English 2600

Critical Introduction to Literature

Utah Valley State College
Fall 2006
Section 002
MW 4:00-5:15, LA 105



Instructor: Ryan Simmons
Office: LA 114H
Phone: 863-6290
E-mail: simmonry@uvsc.edu
Office hours: MW 2:00-3:30, or by appt.


Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. 2nd ed. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2002.

Chesnutt, Charles W. The House Behind the Cedars. 1900. New York: Penguin, 1993.

Joyce, James. The Dead. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. Ed. Daniel R. Schwarz. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1994.

Ward, Candace, ed. Great Short Stories by American Women. New York: Dover, 1996.

Course Description

This course is designed to help you develop methods for analyzing literature using a variety of interpretive tools, while also practicing critical thinking and the crafting of careful, polished prose. After establishing a foothold in the practice of close reading and formalist poetics, we will explore the contemporary movements of literary theory, especially New Historicism, Cultural Studies, Feminist Theory, Marxist Theory, Deconstruction/Poststructuralism, and Psychoanalytic Theory. Readings will be drawn from critics’ writing as well as literary works. We will explore how various approaches might be used to elucidate literature, how the approaches intersect with one another, and what the strengths and limitations of each might be. Along the way, we will address some of the questions central to the study of literature at the start of the 21st century, such as

Course Goals

By the end of this course, you should be able to

Course Requirements

Short Essays (20%): Two short essays will each be worth 10% of your final grade. The first essay will address, from your own perspective, some current critical questions about the nature and meaning of poetry. In the second you will analyze a literary passage and evaluate another critic's claims about a work of literature you have chosen; this second essay will be a lead-in to your Final Project (see below). Details about each essay will be distributed in class.

Annotated Bibliography (10%): As part of your Final Project, you will identify several of the most significant and useful published critical perspectives on a work of literature you have chosen (see below); the annotated bibliography lists, encapsulates, and evaluates these perspectives. Details to follow.

Longer Essay (30%): The Final Project for the course begins with the second short essay, continues with the annotated bibliography, and culminates in a substantive, researched, thesis-oriented essay of literary criticism on a work you will select (subject to the instructor's approval). Details will be distributed later in the semester. A full draft of this essay is worth 10% of your final course grade, and a revised draft is worth an additional 20% of your course grade.

Group Projects (10%): Twice during the semester, as part of a small group, you will present (and lead discussion on) a critical perspective on a common literary text, Joyce's "The Dead" then Chesnutt's The House Behind the Cedars; each group presentation is worth 5% of your course grade.

Online Journal (15%): At least once a week, you are expected to contribute a journal response to course readings and themes. These journal entries are to be submitted online at a WebCT site that has been developed for our course. (Submitting your journal electronically requires you to have a UVSC network ID and access to the Internet, both of which are automatically provided to you as an enrolled student. If you need help with this, let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction. Offline entries are permissible if you are momentarily unable to access the Web, but generally you should try to post entries online.) Although this assignment will be much like other writing journals you may have used in literature classes, asking you to reflect informally on the topics and readings of the course and pose questions, its online nature will allow you to read other students’ comments and respond to them, producing dialogue rather than one-way conversation. Some of your entries will be in response to specific questions posed by me, while others will be open-ended responses to the week’s readings and topics.

PLEASE NOTE: Entries made within twenty-four hours of one another will be regarded as a single entry. In general, trying to catch up on missing entries late in the semester will have an adverse effect on your grade; trying to submit a majority of your journal entries in a short period of time is a waste of your effort, as it will result in a failing grade for the journal. Please keep in mind the main purpose of the online journal: to enhance in-class discussion. You are expected to keep on top of the journal throughout the semester; occasional minor lapses may be overcome, but flouting the purpose of this requirement is out of bounds.

Course Participation/Attendance (15%): Being a strong participant in the class means being present both physically and mentally. If you miss more than one week (two class periods) of the course, you can expect a participation grade no higher than a “C,” although it may be lower. If you miss more than two weeks (four class periods), your participation grade will automatically drop to “E,” regardless of other factors. Excessive absence (three weeks or more) is sufficient grounds to fail the course. Chronic tardiness is also factored into your participation grade. On the other hand, you can earn a higher participation grade by reading the assignments carefully before coming to class, bringing forward your questions and thoughts during class discussion, and listening responsively—and responding thoughtfully—to what others have to say.

Essay Policies

  1. Essays must be typed and double-spaced and include a title (but note a title page) and page numbers. Essays are not graded on length, but rather on their ability to capture and persuade a reader. This ability arises from correctness of prose, and also from factors including clear expression, thoughtful organization, originality, completeness, and adequate support (including, in the longer essay, the incorporation of research materials).

  2. In order to receive a passing grade, an essay must articulate and support an original analysis, moving well beyond summary of other writers’ ideas and words.

  3. Material from outside sources must be cited completely and correctly using MLA style.

  4. I am always willing to read and critique work in progress, and to answer questions about your writing. When turning in an essay to be graded, you are expected to submit the best work you are capable of doing, given time constraints; thus, revisions will not be accepted after an essay has been graded (unless otherwise specified in the written assignment description).

