Lit 165: Topics in Literature

Sec. 5: MWF 12-12:50

Anderson 101

Fall 2003

Dr. Robert Fletcher
Main 524, x2626,
Office Hours: M 2-3, 4-8, WF 2-3


Course Description

This course introduces you to the academic study of literature. We will read and discuss examples of short fiction, poetry, drama, the novel, and hypertext fiction, and, at the same time, we will also be studying the cultural, cognitive, and rhetorical processes that enable people to read and write texts. My hope is that you'll leave this class with better interpretive and analytical skills, greater awareness of the relation between imaginative texts and their cultural contexts, and greater range in your responses to literature.


NOTE: This class is not a writing emphasis (W) class.  It was, once upon a time, and it may be again some day, but as of now, it isn’t.



Three of the General Education Goals at West Chester University have been identified as the objectives of Lit 165:




Requirements and Evaluation Policy

  1. Careful and consistent reading and enthusiastic participation in class discussions. See my expectations for participation grades. 10% of final grade
  2. Participation in webboard discussion (about 100 words per week). 10%
  3. Attendance at WCU production of Dancing at Lughnasa. 5%  The description of the play from the WCU Theater Dept. website follows:

Dancing at Lughnasa 
By Brian Friel
Directed by Leonard Kelly
On the E.O. Bull MainStage
September 30 -
October 4, 2003 at 8:00 p.m.
October 4 and 5, 2003 at
2:00 p.m.

Dancing at Lughnasa, is playwright Brian Friel's ode to the indomitable Irish spirit. Set in County Donegal in 1936, this memory play celebrates the lives of the five Mundy sisters as remembered by one of their own. Dancing at Lughnasa is a play that will haunt you with its intensity of feeling, while filling your heart with its spirited tribute to the lives and valor of the Irish people.

  1. Three out-of-class examinations (essays of 750-1000 words) 75%
    1. See my grading standards for formal essays in Lit 165.


Other Policies

·        Students with Disabilities:  We at West Chester University wish to make accommodations for persons with disabilities.  Please make your needs known by contacting me and/or the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities at ext. 3217.  Sufficient notice is needed in order to make the accommodations possible.  The University desires to comply with the ADA of 1990.

·        Late Assignments: Papers or other assignments submitted late will have 1/3 of a grade deducted for each day (not class period) that passes after the due date. I will not accept any assignment more than 1 week late.

·        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 or use commercial study aids (e.g. Cliff's Notes), in your formal essays, you will receive an irrevocable "F" grade.

·        Attendance: A class that studies reader response, as ours will, has to have some healthy discussion of actual responses to readings, and so attendance will be part of your participation grade. You are permitted three absences 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 the three cuts, your final grade in the course will be lowered a third of a grade (e.g. from C to C-) for each cut.


Schedule of Readings and Assignments

Please note: When I provide a page reference for the literary works, I may cite only the first page number--needless to say, I expect you to read the story, poem, play or essay in its entirety. This schedule is subject to change on short notice (shifting items to a later date, deletion of items). If you are absent, it's your responsibility to check with me for updates.


M 8/25
Introduction to the course.  After class read "Introduction" p. 1-4.


Culture and Class


W 8/27
"Introduction to Fiction" p. 5-24 "Historical and Sociological Criticism" p. 1419
Chekhov, Anton 1860-1904, “An Upheaval”  p.173


F 8/29
Achebe, Chinua 1930-, “Dead Men's Path” p. 367
Walker, Alice 1944-, “Everyday Use” p. 462


W 9/3
Gautreaux, Tim 1947-, “Died and Gone to Vegas” p. 471

F 9/5

Gilb, Dagoberto, “Look on the Bright Side” p. 488


M 9/8

"Introduction to Poetry" pp. 25-48.

Whitman, Walt (1819-1892) “When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer” 655
Robinson, Edwin Arlington (1869-1935) “Richard Cory”  681

W 9/10
 Dunbar, Paul Laurence (1872-1906) “We Wear the Mask”  683
Simpson, Louis (1923-) “American Classic”  775
Snyder, Gary (1930-) “A Walk”  810


F 9/12
Barrax, Gerard (1933) “Strangers Like Us: Pittsburgh, Raleigh 1945-1985”  818
Willard, Nancy (1936-) “A Hardware Store As Proof of the Existence of God”  826
Mayers, Florence Cassen (1940-) “All-American Sestina”  841

M 9/15

Bottoms, David (1949-) “Sign for My Father, Who Stressed the Bunt”  875
Harjo, Joy (1951-) “Song for the Deer and Myself to Return On”  884
Song, Cathy (1955-) “Stamp Collecting”  897


