Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism

Spring 2006

 

Dr. Karen Gaffney                                                                                ENGL 202-01

Office: S 335                                                                                        Hunterdon 229

Office phone: 908-526-1200 ext. 8293                                                Tues./Thurs. 1:30-2:50pm

Mailbox: Somerset, 3rd floor (there is also a bin on my office door)

Email: kgaffney@raritanval.edu                                    

(Email is the best way to reach me.)                                                     

Office hours: Mondays 3:00-4:00pm, Tuesdays 3:00-4:00pm, and Thursdays 11:00am-12:00pm, and by appointment

Website: http://www.raritanval.edu/departments/English/full-time/Gaffney/gaffney.htm

(My website has course syllabi and major assignments.)

 

Objectives:

A cereal box. A high school reading list. A film. What do these have in common? These cultural texts are everywhere, and literary theory can help us understand what they mean and what they say about our society. This course will introduce students to contemporary literary theory and cultural studies. Starting with the anthology Falling into Theory: Conflicting Views on Reading Literature, we will consider these fundamental questions: Why do we read? What do we read? How do we read? We will explore how various critics have responded to these questions and situate our responses in conversation with theirs.

 

Required materials (available in the campus bookstore):

        David Richter, ed. Falling into Theory: Conflicting Views on Reading Literature. 2nd edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000.

        Senna, Danzy. Caucasia. NY: Penguin, 1999.

        Multiple ways to back up your work on a computer because computer problems are not an appropriate excuse for handing a paper in late.

        A notebook (any kind) for class notes and exercises.

        A folder (any kind) for keeping your graded responses (will become your Response Portfolio, which you will submit at the end of the semester).

 

Course requirements:

        Mid-term exam (a make-up will only be given if you have a documented emergency)

        Final project (involves both an informal presentation during the last week of class and a 7-8 page paper due on May 16). Late papers will not be accepted unless you have a documented emergency.

        Role play exercise and Responses (see "Assignment" section of the syllabus)

        Attendance is required, and it means arriving to class on time, remaining for the duration of class, and staying awake. 

        For every three times you arrive late and/or leave early, an absence will be counted.

        If you have more than two absences, your final grade may be lowered.  Exceptions will only be made in the case of a documented emergency. As the student handbook states, "a student is entitled, without questions, to absences amounting to the equivalent of one week's class time. Any absences in excess of that are handled individually by each instructor."

        In accordance with college policy, as the student handbook states, if you miss 1/5 of the semester (6 classes), then you may be withdrawn from the course. 

        Note the following college-wide withdrawal and refund schedule for Spring 2006:

FULL TERM (Fourteen weeks) 1/30/06-5/13/06

Last day to withdraw: to receive:

February 3..........................................................100% refund

February 10............................................................75% refund

February 13 .......................................without course on record

February 17............................................................50% refund

March 3..................................................................25% refund

After March 3 ............................................................No refund

April 10 ..................................................................a "W" grade

April 10.....Change to an Audit Grade with Instructor Approval

After April 10 ...................................................No Withdrawals

        Every student automatically receives an RVCC email account through the website the Lion's Den. You must access this email account; otherwise, you will miss crucial college information, like your grades, and you will miss information from me. You should have received your G-number as well as information about your password when you enrolled. If you do not have this information, visit the MIS office at S-112 (near the elevators in Somerset, on the first floor). Check your account at least every few days because I will use it if I need to get in touch with you. I would prefer that you email me from this account rather than another account where I cannot verify if it is actually you. Don't forget that passwords need to be updated periodically.

        As extra incentive to get comfortable with your email account, I will be emailing the class during the first week of the semester a short, informal assignment. So please check your email as soon as you can and respond to the assignment.

        Come to every class with the assigned reading, any assigned writing, and other appropriate materials, and be prepared to discuss and write about the assigned readings.  Pop quizzes may be given.

        Participate in class, meaning that you need to come to class having done the required reading and writing assignments and that you pay attention in class. Participation also involves contributing to the discussion as well as listening to your peers. Always be respectful. Come to class ready to share your ideas, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

        Study aides, whether online or in book form, are completely inappropriate for this course, and their use will not be tolerated. You need to be able to read and understand the material on your own. There are times where you will be confused; we're reading complex material. If you have questions about any aspect of the reading or the course, feel free to email me or talk to me in class or raise the question during class discussion.

        Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated.  See the RVCC Student Handbook (Rules and Regulations section) for details about academic dishonesty, as well as for other policies, including campus conduct: http://www.raritanval.edu/publications/RVCCstudenthandbook.pdf

        Cell phones, beepers, etc. should be turned off for the duration of class (not just to vibrate, but completely off). Please do not text message during class, even if you're telling your friends how great class is.

