M A I N * N E W S * L I N K S * R E S E R V E S


SUNY Fredonia
Division of Arts and Humanities
ENGL 345: CRITICAL READING
Fall 2001
Section 2: Thompson E-316, MWF 1-1:50
Office: Fenton 240; MW 2-5, T 1-4, and by appointment; 673-3859
E-mail: bruce.simon@fredonia.edu
Web Page: www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/




About the Course Web Site

This web site is designed to help you get as much out of this course as possible--you can use it to find out how you will be graded, what reading and writing assignments are due and when, how to subscribe to the course listserv for your section, what books are on reserve for your use in Reed Library, and how to use the world-wide web for research. Please take the time over the weekend after the first week of classes to read this page carefully and to familiarize yourself with the other pages for this course. Please get in the habit of checking back to this web site to keep track of changes to the tentative schedule listed in your syllabus and to find advice on papers, as well as to surf the ever-expanding list of links to interesting web pages related to the course. And please contact me anytime (see above for my coordinates) if you have ideas about how to improve these pages or the course as a whole. I hope you enjoy taking this course as much as I enjoy teaching it!

I. Course Description

Focus on helping students develop an awareness of their own acts of interpretation in reading and an understanding of the strengths of different approaches to interpretation and criticism. This section is an introduction to major modes of and issues in literary criticism and literary theory. We will be relating literature, criticism, and theory, but our emphasis will be on understanding, analyzing, evaluating, and working with different modes of reading the world and its texts. We will consider the strengths and weaknesses of several interpretive strategies, their stakes and historical contexts, and their relations to social struggles for dignity, justice, and creativity. The first ("criticism") half of the course will be devoted to debates that have shaped the way we think about the text, the author, the reader, literature, history, and culture and to the way they relate to our own readings of Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness. The second ("theory") half of the course will be devoted to testing the proposition that theorizing can happen in a variety of genres and modes of writing; in it, we will read Bharati Mukherjee's novel The Holder of the World as a theoretical text in dialogue with feminist, new historicist, marxist, and postcolonial studies. This is a core course for students in the English major. Majors and concentrators may take this course for honors credit as part of the Honors Program in the English Department. If you are interested in doing this, please come to my office hours during the first two weeks of classes for more information.

II. Rationale

In ENGL 345, as in most courses offered by the English Department, students from a range of majors, minors, and concentrations interact, and the goals of the professional programs are integrated with specific course goals. Achieving these goals (described in Section IV, below) will require us to foster academic skills and intellectual habits of reading closely and attentively, thinking critically and creatively, listening actively and carefully, speaking thoughtfully and concisely, and writing clearly and analytically--skills and habits of importance to everyone, including Secondary English Education majors. Understanding of key issues in interpretation and criticism, self-awareness about one's own critical or theoretical assumptions, preferences, habits, and values, and knowledge of older and newer modes of criticism and theory, their stakes and historical contexts are essential for English majors but also useful to future teachers, particularly in curriculum development, course design, and lesson planning. In addition, ENGL 345 typically offers an opportunity to gain experience in and insight into collaborative peer teaching, from planning to implementation to reflection (see Sections IV-VI, below).

III. Textbooks. The textbooks adopted for this course are:


IV. Course Objectives and Outcomes

ENGL 345 is designed to help students develop (1) an awareness of their own acts of interpretation in reading and (2) an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to interpretation and criticism. Students will read and think about the assigned literature, criticism, and theory, participate in class discussions and activities, read and write discussion questions on their section's listserv, and read and write informal reflective essays on their section's listserv in order to gain, develop, and demonstrate their emerging awareness and understanding of goals 1 and 2 above. Students will participate in a group pedagogical project in order to further develop and demonstrate their understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of a particular approach to interpretation and criticism (goal 2). Students will propose a topic for, research, and write a final critical/theoretical essay in order to further develop and demonstrate an awareness of their own acts of interpretation in reading (goal 1). (See Section VI, below, for more information on these projects.) Students will thus leave the course with a better ability to recognize, understand, analyze, evaluate, and work with different modes of reading the world and its texts.

V. Instructional Methods and Activities

The methods used in the classroom will include a combination of instructor-led lecture and discussion, with some cooperative group work (typically on Mondays), and student-led discussion activities and collaborative pedagogical projects (typically on Wednesdays and Fridays).

