ENGL 170 Fall ’13 Schacht

Need to talk? Make an appointment with me here.

ENGL 170, The Practice of Criticism, is both an introduction to the interpretation and analysis of literature and an inquiry into the abstract principles and assumptions that underlie all efforts to represent the meaning, structure, and value of texts. We’ll interpret and analyze texts from a variety of genres, but we’ll also use these works to gain an appreciation of the way different theoretical starting-points give rise to different, often conflicting, interpretations, analyses, and judgments of value. Examples of such starting-points are the nature of textuality, the nature of authorship, the relationship between literature and life, and the location of textual meaning. The course should help you begin to acquire a working vocabulary for relating meaning and structure in literature, and a corresponding vocabulary for discussing literary theory, that will serve you in every other English course you take.

Learning Outcomes

Individual learning outcomes

Students who have completed English 170 will:

  • be able to interpret and analyze works of literature in accordance with the major conventions of literary criticism;
  • be able to produce short essays in literary criticism that adhere to the conventions of critical writing;
  • have a rudimentary understanding of how literary theory shapes the practice of criticism.

Community learning outcomes

The Engl 170-01 (Fall 2013) community will:

  • produce new knowledge (new for this community) about the nature of literature and literary criticism;
  • share knowledge about literature and literary criticism in accordance with scholarly conventions;
  • discuss and debate ideas about individual literary works and about the nature of literature and literary criticism in ways that respect the diversity of the community.

Requirements

Note: You must complete all assignments to receive a passing grade in this course.

Written texts

  • M.H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms
  • L. Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (online)
  • M. Cunningham, The Hours
  • C. Dickens, The Annotated Christmas Carol
  • G. Graff and C. Birkenstein, They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing
  • V. Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
  • Other readings as indicated on the course schedule.

Films

  • The Hours
  • It’s a Wonderful Life

Papers, exams, and other assignments

Optional project

You may permit 50% of your final exam exam grade (i.e., 10% of your course grade) to be determined by an optional project that explores, examines, or illuminates one or more of the semester’s texts or concepts using means other than the conventional literary essay. Examples of such a project might be:

  • an “explainer” for a concept covered in the course;
  • a contribution to Genetically Modified Literature;
  • a video trailer for a film version of one of the novels;
  • a musical interpretation of a character, situation, or theme from one of the novels;
  • voice-over narration for a segment of an existing film or video version of one of the novels;
  • an audio or video interview with a character from one of the novels.

This is not an exhaustive list; you are welcome to propose other kinds of unconventional project. However, bear in mind the following constraints:

  • The project will be judged by the degree to which it genuinely sheds light or offers meaningful commentary on the text(s) in question. (You may, if you like, provide a written explanation of how it does so.)
  • The project must be approved by me in advance.
  • So that others in the class may view the project, the project must be submitted no later than November 26.
  • To facilitate sharing, you must submit a digital version of any project not created in a digital medium. For example, if you paint in oils, you must submit a high quality photo of your painting together with the original.
  • For team projects, all team members must be listed in the original proposal. Each individual’s contribution to a group project must be clear and distinguishable from those of others in the group.

Students with disabilities

SUNY Geneseo will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented physical, emotional or learning disabilities. Contact Tabitha Buggie-Hunt, Director of Disability Services to discuss needed accommodations as early as possible in the semester.

Exam and paper details

A make-up exam will be administered for medical reasons only. You must supply documentation of all illnesses and accidents. (A note indicating merely that you were seen at the infirmary won’t suffice.) Please do not request special arrangements to alleviate any of the following: a crowded exam schedule; a heavy workload; conflicts with employment, extra-curricular responsibilities, or job-hunting; familial celebrations (e.g., weddings or graduations); crises in other people’s lives (e.g., severe depression of best friend’s roommate); crises in your own life that are a normal and inevitable part of the collegiate experience (e.g., demise of relationship with boyfriend or girlfriend.) Fairness dictates that such accommodations cannot be made for one without being offered to all.

The “due-date” for each of the papers in this class is not a single date but a one-week range during which you may submit your finished work. I grade and return papers in the order in which I receive them, so the earlier you submit, the sooner your work will be returned. Looking at this rubric will give you a good idea of the qualities I’ll be looking for in your essays.

Schedule

August 27 – 29

Tuesday

  • Preliminaries

Thursday

  • What is the Practice of Criticism? (Reading: Poke around in the Practicing Criticism wiki space. Be prepared to discuss what you find.)

September 3 – 5

Tuesday

  • Frye, from “The Educated Imagination” in Readings (Geneseo login required)
  • Poetry by William Blake: “A Divine Image,” “A Poison Tree,” “Earth’s Answer,” “Holy Thursday” (both), “I Saw a Chapel,” “Infant Joy,” “Infant Sorrow,” “London,” “The Chimney Sweeper” (both), “The Divine Image,” “The Garden of Love,” “The Sick Rose,” “The Lamb,” “The Tyger”
  • Poke around the various copies of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience available at the William Blake Archive. Look specifically for some of the poems you read in the list above. Be prepared to talk about what  you find.

Thursday


September 10 – 12

Tuesday

  • Thoreau, “Reading” (from Walden)
  • Bryant, Excerpt “The Fluid Text Moment” in Readings (login required)

Thursday

  • Sontag, “Against Interpretation” in Readings (login required)
  • Graff and Birkenstein, “Preface” through Part 1 (up to p. 53)

September 17 – 19

Tuesday

Thursday

  • Eagleton, “The Rise of English” in Readings (login required)
  • Graff and Birkenstein, Part 2 (pp. 53-103)
  • Shelley
  • McKay
  • Abrams: Sonnet, Convention

September 24 – 26

Tuesday

  • Work on papers

Thursday


October 1 – 3

Tuesday

Thursday

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

October 8 – 10

Tuesday


Thursday

  • Through the Looking-Glass
  • Hardy in Readings (login required)
  • MacIntyre in Readings (login required)

October 17

Tuesday – Fall Break

Thursday

  • Mrs. Dalloway
  • Abrams: Narrative and Narratology

October 22 – 24

Tuesday

Thursday

  • Mrs. Dalloway

October 29 – 31

Tuesday

  • The Hours, novel

Thursday

  • The Hours, novel

November 5 – 7

Tuesday

  • Corrigan, “Writing about the Movies” and “Glossary of Film Terms” in Readings (login required)
  • The Hours, film

Thursday

  • The Hours, film

November 12 -14

Tuesday

  • Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Thursday

  • Dickens, A Christmas Carol

November 19 – 21

Tuesday

  • Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Thursday

  • Dickens, A Christmas Carol

November 26

Tuesday

  • It’s a Wonderful Life

Thursday – Thanksgiving


December 3 – 5

Tuesday

  • It’s a Wonderful Life

Thursday

  • Share optional projects

Final exam

  • Thursday, December 12, 12-3 p.m., Milne 105

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.