Tuesday, August 28, 2007


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English 201: Reading and Writing About Texts
Fall 2007
George Mason University

Professor Andy LaRaia
Section 033 Mondays 7:20 - 10:00 PM /Robinson A107
PHONE/ EMAIL: (202) 253-5725 / alaraia@gmu.edu
OFFICE HOURS: 6:00 - 7pm, Robinson A455

Course Descriptions and Goals:
English 201 is an introduction to literature that emphasizes the close analysis of imaginative, literary texts. The mission of the class is to promote careful reading and clear, analytical writing. You will gain a clear understanding of how to interpret literature, and then of how to construct a clear, logical, critical response to that same literature. That is the nuts and bolts description of the class, and while an apt description, I anticipate that this class will do much more than teach you the fundamentals of how to read and write. Start thinking now about the nature of literature and what makes it not just stories and poems, but an art form that provides innumerable experiences for the “viewer” and accomplishes more in terms of appreciation and pleasure than practically any other form of art. Your job will be to look at literature for what it offers in the way of exploration, instruction, emotion, and more. I want you to learn to respond and react to literature in intelligent and thoughtful ways, and to go beyond being a reader, and learn to appreciate literature and the art of storytelling. When you leave this class at the end of the semester, you should not only know what good literature is, but why it is good, and what makes it good.

Subsequently, if you dislike the literature, you will be able to say why in an intelligent manner. Thus, you can engage in the great dialog about what art is, what makes it art, and what makes it not good or bad, but worthy of debate and rumination and gives it “staying power and “life.”

In order to participate in such an undertaking, much of our study and discussion will focus on the elements of literature. Close examination of ideas like character, theme, and symbol will be an essential aspect of your study. We will strive to develop a working knowledge of literary terminology in order to strengthen our ability to discuss and write about literature. Likewise, you will learn to engage both in intelligent discussion and dynamic, critical writing. I anticipate lively discussion and vigorous debate out of which will come the intellectual goods you will employ in your writing projects. Writing about literature can take various forms, but you will focus on critical analysis. Critical analysis involves arguing a point about literature and focuses on a thesis and the process of proving it through a careful presentation of textual evidence. You will practice strategies for selecting and focusing on a topic, collecting evidence, writing, revising, and editing in order to develop a style and a voice.

Required Materials and Texts:
• The Seagull Reader: Stories, Ed. Joseph Kelly
• The Seagull Reader: Poems, Ed. Joseph Kelly
• Essential Literary Terms: A Brief Norton Guide With Exercises, Sharon Hamilton
• Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon
• A Play (TBD)
• Reading Journal

Course Requirements:
You are expected to read all assigned texts thoroughly and exhaustively. You should also read actively—that is to say with a pen in hand—in order to be able to engage in discussion and return to the text for reference. You are responsible for taking quizzes, announced and surprise, as well as in and out of class writing exercises. You will be responsible for presenting to the class on various literary elements. There will be mid-term and final evaluations, the nature of which to be discussed closer to the dates. And, of course there will be three major essays, and various smaller-scale writing assignments. Finally, you will be a required to keep a reading journal. You are required to make three or four journal entries per week, and you should us this journal to prepare for class discussions and for writing your papers. I will randomly collect your reading journals as well as your various writing assignments, so please, stay on top of things and be current in your work.

Participation in class activities, peer reviews, and discussions: 5 points.
Peer reviews will take place on the day an essay is due, or one week prior. Details will be discussed prior to any peer review date.

Quizzes and in and out of class writings: 10 points.

Presentations: 10 points.

