English 3150 — Approaches to Literary Study

Dr. Kim De Vries
Office Hours: Tues., 1-1:45 and by appt.
Office: Library 195N
kdevries at csustan dot edu

Important Notices about furlough and H1N1 Flu


For the past 10 years the CSU system has suffered chronic under-funding.  This year, because of the state economic crisis, the budget cuts are draconian, $584 million, the worst ever in decades.  The CSU administration is attempting to manage these cuts by dramatically increasing student fees and by furloughing almost all University employees, including faculty, staff, and administrators.   A furlough means mandatory un-paid days off for employees; there are 18 of these this year for faculty.

For students this means that on some days the campus will be closed.  The library will have shorter hours and many campus support services will be decreased or eliminated. It will, for example, be more difficult to get signatures to meet deadlines. Some classes you need may have been cut from the class schedule or are full.

The days when I’m forced to cancel class because of the furloughs are marked on your syllabus below.  These days off are not holidays; they are a very concrete example of how budget cuts have consequences.

H1N1 Flu

If you develop symptoms of H1N1 influenza (swine flu), which are: fever and cough or sore throat, along with fatigue and feeling ill, DO NOT come to class. Contact me by email or phone and I will excuse you and make arrangements for you to complete assignments. The H1N1 flu is very contagious; however, it is almost always associated with significant fever (over 100.5 Fahrenheit), so if you don’t have a fever and feel up to it, you may come to class. I encourage everyone to get the vaccine, which is just coming out. Make sure it’s the vaccine that covers H1N1 flu. If you do get the flu, once your fever has been gone for 24 hours, you should no longer be contagious, and may attend class. Also, wash your hands!

General Overview and Goals:

This course is designed to be an introduction to upper-division English studies.  The course will focus on some major literary genres: poetry and fiction.  We will study not only written texts in these genres, but also oral performances, films, graphic novels, and digital literature. At the end of this course you should be better prepared to read, think, and write about literature.  Our specific goals will be to:

  • Become skilled at reading texts (in various media) at many levels (as symbolic, social, personal, etc.).
  • Learn and become comfortable with literary terms and scholarly language.
  • Develop our formal essay-writing skills through drafting, editing, and peer review workshops.
  • Become familiar with MLA formatting and documentation.
  • Gain experience with literary research and with incorporating secondary materials into our work.
  • Begin the study of literary theory.


I expect you to attend class and to be on time every day, and I expect each student to contribute to class discussions and workshops.  I expect you to bring the required materials and complete any assignments due each day.  Because life occasionally takes precedence over school, you will be allowed one absence during the semester.  Use your absence wisely.  Your participation grade will drop by 1/3 a grade for each additional absence.  You are responsible for ALL assignments whether you attend class or not. (In case of family emergencies or extended illness, contact me and be prepared to show official documentation.  No matter what the circumstances, you are responsible for doing all the work for this course.  If there are compelling reasons, I may agree to a late withdrawal up to, but no later than, the ninth week.  Under the narrowest of criteria, I will assign an Incomplete.  I WILL NOT change a course to C/NC after the census date for any reason.)

Required Texts:

  • Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1
    Cory Doctorow, Little Brother
  • Terry Eagleton, Introduction to Literary Theory — an older edition free online, supplemented with addenda from the newer edition.
  • I will also be giving you other short readings as links or texts hosted here.


M. H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms, 8th edition (or a similar glossary)
The Longman Concise Companion  (or a similar grammar)
A Good Dictionary

Assignments and Grading:

Poetry/Drama Essay                            25% This assignment cut as part of the mandatory 10% work reduction.
Media/Literature Essay                       33%
Theory Essay                                          33% Participation and Engagement in Writing Process    33%

You will turn in your essay drafts on your blog and your final drafts on your blog and here as well.  Drafts should have comments from classmates and/or me, and all process materials (free-writing, notes, etc, all given a tag in common with the draft and final version).

