ENGLISH 124 - College Writing: Writing and Literature
Section: 030
Term: WN 2009
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Credits:
4
Requirements & Distribution:
FYWR
Repeatability:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

This course, designed to introduce students to college-level writing through engagement with literature, will question the ways in which we presume to divide past and present, traditional and modern, by focusing on our perception of “Victorian.” As much as “Victorian” may seem synonymous with old-fashioned, a number of Victorians are quite fashionable at this present moment. Indeed, perspectives uttered by distinctive nineteenth-century personalities such as Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde enter into current public discourses on the cultural obsession with marriage (despite major changes in dating, or “courtship,” as Victorians would call it) and the role of politics in sex, especially as technological changes in communication have changed the ways in which we meet and interact with each other.

Everyone assumes that they know how to read, but college courses demand critical readers—readers who read not only for comprehension, but to examine the forms and structures of expression, as well as consider its purposes and uses, in order to construct their own interpretations.

In this class, we will first analyze Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Oscar Wilde’s plays, The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband. In addition, we will examine, simultaneously, modern invocations, adaptations, interpretations, and revisions of these Victorian works. Analyzing Victorian works in our own contemporary context will allow us to challenge what we presume and privilege as distinctively “modern” and consider what is at stake in this definition.

We will end the academic term by reading selections from a variety of Victorian texts (essays, poetry, and even household guides) in order to examine the inter-connected discourses and ideologies of gender and domesticity that we have adopted and adapted from the nineteenth century, despite our claims to newness, uniqueness, and modernity. From wedding mania to “desperate” or “real” housewives to Martha Stewart, we cannot deny that the Victorian legacy of naturalizing women’s place and duty in the home continues to have its hold over us so-called moderns. The goals of the course require us to direct our research and analysis both ways—to allow our analysis of Victorians to inform our understanding of modern culture, and then to apply this understanding to more precise insights on the issues that also preoccupied our nineteenth-century predecessors.

The writing requirements for this course are very demanding, though each major assignment will be drafted once, and critiqued thoughtfully by your peers (or myself) before you submit it for a grade. Although from the first day you will be examining texts closely and formulating your own interpretations, we will tackle the process of writing step by step. We will learn how to write primarily by writing, and examining each other’s writing, on the texts and films we will discuss over the course of the academic term. Much of class time will be devoted to analysis of each other’s work in order to learn the important steps to writing critical papers. Because much of the content for writing lessons will be generated by each other, it is absolutely important to be open to critique, but also remain considerate and respectful to each other’s efforts, approaches, opinions, and feelings: we are all in this together.

I have ordered two writing and research guides for the course. You will be assigned selections from A Short Guide to Writing about Literature in order to introduce you to the elements of literary criticism, which will prepare you to take on the first major assignment, an analytical essay on Pride and Prejudice. Towards the second half of the academic term, in preparation for your research project, you will be assigned readings from They Say / I Say, which takes the skills you have gained in analysis and argumentation to the next level. Academic writing is not simply stating an argument, perspective, or opinion, but to enter into a public dialogue. For the research project, you will articulate your own argument about an issue or phenomenon by researching and critiquing other perspectives. The final assignment of the course will ask you to analyze or create adaptations of works studied in the second half of the academic term, thereby incorporating the central issue of the course. The written assignments, which will exercise your responsive, analytical, creative, and research skills, necessarily reflect the comparative approach of the course. Simply put, we will not analyze literature in isolation, but in the context of our own cultural moment, informed, nevertheless, by a history that we cannot usually get past.

Texts. At Shaman Drum:
  • Pride and Prejudice (Oxford World Classics), Jane Austen
  • The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays (Oxford World Classics), Oscar Wilde
  • A Short Guide to Writing about Literature (11th ed.), Sylvan Barnet and William E. Cain
  • They Say / I Say, Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein
At Accu-Copy: The coursepack will be ready for you to pick up by the end of September at Accu-Copy, located on E. William St. (between Campus Barbers and Cottage Inn).   Over the academic term, I may also add a few, short supplementary readings (not necessarily marked on the syllabus).

ENGLISH 124 - College Writing: Writing and Literature
Schedule Listing
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TuTh 8:30AM - 10:00AM
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MWF 9:00AM - 10:00AM
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