Lit 168: Conventions of Reading

Section 01 Class Schedule

NOTE:  All reading is to be completed before the class for which it is scheduled, and you must bring the texts to class.  In general, I provide only the first page number of each reading selection, but, unless otherwise noted, you are to read the entire selection.

Week 1 (1/11 and 13)  Topic: Why do we read or study literature?  Why do we need to think about this?

T:  Course Introduction


Th:  Reading: Atwood, "Happy Endings" (Gwynn 444), Hughes, "Theme for English B" (729), Ferlinghetti, "A Coney Island of the Mind, #15" (757), Williams, "The Book" (813), Gwynn, "Approaching a  Significant Birthday, He Peruses The Norton Anthology of Poetry" (873)

Week 2 (1/18 and 20)  Topic: Literacy and Education

T:  Reading:  Richter "Introduction" (FT 1) and "Why We Read" (15)

Informal Assignment:  Find a short text from Gwynn anthology that you think is important to read (not one from last week).  Before class, post a 300-word commentary on it to the Bb discussion board.


Th:  Reading: Vendler, "What We Have Loved, Others Will Love" (FT 31), Graff, "Disliking Books at an Early Age" (40), Freire, "The 'Banking' Concept of Education" (68), Gilb, "Look on the Bright Side" (Gwynn 488)

Week 3 (1/25 and 27)  Topic: Reading as "Escape"

T:  Reading: Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran


Th:  Reading: Nafisi, continued;

In class, we will go over the first formal essay assignment; please find the assignment at Bb and read it (and any associated weblinks) carefully before class.

Week 4 (2/3)  Topic: The Memoir as Literacy Narrative

Th:  Reading: Nafisi, continued; read interview with Nafisi at

Week 5 (2/8 and 10)  Topic: The Functions of "English" at the Present Time?

T:  Reading: During, "Teaching Culture" (FT 96), Scholes, "A Fortunate Fall?" (111), Purves, "Telling Our Story about Teaching Literature" (211); Formal Assignment:  Literacy Narrative due


Th:  Reading: Print advertisement and website for Honda's Asimo, Poundstone, "3 Proposals for Bottle Imps" (Iowa Web Review 2003), Demo of Syberia video game (distributed on CD, for PC)

Week 6 (2/15 and 17)  Topic: How We Read: Generic Conventions and Interpretive Communities

T:  Reading:  Richter "How We Read" (FT 235-42; note that you can stop at 242, at the beginning of "The Social Text" section), Rabinowitz, "Actual Reader and Authorial Reader" (257), Fish, "How to Recognize a Poem When You See One" (267), Moore, "How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes)" (Gwynnn 522), Forché, "The Colonel" (879)


Th:  Reading:  Gwynn, from "Introduction to Poetry" (25-51, stopping at "Repetition"), Whitman, "A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim" (Gwynn 640), Owen, "Dulce et Decorum Est" (720), Jarrell, "Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" (752)

Week 7 (2/22 and 24)  Topic: Reading Poetry--Form and Meaning (esp. Ballad)

T:  Reading:  Gwynn, from "Introduction to Poetry" (51-69), Hecht, "More Light! More Light!" (Gwynn 772), Komunyakaa, "Facing It" (871), Salter, "Welcome to Hiroshima" (895); brief excerpt from memoir by Anthony Swofford, Jarhead (also available for printing in Course Documents at Bb); look at website for U.S. Army video game, America's Army.


