Syllabus

English 325 is an introduction to the central questions and methods that preoccupy literary studies. We will examine English as a discipline on both a macro and micro level. Through class discussions and the Wednesday recitations with guest professors we will consider a host of questions concerning English in general: What is the purpose and history of the English major? What does it mean to be a “discipline”? What sort of intellectual work, aside from teaching, do professionals in the fields of literature, folklore, film, and linguistics actually do?

We will also address the nitty-gritty issues that form the basis of literary analysis: structure and genre, point of view and subjectivity, figurative language and the power of metaphor. We will bring together all of these elements and many more in order to understand how texts produce meaning, how they connect to one another, and how they are always situated within certain social, historical, political, economic, and ideological contexts.

English 325 is a six-credit course, which means you should expect to do the work of two regular courses for this class. The mandatory recitations on Wednesday account for some of the extra workload; you are expected to attend these lectures and you will be responsible for the material covered there. English 325 is also reading- and writing-intensive, and throughout the semester you will read (and reread) dozens of authors and write thousands of words yourself. This class is required for all English majors, and a final grade of at least a C is required to remain in the program.

English 325 fulfills George Mason University’s General Education Synthesis Requirement, which requires that the class “link issues in the student’s major to wider intellectual and community concerns.” To this end we will spend several weeks looking closely at two individual texts: James Joyce’s short story “The Dead” and Jon Krakauer’s nonfiction Into the Wild. We will approach these two texts from a number of disciplinary perspectives, connecting the thematic concerns of the texts to larger social questions.

Because this class is a Synthesis class, as a prerequisite or co-requisite to English 325 you must have completed all university and college general education requirements by the end of the semester. Otherwise, you are not eligible for English 325.

COURSE MATERIALS

There are three required texts, available at the GMU Bookstore:

  • The Norton Introduction to Literature, Shorter 9th Edition, eds. Booth, Hunter, Mays (ISBN 0385486804)
  • The Dead, James Joyce, ed. Schwarz (ISBN 0312080735)
  • Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer (ISBN 0385486804)

In addition to these required texts I strongly recommend an up-to-date handbook for writers, with format rules and citation guidelines. I prefer Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers, Fifth Edition, published in 2003 (ISBN: 0312406851). The Norton anthology also includes some useful guidelines for writers, such as tips on writing about literature (pp. 1685-1710) and information on citing and documentation (pp. 1727-1738).

You will also be required this semester to attend a live performance of James Joyce’s The Dead. This campus production runs from February 23 to March 5 in the Performing Arts Building. Tickets are available in advance at the Center for the Arts box office. Box office hours are 10 am to 6 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. There are a limited number of free students tickets to each performance. These will become available at the Center for the Arts box office on February 14. If the allotment of free student tickets is filled for a given performance, or if students want to pick up tickets before February 14, the student price is $7.00. Note that all tickets for the one weekday matinee (Friday, March 3 at 2:00 pm) are free.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

  1. Routine quizzes and impromptu in-class writing on the daily readings and the weekly recitations. These quizzes and writings cannot be made up if you are tardy or absent.
  2. Semi-weekly web logs of about 250 words each, posted to the class blog throughout the semester. These posts should make some sort of claim about one of the readings for the day. It’s often productive to begin with an aspect of the day’s reading that you don’t quite understand. You may want to formulate an insightful question or two about the reading and then attempt to answer your own questions. You may also want to respond to another student’s post by building upon it, disagreeing with it, or re-thinking it.
  3. Five response papers assigned throughout the semester. These should be a minimum of 500 words, or about two pages each. These are opportunities to “think on paper”-sketching out tentative responses to a particular question or problem I might propose.
  4. Two five-page essays, about 1250 words each. These papers should be well-argued and carefully revised. At least one of these papers will be submitted in rough draft form as well, giving me an occasion to provide early feedback to your writing.
  5. An annotated bibliography of sources and materials related to the Text and Community selection Into the Wild. This annotated bibliography will provide brief summaries of works by scholars, journalists, and critics who have influenced your understanding of Into the Wild in some way.
  6. One 5-7 page critical essay on some aspect Jon Krakauer’s nonfiction work Into the Wild. You will also submit a rough draft of your essay for peer review.
  7. A course portfolio, which takes the place of the final exam. This summative project will build upon all of your previous intellectual work in the semester and will involve a significant amount of introspection and reflection. Details about this project will be distributed later in the semester.
  8. Class participation and attendance at the Tuesday and Thursday sessions as well as at the Wednesday evenings recitations. I expect you to come fully prepared for every class session; this means having done the reading and just as important, having thought about the reading.

GRADING

The course work is weighted as follows:

  • Quizzes and Impromptu Writings: 5%
  • Blog Posts: 5%
  • Five response papers (5% each): 25%
  • Two 5 page essays (15% each): 30%
  • Annotated Bibliography: 5%
  • 5-7 page critical essay: 20%
  • Participation and Attendance: 5%
  • Course Portfolio: 5%

Late assignments will be lowered one letter grade for every 24 hours they are overdue. Even if you are not in class the day an assignment is due, it is still due for you that day. Failure to hand in every assignment on time will make it extremely difficult to pass the course.

I give every assignment a letter grade. In order to calculate your final grade, I convert the letter grades into a percentage. I weight the grades, and then convert the average back into a letter grade. I use the following standard grading scale:

  • A+ = 100%
  • A = 95%
  • A- = 90%
  • B+ = 88%
  • B = 85%
  • B- = 80%
  • C+ = 78%
  • C = 75%
  • C- = 70%
  • D = 65%
  • F = below 60%

Attendance is mandatory (excepting medical emergencies or observation of religious holidays). From the 2005-2006 University Catalog:

Students are expected to attend the class periods of the courses for which they register. In-class participation is important not only to the individual student, but to the class as a whole. Because class participation may be a factor in grading, instructors may use absence, tardiness, or early departure as de facto evidence of nonparticipation.

HONOR CODE

Students of George Mason University pledge not to cheat, plagiarize, steal, or lie in matters related to academic work. The English Department has issued a statement further clarifying what is meant by “plagiarize”:

Plagiarism means using the exact words, opinions, or factual information from another person without giving that person credit. Writers give credit through accepted documentation styles, such as parenthetical citation, footnotes, or endnotes; a simple listing of books and articles is not sufficient. Plagiarism is the equivalent of intellectual robbery and cannot be tolerated in an academic setting.

Remember, it is perfectly acceptable to refer to and build upon others’ ideas, but you must always identify the source, even when paraphrasing. If I suspect plagiarism or any other violation of the Honor Code, I will report the offender to the university Honor Committee, whose penalties range from an F for the course to expulsion from the university.