VI. Evaluation and Grade Assignment

A. Methods

Attendance/Preparation/Participation (10%). Regular attendance and thoughtful participation are crucial to your enjoyment of and success in this course. If there is absolutely no way for you to avoid missing a class, you are expected to contact me ahead of time or soon after your absence, preferably by email (see section VIII for more on attendance policies in this course). Even more important than showing up on time, of course, is coming to class prepared and focused. I expect you to read what has been assigned for a given date at least once (and preferably more than that!) by the time we begin to discuss it in class. This is a discussion rather than a lecture course, after all; although I will provide some context and background for our reading, the bulk of class time will be spent in small- or large-group discussions and activities. Since it's difficult to make good contributions to discussions about a literary, critical, or theoretical work if you haven't read it carefully or thought about it extensively, how well you budget your time outside of class will to a large degree determine how well you do in this class in general and how well you do on this portion of your course grade in particular.

Your grade for this segment of the course will be based on a combination of your attendance, the quality of your participation in class and on the class listserv (described below), and your level of preparation over the course of the semester. As there are no tests in this course, think of my evaluation of your preparation/participation as a different but equally important method of assessing your overall performance in the course. Due to the importance of attendance and participation, barring emergencies more than two unexcused absences will hurt your preparation/participation grade and each absence after the third will lower your final course grade by one-third of a grade (e.g., with four absences a B+ will become a B; with six, it will become a C+).

Course Listserv (30%). There will be a course listserv (engl34502@listserv.fredonia.edu) for this section of ENGL 345. This listserv will be your space; I will keep my own input to a bare minimum. Although you may use the listserv in any number of ways, you must use it in the following ways:


Group Pedagogical Project (30%). During the first week of classes, the class will be divided into eight groups. Each group will have the opportunity to decide during what week and on what topic it will do its pedagogical project; each group will be responsible for teaching a given mode of literary criticism or literary theory to the rest of the class over the last two class periods of the week devoted to that interpretive strategy. On Wednesday, your group is responsible for helping your peers better understand the interpretive strategy, in part by demonstrating how it might be used to analyze either Conrad's or Mukherjee's novel (depending on the week your group has chosen). On Friday, your group is responsible for guiding your peers through a consideration of the value of the interpretive strategy, in part by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of readings of either Conrad's or Mukherjee's novel that draw upon it. It is up to your group to decide how best to accomplish these goals. At least one week before your teaching segment is slated to begin, your group must meet with me for feedback and advice on your ideas and plans. At most one week after the conclusion of your teaching segment, your group must turn in a 500-1000-word group-authored reflection on the experience of planning and teaching about your chosen interpretive strategy, and you must also email me a concise self- and group-assessment of the relation between the actual teaching experience and your group's plans and expectations, and of your own contributions to both. Click here for further advice on the group pedagogical project.

Your grade for this segment of the course will be based on a combination of factors: my overall assessment of your group's lesson plan, teaching effectiveness, and commitment to working collaboratively; the quality of the group-authored reflection on your planning and teaching; the honesty and thoughtfulness of your own self- and group-assessment; ratings by your peers of the effectiveness of your group's teaching; and my overall assessment of your individual contributions to the group's efforts and success.

Final Critical/Theoretical Essay (30%). The topic for your 10-15-page critical/theoretical essay is open. A list of suggested topics will be posted on the course web site (see below for link), but students are encouraged to develop their own topics. Whether the topic eventually chosen is instructor- or student-initiated, all students must turn in a 2-3-page research-based proposal before Thanksgiving Break that lays out a compelling justification/rationale for pursuing the project. This will be graded and returned to students after Thanksgiving Break during a conference with the instructor. Please use MLA format for citations and bibliography in both the proposal and the paper.

Your grade for this segment of the course will be based on the strength and persuasiveness of the rationale/justification for the project offered in the proposal; the degree of intellectual and analytical development from proposal to paper; and, on the paper itself, the coherence and validity of the paper's arguments, the effectiveness of the paper's structure in conveying your ideas and convincing your audience, and the quality of the paper's prose (including grammar, syntax, and punctuation). Click here for an assignment sheet for and further advice on the final critical/theoretical essay.

B. Grading. All work during the semester will be graded on a letter basis (A=outstanding, B=good, C=average, D=bad, E=yeesh) and converted into a number for purposes of calculating final grades. I use the following conversion system (the number in parentheses is the "typical" or "normal" conversion, but any number in the range may be assigned to a given letter grade):

A+=97-100 (98); A=93-96.99 (95); A-=90-92.99 (91); B+=87-89.99 (88); B=83-86.99 (85); B-=80-82.99 (81); C+=77-79.99 (78); C=73-76.99 (75); C-=70-72.99 (71); D+=67-69.99 (68); D=63-66.99 (65); D-=60-62.99 (61); E=0-59.99 (55)

Your final grade is determined by converting the weighted numerical average of the above assignments into a letter grade, according to the above scale.