Th:  Reading:  Selections by anonymous (Gwynn 533-36), Burns, "John Barleycorn" (588), Keats, "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" (614), Randall, "The Ballad of Birmingham" (746), Disch, "Ballade of the New God" (839), Nelson, "The Ballad of Aunt Geneva" (867)

Week 8 (3/1 and 3)  Topic: Form and Meaning in Poetry (Sonnet)

T:  Reading:  Robinson, "Treason Our Text" (FT 153), Sedgwick, from Epistemology of the Closet (183), "Spenser, Amoretti: Sonnet 75 (Gwynn 538), Sidney, Astrophel and Stella: Sonnet 1 (539), Shakespeare, 6 sonnets (542-45), Wroth, "In This Strange Labyrinth How Shall I Turn" (555), Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese: Sonnet 43 (622), Millay, 4 sonnets (718-20)


Th:  Reading:  Donne, 2 Holy Sonnets (Gwynn 550-51), Milton, 3 sonnets (561-62), Keats, "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" and "When I Have Fears" (620-21), Hopkins, "God's Grandeur" and "Pied Beauty" (668), Cullen, "Yet I Do Marvel" (731), Murphy, "The Track of the Storm" (883), Jarman, "After Disappointment" (888)

Informal Assignment:  Find a sonnet that you like at Sonnet Central  (not one on the syllabus) and post to the Bb discussion board a 300-word explication.  Due before class on 3/15.

Spring Break! (3/8 and 10)

Week 9 (3/15 and 17)  Topic: Reading Fiction and Writing about Literature

T:  Reading:  Tompkins, "Masterpiece Theater: The Politics of Hawthorne's Literary Reputation" (FT 137), Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown" (Gwynn 131), Chopin, "The Story of an Hour" (170), Gwynn, "Introduction to Fiction" (5)


Th:  Reading: Gwynn, "Writing About Literature" (98);  I will introduce the second formal essay assignment in this class and go over certain conventions for writing about literature, such as citation method.

Week 10 (3/22 and 24)  Topic: Reading and Experiencing Drama

T:  Reading:  Gwynn, from "Introduction to Drama" (70-74, up to "Aristotle on Tragedy," and 88-95, "Brief History . . ." through "Film Versions"), Ives, "Sure Thing" (1385)


Th:  Reading:  Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Week 11 (3/29 and 31)  Topic: Shakespeare through a postcolonial lens

T:  Reading: Twelfth Night, continued; ; excerpts from essay by Katherine Eggert, "Sure Can Sing and Dance: Minstrelsy, the Star System, and Post-coloniality in Kenneth Branagh's Love's Labours Lost and Trevor Nunn's Twelfth Night" (handout or on electronic reserve); Viswanathan, "Introduction" to Masks of Conquest (FT 60)

Assignment: Make time to watch Nunn's film version of Twelfth Night before class (on reserve at IMC desk in library and available at most video stores).


Th:  Special Event!--Class will have seats for WCU production of Twelfth Night reserved for this night's performance.  If you choose not to attend with the class, you must go to another performance this week.

Informal Assignment:  Post to the Bb discussion board a 300-word commentary on the cinematic or dramatic production of Twelfth Night.

Week 12 (4/5 and 7)  Topic: What We Read and Why It Can Matter

T:  Reading:  Richter, "What We Read" (FT 121) and 2nd half of "How We Read" (242-52), Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Formal Assignment: Literary Analysis due.


Th:  Reading:  Conrad, Heart of Darkness, continued

Week 13 (4/12 and 14)  Topic: Heart of Darkness and its Colonial Context

T:  Reading:  from Broadview edition of Heart of Darkness: Introduction by Goonetilleke (9) and all appendices (159-261)


Th:  Reading: Achebe, "An Image of Africa" (FT 323), Harris, "The Frontier on Which Heart of Darkness Stands" (334)

Week 14 (4/19 and 21)  Topic: Achebe's Fiction

T:  Reading: Achebe, "Dead Men's Path" (Gwynn 367) and Things Fall Apart


Th:  Reading:  Achebe, Things Fall Apart, continued; also, see online study guides under "External Links" at Bb.

Week 15 (4/26 and 28)  Topic:  Wrap Up and Review

T:  Reading:  Achebe, Things Fall Apart, continued; also, see online study guides under "External Links" at Bb.


Th:  Review for final exam. 

Formal Assignment: Optional revision of one of the two formal essays due.

Final Examination:  Time and Date TBA

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