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


SUNY Fredonia
Division of Arts and Humanities
ENGL 428: MAJOR WRITERS
Philip K. Dick and Kim Stanley Robinson
Summer 2005 (Session I)
Bruce Simon
Section 1: M-F 10:50-12:30 (as modified below in schedule of assignments), Thompson W-231 (E-120 in last week of classes)
Office: Fenton 240; by appointment; 673-3859
E-mail: 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 Blackboard site, and how to use the world-wide web for research. Please take the time during the first few days of the session 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

Close study of one or more writers and themes significant in American, British, or world literature and culture. In this section, we will consider a selection of novels by Philip K. Dick and Kim Stanley Robinson, not only because Robinson's doctoral thesis is on Dick's fiction, but also because they have each written classic works in two major genres yet with vastly different narrative strategies and themes. We will pair Dick's The Man in the High Castle with Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt as two explorations in "alternate history" (what if the Axis won WWII; what if the plague killed 99% of Europe's population?). Similarly, we will pair Dick's The Simulacra with Robinson's Red Mars as two visions of the near future that are also what Samuel Delany calls "significant distortions of the present." We will consider such questions as how do these very different writers speak to each other, to their own times, and to us? what connections and contrasts can we find between their characters and settings, characteristic themes and figures, central beliefs and values, styles and narrative strategies, and literary and political projects?

This course fulfills the "major author in context" requirement for undergraduates majoring in English or English Adolescence Education, and, with permission of the chair, may count toward the "major author" requirement (ENGL 510) for graduate students taking this course as ENGL 580.

II. Rationale

In ENGL 428, 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 English Adolescence Education majors.

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


IV. Course Objectives and Outcomes

ENGL 428 is designed to help students develop their abilities to (1) recognize and analyze relations among an author's characters, settings, and plots in a variety of works--gain a critical perspective on an author's fictional "worlds" (whether alternative past or speculative future); (2) recognize and analyze relations among an author's use of form, theme, and narrative strategy in a variety of works--gain a critical perspective on an author's strategies of storytelling and "re-vision"; (3) compare and contrast different authors' literary and political projects and analyze them in the context of the authors' cultures and historical eras; and (4) identify and analyze patterns in American literature and science fiction. Students will typically try to fulfill goals (1) and (2) in class and Blackboard discussions, critical essays, and by acting as discussion leaders; and goals (3) and (4) in class and Blackboard discussions, critical essays, and the final research project (see Section VI, below, for details on these assignments).

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 and student-led discussions. We will supplement in-class discussions and activities with asynchronous discussions hosted on our Blackboard site. See below, Section VI, for details.

VI. Evaluation and Grade Assignment

A. Methods

Attendance/Preparation/Participation (20%). 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 must contact me ahead of time or soon after your absence, preferably by email (see Section VIII, below, 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 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. Since we are a small class, however, we're experimenting with an on-line discussion component to the course. For each novel, on days listed as "[BB]" in the course schedule (see below, Section VIII), you are required to post a minimum of one discussion question and respond to at least one other person's discussion question before the first day listed as "[IP]" appears on the course schedule for that novel. That is, our Blackboard conversations are asynchronous, but there are still deadlines to be met--we must complete our on-line conversations on each novel before our first class meeting on that novel. Failure to meet these deadlines will result in absences being counted toward your total for the semester for each Blackboard discussion day missed.

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 course Blackboard site (described below, Section VIII), and your level of preparation and improvement over the course of the session. 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 one unexcused absence will hurt your preparation/participation grade and each absence after the second will lower your final course grade by a full grade (e.g., with three non-emergency absences a B+ will become a C+; with five it will become an E).

Critical Essay (25%). Undergraduates are required to write a 4-to-6-page critical essay; graduate students are required to write a 7-to-10-page critical essay. The assignment sheet and advice for the critical essay can be found at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/eng428su05/ce.htm.

Your grade for this segment of the course will be determined by the coherence and validity of your paper's arguments, the effectiveness of its structures in conveying your ideas and convincing your audience, and the quality of its prose (including grammar, syntax, and punctuation).

Discussion Leader (25%). Once in the session you will be responsible for leading discussion of a novel for 30 minutes in class. You will turn in a brief reflection on the relation between your plans/expectations and your experiences for that time period, and on what you learned by preparing for and leading that discussion, no later than The assignment sheet and advice for the group pedagogical project can be found at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/engl428su05/dl.htm.

Your grade for this segment of the course will be based on a combination of factors: the quality of your lesson plan and discussion questions, your overall teaching effectiveness, and the thoughtfulness of your reflection.

