A New England Nun"; Bedford, "realism," "Realistic Period"
M Nov 10 Third essay due
W Nov 12 NASF: Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper"; Bedford, "feminist criticism"
F Nov 14 NAP: Yeats, "The Second Coming"; Frost, "Design"; Stevens, "The Emperor of Ice-Cream," "Anecdote of the Jar"; Williams, "This is Just to Say"; Bedford, "Modern Period," "modernism"
M Nov 17 Bedford, "structuralism," "structuralist criticism," "sign," "signifier," "signified," "poststructuralism," "deconstruction," "binary oppositions"
W Nov 19 NAP: Pound, "In a Station of the Metro," "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly"; Moore, "Poetry"; Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"; Millay, "I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed"
F Nov 21 draft of fourth essay
M Nov 24 NAP: Toomer, "Reapers," "Harvest Song"; L. Hughes, "The Weary Blues," "Harlem"; Cullen, "Incident"; NASF: Hurston, "The Conscience of the Court"; Bedford, "Harlem Renaissance"
W Nov 26 NAP: Lee, "Persimmons"; NASF: Walker, "Everyday Use"; Bedford, "race (and literary studies)"
F Nov 28 Thanskgiving Holiday
M Dec 1 Fourth essay due
W Dec 3 NAP: Walcott, "A Far Cry from Africa"; NASF: Mukherjee, "The Management of Grief"; Kincaid, "Girl"; Bedford, "postcolonial criticism"
F Dec 5 NASF: Barthelme, "Me and Miss Mandible"; Bedford, "Postmodern Period," "postmodernism"
M Dec 8 portfolio revision workshop
W Dec 10 portfolio revisions continued
F Dec 12 last day of class, portfolios due
Essays and Other Assignments
Each essay should have a clearly-stated thesis that takes account of both conceptual and stylistic aspects of the text and relates them to each other. The thesis should be supported through quotations from the text and through analytic discussion of quoted words, phrases, and sentences. More information on how to write an essay can also be found in guides to academic writing available in the Writing Center library. You may also discuss your essay with Writing Center consultants. The WU Writing Center is located in Matthews Hall, and is open M-Th 10am-4pm and 7pm-9pm, F 10am-2pm, and Sun 4pm-9pm (closed Saturday). Call x4822 or 370-6300 for an appointment. You may also consult with me. For an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call x6389, or see the sign-up sheet on my office door (Eaton 204).
Essay #1: Textual Interpretation
Draft due Friday 12 September
Essay due Friday 19 September
Four pages (4pp.) (1000 words)
Offer a close reading of one of the first five poems assigned. Your discussion should provide a detailed analysis of the poem, including consideration of the relation between form and content. How does the poem's style support, reinforce, enhance, develop, or challenge the poem's substance? For more detailed questions, see the tips on reading poetry.
Essay #2: The Tempest
Draft due Monday 13 October
Essay due Monday 20 October
Five pages (5pp.) (1250 words)
Write an analytic interpretation of some aspect of The Tempest, taking into account our discussions of sources and critical responses to the play. That is, position your own reading of the play in relation to the critical controversy. If you draw on essays with which you agree, seek additional details that confirm or extend your readings. Where you dispute another critic's interpretation, analyze the problems in his or her reading, and offer alternatives. Make clear where you are presenting your own views and where you are drawing on your sources.
Essay #3: Poetry & Theory
Draft due Monday 3 November
Essay due Monday 10 November
Five pages (5pp.) (1250 words)
Write a theoretically-informed, analytic interpretation of a poem in The Norton Anthology on which you have not previously written an essay. If you use additional research, be sure to cite your sources.
I include here some suggestions. Keep in mind that theoretical approaches often overlap, and you might draw on more than one. You might not answer all the questions raised by a particular approach, and you may find other relevant questions to ask from any of these perspectives. The questions I've provided will not supply you with a thesis or a basis for organizing your discussion; I offer them only to help you get started. Any of these approaches will entail scrutiny of the text, though some of them will also entail attention to historical context, psychoanalytic theory, or other frameworks. You might begin your essay with a paragraph introducing the theoretical approach you will be taking, and then proceed to your reading of the poem. Alternatively, if, for instance, you take a new historicist approach, you might begin with a relevant anecdote drawn from a non-literary document contemporaneous with the primary text, and conclude with an explanation of how this approach has generated the insights your essay has developed. You need not do additional research for this essay, but the more historical approaches may require it. As always, include an MLA-style list of work(s) cited, and parenthetical citations in your text.