Reading Journals: 10 points.
Three or four entries per week. Use your reading journal to prepare for class discussions, to record ideas for your papers, to gauge your reactions to the works, or to record the creative inspirations the works we study may give you. I have every intention that, in your semester with me, we will endeavor to write, and in writing to become writers. To that end, you have to write, really put the idea into practice. So, aside from the formal papers we will do, I want you to engage in the practice. Your journal can be whatever you want it to be—creative, a place to practice for your formal papers, whatever. I just want you engaged in the craft and taking yourself seriously as a person that communicates freely and expressively through words. You journal should help you begin to hear your own voice and recognize it on paper

Essay 1, Essay 2, Essay 3: 10 points, 15 points, 20 points, respectively.
Papers will be three-to five pages each. The essays will be, as I said before, critical analyses. As we get closer to the due dates, I will distribute guidelines and submission standards. Remember, these papers are critical arguments, not plot summaries. Your papers will be directly based on the study of the selected works and the literary elements that have formed the basis of most of our discussions. There will be no need to consult secondary sources for your papers, as I am interested in your ideas and your ability to expand on the work we do together in class.

Mid-term and Final Exam: 10 points each, respectively.

Class Participation:
You are wholly responsible for the intellectual, critical, analytical, and creative energy of the class. I would much rather listen to your thoughts and ideas than to my own lectures. As students, you are responsible for the discussions and the points that we bring up. This means you will be careful and close readers, and will engage thoroughly with the readings before class meetings and come to class prepared to not only post your own ideas and interpretations for debate, but also to listen to your classmate’s theories and to engage in discussion of those ideas as well.

In order to have a class that is lively and engaging, your attendance and participation is a must. You will be expected to participate in group activities (presentations and discussions), in-class writing exercises, and to take quizzes, both announced and surprise. Obviously, in order to do well in the class, your presence and participation is a must.

Students will also be asked to present to the rest of the class. These presentations will be based on the various literary elements and will be used to enhance our understanding of the stories and poems we are discussing for that class meeting. These presentations will be building blocks for our formation of theories about the literature and the elements as well as viable thesis statements and supporting evidence.

Much of what we generate in our discussions will become fodder for the papers you are going to write, so again, your presence and participation are essential to your success. Will we also engage in peer review sessions in order to help each other in our quest to become better writers. Your lack of participation in review sessions will not only diminish your grade, but possibly your classmates’ as well. Please also expect to bring written responses to classes, to questions I have assigned prior to the class meeting.

Course Policies:
1. Be on time
2. Bring your full game, and be ready to engage, discuss and listen. Bring your relevant Seagull Reader, your Essential Literary Terms book, reading journal and assignments to every class. Be ready to be fully intellectually present
3. I will not accept work by email, unless directly told to submit it to me as such. Papers and assignments are due on the day I tell you they are due. Late papers will not accepted, unless I state otherwise to you directly. If there are extenuating circumstances, an emergency, etc. please contact me directly and as soon as possible
4. Please attend every class. If you must miss a class, please communicate with me as soon and early as possible. You will responsible for the assignments and readings of the class you miss.
5. All work done outside of class must be typed
6. Attend all classes, take notes, contribute to discussions and ask questions, and keep up with the readings. The schedule will change, I’m sure, so please be in class to keep up with what is happening
7. Extra Credit: there will be opportunities for extra credit, so please feel free to inquire, or if you see an opportunity that is relevant, let me know.

Statement on Plagiarism:
From the GMU English Department: Plagiarism means using the exact words, opinions, or factual information from another person without giving that person credit…Plagiarism is the equivalent of intellectual theft and the can not be tolerated in the academic setting.

In other words, passing off someone else’s work, either in paraphrase or word for word, is theft. In fact, as a student, there is really nothing more dishonest that you could do. Cheating is cheating, regardless of the form it takes. GMU has access to software that makes the detection of plagiarism a simple task, so please don’t cheat yourself or me. If I do catch you, it is my duty to turn the matter over the university’s Honors Committee, and the penalty can range from a zero for the course to expulsion from school. For information on GMU’s Honor Code, please refer to the Course Catalog. For information on how to avoid plagiarism, see me and we can discuss. Bottom line: it’s not worth it. I am very keen to hear what you think, and an original thought will always trump a perfectly crafted sentence. Speak in your own voice and express yourself honestly. That is where the good grades will be made.