W 9/17- M 9/22
"The Play's the Thing" p. 70, "Realistic Drama . . . "  p. 94
Friel, Dancing at Lughnasa  (not in anthology)


War and Violence


W 9/24
Borges, Jorge Luis (1899-1986), "The Gospel According to Mark"  269  and “The Garden of Forking Paths” (available at BB)


F 9/26

Ellison, Ralph, “A Party Down at the Square” 328

Essay #1 due at beginning of class


M 9/29

Erdich, Louise 1954-, “The Red Convertible”  512



W 10/1, F 10/3
O’Brien, Tim, The Things They Carried

Supplemental readings:  The American Experience/Vietnam, The Vietnam War Internet Project, Tim O'Brien's Home Page, Novelist, Featured Author: Tim O'Brien, Writing Vietnam - Tim O'Brien Lecture Transcript


M 10/6

Discussion of WCU production of Dancing at Lughnasa.  You must post an original observation about the production to the BB discussion board by this morning at 10 a.m.


W 10/8, and F 10/10

O’Brien, Tim, The Things They Carried


M 10/13 
Browning, Robert (1812-1889) “Porphyria's Lover”  638
Whitman, Walt (1819-1892) “A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim”  640
Hardy, Thomas (1840-1928) “The Convergence of the Twain”  664

W 10/15  Fall Break


F 10/17

Yeats, William Butler (1865-1939) “Leda and the Swan”  674
Yeats, William Butler (1865-1939) “The Second Coming”  676

Owen, Wilfred (1893-1918), “Dulce Et Decorum Est”  720

Read also Wilfred Owen's Preface to his 1918 collection of poems

M 10/20
Toomer, Jean (1894-1967) “Reapers”  726
Walker, Margaret (1915-) “For Malcolm X”  752
Hecht, Anthony (1923-) “'More Light! More Light!'”  772


W 10/22

Heaney, Seamus (1939-) “Punishment”  838
Komunyakaa, Yusef (1947-) “Facing It”  871
Forché, Carolyn (1950-) “The Colonel”  879
Salter, Mary Jo (1954-) “Welcome to Hiroshima”  895


F 10/24

Class canceled for EAPSU conference.  Consider attending one or more of the sessions.  In the meantime, be reading Moulthrop’s Victory Garden.


M 10/27

J. Yellowlees Douglas, “What Hypertexts Can Do That Print Narratives Cannot” (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader—click here to get it if you don’t have it.)

Preview of Moulthrop’s Victory Garden (Room TBA)


W 10/29 – W 11/5
Moulthrop, Stuart, Victory Garden (Room TBA)

Supplemental readings and audio:  frontline: the gulf war | PBS, Fog of War, The Unseen Gulf War by Peter Turnley - The Digital Journalist, Review of Anthony Swafford's memoir Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles, Audio excerpt from Swafford's Jarhead, read by the author on the public radio program This American Life (requires RealPlayer)


Men and Women


F 11/7- F 11/14
Shakespeare, William (1564-1616), Othello 953 + 88-93 (Dramatic Origins and Conventions); "Feminist and Gender Criticism" p. 1420

I will probably announce the opportunity to go to a production of Othello by the Shakespeare Theater of NJ at Drew University, Madison, NJ on Saturday, November 8.  If you choose not to go, I recommend that you view a video production of the play, such as those directed by Orson Welles or Oliver Parker.


M 11/17
Shakespeare, William (1564-1616), Sonnets 20 and 130 (pp. 543, 545) 

Information on sonnets through the centuries at Sonnet Central

Essay #2 due at the beginning of class

W 11/19

Donne, John (1572-1631), “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning” 552
Herrick, Robert (1591-1674) “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time”  556


F 11/21
Millay, Edna St. Vincent (1892-1950) “If I Should Learn, in Some Quite Casual Way,” “Oh, Oh, You Will be Sorry for That Word!,” “Not In a Silver Casket,” “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed”  718-20


M 11/24
Hope, A.D. (1907-) “Imperial Adam”  733
Rich, Adrienne (1929-) “Aunt Jennifer's Tigers”  804
Plath, Sylvia (1932-1963) “Metaphors”  817

M 12/1

Clifton, Lucille (1936-) “to my last period”  824
Olds, Sharon (1942-) “The One Girl at the Boys Party”  851


W 12/3
Wharton, Edith 1862-1937, “Roman Fever”  181
Hemingway, Ernest 1899-1961,  “Hills Like White Elephants”  264


F 12/6
Atwood, Margaret 1939-, “Happy Endings”  444
Lorrie Moore 1957-, “How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes)”  522


M 12/8

Ives, David. “Sure Thing” 1385