Poetry/Drama Essay (4-5 pages):
For this essay you must develop your own thesis based on a single poem, selected poems from a single writer, or a small collection of poems from different writers.  This paper does not require additional research.  The goal of this assignment is to practice your close reading and analytical skills and to begin using literary terms in your writing. DUE October 7TH.

Media/Literature Essay (5-6 pages):
For this essay you will develop your own thesis related to a course text.  Your job will be to develop an interesting, arguable thesis and to develop an original, well-supported, well-structured essay out of that thesis.  This can be an analytical or a research essay, and so you might include secondary sources.  If you choose the research option, some of your sources may be historical, biographical, or sociological in nature, and at least two must be relevant critical essays.  The goal of this assignment is to learn how to develop an original idea out of a general topic, to learn how to do literary analysis/research, and to improve your analytical and writing skills.  Draft one due Oct. 6th; Final Draft due Nov. 3rd.

Theory Essay (6-8 pages):
This is also a research essay.  Your job will be to develop a focused, arguable thesis and an interesting, original essay using one primary text, or a combination of texts, and secondary critical and theoretical sources.  The goal of this assignment is to practice working with new ideas as you continue to develop your research, analytical, and writing skills.  Due Dec. 1st.

Revision Option:
If you choose, you may revise one of your essays.   I will not reconsider papers that have been minimally reworked.  The revised paper must take into consideration my comments, and both surface errors and deeper structural or logical problems must be corrected.  Due Dec 10th.

Revision Essay:

You will examine your essay, and, in a comment on that entry, you will jot down some explanation of issues I noted needed work and how you will address them.  If this comment is not added to the essay you plan to revise, I WILL DROP THE GRADE ON THE REVISION BY ONE FULL GRADE. I will calculate the letter grades on essays according to the following scale:

A / A-:    Original and interesting ideas.  Clear thesis.  Points well developed.  Effective use of evidence.  Strong, logical organizational structure.  Very well edited. Accurate and consistent use of MLA documentation, useful and relevant linking to other sites.

B+ / B / B-:      Some original ideas.  Clear thesis.  Most points developed.  Some effective use of evidence.  Good organizational structure.  Well edited.  Attempted use of MLA documentation, attempt at relevant linking.

C+ / C / C-:    Original thought noticeable.  Ambiguous thesis.  Some points developed.  Evidence presented, but not always well integrated.  Perceptible organizational structure.  Adequately edited. Use of some form of documentation. Irrelevant or broken links.

D+ / D / D-:    Scarcity of original ideas.  Unclear thesis.  Points not well developed.
Ineffective use of evidence.  Poorly organized.  Poorly edited. No clear documentation, no links.

F:    Lack of original ideas.  Indeterminate thesis.  Points undeveloped.  No evidence presented.  Lack of organizational structure.  Poorly edited. No clear documentation, no links.

Failure to post an assignment will result in an “F” for that grade.  Late post will not be accepted.

Keep a file of each version of your work on your computer until the semester is over.

Please DO NOT email me to ask what grades you received. They will be posted in myCSUSTAN at the end of term.

Academic Honesty:
All work you turn in for this class must be your own and must be original work written for this class only.  Plagiarism (turning in written work that is, in part or in whole, not your own) is strictly forbidden.  I will  check any paper I find suspicious on turnitin.com and other plagiarism-detection sites.  The penalty for  plagiarism will be an “F” on the paper and failure of the course.  I will also notify the Office of Student  Affairs about any incident of academic dishonesty.


Week 1:

9/15– Introduction to class. What is literature? Why do we study it? Discuss this in class, along with the kinds we all love and hate. Blogs set up, discussion Groups formed.

9/17– Begin posting both text and images. First post with your own ideas about literature, especially what you like and why. Comment on the “3150 Student Blogs” post with your own URL. In class– We’ve read the first few pages of Eagleton, Chapter 1. According to Eagleton, the Romantic notion of Literature as being properly about the imaginary rather than the real, is closely connected to the rise of industrialism.  In our own culture, are there examples of films or texts that seems to be valued because they are removed from reality, or devalued because they are too tied to contemporary events?  Or what do we now think about the relationship of literature to real life? Why do you prefer one or the other?

