Re-Tellings: An Intertextual Approach to Literature
“[E]very story tells a story that has already been told” (Umberto Eco).
“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say” (Italo Calvino).
“[W]riters create Houses of the Imagination, from whose doors generations greet each other. You will always hear a great deal of enlivening dissension and discussion. […] And thus, by such discussion and such shared experience, do we understand ourselves and one another, our pasts and our futures” (Fay Weldon).
Course Description and Objectives
This course offers a new way of thinking about literature and what is involved in reading critically by examining classic texts framed in new contexts—for example, the myth of Icarus as written by Ovid and retold by W.H. Auden and Anne Sexton, among others; rewritings of fairy-tales (“Cinderella”) as well as of the double theme (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). Thematically focused on topics such as innocence and experience, self and the other, reality and illusion, this course challenges you to reflect on how different writers, working from different cultural and historical perspectives and in different genres, have approached and reshaped stories that other writers before them have already told. By virtue of their shared themes and issues, these texts have proven themselves to have the kind of universal appeal and significance that will allow us to see their relevance to our lives. Our approach will be comparative in that we will pair up the “models” and the “rewrites” in order to note how they talk to each other across cultural divides. This intertextual approach to literature bears out three commonplaces of contemporary thinking, namely, that there is never only one story, one interpretation, and one subject-position, because the truths underlying language are socially constructed and often politically inflected.
The student successfully completing this course will be able to:
• identify and understand the varied characteristics of literature
• apply methods of literary analysis to poetry, fiction, and drama
• interpret a given literary work in relation to other works and cultural phenomena
• understand the aesthetic, cultural, and social value of these texts as well as of the contexts in which they have been written and/or interpreted
• speak and write about literature clearly, coherently, and effectively
• enjoy the beauty and appreciate the challenge of literature
Required Texts and Materials
Clarke, M.B. and A.G. Clarke. Retellings: A Thematic Literature Anthology. McGraw Hill, 2003
Hwang, David Henry. M Butterfly. New York: Plume Books, 1994.
1 binder to hold notes, handouts, quizzes, and informal writings
A good dictionary—see link to Oxford English Dictionary on Blackboard
E-mail/Internet Access: Please activate your UNCG email account and Novell passwords as soon as possible and make sure you can get onto the Internet. E-mail is the best way to contact me, while Internet access is absolutely necessary for accessing Blackboard and online sources. One such source lists a comprehensive annotated Fairy Tale Bibliography, which I strongly recommend to those of you interested in retellings of both folk and literary fairy tales. To access this resource, log onto Blackboard and click on “external links.”
PARTICIPATION: I expect your regular attendance and your active participation in class discussions. Testing out your ideas in class discussion is a large part of what this course is about (and a significant part of your grade). Hearing what other students have to say will expose you to ways of looking at literature you may not have thought of and thus broaden your understanding of the assigned text.
Your participation, with other considerations like attendance, preparation
for class, quizzes, and in-class writings will be 30% of your final grade.
I will assign participation grades as follows:
100=attendance at all sessions; very involved in class discussion and activities
90=attendance at all sessions; somewhat involved in class discussion and activities
70=missed three classes; involved in other classes
40=missed more than 3 classes and/or unprepared for class
0=missed more than 6 classes; have not done the assignments
READING: We will do quite a bit of reading in this class, so it is important to keep up with the assignments and take the time to read carefully and thoroughly. Occasional quizzes will be given to check that you are keeping up with the reading. Your first job as an individual reader is to identify words, phrases, passages, and ideas you find interesting, puzzling, unsettling, etc. This means reading with a pen or pencil in hand so that you can underline, highlight, or otherwise mark the material you want to discuss. Active reading will give you the tools to recognize the formal elements of literary composition; to search for and analyze theme, structure, and image; to make connections not only between texts but between these and the real world as well.
