Engl 271: Reading and Writing about Texts
Instructor: Dr. Crystal Alberts
Office Hours: M 12:00-1:00; W 12:00-2:00 pm & by appt.
Office: Merrifield 1D
This is an Essential Studies course and will count towards both your Humanities and your Advanced Communication requirements. Essential Studies courses are designed to help students become stronger in areas that have been identified as particularly important for professional, private, and civic life in the 21st century: being able to think and reason well, to communicate effectively, to judge the credibility of information, and to engage in complex and respectful ways with diversity. As an Advanced Communication (A) course, this class is designed to build upon and enhance your writing skills with a particular focus on argumentation, awareness of audience and purpose, as well as rhetorical effectiveness. We will pay special attention to the way that intellectual questions are posed and written about in English Studies.
Language is immensely powerful: it’s able to stir emotions, change minds, influence society, and alter the course of history. But every iota of that power results from the seemingly simple act, repeated over and over with infinite variations, of putting one word, one letter, after another. The academic discipline of English, then, can no more do without a close attention to words and letters than the academic discipline of chemistry can do without a minute understanding of molecules and atoms. This is true no matter what branches of English you might be interested in: linguistics draws scientific and sociological conclusions about the way speakers put one word after another; literary criticism draws artistic and historical conclusions about the ways writers put one word after another; rhetoric and creative writing train writers to create effects by themselves putting one word after another.
This course is the first part of our introduction to the English major, and as such, it will help prepare you for upper-level courses by training you in the close reading of texts – that is, by training you to move beyond the important, but often vague and unsubstantiated reactions we all have to written texts, and to instead analyze the minute linguistic choices writers make in order to elicit those reactions. The course will ask you to read literary texts in more detail than you are likely to have done in the past, and will require you to consider not only the content of those texts (that is, what they say), but also their form (that is, how they say what they say).
If the “reading texts” portion of the course is about analysis, the breaking down of texts into their component parts, the “writing about texts” portion is about synthesis, the putting of those parts back together again in a new way. The course will ask you to practice the sort of expository writing that you’ll eventually do in upper-level courses: it will focus on framing appropriate arguments about literary texts, rather than emotional responses to them; on constructing strong thesis statements which clearly communicate arguments to readers; on arranging arguments and supporting them with textual evidence, a process which works differently in English than it does in some other fields; and on documenting work in MLA style, the most common method of formatting and citing written work in the field of English. We’ll work through a series of both short and formal writing assignments, using prewriting as a means of collecting and assessing literary data; then we’ll draft, conference, and revise those assignments, helping you refine your own use of language as you discuss the usages of other writers.
Kelly J. Mays, The Norton Introduction to Literature, Eleventh Edition (978-0-393-91338-5)
Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (978-0-14-118122-6)
Attendance and Participation (20%)
A discussion class like this one requires active participation from all its members. Please come to class having read and taken notes on the assigned material, and having formed questions or comments about it beforehand. Please contribute actively and consistently to class discussion and group activities; let us hear your opinion about the literature we’re reading, even – and especially! – if you disagree with my interpretations or those of your fellow students.
You may miss three class periods without penalty. More than three unexcused absences will adversely affect this grade; more than six unexcused will result in a failing grade for the course.
Prewriting and Short Writing (20%)
You will be given several minor writing assignments over the course of the term. Some will be prewriting assignments. Typically these will come after we’ve spent a day or two discussing a particular literary element (e.g. plot, narration, setting), and will ask you to thoroughly catalogue how that element works in a piece of literature which we haven’t yet discussed in class. Prewriting assignments will often be followed by short (two-to-three-page) writing assignments. These will ask you to identify patterns, highlights, or anomalies you find in the data you collected during prewriting, and to make a short argument about them.
Prewriting may be informal, but all short writing should be properly formatted and documented (see below). Prewriting will be evaluated solely on its thoroughness; short writing will be evaluated on the strength of its focus, argument, and support. Both will be graded on a full-credit () / three-quarter credit (3/4)/ half-credit (½) / one-quarter (1/4)/ no-credit (nc) basis. Neither may be turned in late, since they are designed in part to help facilitate class discussion.
First Essay (20%, draft due F 10/3, revision due M 10/20)
The first essay will be a whole-text analysis of one of the short stories that we have read. It should be four to six pages long, and properly formatted and documented. Whole-text prewriting for the story of your choice should be turned in alongside the essay proper.
Second Essay (20%, draft due M 11/3, revision due W 11/26)
The second essay will be a whole-text analysis of one of the poems that we have covered. It should be four to six pages long, and properly formatted and documented. Whole-text prewriting for the poem of your choice should be turned in alongside the essay proper.
Third Essay (20%, due W 12/17 by Noon)
The third essay will make an argument about one of the longer works that we have covered in a critical context. It should be six to eight pages long, and properly formatted and documented. Prewriting for the work, as seen in the critical context of your choice, should be turned in alongside the essay proper.
Formatting and Documentation of Written Work
All written work should be in twelve-point Times New Roman font and double-spaced. Margins should be 1” to 1.25”. The author’s last name should appear next to a page number in the upper-right-hand corner on all pages after the first.
All short writing assignments and major essays must be properly documented in MLA style, meaning that they should include both in-text parenthetical citations and a list of works cited (please place this list a few lines after the end of an essay, rather than on a separate sheet of paper). You must include such documentation even if your only source is the story or poem being analyzed. The Norton Introduction to Literature explains MLA style in chapter 38, “Quotation, Citation, and Documentation.” Undocumented written work is guilty of plagiarism, and will receive a failing grade.