C. Portfolio. English majors should be aware of the English Department's guidelines for ongoing portfolio submissions; it is highly recommended that a paper or other writing from this course be included in your portfolio.

VII. Bibliography

A. Contemporary References

B. Classic References

C. Key Journals



VIII. Course Schedule and Policies

A. Tentative Course Schedule. The following course schedule is subject to revision--please refer here regularly for updates to this schedule, notes on the texts, and suggestions for further reading. Please recall that you need to submit 10 sets of discussion questions and 5 reflective essays to earn an A for those segments of your final grade (see Section VI). (Key: C=Conrad's Heart of Darkness; K=Keesey's Contexts for Criticism; RR=Rivkin and Ryan's Literary Theory: An Anthology.)

Week 1: Who Are We and What Are We Doing Here?
W 8/29/01 welcome, intros, set-up
F 8/31 Donald Keesey, Preface and "General Introduction" (K v-vii, 1-8); Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, Preface (RR x-xii); before coming to class, look up definitions of one critical term and one theoretical movement in C 299-311

Conrad and Literary Criticism

Week 2: Getting Started, Setting Out
M 9/3 Labor Day: No Class
W 9/5 Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness 17-46
F 9/7 Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness 46-71

Week 3: What (or Where) Is the Heart of Darkness?
M 9/10 Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness 71-95; bring favorite listserv question to class
W 9/12 Ross Murfin, "Biographical and Historical Contexts" (C 3-16) and "A Critical History of Heart of Darkness" (C 99-114)
F 9/14 Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness 17-95 (reread in light of Murfin)

Week 4: Complexity and Coherence
M 9/17 Donald Keesey, "Formal Criticism: Poem as Context" (K 71-79); Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, "Formalisms" (RR 3-7)
W 9/19 Boris Eichenbaum, "Introduction to the Formal Method" (RR 8-16); Victor Schlovsky, "Art as Technique" (RR 17-23); Boris Tomashevsky, "Thematics" (RR 24-27); Mikhail Bakhtin, "Discourse in the Novel" (RR 32-44); Roman Jakobson, "Two Aspects of Language" (RR 91-95)
F 9/21 Cleanth Brooks, "Irony as a Principle of Structure" (K 80-87) and "The Language of Paradox" (RR 59-70); Mark Schorer, "Technique as Discovery" (K 97-107)--OPTIONAL, EXTRA-CREDIT CLASS [please read one of these texts carefully for Wednesday's class]

Week 5: Modes of Production and Interpretation
M 9/24 Donald Keesey, "Historical Criticism I: Author as Context" (K 9-16) and "Historical Criticism II: Culture as Context" (K 451-459); Ross Murfin, "New Historicism and Heart of Darkness" (C 221-238)
W 9/26 E.D. Hirsch, "Objective Interpretation" (K 17-28); Alastair Fowler, "Intention Floreat" (K 34-39); Terry Eagleton, "Literature and History" (K 460-467); Stephen Greenblatt, "Culture" (K 477-482); Brook Thomas, "Preserving and Keeping Order by Killing Time in Heart of Darkness" (C 239-257)
F 9/28 Fall Break: No Class.

Week 6: Modes of Reception and Reinscription
M 10/1 Donald Keesey, "Reader-Response Criticism: Audience as Context" (K 139-149); Ross Murfin, "Reader-Response Criticism and Heart of Darkness" (C 115-131)
W 10/3 Louise Rosenblatt, "The Quest for 'The Poem Itself'" (K 150-157); Wolfgang Iser, "Readers and the Concept of the Implied Reader" (K 158-165); Norman Holland, "The Miller's Wife and the Professors: Questions about the Transactive Theory of Reading" (K 166-180); Janice Radway, from Reading the Romance (RR 1042-1049)
F 10/5 Peter Rabinowitz, "Reader Response, Reader Responsibility: Heart of Darkness and the Politics of Displacement" (C 131-147)
Group Pedagogical Project: Erin Carpenter, Dan Miskey, Jessica VanDurme