Final Research Project (30%). The topic and format for your 8-12-page final research essay (15 to 20 pages for graduate students) is open, although you will have the opportunity to work in a group to add a set of pages on Dick or Robinson to the SF@SF site. Further information and advice on the final research project can be found on the course web site at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/engl428su05/frp.htm.

Your grade for this segment of the course will be based on the coherence and validity of the paper's arguments, the effectiveness of its structure in conveying your ideas and convincing your audience, and the quality of its prose (including grammar, syntax, and punctuation).

B. Grading. I will grade student work during the semester on a letter basis (A=outstanding, B=good, C=average, D=bad, E=yeesh) and convert letter grades into numbers when 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. Remember, for each novel, on days listed as "[BB]" below, you are required to post a minimum of one discussion question and respond to at least one other person's discussion question before the first day listed as "[IP]" appears on the course schedule for that novel. {Key: [IP]=meet in-person in regular classroom; [BB]=participate in on-line Blackboard discussion}


T 5/24/05 welcome, intros, set-up [IP]
W 5/25 Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, Ch. 1-4 (3-60) [IP]
Th 5/26 Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, Ch. 5-8 (61-129) [BB]
F 5/27 Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, Ch. 9-11 (130-184) [BB]


M 5/30 No Classes [Memorial Day]
T 5/31 Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, Ch. 12-15 (185-259) [IP]
W 6/1 Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt, Book 1 (1-88) [IP]
Th 6/2 Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt, Books 2-3 (89-236) [BB]
F 6/3 Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt, Book 4 (237-356) [BB]


M 6/6 Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt, Books 5-6 (357-476) [BB]
T 6/7 Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt, Book 7 (477-548) [BB]
W 6/8 Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt, Book 8 (549-582) [BB]
T 6/9 Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt, Book 9 (583-706) [BB]
F 6/10 Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt, Book 10 (707-763) [IP]


M 6/13 Philip K. Dick, The Simulacra, Ch. 1-5 (3-59) [BB]
T 6/14 Philip K. Dick, The Simulacra, Ch. 6-9 (60-115) [BB]
W 6/15 Philip K. Dick, The Simulacra, Ch. 10-13 (115-182) [BB]
Th 6/16 Philip K. Dick, The Simulacra, Ch. 13-15 (183-214); DISCUSSION LEADER: Steve Hout [IP]
F 6/17 Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars, Parts 1-2 (1-91); DISCUSSION LEADER: Erin Ackerman [IP]


M 6/20 Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars, Parts 3-4 (92-230) [BB]
T 6/21 Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars, Part 5 (231-382) [BB]
W 6/22 Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars, Part 6 (383-470); DISCUSSION LEADER: Kate Ayotte [IP]
Th 6/23 Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars, Part 7 (471-534) [BB]
F 6/24 Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars, Part 8 (535-572); CRITICAL ESSAY due in class [IP]


M 8/1 FINAL RESEARCH PROJECT due no later than 5 pm

B. Class Policies

1. Attendance. As stated in Section VI above, barring emergencies each absence after the second will lower your final course grade by one grade. 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 serious illness, natural disasters, and snow days; scheduled and unavoidable school-sponsored events (games, meets, performances, etc.) are also counted as emergencies for the purpose of this attendance policy. Besides emergencies, the only other absences that won't affect your participation/preparation grade are excused absences. Please notify the instructor over email, in advance if possible and, if not, as soon after the absence as possible, if you wish an absence to be considered as an emergency or excused absence; the decision will be made at the instructor's discretion. For each novel, on days listed as "[BB]," you are required to post a minimum of one discussion question and respond to at least one other person's discussion question before the first day listed as "[IP]" appears on the course schedule for that novel (see above). That is, our Blackboard conversations are asynchronous, but there are still deadlines to be met--we must complete our on-line conversations on each novel before our first class meeting on that novel. Failure to meet these deadlines will result in absences being counted toward your total for the semester for each Blackboard discussion day missed.

2. Blackboard Discussions. The course Blackboard site can be reached at http://blackboard.fredonia.edu/. Once you get to that page, you must follow the directions to log in and find the course site. Discussion questions and responses must be posted in the appropriate Discussion Group. If you have any questions or problems, contact me immediately.

3. Late Assignments. Late critical 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 of any written project 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. 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. Please familiarize yourself with the college's "Academic Integrity Policy" (College Catalog 2003-2005, pp. 237-239, see also p. 225) and check with your instructor if you have any questions about it.


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



ENGL 428: Major Writers, Summer 2005
Created: 4/29/05 4:02 pm
Last modified: 6/22/05 12:27 pm
Webmaster: Bruce Simon, Associate Professor of English, SUNY Fredonia