Here are some questions a New Critic might ask of a text: How do the structure and meaning of the text constitute an organic unity? In what ways do images, symbols, sound effects, or rhythms contribute to that unity? What conflicting elements are there in the text and how are they resolved through irony or paradox?
Here are some questions a psychoanalytic critic might ask about a text: In what ways does the text replay significant events in psychological development (for instance, the Oedipus Complex)? How do condensation (metaphor) and displacement (metonymy) transform the latent content into the manifest content of the work? How does the work reveal the particular conflicts produced by family life or social conditions during a particular historical period? What is the connection between the desires of the characters in the work, the desire of the author in writing the work, and the desire of the reader in reading the work? In other words, what is the connection between literary language and desire or between narrative and desire? Is there a psychic economy at work in this text which reveals the power relations within the individual or within interpersonal relations?
Some questions a reader-response critic might ask: Does the text contain references to reading or to other situations analogous to the reader's situation? What does the poem say about how to read it? How does the work construct and position its implied reader? How does the experience of reading the work affect the reader as the text unfolds in time?
Some questions a gender or sexualities critic might ask: What features or characteristics does the text associate with masculinity and/or femininity? To what extent are masculinity and femininity connected to maleness and femaleness? What does the poem suggest about the relations among sex, gender, and sexuality?
Some questions a marxist critic might ask: How is the text shaped by its historical conditions of production? What social contradictions or ideological conflicts does it engage or represent? What does the dominant ideology prevent the text from saying? That is, what gaps are there in the text and what might they tell us about the dominant ideology? What utopian elements (critical insights or visions of a better world) operate in the text, and how are they contained or concealed?
Some questions a cultural critic might ask: How do those with less power try to subvert those with more power? How is power subverted from the bottom up? How has the literary tradition constructed models of identity for oppressed groups? How does this literary work reflect the author's social position (class, race, gender, and so on), or the author's analysis of such relations? What is this work's ideological vision--how does it attempt to shore up an oppressive social order and idealize social conflicts out of existence? What is this work's utopian vision--what alternative collective life does it propose as a solution to these conflicts?
Some questions a new historical critic might ask: What historical or cultural events or documents might illuminate the text? What does this work reveal about the connections between language, knowledge, and power in a particular culture? How does this work reveal a historically specific model of truth and authority? What are the relations of power suggested by the text? How is power operating either explicitly or secretly? What might threaten that operation of power? How do those with authority attempt to contain any subversion of that authority? What model of human personality, what image of the human body, does this work imply or construct?
Essay #4: Texts in Critical Contexts
Draft due Friday 21 November
Essay due Monday 1 December
Seven pages (6-8pp.) (1750 words)
Offer a critically or contextually informed reading of one of the texts that we have read and about which you have not previously written an essay. That is, research the existing criticism on the work, and use what you have found to inform your discussion. The essay should offer your interpretation of the work, grounded in analysis of the text. Where you have learned from, draw on, or dispute the work of other critics, you should of course document your sources.
You might think of some of the essays in the Bedford Tempest as models for this project. For instance, Ania Loomba, Meredith Anne Skura, and David Scott Kastan all begin their essays with summaries of the critical history of the play or reviews of some aspect of the recent critical history of the play, in order to set the stage for their own analyses. Deborah Willis uses Paul Brown's essay as a foil for her own argument about the text.
Use the MLA Bibliography (database available through the Hatfield Library research webstations) to locate relevant essays and books. For works on which there is an extensive critical history (e.g., "The Yellow Wallpaper"), consult essays summarizing that history (for instance, introductions to collections of essays about the work).
*State your thesis clearly at the end of the first paragraph..
*Make sure each paragraph in the body of the essay has one main point, supported with evidence and analysis.
*Build from less important to more important or more complex points.