  5. Late papers: You have three free “late days” upon entering the class, which may be utilized only on the two short essays, the annotated bibliography, or the longer essay. Each of these assignments is due at the start of class on its respective due date. Beginning immediately thereafter, each class day an assignment is turned in late counts as one late day used up. These days may be used up with one assignment (turning it in three days late) or divided among more than one. No penalty is given for late assignments turned in within these parameters, but once your late days are used up, no additional work will be accepted after its due date--late work after that will receive no credit. Please note: Due to grading deadlines imposed by the college, late days may not be used on the revision of the final, longer essay, which must be submitted by Monday, Dec. 12, to receive credit./

    The three late days are provided to allow for normal problems such as illness, printer failure, forgotten notebooks, competing deadlines in other courses, etc. Once they are used up, no additional late days will be granted, regardless of the reason for being late, and any subsequent late papers will receive no credit.

Academic Honesty Any course work that is found to violate UVSC’s standards of academic honesty will be dealt with as laid out in the college’s statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities, which appears in the UVSC catalogue. Please read these standards, and the consequences for violating them, carefully, noting that the repercussions are always severe. In particular, be aware that plagiarism is a severe violation of both college policy and the policy of this course.

Plagiarism, or the use of others’ words or ideas without proper attribution, is an impediment to your education and to the educational mission of UVSC. Under the policy of the English and Literature Department of UVSC, work that has been plagiarized must receive a failing grade. A distinction is made between unintentionally plagiarized work, which it is the student’s responsibility to correct under the instructor’s supervision so that it may be considered for a passing grade, and intentional plagiarism, which will be forwarded to the Office of Student Life as a disciplinary matter in accordance with UVSC’s statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities. Please refer to http://www.uvsc.edu/engl/plag/plagiarism_policy.html to read the department’s full statement on plagiarism, and speak to your instructor if you have any questions about avoiding plagiarism.

Disability Accommodation If you have a disability that may influence your ability to meet the requirements of this course, please contact the UVSC Accessibility Services Department (Room WB 145) as soon as possible. Any necessary accommodations, as arranged by the Accessibility Service Department, will be made.


W 8/23Introduction to course
M 8/28Twelve poems (handout); Pinsky, "Responsibilities of the Poet" (available via WebCT)
W 8/30Moore, "Poetry"; Hughes, "Formula," "Johannesburg Mines"; McKay, "If We Must Die"; Larkin, "The Old Fools" (handout)
M 9/4NO CLASS - Labor Day
W 9/6Barry, ch. 1: "Theory before 'theory': liberal humanism"
M 9/11Barry, ch. 2: "Structuralism"
W 9/13Davis, "Life in the Iron-Mills" (Great Short Stories by American Women 1-34); First Short Essay due
M 9/18Barry, ch. 3: "Post-structuralism and deconstruction"
W 9/20Hurston, "Sweat" (Great Short Stories 182-193)
M 9/25Barry, ch. 5: "Psychoanalytic criticism"
W 9/27Gilman, "The Yellow Wall-Paper" (Great Short Stories 73-88)
M 10/2Barry, ch. 6: "Feminist criticism"
W 10/4Last day to drop course; Wharton, "The Angel at the Grave" (Great Short Stories 95-110)
M 10/9Library research day; Second Short Essay due
W 10/11Barry, ch. 7: "Lesbian/gay criticism"; Cather, "Paul's Case" (Great Short Stories 111-129)
M 10/16Barry, ch. 8: "Marxist criticism"
W 10/18Barry, ch. 9: "New historicism and cultural materialism"
M 10/23Alcott, "Transcendental Wild Oats" (Great Short Stories 35-49)
W 10/25Barry, ch. 10: "Postcolonial criticism"; Larsen, "Sanctuary" (Great Short Stories 194-200)
M 10/30Barry, ch. 13: "Ecocriticism"; Jewett, "A White Heron" (Great Short Stories 50-60); Annotated Bibliography due
W 11/1Joyce, "The Dead" (also recommended: "A Critical History of 'The Dead'," pp. 63-84)
M 11/6Interpreting "The Dead": Psychoanalytic, Reader-Response, adn New Historicist groups
W 11/8Interpreting "The Dead": Feminist, Deconstructionist, and Marxist groups
M 11/13Chesnutt, The House Behind the Cedars pp. 1-59 (also recommended: Introduction by Donald B. Gibson, pp. vii-xxiii)
W 11/15The House Behind the Cedars pp. 60-118/td>
M 11/20The House Behind the Cedars pp. 119-195; Longer Essay due
W 11/22NO CLASS - Thanksgiving break
M 11/27Interpreting The House Behind the Cedars: Groups 1 and 2
W 11/29Interpreting The House Behind the Cedars: Groups 3 and 4)
M 12/4Interpreting The House Behind the Cedars: Groups 5 and 6
W 12/6Course wrap-up
M 12/11Revision of Longer Essay due
here for Ryan Simmons's main homepage.