LITR 100: Introduction to Literature

Spring 2015

Prof. James J. Donahue       donahujj@potsdam.edu     

130 Morey Hall        

In this course, we will read through a number of texts from 4 major literary genres: poetry, drama, short fiction, and the graphic novel. We will explore a variety of forms, themes, and ideas about the nature and function of literature. This is not a survey course, and we certainly cannot be expected to cover such a broad and endlessly developing concept as “literature.” However, we can build our skills in reading texts, and understanding the various ways that language works to create, define, and have us think past our world. By the end of the semester, we will have developed strong critical reading skills so that you are prepared to pick up and read the works of your choice and productively engage with them. Ultimately, by the end of this semester, we will have explored the continued wonder that is the art of language, and hopefully come to a greater understanding of its purpose in the world.

 

“Has literature a function in the state, in the aggregation of humans, in the republic, in the res publica, which ought to mean the public convenience (despite the slime of bureaucracy, and the execrable taste of the populace in selecting its rulers)? It has.”                         Ezra Pound, How to Read (21)

 

Upon successful completion of this course, you will have:

Become familiar with four major literary genres (poetry, drama, fiction, graphic novel)

Developed your abilities in critical close reading

Developed your abilities to critically discuss (in writing and orally) literary texts

Developed a greater understanding of the power of language (both the language that you encounter in the class, as well as the language you use in the class)

Developed a greater interest in textual analysis that will help you in any area of study

 

Course Requirements:

Attendance and Participation

You are expected to attend class and participate in discussion regularly. If you are excessively absent and/or tardy, you may be asked to withdraw from the course. Being absent and/or late does not excuse you from the work for that day. Missed exams cannot be made up unless arrangements are worked out ahead of time.

Students requiring special accommodations must see me as soon as possible, with proper documentation. All student athletes who will miss class time for approved activities must give me a schedule by the end of the first week of classes.

Reading Load

Some sections will be heavier than others. In general, the reading load will get progressively heavier, as you become better readers of literature and (hopefully) more interested in the material. I expect that you will read each assignment more than once, especially the challenging works. Do not wait until the last minute to do the reading.

 Exams

In this course you will take four exams, one each for the four genres we cover. Each exam will count for 25% of your final grade. If you must miss an exam, you need to notify me ahead of time. If needed, we will work out accommodations. Otherwise, you will earn an “F.” If you must make up an exam, you will be given a separate exam during my office hours. The exams will consist of any combination of identification, short answer, and essay questions, depending on the material covered on the exam. I will always spend some time before any exam in review, and will use that time to explain the particulars for that specific exam.

 Extra Credit

Because everybody has bad days, I allow for one extra credit assignment, to substitute for any one of your first three exams. (However, you cannot use this to replace a grade for an exam you missed.) After the third exam, I will announce for anyone interested the work and the essay question. The grade you earn on this paper will replace your lowest exam grade. There is, however, one catch. The grade will be changed, regardless of what you earn on the paper, even if the new grade is lower. In other words, although this assignment is open to all students, you should only opt for this assignment if your grade is in jeopardy, and you are willing to devote the necessary time to it.

 Plagiarism

Plagiarism is taking credit for work not your own. I have a “zero tolerance” policy on plagiarism. If you pass off another’s work as your own, you will fail this course.

Final Thoughts

This class will be challenging. We will read a variety of works, many of which are chosen precisely because they require critical analysis. However, they are also chosen because they represent some of the best, most interesting writing I have come across, and many are personal favorites of mine. I love this material, and will do what I can to share that love with you. All I ask in return is that you give the readings the time and energy they deserve. This course is, by necessity, reading-heavy. However, it is my hope that as the semester develops, this will seem less like work.

In this course we will be reading works that address adult themes, and often do so by employing adult language. These themes and this language may also become a part of our own intellectual discussions. Some of the issues and language choices may be offensive to some readers. It is important to remember that our methods are analytical, and our goal is a greater understanding of the materials. Further, there are multiple avenues for interpretation, and part of our goal will be to explore as many of them as we can. When discussing these issues and/or analyzing the language of the text, we must remember to be respectful to all. Intolerance of any kind will not be allowed in this classroom, and has no place in education.

If you have any thoughts, comments, questions, or concerns, I invite you to speak to me.

Books:

Kelly, Joseph. The Seagull Reader: Literature (2nd Edition)

Spiegelman, Art. Maus (Volumes I & II)

 

 

Course Calendar

Week 1

M 1/25: Course Introduction; active vs. passive reading

W 1/27: Introduction to Poetry; Carolyn Forche, “The Colonel

F 1/29: Anonymous, “Western Wind”; Emily Dickinson, “Wild Nights – Wild Nights!

 

Week 2

M 2/1: William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 18,” “Sonnet 130

W 2/3: Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”; Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art

F 2/5: Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself, 1-7”

 

Week 3

M 2/8: Ezra Pound, “In a Station of the Metro”; William Carlos Williams, “The Red Wheelbarrow

W 2/10: Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” “Anecdote of the Jar

F 2/12: Lewis Carroll, “Jabberwocky

Week 4

M 2/15: e. e. cummings, “Buffalo Bill ’s,” “anyone lived in a pretty how town

W 2/17: Poetry Exam Review

F 2/19: Poetry Exam

 

Week 5

M 2/22: Introduction to Drama

W 2/24: Sophocles, “Oedipus the King (3-32)

F 2/26: Sophocles, “Oedipus the King” (32-53)

 

Week 6

M 2/29: Henrik Ibsen, “A Doll House”(Act 1)

W 3/2: Henrik Ibsen, “A Doll House”(Act 2)

F 3/4: Henrik Ibsen, “A Doll House”(Act 3)

 

Week 7: Spring Recess

 

Week 8

M 3/14: Arthur Miller, “Death of a Salesman

W 3/16: NeMLA Conference (no class)

F 3/18: NeMLA Conference (no class)

 

Week 9

M 3/21: Susan Glaspell, “Trifles

W 3/23: Drama Exam Review

F 3/25: Drama Exam

 

Week 10

M 3/28: Introduction to Fiction

W 3/30: Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour

F 4/1: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado

 

Week 11

M 4/4: Ernest Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants

W 4/6: Raymond Carver, “Cathedral”

F 4/8: Joyce Carol Oates, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

 

Week 12

M 4/11: April Recess

W 4/13: Jamaica Kincaid, “Girl

F 4/15: Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried

 

Week 13

M 4/18: Hannah Voskuil, “Currents

W 4/20: Fiction Exam Review

F 4/22: Fiction Exam

The Extra Credit assignment will be available after the exam

 

Week 14

M 4/25: Introduction to graphic narrative

W 4/27: Maus: Book I – My Father Bleeds History, Chapters 1-3

F 4/29: Maus: Book I – My Father Bleeds History, Chapters 4-6

Extra Credit assignment due

 

Week 15: Lougheed Arts Festival

No classes this week. You are encouraged to attend events at the arts festival.

 

Week 16

M 5/9: Maus: Book II – And Here My Troubles Began, Chapters 1-2

W 5/11: Maus: Book II – And Here My Troubles Began, Chapters 3-5

F 5/13: Final Exam Review

 

The Final Exam will be given on the day and time assigned by the university. Please make all travel plans accordingly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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