*Always revise; never turn in a first draft.
1. Use inclusive language (no generic "he"--try "she or he," or pluralize everything; use "humanity" instead of "mankind").
2. Use active voice ("Sandy hit the ball" instead of "The ball was hit by Sandy").
3. Keep parallel subjects (don't switch from "one" to "he or she").
4. Use present tense for discussing literature (it says the same thing every time you read it).
5. Underline titles of book-length works; put quotations around the titles of shorter works. Use neither for your own title.
6. Avoid repeatedly saying "I think" or "I believe"--it's your paper.
7. Refer to authors by their full names the first time, thereafter by last names.
8. Align the meaning of your sentence with grammatically important words--the main subject and verb should say more than "it is" or "there are."
9. If you are analyzing a text, don't evaluate it. A book review is a different genre.
10. Avoid cliches.
1. Type or print in black on standard 8 1/2 x 11 inch white paper.
2. Use 10- or 12-point font; double-space between lines; leave one-inch margins on top, sides, and bottom.
3. Number each page after the first in the upper right corner. Put your surname on each page below the number. Staple pages in the upper left corner.
4. On the upper left corner of the first page, put your name, the course number, and the date on which you are turning in the paper.
5. Give your essay an informative and interesting title, neither underlined nor put in quotation marks nor put in all capitals. Do not include a separate title page.
6. Quotations should be precise, accurately punctuated, and fully documented; include a list of Works Cited. The MLA Handbook provides further information on format (chapter 3) and documentation.
7. Proofread. Make necessary corrections neatly in ink.
8. Keep a copy. Hard copy is safer than disc.
Peer editing done well is an exercise in reading and writing. Developing your skills as an editor of others' work can help you improve your own writing.
Peer Editing in class
1. Writer, give your classmate a copy of the draft.
2. Writer, read the draft aloud while the listener follows the written text.
3. Responder, pay close attention to your reactions
× jot down notes on your copy while the writer is reading
× use a shorthand code to indicate your reactions: squiggles for negatives, stars for positives
× share what you experienced as a reader
× comment on the text not the person who wrote it
× explain what interested you-give a specific sentence, paragraph, or page that you found especially strong
× ask questions about what puzzled you; be specific to the part of the paper you are addressing
× make suggestions for strengthening the paper; be specific, but don't insist
4. Writer, take notes and thank the responder when she or he has finished.
Peer Editing at home
Editor, write observations and summaries in the margins of the draft. Observations are neutral, indisputable, and often fairly obvious (e.g., "I notice you make the same point about the storm in paragraphs 3 & 7," or, "I notice that you begin three sentences in a row with 'It is' or 'There are'"). Decisions about what to do with these observations rest with the writer. Summaries are useful in making sure the main points of each paragraph and of the essay as a whole are clear. Write a concluding comment summarizing strengths and problems in the essay, and offering any suggestions you have for revision. In class, keep your copy of the draft to refer to as you tell the writer about your responses. When you have finished discussing the draft, then give the writer the copy of the draft with your comments on it.
Writer, bring a copy of the draft to class, so that you can follow along as the editors describe their responses. Ask questions and take notes.
Paper clip the revision to the copy of the original essay bearing my comments. I will not accept revisions without graded originals.
A revision should be just that: a re-vision, a re-seeing and re-thinking of the original. Do not limit your changes to points on which I have commented; such limitation will severely compromise the value of the revision. The grade on the revision will replace the grade on the original essay.
With your revision, turn in a description of your revision process and of the changes you have made (about one typed page).
Some suggestions for revision:
*Reread your essay, read my comments, and think about them. Refer where necessary to a handbook of style such as the MLA Handbook or Rules for Writers (several handbooks are available in the Writing Center). If you have any questions, come talk with me.
*In revising, start with ideas, and then consider structure and style.
*Review the text that is (or the texts that are) the subject(s) of your essay. Take fresh notes on relevant passages. What is important about the passage? What else do you notice about the text?
*Put your essay aside and do some fresh writing on your topic. Write a brief summary of your thoughts on the topic. Write a response to the topic from the perspective of someone who disagrees with you. Write about the most puzzling or difficult aspects of the text.