RESPONDING: The Reader’s Response, Peer Feedback, and Presentation
RR: At least once a week, unless notified otherwise, you will write an extended response (1-2 pages, typed, double-spaced) to a specific prompt related to that day’s reading(s). Most often, you will have a choice of questions following up the assigned readings from Retellings. These informal assignments allow you to practice writing and receive feedback without the stress of formal essays. They are designed to help you analyze (and not merely summarize) the reading, prepare for class discussion, and generate ideas for your longer papers. They also will also assist you in studying for the exams. Your weekly writings will be given checks: check plus for any honest effort and for work that is done thoroughly and shows depth of thought; a check for work that is done but is incomplete and does not demonstrate significant effort; a check minus for work that is not done or for work that does not demonstrate either effort or knowledge of the daily reading.
Peer Feedback: Informal responses will be collected regularly, but twice in
the semester, you will be asked to read, react to, and reflect on each other’s
journal entries. You will do so by considering a set of questions I will hand
out to you in due course.
Presentation: You will be asked to give an informal oral presentation on a daily reading, or a set of readings. For this presentation, you will pair up with one of your classmates, working together to determine both content and form-related issues presented in your reading(s), and then offer a brief analysis of their significance. You might also want to draw connections between these topics (i.e. character, episode, setting, theme, imagery, etc.) and something else—another literary work, a film, an issue receiving media attention, etc. 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. For this, you will need to pose questions, bring in thought-provoking observations from critics, devise activities—in short, be creative. You should plan to speak for about 7-10 minutes, with additional 5-10 minutes of question, answer, and discussion. I will soon provide a sign-up sheet for these oral presentations. If necessary, presenters will be graded individually. The grade will be based on how well you address the material and how well you engage us in lively and interesting ways. As you prepare for these presentations, discuss your plans with me or visit the University Speaking Center for assistance. Following each presentation, submit your notes and/outline to assist me in evaluating your work.
Exams: You will take an in-class exam at midterm and then at the end of the
semester. Each exam will consist of identification prompts and short essay
questions designed to test your understanding of literary terms as well as
your critical reading of the works covered in the first half and then the second
half of the semester. Please bring a blue book for each exam.
Conferences: The purpose of conferences is to give you individual time to talk about your reading and writing with the instructor. Take charge of these conferences; they’re designed to address your needs. Bring your questions and ideas to the conference.
GRADE BREAKDOWN FOR THE COURSE
Informal writings (responses and peer feedback): 20%
Participation (attendance, conference, quizzes, discussion, presentation): 30%
Exams: 25% each
EXTRA CREDIT: CREATIVE PROJECT
For this optional written assignment, you will write your own retelling of a favorite story. If engaging and well written, this essay could bring your grade up by 10%. You will receive more specific suggestions about it as the semester progresses.
Attendance: It is imperative that you show up, both physically and mentally, every class period. I realize that emergencies may arise, and so I will try to be flexible enough to accommodate students with legitimate excused absences (e.g. illness, death in the family). You are granted 3 absences (one week’s worth of classes), so please use them wisely. On your seventh absence, you will receive an F in the course, unless you withdraw yourself before the deadline.
I may not take roll daily, but I learn your names and know who is present. Of course, the proof is always in the homework assignments and quizzes. It is also important to attend class on time. If you come late to class, please speak to me at the end of the session to make sure you are counted as present. Late arrivals are disruptive to the class activities in progress; three tardies (more than 5 minutes late) will be considered one absence. Likewise, if you need to leave early, this will be marked the same as a tardy.
If you miss class, it is your responsibility to contact me, or a classmate,
to find out what you have missed before the next class meeting. A good idea
is to exchange contact information with a classmate and agree to keep each
other up-to-date. An absence is not an excuse for coming to class unprepared.
Late Work: Informal responses need to be turned in on the day they are due. If you know you will be absent, either email your journal to me or leave it in my mailbox before the start of class on the due date. No written response will be accepted after the class period following the due date; also, once the assignment has been returned to the rest of the class, it is too late to submit yours. Missed quizzes cannot be made up either. You must turn in your paper at the beginning of class on the due date. Computer-related failures such as crashed hard drives, dead printers, power outages causing disk corruption, or long lines in computer labs are not acceptable excuses for late assignments. If you have schedule conflicts, it is better to work them out now, or as soon as you can.
