Conventions of Reading
LIT 168, Spring 1999
Sec. 01: M 418, TTh 12:30-1:45 pm
Sec. 80: M 418, W 4:15-7 pm
This course introduces you to the academic study of literature and, more
specifically, to the theories and practice of reader-response criticism.
We will read and discuss examples of short fiction, poetry, drama, and
the novel, and, at the same time, we will also be studying the cultural,
cognitive, and rhetorical processes that enable people to read and write
texts. In addition, we'll use computer technology--including hypertexts
and the WWW--to help foreground the constructed nature of our seemingly
"natural" responses to texts. Finally, we will also spend some time discussing
and then practicing the conventions of scholarly writing.
The goals of this course are as follows:
to reveal the complexity and collaborative basis of the seemingly "natural"
process of reading and interpretation
to familiarize you with the tools--conventions, concepts, and vocabulary--of
to introduce you to current debates about the nature and functions of "literature"
to enhance your understanding and enjoyment of complex texts by providing
opportunities to share and respond to interpretations.
to promote your appreciation of and comfort with the uses of computer technology
in the humanities.
The following are required and can be purchased at the campus bookstore:
Carroll, Lewis, Through the Looking-Glass (recommended reading--e-text
edition link in schedule--but no edition ordered)
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart
Birkerts, Sven, ed. Literature: The Evolving Canon. Be sure to buy
the 2nd edition (orange cover).
Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate
Hwang, David Henry. M. Butterfly
There will also be some texts made available on-line, or xeroxed and put
on reserve in F.H.Green Library.
NOTE: If you do not know how to access the Internet and use the Netscape
browser, you must make an appointment with me in the first week of classes.
I will show you the basics of browsing the WWW.
You will also be required to view some film/video adaptations of texts,
which will be made available either in F.H. Green Library, or through the
English Department Office.
Your performance in the course will be evaluated in 3 different ways:
20% Informal writing assignments, including
70% Formal writing assignments (see grading
two out-of-class essays (1500-1800 words), prepared according to the conventions
of MLA style.
two in-class exams, with essay and identification questions.
10% Class participation (including completion
of reading assignments on time) and citizenship
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. In informal writing,
as a common courtesy, you should always credit the name of the person whose
idea you are mentioning or borrowing. 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.
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