LIT 231: English Literature II

Spring 2003
TR 11-12:15, Tyson 120A
Dr. Robert Fletcher
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Office: Main 524; Hours: TTh 1-2, W 4-7

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.

Why study British literature?  There are many reasons, but I'll probably focus primarily on one.  The history of the British empire and the reach of its writing affect everyone who lives in the United States at the present time.  The language inherited from 19th- and 20th-century "British" culture helps to structure the ways we understand broad concepts of individuality, creativity, personal fulfillment, and freedom.  By surveying the literature within its historical contexts over the course of time from 1800 to the present, we can trace the effects of the empire and its influence on the dominant and subordinate groups that make up much of the English-speaking world of today.

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


Required Texts

Damrosch, David,, eds.  The Longman Anthology of British Literature, volume II, (2nd edition)
Shelley, Mary.  Frankenstein

Since we will be submitting assignments electronically, you should also have at least three floppy disks/CDs devoted to this course.  Always save your work on multiple disks--saving on your hard drive alone isn't adequate, because it can crash and wipe out all your effort.  If you do not work with a Microsoft Word compatible program, please see me early in the semester, so we can make alternate arrangements for the submission of your work.


Course Requirements

 1.  Midterm examination (20%)
 2.  Final examination (20%)
 3.  Short papers (20% each) (which, once revised, may become part of  "A Nineteenth-Century BritLit Web")

You will write two short (approx. 750 words) 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 Longman anthology.  You are encouraged, but not required, to choose the subjects of your two papers from the two different time periods.

These papers may become part of 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-served basis.  Topics and detailed directions will be available by the second 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 may 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 development of your arguments, careful editing, and scrupulous proofreading; it does not mean just fixing the errors I have pointed out.

 4.  Participation (includes contributions to both in-class and electronic discussion; 20%).
Electronic Study Groups:  This semester we will ponder the literature we’re studying not only in class, but also in ongoing electronic study groups.

I expect you to begin sending responses to your group 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 the Blackboard course site or sending messages to the group's discussion board 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 discussion if you have not taken any steps to solve the problem.

You are required to send two responses each week, the first is due by noon on Tuesday and the second is due by noon on Thursday.  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 study group that week by one of your peers--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.  You may of course participate in the study group more than is required; indeed, I encourage you to work with one another as much as possible to further your understanding and prepare for exams.

Note:  I will stay on the sidelines for the most part but will monitor the discussions and may occasionally enter them to provide a point of clarification or raise a question.



Attendance:  Since the class will combine discussion and lecture, I will ask that you attend consistently.  You are permitted two 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 your two cuts, your final grade in the course will be lowered a third of 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

Most of the readings are in the Longman Anthology, with the exception of the Shelley novel and some background readings on the Internet.  You should have read and prepared to discuss all reading selections by the date for which they're assigned. You are required to bring your texts along to class with you--we will closely analyze the texts on the syllabus together, so you need to have them in front of you; in addition, I will frequently allude to works not assigned and it will help you immensely to be able to follow along.  If you come to class without the required texts, you will lose participation points for that day.  In addition to the works listed and any headnotes prefacing them, read the Longman 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.


23   W. WORDSWORTH, "Lines . . . Tintern Abbey" (352), Preface to Lyrical Ballads: [What is a Poet?] (360) and ["Emotion Recollected in Tranquillity"] (362), "I wandered lonely as a cloud" (453),  "Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802" (386), "The world is too much with us" (386);  D. WORDSWORTH, "Grasmere--A Fragment" (467), The Grasmere Journals (478)

            OLAUDAH EQUIANO, from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano  160
            MARY PRINCE, from The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave  169

30  S.T. COLERIDGE, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (528), "Kubla Khan" (545); ROBINSON, "The Haunted Beach" (221), "London's Summer Morning" (222) + Sharon Westerman's essay, "'London's Summer Morning': An Urban Poem by Mary Robinson"

Discussion of writing assignments

4    P.B. SHELLEY, "Mont Blanc" (754), "Ode to the West Wind" (771), "England in 1819" (761), from "A Defence of Poetry" (800)

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