Week 7: Mimesis and Referentiality
M 10/8 Donald Keesey, "Mimetic Criticism: Reality as Context" (K 203-212)
W 10/10 Robert Alter, "Character and the Connection with Reality" (K 213-225); Josephine Donovan, "Beyond the Net: Feminist Criticism as a Moral Criticism" (K 235-245); Patrick Brantlinger, from The Rule of Darkness (RR 856-867); Edward Said, from Orientalism (RR 873-886)
F 10/12 Johanna Smith, "'Too Beautiful Altogether': Ideologies of Gender and Empire in Heart of Darkness" (C 169-184)
Group Pedagogical Project: Kevin Carey, Emily Mishanec

Week 8: Structure and Intertextuality
M 10/15 Donald Keesey, "Intertextual Criticism: Literature as Context" (K 279-292); Jonathan Culler, "The Linguistic Foundation" (RR 73-75) and "Structuralism and Literature" (K 302-311); Northrop Frye, "The Critical Path" (K 293-301)
W 10/17 Ferdinand de Saussure, from Course in General Linguistics (RR 76-90); Sigmund Freud, from The Interpretation of Dreams (RR 128-150); Claude Levi-Strauss, "The Structural Study of Myth" (RR 101-115)
F 10/19 Patrick Brantlinger, "Heart of Darkness: Anti-Imperialism, Racism, or Impressionism?" (C 277-298)
Group Pedagogical Project: Dan Laurie, Sara LaPorte, Nick Dean

Week 9: Undoing It All?
M 10/22 Donald Keesey, "Poststructural Criticism: Language as Context" (K 371-382); Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, "The Class of 1968--Post-Structuralism par lui męme" (RR 333-357); Ross Murfin, "Deconstruction and Heart of Darkness" (C 185-205)
W 10/24 Friedrich Nietzsche, "On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense (RR 358-361), Martin Heidegger, from Being and Time (RR 368-369); Jacques Derrida, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences" (K 383-394); Paul de Man, "Semiology and Rhetoric" (K 395-404)
F 10/26 J. Hillis Miller, "Heart of Darkness Revisited" (C 206-220)
Group Pedagogical Project: Nancy Dollar, Chris Cartwright

Mukherjee and Literary Theory

Week 10: Starting Over, Settling In
M 10/29 Bharati Mukherjee, The Holder of the World 1-20
W 10/31 Bharati Mukherjee, The Holder of the World 20-47
F 11/2 Bharati Mukherjee, The Holder of the World 47-91

Week 11: Who (or What) Is the Holder of the World?
M 11/5 Bharati Mukherjee, The Holder of the World 92-208
W 11/7 Bharati Mukherjee, The Holder of the World 209-273
F 11/9 Bharati Mukherjee, The Holder of the World 274-286

Week 12: Gender, Sexuality, Patriarchy
M 11/12 Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, "Feminist Paradigms" (RR 527-532); Judith Fetterley, "On the Politics of Literature" (RR 561-569), Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, from The Madwoman in the Attic (RR 598-611)
W 11/14 Gayle Rubin, "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the 'Political Economy' of Sex" (RR 533-560); Teresa de Lauretis, "The Technology of Gender" (RR 713-721)
F 11/16 Audre Lorde, "Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference" (RR 630-636); Adrienne Rich, "The Politics of Location" (RR 637-649); Hortense Spillers, "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Book" (RR 656-672); PROPOSAL for Final Critical/Theoretical Essay due before you leave for Thanksgiving Break
Group Pedagogical Project: Cathy Rodgers, Kristin Fitzgerald, Christina Olson

M 11/19 - F 11/23 Thanksgiving Break: No Classes.

Week 13: History, Historical Fiction, Historicisms
M 11/26 Louis Montrose, "Professing the Renaissance: The Poetics and Politics of Culture" (RR 777-785); Stephen Greenblatt, "Invisible Bullets" (RR 786-803); reread Donald Keesey, "Historical Criticism II: Culture as Context" (K 451-459); Ross Murfin, "New Historicism and Heart of Darkness" (C 221-238)
W 11/28 George Lukács, from The Historical Novel (RR 290-293); Michel Foucault, from Discipline and Punish (RR 464-487)
F 11/30 Eric Sundquist, "Melville, Delany, and New World Slavery" (RR 827-848)
Group Pedagogical Project: Joni Ciehomski, Chuck Wesley, Josh Auflick, Kim Benedetto

Week 14: Interpellation, Hegemony, Capital
M 12/3 Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, "Starting with Zero: Basic Marxism" (RR 231-242); Karl Marx, from Capital (RR 268-276); Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (RR 282-289)
W 12/5 Antonio Gramsci, "Hegemony" (RR 277); V.N. Volosinov, from Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (RR 278-281); Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" (RR 294-304)
F 12/7 Stuart Hall, "The Rediscovery of 'Ideology'" (RR 1050-1064); Slavoj Zizek, from The Sublime Object of Ideology (RR 312-325)
Group Pedagogical Project: Brad Kaye, Josh Machanoff, Frank Zanti