NOTE: The GMU Writing Center is an excellent resource. Located in Robinson A114, the Writing Center can provide invaluable help to students with all aspects of composition. I may suggest or require you to visit the Writing Center to address some aspects of your writing.

Students with Academic Needs:
Students with documented disabilities are legally entitled to certain accommodations in the classroom. Please see me as soon as possible so I can be sure that your needs are met. The Disability Resource Center is located in Student Union Building 1, Room 222. Phone: (703) 993-2474.

Tentative Schedule:
(Please note: this is a very tentative schedule. Expect assignments to change, though you will always have sufficient advance notice and plenty of time to be ready for class.)

August 27:
Introductions; syllabus dissection; Q&A; in-class writing; elements presentations assignments; story or writing assignments for next week
Questions: What is literature? What makes for good literature?
What makes for good writing?

1. 1st Element: PLOT
2. William Faulkner “A Rose for Emily”
3. Kate Chopin “The Story of an Hour”
4. Joyce Carol Oates “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

September 3: Labor Day Holiday

September 10: What is Literature? Interpreting Literature. Evaluating Literature. Reading Literature: the methods. Writing about literature: the methods and the purposes. The thesis and the rest of the writing process
Discuss PLOT and HW stories

1. 2nd Element: CHARACTER
2. James Joyce “Araby”
3. John Updike “A&P”

September 17:
Discuss CHARACTER and HW stories
In class: Thesis statement work

1. 3rd Element: SETTING
2. Tillie Olson “I Stand Here Ironing”
3. Sherman Alexie “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”
4. John Cheever “The Swimmer”
5. Fall for the Book

September 24:
Discuss Setting and HW Stories

1. 4th Element: POINT OF VIEW
2. Wright “Big Black Good Man
3. EA Poe “The Cask of Amontillado”
4. William Faulkner “ A Rose for Emily”

October 1:
Discuss Point of View and HW Stories

1. 5th Element: STYLE AND LANGUAGE (Imagery, Metaphor, etc.)
2. 6th Element: SYMBOL
3. Flannery O’Conner “A Good Man is Hard to Find”
4. Tim O’Brien “The Things They Carried”
5. Ernest Hemingway “Hills Like White Elephants” (you might also want to read “A Clean, Well Lighted Place”)
6. John Steinbeck “The Chrysanthemums”
7. Alice Walker “Everyday Use”
8. Shirley Jackson “The Lottery”

October 8: No Class: Columbus Day. According to the Schedule of Classes, all Monday classes and labs will meet Tuesday, October 9th, same room and same time.

October 9:
Discuss Style and Language and Symbol / HW Stories

1. 7th Element: THEME
2. Eudora Weltly “A Worn Path”
3. Raymond Carver “Cathedral”
4. John Cheever “The Swimmer”
5. Frank O’Connor “Ghosts of the Nation”
6. Katherine Mansfield “ Miss Brill”

October 15:
Discuss Theme and HW Stories
Poetry Introduction
Understanding poetry, defining poetry, recognizing styles of poetry, theme in poetry, reading and writing about poetry

1. 8th Element: VOICE, TONE, FORM
2. Poems TBD

October 22:
Discuss HW Poems and Element: Voice ,Tone, Form

1. 9th Element: IMAGERY (though, I’m sure it’s come up by now!)
2. Poems TBD

October 29:
Discuss Homework Poems and Imagery

2. Poems TBD

November 5:
Discuss Homework Poems and Figures of Speech
Final Poetry Element: THEME—in class discussion
Introduction: ‘Coming of Age’: Literature of Personal Change
The Novel: Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon

Begin reading Wonder Boys

November 12: ‘Coming of Age’: Literature of Personal Change
Introduction to Modern American Fiction
Introduction to our Theme: ‘Coming of Age’

November 19: Wonder Boys

November 26: Wonder Boys

December 3: Wonder Boys

December 10: Drama/ Revisit Short Stories and Poems

December 17: Drama/ Revisit Short Stories and Poems

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