Week 2

9/22–Introduction to Literary Theory, Terry Eagleton. Finish Chapter 1, and read Chapter 2 as well. Then read some poetry: Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky, by Sharif Ezzat; Imagine the Angels of Bread, by Martin Espada

9/24– Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog This is a very fictional, unrealistic bit of drama in it’s science fictional elements.  Does it still have something political to say? Are there ways in which it comments on our society?  Point to specific examples in lyrics or visual elements, plot, etc. Read Eagleton Chapter 3 for next Tuesday.

Week 3

9/29 “The Book of Sand,” by Jorge Luis Borges; An illustrated, animated, hypertext puzzle version of the same. “The Circular Ruins” also by Borges.  A performance of the same.  How do you experience the work differently depending on the medium in which it’s presented? Write about 200-250 words in you blog about this, and then add a brief comment to the post on Borges here with what you feel are your most important ideas/questions. Introduction of the first essay.

10/1 Discussion of comparative media. Start drafting your essay.  For next week read Eagleton, Chapter 4, and finish your essay.

Week 4

10/6 Media/Literature Essay, draft one due Workshop in class. Discuss Eagleton, Chapter 4.

10/8 Read Eagleton Chapter 5 and Missolonghi 1824, by John Crowley.  Crowley keeps a blog and often has interesting things to say about writing. Give the protagonist of Crowley’s work, you might also be interested in more information about Lord Byron.

Week 5

10/13 Columbus Day The Information Society: Surveillance Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

10/15 Furlough Day

Week 6

10/20 Discussion of Little Brother.

10/22 New Media Tools available for authors and scholars. “Buffy/Twilight remix,”

Brainstorming about theory essays.

Week 7

10/27  Furlough Day Remix and Mashup Culture: Remix and Remixability, by Lev Manovich (Oct. 2005); “Let’s Do Something Girlie,”

10/29 Creating and Using New Media: “Remixing the Matrix: An Interview with Paul D. Miller, aka DJSpooky.” Remixes at DJ Spooky’s web site — scroll to the bottom of the page to find them.

Week 8

11/3 Work on Remix in class, discuss proposals for the Theory Essay.  You can see some sample proposals I have written here.

11/5 Furlough Day

Week 9

11/10 Proposal for Theory Essay Due

11/12 Media/Literature Essay remix due. We’ll look at these in class and discuss the choices made by each author.

Week 10

11/17 Parts of an essay.  What goes in the intro?  The Conclusion?  How should sources be integrated.  In-class meetings.

11/19 Theory Essay Workshop

Week 11

11/24  Furlough Day

11/26 Thanksgiving

Week 12

12/1 Theory Essay Due Peer feedback.  Blog entry revisiting literature.  Look back on your very first blog entry and then write a new post on those same questions.  What do you think now about how we define literature and about why we study it, what it can teach us. How have your ideas changed?

12/3 Continued discussion of literary studies.  Visit from the graduate school.  Professionalization.

Week 13

12/ 8 Because of the heavy snow and icy conditions, the side roads in Eastern Sonora (where I live) have remained largely impassable.  I had planned today to run a revision workshop to assist those still revising and to further practice literary writing skills. To assist you, here is a post focusing on introductions and conclusions, and on building an argument.  Please look over your essay to see how well your introduction, conclusion, and arguments are working.  Then as a peer to look over your essay with the same question in mind,  and figure out what needs to be improved or developed.  Even if you believe your revision to be complete, this is a useful exercise, both in getting further practice in writing, and also in identifying problem areas and offering concrete assistance for someone else.  Please make sure your thoughts on this and the feedback and suggestions you receive are documented in the comments to your revision by Thursday, when we will indeed have class.

12/10 Revisions due

2 comments for “English 3150 — Approaches to Literary Study

  1. TomWest
    September 15, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Jessie Miles Poblacion

  2. September 16, 2009 at 1:46 pm

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