Professor: Eve Wiederhold Office: 121 McIver Office Hours: 3:30-5 T/R Phone:
Texts: Literary Criticism, eds. Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schliefer
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
“Music of the Swamp,” Lewis Nordan (e-r)
“The Two,” Gloria Naylor (e-r)
“Advancing Luna and Ida B. Wells,” Alice Walker (e-r)
a few other texts available on e-reserve
English 303 is intended for English majors as an introduction to the diverse modes of talking and thinking about literature and interpretive practices. There are a number of ways to approach such a task. It is possible, for example, to undertake an historical examination to understand how criticism has evolved as an institution over time. One might also engage in a systematic study of “schools of criticism” and their methods. Because we only have 15 weeks, we will approach this study in a less systematized way. While we will attempt to distinguish differences between schools of criticism, we will also use this course to mull over what it means to read and render a credible interpretation. Indeed, we will dive right in and try to sort through some of the arcane and obscure language presented by influential contemporary critics whose work can be described as interdisciplinary. We will think carefully about postmodern challenges to philosophical theories that seek to stabilize how we make meaning.
To assist our study, we will read a number of fictional works and ask questions about how we invoke interpretive strategies to make sense of what we read, to draw conclusions that we can believe in, and to assign identities to fictional representations of situations and characters. As we proceed, we will continually pose questions about what we think we are doing. We will consider how contemporary theory challenges our most basic conceptions of what it means to render a judgement and whether we feel comfortable as we forge interpretations. When thinking about how literary theory bears upon our own reading habits, we will also consider how studying literary theory raises questions about fairness and ethics. This will require us to examine how the intellectual study of literature has been institutionalized, how literary canons have been formed, and the social effects of such formations. Finally, we will consider whether literary theory has relevance beyond the classroom.
T --- Intro
R – LC—“A Preliminary Guide to Literary and Cultural Studies” – p.
“What is Literary Study?” p. 19 - 23
T – Excerpt from Phaedrus (Plato) (e-r)
R – LC -- Ferdinand de Saussure, “Selections from Course in General
T/R – LC – Roland Barthes (semiology)—“What is Criticism?” p. 280
T/R – Frankenstein
T – Louis Athusser excerpt (handout)
R –LC—Dick Hebdige—“From Culture to Hegemony” p. 656
T/R – “The Two”
T – LC—“Deconstruction and Postructuralism” p. 319
R – Atwood’s “Translation”
“I Used to Live Here Once” by Jeanne Rhys
“Butterflies” by Patricia Grace
T/R – “Music of the Swamp”
T/R—LC—Michel Foucault—“What is an Author” p. 364
“The Discourse on Language” (e-r)
T/R – The Scarlet Letter
Lauren Berlant excerpt (e-r)
T/R—“Advancing Luna and Ida B. Wells
T/R—“Education, Language and Literacy” (e-r)
T/R—LC—Edward Said—“The Politics of Knowledge” p. 157
bell Hooks—“Postmodern Blackness” p. 129
Wrap-up, catch up
Final paper due
There are two formal papers. In each of them, you will be asked to analyze a literary text and draw connections between your analysis and one of the theories being read in class. You are not expected to write like an expert. You are experimenting with the idea of writing literary criticism. We are covering a lot of material that addresses a range of issues, and at times, this may seem overwhelming. But any literary critic must start somewhere. Further, as you work on written assignments, you might note when you are feeling anxiety about what you are able to accomplish. Your reactions can become a source for inquiry, particularly given that many of the essays that you will read pose questions about how academic institutions construct definitions of authority and knowledge.
I will accept late papers, but your grade will be lowered one grade every day that they are late.
Aside from the formal papers, I will also assign informal responses to the readings for you to complete at home. They are designed to help you think about what you read and to assist class discussion. Please note: These are due when class meets. I will not accept them late. I weill not accept them if you do not attend class.
Yes, group work can be dreadful. However, everyone in this class will be required to speak about some aspect of the literary criticism that we are reading. We will discuss how to fulfill this requirement (which is mine—not related to the speaking intensive option available in some classes). I believe that it is important for students to try to talk about the theory we are reading. Many students find it easier to do so when connected with a group rather than alone. We will discuss class preferences to determine how to fulfill this course requirement.
If we decide on group projects, the following guidelines will apply:
Group presentations will begin week nine or ten.
Each student will be required to apply the ideas of one critic whose work has been assigned for class to a text we have not read together. Each group will develop a presentation that will attempt to articulate an understanding of the critic’s ideas and offer a lively, engaging illustration of how those ideas illuminate/complicate our interpretive acts.
To prepare for this presentation, you will meet with me beforehand, and we will review your approach to the material. I will offer suggestions and help you with your interpretations (if you would like that input). We will meet again after your presentation and evaluate your performance. Please note that these presentations are not merely lectures. You will attempt to determine what issues are raised in your chosen essays, and then think about whether and how those issues are significant. You will draw connections between the ideas presented in the essays that you are reading and something else—a literary work, a film, an issue receiving media attention, the institution of education in the United States. While it is important that you demonstrate an understanding of the material, a major portion of the presentation should also demonstrate your ability to generate class participation and discussion. You are asked to organize a presentation that draws in your audience. You might pose questions, bring in examples from subcultures, devise activities. Be creative.
Group presentations must be well-planned and thought provoking. I will provide
class time during which you can meet and organize your presentation, but you
will probably have to arrange to meet outside of class.
Each person in the group must have an opportunity to speak.
You must indicate that you have read at least two of the LC essays.
You are not, however, presenting a book report.
You should bring in examples to illustrate your arguments (i.e., film clips, music selections, literary texts, news articles, ads).
All presentations must include some form of classroom participation.
Each must pose at least four solid, well-thought out questions to provoke
All members of the audience will be responsible for answering those questions.
Note: If necessary, presenters will be graded individually. The grade will be based on how well you address the material from you book, and how well you engage us in lively, interesting, and thought-provoking ways.
Re: The Law
Attendance and participation
DON’T MISS CLASS. It should go without saying that these are vital to this class. We’re creating our own discourse community and everyone is obligated to be an active participant. In case there is any question about this, please note that I take attendance very seriously. You get one unexcused absence. After that, any unexcused absences will affect your grade. If you are continuously late, I will treat that as an absence. I also take participation very seriously. Be prepared when you come to class.
Formal papers: 35%
Informal responses: 30%
Classroom presentation: 20%
Attendance and participation: 15%
Very simply, don’t do it. Plagiarism is a complicated topic because it raises a philosophical problem about whether there is such a thing an as original idea. We will discuss how plagiarism is defined and vilified in our culture. Certainly, we all borrow ideas from others as we write. The point is, however, that when you do this kind of borrowing, you must acknowledge your sources and not claim ideas that aren’t your own. You shouldn’t, for example, download papers off of the internet and attach your name as author to them. When in doubt, please ask me about how to go about citing your sources.
All formal papers must be typed, double-spaced, eventually put in MLA style. If you have not hooked into the university’s computer system, you should do so immediately. More on this as we proceed.