Plagiarism: All work for this course must be done in keeping with the UNCG Academic Integrity Policy. You should be familiar with this UNCG policy, especially as it concerns cheating, plagiarism, and appropriate penalties. Plagiarism is a complicated topic because it raises a philosophical problem about whether there is such a thing as an original idea. Certainly, we—along with many of the authors we’ll be reading this semester—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 the Internet and attach your name as author to them. It is easy for instructors to catch plagiarists, and it is never worth the risk you take. Just do your own work. Crediting sources places your work in a textual conversation and allows you to see your own contribution to that conversation. I therefore expect you to include and sign this statement on your writings: I have abided by the Academic Integrity Policy on this assignment.
Please be respectful during class, both to your instructor and to each other. Tardiness is rude and so is coming to class unprepared. Sleeping in class, putting your head down, and working off topic will be grounds for removal and thus counted as absences. Cell phones and pagers should be turned off during class time.
You may consult with me on an individual basis or visit the Writing Center, located in 101 McIver and open Mon-Thur. 9-8, Fri. 9-3, and Sun. 6-9 p.m. You may make an appointment by calling 334-3125 or just drop in to have a one-on-one conference with writing consultants. Don’t expect them to function merely as a proofreading service—you’ll see the best results if you go in prepared with some questions. I highly recommend making use of this resource.
Special Accommodations: If you have a disability that could affect your performance in this course or for which you need accommodation, please contact me and/or the office of Disability Services at 334-5440.
The following schedule of readings and assignments is tentative and may therefore be subject to change.
UNIT ONE: READING and WRITING about LITERATURE
08/15 Introduction to course; overview of requirements and course policies.
Getting to know each other
08/17 Read: Preface to the Student: “Every Story Tells a Story That
Already Has Been Told” (xv-xvii); “Reading Critically and Thinking
08/19 Read: Chapter 1, “Telling and Retelling Stories” (3-16);
In-class: Compare versions of Cinderella and the significance of their differences.
Last Day to Drop Course for tuition and fees refund
08/22 Read: “Telling the Tale: The Role of the Speaker” (31-35); Updike, “A & P” (407-12);
Write: respond to either question 1 or 2 on pp. 412
08/24 Read: Arnold, “Dover Beach” and Hecht, “Dover Bitch:
A Criticism of Life” (21-25)
Skim: “Time and Place: Looking at Setting” (45-60);
08/26 Read: “Appeals to the Senses: Sound and Visual Imagery” (60-65)
Compare and contrast the imagery of related poems on pp. 64-65
Sign up for oral presentations
08/29 Read: “The Reader’s Role: The Importance of Audience” (65-70)
Write: Locate a story or poem that you loved as a child and reread it. How does your adult perspective alter your response not only to the style but also to the themes and characters?
08/31 Read: “Reading Short Fiction” (73-84); skip exercises; checklist
of questions to ask about characters and characterization
Discuss “The Story of an Hour” and the elements of fiction
09/02 No class; Conferences to be held in my office, from 8 to 9:30 a.m. and 11:30-12: 45 p.m.
09/05 No class; LABOR DAY
09/07 Read: “Reading Poetry” (85-100), “Explication” (A-4
Write: explicate Donne’s poem, “Death be not proud” (p. 95)
09/09 Skim: “Writing from Start to Finish”: Skim pp. 149- top
of 159; Study Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress” and look up “coy
(a),” “mistress (n), ” and “quaint” in the Oxford
English Dictionary (available online – go to Jackson Library Databases).
Keeping in mind that the poem was published in 1681, copy some meanings of
these words that you think are important to understanding the poem.