Week 15: The British Empire, Postcolonial Studies, American Literature
M 12/10 Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, "English Without Shadows, Literature on a World Scale" (RR 851-855)
W 12/12 Toni Morrison, "Playing in the Dark" (RR 923-935); Paul Gilroy, from The Black Atlantic (RR 970-977)
F 12/14 Antonio Benítez-Rojo, from The Repeating Island (RR 978-995); Carol Boyce-Davies, "Migratory Subjectivities" (RR 996-1015); Jamaica Kincaid, from A Small Place (RR 1016-1022)
Group Pedagogical Project: Maureen Sercu, Andrea Fiegl, Ryan Geise

Week 16: The End Is Near...uh, Here

I will be available for conferences on your final critical/theoretical essays on Monday and Tuesday during extended office hours (TBA).
M 12/17 (1:30 pm) meet in the regular classroom for pizza and course evaluations
F 12/21 FINAL CRITICAL/THEORETICAL ESSAY due no later than 5 pm

B. Class Policies

1. Attendance. As stated in Section VI above, barring emergencies each absence after the third will lower your final course grade by one-third of a grade (e.g., with five absences a B+ will become a B; with seven, it will become a C+). Be aware that absences due to emergencies are the only absences that will not be counted toward your total for the semester. Emergencies include but are not limited to death in the family, hospitalization or major illness, and natural disasters; scheduled and unavoidable school-sponsored events (games, meets, performances, etc.) are also counted as emergencies for the purpose of this attendance policy.

2. Course Listserv. You are required to subscribe to your section's listserv and to read and think about your peers' observations and discussion questions before each class meeting. To subscribe to your section's listserv, compose an email message to listserv@listserv.fredonia.edu, leave the subject line blank, and write in the body of message: "subscribe engl34502 Your Name". Please be sure to delete any signature or other text that may appear in the body of your message, as it will only confuse the very literal-minded machine that handles subscriptions. Very soon after sending this message, you should receive an email from the machine that handles listserv subscriptions asking you to confirm your subscription; please follow the instructions in this email carefully, as you are not subscribed to the listserv until you have done so. Soon after doing this, you should receive another email message from the machine that handles subscriptions informing you that you are indeed subscribed to your section's listserv and laying out basic information about the listserv. Save this message--it's very useful. Once you get this message, you will begin receiving messages from others who are subscribed to the listserv; you also will be authorized to send messages to them by composing a message to the machine that distributes messages to those who are subscribed to the listserv. To do so, simply send an email message to engl34502@listserv.fredonia.edu. It is highly recommended that you either save a copy of every message you send to the course listserv (many email programs automatically save all messages sent in a "sent mail" folder) or "cc:" yourself whenever you send a message to the listserv, as your listserv participation will be graded both quantitatively and qualitatively (see Section IV, above) and it is possible that technical or human error could result in your messages being lost in transit, accidentally deleted, misfiled, or miscounted. Please familiarize yourself with the college's "Computer and Network Usage Policy" (College Catalog 2001-2003, pp. 227-229), and remember this simple rule of thumb: check with me first before posting something to your section's listserv that is not directly related to the course. This information is repeated in slightly different form on the course listserv page, which also includes troubleshooting advice and an explanation of why we are using a listserv in this course.

3. Late Assignments. Late discussion questions, reflective essays, and final projects will not be accepted or graded. Only students who ask for an extension at least two days before the due date will be granted an extension; asking for an extension on the final project means that your final grade for the semester will be an incomplete (I), and that you must turn in your final project before the end of the following semester so that the I becomes a grade other than an E.

4. Make-up Work. There will be some opportunities for extra credit to make up for absences or missed discussion questions that would jeopardize your passing the course; however, this is a privilege, not a right, and can only be undertaken after consultation with me.

5. Plagiarism and Academic Honesty. To plagiarize is "to steal and pass off as one's own the ideas or words of another" (Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary). SUNY Fredonia strongly condemns plagiarism and takes severe action against those who plagiarize. Disciplinary action may extend to suspension from privileges or expulsion from college. See pages 216 and 226 of the College Catalog 2001-2003 for further information.


M A I N * N E W S * L I N K S * R E S E R V E S



ENGL 345: Critical Reading, Fall 2001
Created: 8/31/01 12:55 pm
Last modified: 12/2/01 8:14 pm