Prewriting and short writing, as noted above, may not be turned in late. Major essays will be penalized 1/3 of a letter grade for each day they are late.
All three major essays must be completed in order to pass the course.
UND’s academic catalog dictates that “Students are expected to maintain scholastic honesty. Scholastic dishonesty includes but is not limited to cheating on a test, plagiarism, and collusion. . . . Plagiarism means the appropriation, buying, receiving as a gift, or obtaining by any means another person’s work and the unacknowledged submission or incorporation of it in one’s own work. This includes appropriation of another person’s work by the use of computers or any other electronic means. Collusion means the unauthorized collaboration with another person in preparing written work offered for credit. For detailed policy statements and procedures dealing with scholastic dishonesty, see the Code of Student Life, section 3.”
Any plagiarized work submitted for the course will receive a failing grade.
Students with Disabilities
If you have emergency medical information to share with me, need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, or need disability accommodations in this course, please make an appointment with me. If you plan to request disability accommodations, you are expected to register with Disability Services for Students, 190 McCannel Hall, 777-3425 (v/tty).
(subject to change)
8/29 Fiction: Reading, Writing, Responding: [NIL 12-31]; Theme: [NIL 384-388]; Setting: [NIL 253-259]; Cultural Contexts: [NIL 648-652]; Glaspell, “A Jury of Her Peers” [NIL 666-681]
9/1 NO CLASS-LABOR DAY
9/3 Plot: [NIL 82-89]; Glaspell, “A Jury of Her Peers” [NIL 666-681]
9/5 Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper [NIL 655-666];
9/8 Narration and Point of View: [NIL 161-165]; Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper [NIL 655-666];
9/10 Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper [NIL 655-666]; Kincaid, “The Girl” [NIL 171-172];
short writing due
9/12 Character: [NIL 181-188]; Morrison, “Recitatif” [NIL 201-215];
9/15 Morrison, “Recitatif” [NIL 201-215];
9/17 Writing about Literature; Paraphrase, Summary, Description; The Elements of the Essay; The Writing Process [NIL 2269-2294]; Quotation, Citation, and Documentation [NIL 2309-2320];
9/19 Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily” [NIL 730-736]
9/22 Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily” [NIL 730-736]
9/24 Critical Contexts: [NIL 736-759]; Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily” [NIL 730-736]
9/26 Critical Contexts: Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily” [NIL 730-736]
short writing due
9/29 Critical Contexts: Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily” [NIL 730-736]
10/1 Campbell, “Family Reunion” [handout]
10/3 Essay #1 Due
10/6 Poetry: Reading, Responding, Writing: [NIL 846-867]; Speaker: [NIL 884-893]; Setting/Situation: [NIL 915-929]; Komunyakaa, “Tu Do Street” [NIL 899-900]
10/8 Theme/Tone: [NIL 947-952]; Language [NIL 975-982]; Knight, “Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane” [NIL: 953-955]
10/10 Visual Imagery [NIL 990-998]; Symbol [NIL 1003-1009]; Sound [NIL 1015-1026]; External Structure [NIL: 1075-1087]; Dunbar, “We Wear the Mask” [NIL 1343]; Harwood, “In the Park” [NIL 1099]
10/13 Internal Structure [NIL 1050-1059]; Harlem Renaissance [NIL: 1265-1274]; Dunbar, “We Wear the Mask” [NIL 1343]; Cullen, “Yet Do I Marvel” [NIL 1275];
short response due
10/15 Cullen, “Yet Do I Marvel” [NIL 1275]; McKay, “The Harlem Dancer,” [NIL 1281-1282]
10/17 Hughes, “The Weary Blues” [NIL 1277-1278], “I, Too” [NIL 1279], “Harlem” [NIL 1277]
10/20 Johnson “From the preface to The Book of American Negro Poetry” [NIL 1283-1284]; Locke “From The New Negro” [NIL 1284-1288]
Revision of Essay #1 Due
10/22 Johnson “From the preface to The Book of American Negro Poetry” [NIL 1283-1284]; Locke “From The New Negro” [NIL 1284-1288]
10/24 Johnson “From the preface to The Book of American Negro Poetry” [NIL 1283-1284]; Locke “From The New Negro” [NIL 1284-1288]
short writing due
10/27 Mos Def, “Hip Hop” [NIL 1046-1047]; Betts, “Switch” [handout]
10/29 “Hip Hop,” Dead Prez (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jNyr6BJZuI),
“Fight the Power,” Public Enemy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnS53fNfpkE )
10/31 Toby Keith, “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruNrdmjcNTc), “Uncle Sam Goddamn,” Brother Ali, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO18F4aKGzQ)
11/3 Drama: Reading, Responding, Writing: [NIL 1380-1383] Elements of Drama: [NIL 1438-1447]; Cultural Contexts: [NIL 1900-1910; 1974-1997]
Essay #2 Due
11/5 A Raisin in the Sun [NIL 1910-1974]
11/7 A Raisin in the Sun [NIL 1910-1974]
11/10 Cultural Contexts: [NIL 1997-2002]; A Raisin in the Sun [NIL 1910-1974]
11/12 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, pp. vii-viii, 3-37
11/14 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, pp. 37-81
11/17 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 81-126
11/19 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Part 2
11/21 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Part 3
11/24 Finish One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
11/26 SCREENING: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Revision of Essay #2 Due
The Elements of Film [handout];
11/28 NO CLASS--THANKSGIVING
12/1 SCREENING: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
12/3 SCREENING: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
12/5 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
short writing due
12/8 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
12/10 LAST DAY OF CLASS
12/17 Final Paper Due in my mailbox in Merrifield 110 by noon.