LIT 231: English Literature II

Spring 2000
M 4:15-7
Main 212 and, occasionally, Anderson 001
Dr. Robert Fletcher (Homepage--for office hours, etc.)

Blackboard Course Website


Course Description

 This course introduces you to British literature from around 1800 to the present.  While we will focus our attention on significant examples of the literature of this period and will consider the structural and stylistic devices of each text, we will do so in the larger context of a discussion of the thematic concerns of the writers and their relevance to us today, as well as the specific historical events and cultural influences to which these writers responded.  In addition, this section of the course will incorporate a significant technological component, so you will gain experience in using the Internet for study, in contributing to an electronic conference, in writing a portion of an electronic database, and, possibly, in teleconferencing or real-time "chat."

Course Objectives

1.  To help students develop the critical reading skills necessary to understand complex texts generated in a culture not their own.

2.  To model for students the many ways that scholars talk about literature, and to encourage students to use these tools of literary analysis.

3.   To give students practice in creating oral and written discourse about literature.

4.  To help students appreciate literature as aesthetic object, rhetorical performance, and cultural artifact.

5.  To model for students the uses of technology in education.

6.  To familiarize students with modern English literary history as it is being reconceived through the influence of feminism, postcolonial studies, and other perspectives.

7.  To inspire students with a love of learning.


Required Texts

The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2, 7th edition (only this new edition will do)
Selected websites, most frequently Norton Topics Online

Note on the novels:  Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton was originally ordered for this course, but I have decided to teach Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which is in the Norton anthology, instead.  Please don't buy the Gaskell or, if you already have bought it, return it--unless, that is, you'd like to keep it for pleasure reading (I recommend it!).

An option:  In my course we will read the nineteenth-century novel Frankenstein and the related twentieth-century novels Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, and Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe.  However, thanks to an experiment with instructional technology,  for the twentieth-century novel you will have the option of reading, in place of Conrad and Achebe, the book chosen for an English literature survey at Cedar Crest College taught by my wife, Dr. LuAnn McCracken Fletcher.  She is offering Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse in the twentieth-century segment of her course.  Through an electronic conference (video-conferencing and/or "chat"), you may attend the other Dr. Fletcher's class on this novel.  You, however, are responsible for finding a paperback copy of this book, should you decide to read it (it should be in any good bookstore).


Course Requirements

 1.  Take-home midterm examination (25%)
 2.  Final examination (25%)
 3.  Short papers (15% each) (which will become the basis for a "Nineteenth-Century BritLit Web," produced jointly with our CCC colleagues)

You will write two short (2-3 page) papers, topics for both of which will be drawn from a list provided.  One of these papers will be your own close reading of a short work from the nineteenth-century not on the syllabus.  The second paper will provide a brief researched account either of a writer’s life, a particular literary work, or a historical moment or cultural context as these influence literature of the Romantic or Victorian period.  Both papers will allow you to consider writers and literature “beyond the bounds” of this course and, in some instances, of the Norton anthology.  You are encouraged, but not required, to choose the subjects of your two papers from the two different time periods.

These papers will become the basis for an Internet web of critical materials on nineteenth-century British literature, modelled on the Victorian Web produced by George Landow and his students at Brown University.  Therefore, choice of writers and topics will be on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Topics and detailed directions will be posted by the end of the first week of class.

You will have the opportunity to submit a rough draft of these papers and conference with me about them.  After you receive the graded final drafts, you will have an opportunity to revise them for a higher grade.  Only papers receiving a grade of B- or higher will be included in the Internet web.  If you choose to revise either or both papers, your revisions are due to me on Friday, April 7th.  “Revision” means the clarification of your thesis and arguments, careful editing, and scrupulous proofreading; it does not mean just fixing the errors I have pointed out.

 4.  Participation (includes attendance and contributions to both in-class and bbs discussion; 20%).
Bulletin Board (BBS):  This semester we will ponder the literature we’re studying not only in class, but also in an ongoing electronic bulletin board (bbs) discussion.  The members of this bbs are not only this class, but also the members of a survey class that is being taught by another Dr. Fletcher (related to me, not another version of me) at Cedar Crest College.

I expect you to begin sending responses to the bbs no later than the second week of classes and to continue throughout the semester.  Please speak to me immediately if you are having trouble accessing or sending messages to the bbs at any point in the semester so that we can solve any problems.  I will not accept the excuse that you are experiencing technical difficulties as a reason for your not contributing to the bulletin board if you have not taken any steps to solve the problem.

You are required to send two responses a week, due by 4:00 p.m. each Monday.  No credit will be given for late responses.  These responses are to be informal and should be at least a generous paragraph (roughly 5-6 sentences) in length (they may be longer, if you wish).  One of your weekly responses should provide your thoughts about whatever interests you or puzzles you about the literature we are studying for that week, or the class discussion we have had about last week’s literature. The second of your weekly responses should be a response to a message sent to the newsgroup that week by at least one of your Cedar Crest or West Chester colleagues--you may wish to add to that person’s perceptions, or offer an alternate reading, or provide a different answer to that person’s question.



Attendance:  Since I would prefer to run the class by discussion rather than lecture, I will ask that you attend consistently.  You are permitted one absence during the semester, excluding those for major medical problems, which will be handled on an individual basis. If you miss too much of the semester--even with a legitimate medical excuse--I may have to ask you to withdraw. After your one cut, your final grade in the course will be lowered a grade for each unexcused absence.

Late Assignments:  Papers submitted late will be penalized with a 1/3 of a grade deduction for each day (not class period) that passes after the due date.  Papers more than seven days late will not be accepted.

Plagiarism: "Plagiarism is using another's words or ideas without appropriate acknowledgement" (MLA Style Manual 4). In formal essays, "acknowledgement" means using conventions of citation such as the quotation marks and parenthetical note in the previous sentence. Even if you paraphrase someone's words, you must provide a note showing your debt. NOTE: If you plagiarize you will receive an irrevocable "F" grade on the assignment and possibly for the course (this is English Department Policy).

Students with Disabilities: In accordance with ADA guidelines, I am happy to make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. Please contact me if you would like such consideration.


Course Schedule

All of the readings are in the Norton Anthology, with the exception of a few noncanonical texts and secondary materials available in electronic form on the WWW.  You should have read and prepared to discuss all reading selections by the date for which they're assigned. Please bring your text along to class with you--I will frequently allude to works not assigned and it will help you immensely to be able to follow along.  In addition to the works listed and any headnotes prefacing them, read the Norton introduction for each writer assigned.  Due to time constraints, we will naturally not be able to discuss all of the works assigned in equal depth; examinations will, however, cover all of the works listed for individual authors.


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