09/12 Read: “Analysis” and “Comparison and Contrast” (A-7 through A-20)
Skim pp. 159-170
09/14 Read: Schools of Literary Criticism (A-41 to 48)
Skim: “Writing From Start to Finish” (166-73)
UNIT TWO: LIFE PASSAGES
09/16 Read: “Little Red Riding Hood” (619-24); Skim RR Journals
on LRRH (668-71)
Write: respond to one of the questions on p. 624
Report # 1
09/19 Read: Lee, “Woolfland” (624-44)
Report # 2
09/21 Read: LRRH poems (650-55) and Garner, “Politically Correct Cinderella” (handout)
Skim: Bettleheim’s essay (655-66)
Report # 3
09/23 Read: Mansfield, “Her First Ball” and Ihimaera, “His
First Ball” (753-66)
Write: respond to either question 1 or 2 on p. 765 (Questions for Cross-Reading)
Report # 4
09/26 “Storytelling in Film and Television” (142-47)
In-class viewing of clips from The English Patient, Ever After and Freeway
Peer Feedback to RR due
09/28 Read: The Modern Monster; Oates, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” (186-98)
Report # 5
09/30 Read: Moser, “The Pied Piper of Tucson,” Dylan, “It’s
All Over Now, Baby Blue,” and study Grien’s engraving, “Death
and the Maiden” (198-210)
Report # 6
10/02 Read: J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan (672-96)
Watch clips from Peter Pan and Finding Neverland
10/04 Read: Finish Peter Pan
Report # 7
10/06 Read: from “When Wendy Grew Up” (731-36); Leigh, “I Won’t Grow Up,” and Mcmahon, “Peter Pan” (737-39)
Write: respond to question 1 on p. 736
Report # 8
Hand out Study Guide for the Midterm Exam
10/07 Last day to drop classes without academic penalty
10/12 MIDTERM EXAM
UNIT THREE: INNOCENCE LOST
10/14 Read: Marquez, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings’ (389-92)
Report # 9
10/17 Read poems about the fall of Icarus: Ovid, “The Story of Daedalus and Icarus” (855-7); Auden, “Musee des Beaux Arts” (859); Williams, “Landscape. . .” (860).
Report # 10: Discuss treatments of the Icarus myth in paintings and poems
10/19 Read more Icarus poems: Sexton, “To a Friend . . .” (861);
Rukeyser, “Waiting for Icarus” (861-2); Hayden, “O Daedalus.
. .” (862-3); Student Essay, “The Insignificance of Icarus” (864-68)
Write: answer one of the questions on p. 869 (re: the student’s essay)
Report #11: discuss intertextuality of assigned poems.
10/21 Read the subchapter “A World of Horror” (869-72)
Report # 12
10/24 Read: Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1373-1383)
Report # 13
10/26 Read: J&H (1384-99)
Report # 14
10/28 Read: finish J&H (1399-1413)
Write: respond to either question 1 (p. 1413) or 5 (p. 1414)
Report # 15
10/31 Study parody, visual retellings, excerpts from a children’s version, and Eprile’s contemporary retelling (1414-26)
Peer Feedback to RR due
Report # 16
11/02 Read: Showalter’s essay “Dr. Jekyll’s Closet” (1427-43)
11/04 View clips from Jekyll and Hyde and Mary Reiley
11/7 Read: “Types of Drama” (119-122); “A Brief Introduction to Modern Theater” and Mamet, Oleanna (571-88)
11/9 Read: Finish Oleanna (588-601)
Write: respond to questions 1, 4, or 6 (pp. 601-02)
Report # 17
11/11 Wrap up discussion of Oleanna
Hand out creative project assignment
Introduction to M. Butterfly
11/14 Read: M. Butterfly (Act I)
Report # 18
11/16 Read: M. Butterfly (Act II)
Report # 19
11/18 Read: finish M. Butterfly (Act III)
Write: Does Gallimard believe what he sees or does he see what he believes? What is the point of his final switch of identities?
Report # 20
11/21 Read: Hwang’s preface to the play
View selected scenes from M Butterfly
Hand out study guide for the final exam
11/28 Final exam review
11/30 No class; student-teacher conferences
12/02 No class; student-teacher conferences
12/05 Creative project due
12/09 FINAL EXAM