Grading:

        Mid-term exam: 15%

        Final project: 30% (This grade includes both an informal presentation on the last day of class and a 7-8 page paper submitted during finals week.)

        Responses (short papers and discussion questions individually as they are due, plus their inclusion in a portfolio at the end of the semester): 30%

        Role-play activity (You will participate in one of two role-play activities, as listed on the syllabus. There will be a writing assignment for the one in which you are involved, as well as the one in which you serve as an audience member.): 10%

        Class participation and misc. assignments/activities: 15%

 

Assignments:

There will be a variety of different types of assignments that allow you to engage with the assigned reading, respond to it, and apply it in a wider context.

        Mid-term exam: This is the only formal exam for the semester. It will focus solely on the assigned reading for the course. Details and a study guide will be provided.

        Final Project: This has two components: an informal presentation during the last week of class and a final paper due during final exam week. During your presentation, you will share your project idea with the class, get feedback, and then revise your ideas as needed for the paper. You may submit a draft in advance to me for feedback. You will receive a detailed assignment for the final project, but, in general terms, it will ask you to choose a text (book, film, song, advertisement, package, etc.) not read in class and create an argument that situates that text within the context of the course.

        Role-play: Details will be provided, but in general, each student will actively participate in a role play activity once during the semester where students will play the role of theorists who we've read and either engage in debate with each other or serve as "expert witnesses" before a mock Board of Education.

        Responses: The daily schedule for the syllabus provides details for the assigned responses. Overall, though, they will represent a range of phases so that you can engage with the assigned reading in a variety of ways. Since the class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, if a response is due on a Tuesday, it will take the form of a short paper; if a response is due on a Thursday, it will take the form of a series of discussion questions that you create (but don't answer). Ultimately, the goal for the course is for you to be able to understand, analyze, and apply theoretical texts. However, I want to take that one step at a time. Each third of the course (based on a different question related to reading, i.e. Why, What, and How We Read) will ask you to take your responses in somewhat different directions. We'll start by focusing just on understanding and analyzing the assigned text. Then we'll shift into connecting the assigned texts to our educational experiences, and then we'll focus more on applying these texts to texts outside of class.

        Requirements for Responses: Every response should be word-processed (even the questions). The short paper responses should be 1-2 pages, double-spaced. The daily schedule gives you more detailed direction for both the short papers and the questions. Overall, though, keep in mind that the short papers are informal, so that means you don't need a consistent argument, and that you can still be working through your ideas. You're welcome to use first person. However, just because the paper is informal, it should still be evidence that you're thinking in depth about the assigned readings. You should analyze the text closely and clearly; provide textual evidence (like quotes) for what you're saying. If you're unclear about aspects of the writer's argument, it's fine to raise that; you shouldn't feel like you have to have "all the answers." All of the responses will be graded on a check minus/check/check plus system. A missed response will count as a zero. Responses will be collected during class. If you miss class, please email me your response or drop it in the bin on my door (S-335) or in my mailbox on or before that day of class. Responses cannot be made up or revised. I will drop your lowest response grade. When I calculate your overall response grade at the end of the semester, I will certainly consider what your average response grade is, but I will also look at all of your graded responses together as a portfolio. So please keep all of your graded responses together, and use them when you study for the mid-term, plan for class activities and discussion, and brainstorm your final project. At the end of the semester, please turn in all of your graded responses together in a folder, and I will take your progress into account as part of your Responses grade.

        Lion's Den: There will be two Thursdays in April when I will be out of town at a conference, and we will not meet in the classroom. As you'll see from looking at the syllabus, what I would like to do in lieu of face-to-face discussion in class is to respond to the assigned readings on line, in our class' space on the Lion's Den. I'll give you more details during the semester. You'll have a chance to respond to questions from me and to your classmates' posts. Your participation in these two on-line class periods will count towards your regular participation grade. Before April, we will practice this is advance and even look at the website during class to make sure there is no confusion.

 

If class is cancelled: First of all, if the college shuts down due to the weather (or some other reason), there will be an announcement on the main college website (www.raritanval.edu). There will also be a message on their phone system (908-526-1200). I will also send the class an email. I would like to stay on track with the syllabus as much as possible. If the college shuts down, we will try to conduct class in the Lion's Den as much as it is possible. I will email you with instructions. Keep in mind that when in doubt, we will stick to the schedule on the syllabus so that we don't fall behind. 