*Think about the ideas in the essay. Can you improve your thesis? Can you add further supporting points, or develop those you have included in the original? Can you delete or strengthen weaker points? Rewrite the essay to incorporate conceptual changes.
*Consider the structure of the essay. Make an outline, writing one complete sentence summarizing each paragraph. Can you improve on the order of the points? Can you clarify the organization by combining or dividing paragraphs? Consider the rhetoric of the essay. Are the transitions between and within paragraphs clear and effective? Revise accordingly.
*Refine the prose of the essay. Read your revised draft aloud. Does each sentence say exactly what you want it to say? Can you make the prose tighter, more active, more precise? Is there continuity, flow, from sentence to sentence?
*Remember that writing and revising are recursive processes, and you may move back and forth among these activities. For instance, reorganizing the essay may prompt you to do more fresh writing. Refining the prose may lead you to new ideas.
*Get as much feedback as you can. Take your revised essay to the Writing Center, read it to a friend, bring it to me for a consultation.
Each student will present at least two brief oral reports, beginning the week of September 22. At least one of these should involve additional research. For instance, you might report on the biography of an author (the Dictionary of Literary Biography is a useful resource); you might explicate the workings of a formal feature in our reading (this need not involve additional reading: for example, how does Pope use zeugma in "The Rape of the Lock," and how does it contribute to the text?); you might investigate an example of critical theory (for example, what is Brook Thomas's new historical reading of Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn"?); you might present and explain a parody or imitation of one of the writers whose work we are reading; or you might find out more about a genre, movement, or period we are studying. Reports should be 5-10 minutes long. Two class days before your report, turn in a 1-2 page detailed outline of your comments. This might include a copy of your parody or imitation poem; it might include documentation of your sources (if you have done research). Plan ahead; I will ask volunteers to begin signing up for reports September 19 (the day the first essay is due). Speak with me individually about your plans a week or so before each of your reports.
For some class meetings, you will be asked to write a discussion question. A discussion question is one that cannot be answered simply by looking the answer up somewhere, one that does not have an obvious answer, but that must be explored and argued. It is not completely open-ended, but specifically grounded in the text. It arises from careful consideration of the reading assignment: what the text says, and how it says it. In about half a page (150 words), explain what prompted the question, what thinking went into arriving at the question, what possible answers (if any) you have considered, and why those answers are unsatisfactory. Feel free to cite specific passages in explaining your question. Try to frame the question itself in one brief interrogative sentence. Please type discussion questions.
Late Policy, Participation, Grading
Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the scheduled date. If you will have a particular problem meeting an essay due date, speak to me individually, in advance.
Participation includes attendance and preparation, thoughtful and considerate contributions to large and small group discussions, postings to the class email list, oral reports, peer editing, discussion questions, and other brief written assignments.
Essays will be graded as follows:
A An excellent essay typically includes an outstanding thesis, thoughtful consideration of concepts and perceptive analysis of text. Detailed reading, cogent and graceful argument, vivid and sophisticated prose.
B A good essay typically includes a strong thesis and coherent argument, effective supporting attention to the text, and generally fine and clear prose with only occasional lapses in grammar. The difference between an excellent essay and a good one lies less in what is wrong with the good essay than in what is right with the excellent one.
C A satisfactory essay typically includes a thesis that is too general or simplistic, and vague readings of the text. Generally competent prose but marred by consistent grammatical or organizational errors.
D A below standard essay typically has an ill-defined or ill-supported main idea, together with serious flaws in grammar, logic, or argumentation.
F A failing essay is typically one marred by plagiarism. It may also be an essay that reveals no knowledge of the text and that is written in unidiomatic English.
When you have questions about materials or assignments, please raise them in class--others are likely to have the same questions. When you have questions or concerns about your work, problems with the course, or suggestions for improving the class, please come see me as soon as possible. I will do my best to answer questions, resolve problems, and make use of your suggestions. Thanks.
My office is Eaton 204. I will be available for conferences MWF 10:20-11:20 and 1:50-2:50, and other times by appointment. You can reach me or my voice mail at x6389, or you can email me at email@example.com.