 

How to prepare for each class:

Your preparation for each class will focus on reading the assigned material carefully and writing the assigned response. Annotate the text as you read; jot down important ideas in the margins. Note what you do not understand. Taking notes as you read will be a big help when you write your response and when you come to class for discussion. The more carefully you have read and the more prepared you are with comments and questions, the easier it will be for you to participate. I am not assigning a significant volume of pages to read. You will generally read two essays for each class. Read them slowly, carefully, and don't be afraid to go back and re-read them. That's exactly what careful readers do. However, when we read the novel, our pace will quicken, so make sure you stay on top of the reading for that.

 

Daily Schedule:

        The following schedule is a general guideline, and it is subject to change. Small assignments may be added.

        The reading assignments and the responses must be done for the day on which they are listed.

        Please bring Falling into Theory to every single class. All readings listed below are from this text, except for Caucasia, which we will read at the end of the semester.

 

Tues., Jan. 31

Introduction to the course

 

Thurs., Feb. 2

Preface (ix-xi)

Introduction (1-13)

Why We Read (15-30)

 

Tues., Feb. 7

Gerald Graff, "Disliking Books at an Early Age" (40-48)

Terry Eagleton, "The Rise of English" (48-59)

Response due: Choose one of these two texts, and explain what you think the writer's argument is. Provide quotes and analysis of those quotes as evidence. Analyze the significance of that argument, and explain whether or not you find the argument convincing. Try to be as specific as possible.

 

Thurs., Feb. 9

Gauri Viswanathan, "Introduction to Masks of Conquest" (60-68)

Response due: Create two discussion questions that would allow your peers to understand and respond to this assigned reading, in the context of "why we read."

 

Tues., Feb. 14

Paulo Freire, "The 'Banking' Concept of Education" (68-78)

bell hooks, "Toward a Revolutionary Feminist Pedagogy" (79-84)

Response due: Write about both of these texts, and analyze the similarities and differences between the two texts. As part of that analysis, explain what you think their arguments are. Provide quotes and analysis of those quotes as evidence. Analyze the significance of their arguments and explain whether or not you find them convincing.

 

Thurs., Feb. 16

Gertrude Himmelfarb, "The New Advocacy and the Old" (84-89)

Richard Ohmann, "The Function of English at the Present Time" (89-95)

Response due: Create two discussion questions where you connect these two readings together; these questions should allow your peers to explore similarities and differences between the two texts and the texts' response to "why we read."

 

Tues., Feb. 21

Simon During, "Teaching Culture" (95-102)

Louis Menand, "The Demise of Disciplinary Authority" (103-111)

Response due: Choose one of these texts and another text read for class (it can be the other one assigned for today or one from a previous class). Analyze the similarities and differences between the two texts. As part of that analysis, explain what you think their arguments are. Provide quotes and analysis of those quotes as evidence. Analyze the significance of their arguments and explain whether or not you find them convincing.

 

 

Thurs., Feb. 23

Review

Bring your Response Portfolio up until this point. It won't be collected, but I will ask you to use it as part of our review.

 

Tues., Feb. 28

Role-play #1 (Half of the class will be active participants in this role-play and will submit a written assignment as part of this exercise. The other half of the class will serve as audience members. Everyone will be asked to submit a follow-up written assignment. Details will be provided.)

 

Thurs., Mar. 2

Mid-term

Follow-up to Role-play #1 due (for everyone in the class)

 

Tues., Mar. 7

What We Read (121-136)

Jane Tompkins, "Masterpiece Theater: The Politics of Hawthorne's Literary Reputation" (137-147)

Response due: Analyze how Tompkins' argument relates to your own reading experience (either in school or out of school). Provide specific evidence from the assigned text, as well as specific examples from your experience. Make sure it's clear what you think her argument is.

 

Thurs., Mar. 9

Barbara Herrnstein Smith, "Contingencies of Value" (147-152)

Lillian S. Robinson, "Treason Our Text: Feminist Challenges to the Literary Canon" (152-166)

Response due: Create two discussion questions where you connect these two readings together; these questions should allow your peers to explore similarities and differences between the two texts and their response to "what we read." Either one or both questions should encourage students to think about connections between the assigned texts and their own reading experience.

 

Tues., Mar. 14

Henry Louis Gates, "Canon-Formation, Literary History, and the Afro-American Tradition: From the Seen to the Told" (174-182)

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, "From Epistemology of the Closet" (182-188)

Response due: Analyze how one of these writers' arguments relates to your own reading experience (either in school or out of school). Provide specific evidence from the assigned texts, as well as specific examples from your experience. Make sure it's clear what you think the essay's argument is.

 

Thurs., Mar. 16

Edward W. Said, "The Politics of Knowledge" (188-198)

Janice A. Radway, "Introduction to A Feeling for Books" (198-210)

Response due: Create two discussion questions where you connect these two readings together; these questions should allow your peers to explore similarities and differences between the two texts and their response to "what we read." Either one or both questions should encourage students to think about connections between the assigned texts and their own reading experience.

Tues., Mar. 21

No classes: Spring Break

 

Thurs., Mar. 23

No classes: Spring Break

 

Tues., Mar. 28

Alan Purves, "Telling Our Story About Teaching Literature" (210-218)

Harold Bloom, "Elegiac Conclusion" (224-233)

Response due: Analyze how one of these writers' arguments relates to your own reading experience (either in school or out of school). Provide specific evidence from the assigned texts, as well as specific examples from your experience. Make sure it's clear what you think the essay's argument is.

 

Thurs., Mar. 30

Review

Bring your Response Portfolio up until this point. It won't be collected, but I will ask you to use it as part of our review.

 

Tues., Apr. 4

Role-play #2 (The half of the class that were not active participants in the last role-play will be active participants in this role-play and will submit a written assignment as part of this exercise. The other half of the class will serve as audience members. Everyone will be asked to submit a follow-up written assignment. Details will be provided.)

 

Thurs., Apr. 6

How We Read (235-252)

Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author" (253-257)

Follow-up to Role-play #2 due (for everyone in the class)

Response due: Create two discussion questions that encourage your peers to analyze Barthes' text in depth and link it to the notion of "how we read."

 

Tues., Apr. 11

Peter Rabinowitz, "Actual Reader and Authorial Reader" (257-267)

Stanley Fish, "How to Recognize a Poem When You See One" (267-278)

Response due: Choose one of these two assigned texts and apply it to a text we have not read for class (by text, I mean any kind of cultural text, i.e., book, film, short story, poem, TV show, song, package, advertisement, etc.). Make sure it's clear what you think the assigned writer is arguing and then explain what happens when you apply it to "how you read" a text of your choosing.

 

Thurs., Apr. 13

Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, "The Female Swerve" (289-295)

Toril Moi, "From Sexual/Textual Politics" (295-301)

No meeting in the classroom: Log into the Lion's Den for on-line class discussion (no Response due)

 

Tues., Apr. 18

Annette Kolodny, "Dancing through the Minefield" (301-309)

Toni Morrison, "Black Matter(s)" (309-322)

Response due: Choose one of these two assigned texts and apply it to a text we have not read for class (by text, I mean any kind of cultural text, i.e., book, film, short story, poem, TV show, song, package, advertisement, etc.). Make sure it's clear what you think the assigned writer is arguing and then explain what happens when you apply it to "how you read" a text of your choosing.

 

Thurs., Apr. 20

George Levine, "Reclaiming the Aesthetic" (377-390)

Response due: Create two discussion questions that encourage your peers to analyze Levine's text in depth and link it to the notion of "how we read."

Review

Bring your Response Portfolio up until this point. It won't be collected, but I will ask you to use it as part of our review.

 

Tues., Apr. 25

Danzy Senna, Caucasia (1-131; up until "from caucasia with love")

Response due: Analyze the questions "why we read," "what we read," and "how we read" in the context of this novel. Try to get specific by citing a few theorists we've read. How do we apply the theory we've read to this novel? On the other hand, how might we see Senna as a theorist like the others we've read? How is her novel itself theory? These are very complicated questions, so I'm giving you the same questions again when you get closer to the end of the novel.

Bring Falling into Theory

 

Thurs., Apr. 27

Caucasia (135-208; up until "ashes and elbow grease")

No meeting in the classroom: Log into the Lion's Den for on-line class discussion (no Response due).

 

Tues., May 2

Caucasia (209-289; up until "compared to what")

Bring Falling into Theory

Response due: Analyze the questions "why we read," "what we read," and "how we read" in the context of this novel. Try to get specific by citing a few theorists we've read. How do we apply the theory we've read to this novel? On the other hand, how might we see Senna as a theorist like the others we've read? How is her novel itself theory?

 

Thurs., May 4

Caucasia (293-413; finish the novel)

Bring Falling into Theory

Response due: Create two discussion questions that you think will provide us with some kind of closure to the course.

Response Portfolio due

 

Tues., May 9

Student presentations of final project (receive feedback and revise)

 

Thurs., May 11

Student presentations of final project (receive feedback and revise)

 

Tues., May 16

Final paper due in my mailbox or in the bin on my door