online syllabus:


electronic reserves:

pswd (227)

halle library website:

mla bibliography:

see: acoykenda/demo.htm


~ schedule ~



English 227: Writing about Literature
Literature ~ Literary Theory ~ Literary Criticism

fall 2005

Dr. Abby Coykendall

Office Phone: (734) 487-0147

Office Location: Pray-Harrold Hall 603G

Office Hours: Monday & Wednesday 9:30-12:00

~ or email for an appointment ~

REGISTRATION # 14345; Section 004
MONDAY & Wednesday 12:30-1:45 Pm
Pray-Harrold Hall 618


English 227: Writing about Literature

Course Description: English 227 will not only provide the grounding in literature and literary theory necessary to appreciate and comprehend upper-division literature classes, but it will also furnish the writing and critical-thinking skills requisite to succeed in them.  To this end, we will investigate a wide variety of literature (short fiction, poetry, and drama), along with a wide variety of critical methodologies most representative of the major movements in literary studies: marxism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, feminism, queer theory, cultural studies, and postcolonialism.  The ultimate aim is to offer a forum in which you can develop and refine your writing and critical-thinking skills at an advanced level, especially as these skills assist in and apply to the study of literature. 

Course Objectives: By the end of the semester, students will become

§      conversant in the techniques, thematic concerns, and formal structure of the principal literary genres;

§      acquainted with the history, terminology, and theoretical positions of the contemporary schools of literary criticism;

§      capable of applying this new knowledge in writing, first and foremost by developing clear, coherent, and persuasive arguments that reflect the conventions of literary theory and practice. 

In short, we will investigate the multiform ways of reading and writing about literature by practicing and perfecting each of these skills in relation to other.


Required Texts

The following books are available at Ned’s bookstore (; 483-6400; 707 W. Cross St.), although additional copies may be available at other EMU bookstores:


v      Text and Contexts: Writing about Literature with Critical Theory, Ed. Steven Lynn, 4th ed. (Longman, 2004; ISBN 0321209427)

v      Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism, Ed. Paul H. Fry (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999; ISBN 0312112238) ** You must have the correct edition of this widely publicized poem since no other edition includes the criticism.

v      Sigmund Freud, Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria, Intro. Philip Reiff (Touchstone, 1997; ISBN 0684829460)

v      Tennessee Williams, Streetcar Named Desire, Intro. Arthur Miller (New Directions, 2004; ISBN 0811216020)

Make sure to get the same editions pictured above even if you purchase the books online, where they may be significantly less expensive; otherwise, the differing page numbers will make it difficult, if not impossible, for you to follow along with class discussions.  The most reliable way to get the correct edition is to search by ISBN number, a fingerprint of sorts for the book. 

Many other required texts are located online in the Halle library’s Electronic Reserves (ER):  It is best to print out the ER materials every few weeks in advance from the multimedia computers on the first floor of the Halle library.  These computers are more likely to open the files (and to open them quickly) than your own computer, printing the materials from that location will be entirely free, and technicians are nearby should you encounter any kind of problem. 

Make sure to bring a copy of each text that we will be discussing to class, whether it be a book or a print out from the Electronic Reserves.  You will have to have read the assigned material, and have it on hand, for groupwork and class discussions.

Course Itinerary

Each of the three sections of the course is devoted to one genre of literature (fiction, poetry, or drama respectively), two or more literary critical schools (identified in the description of assignments below), as well as a writing skill of especial importance: organization, in-depth textual analysis, and finally research.  This class will be recursive in structure both in terms of the writing skills addressed and in terms of the critical theory covered. 

As to writing, Essay One and Revision One should be composed with the organization of the essay uppermost in your thoughts, and class discussion will focus on that particular skill accordingly.  You will be addressing a relatively short, yet poignant, selection of fiction, as well as two straight-forward schools of literary criticism, which will help you to achieve that end.  We will review (and you should thus attempt to do) in-depth textual analysis of the short story, as well as in-text citations, for Essay One, but you will likely become proficient in those skills only after practicing them in the first essay and then incorporating them into Essay Two and its Revision.  Both Revision Two and Essay Three will incorporate research, folding that all-important skill into those already practiced and perfected in previous essays. 

As to the theory, in section one, we will read a brief survey of all of the critical schools, while focusing on two in particular.  In the next section, we will go into greater depth with each of these schools (reading the surveys and samples of them in the critical edition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner), while focusing on two in particular.  In the final section, we will not only focus on two critical schools, but also read a primary text from one of them in full (Freud’s Dora), which will provide expertise in at least one prominent type of literary theory.  Considering the complexity of these texts, the repeat return to different kinds of critical schools from distinct perspectives and in diverse contexts will enhance your overall comprehension.


Assignments & Grading

As with any university course, the homework will take around two hours for every hour of class, and you can thus expect to spend six hours each week completing the various assignments and readings.  A significant amount of writing will be assigned throughout the semester, whether informal responses or more formal essays.  With the responses, the mechanical elements of writing do not matter in the least, and the goal is to freely and openly express ideas; whereas, with the essays, the mechanical elements of writing must be attended to very thoroughly and the goal is to defend a focused argument clearly, coherently, and persuasively.  



Responses, Homework, & Participation


due dates: 

15% each

Essay One (Fiction): Bierce

Essay Two (Poetry): Coleridge

3˝ pgs.

October 5

October 26

17% each

Revision of Essay One

Revision of Essay Two

Essay Three (Drama): Williams

4 pgs.

November 9

November 30

December 21


The participation grade, largely based on responses, in-class writing, and homework assignments, is a considerable portion of your final grade — 19% — so keep up with the various assignments and contribute to class discussions as actively as you feel comfortable.  Late homework assignments are marked down only minimally, but they must be turned in within a week of the initial due date.  Although absences will count against you (see below), assignments will not be considered late simply because you were absent.  I always assume that you have a good reason for missing class.

Essays One, Two, and Three will be given two grades — one for theme and one for writing — which will be averaged together evenly.  Those students who are less familiar with the technicalities of writing will therefore receive a boost if they put initiative into conceiving a unique idea, and those students who are less used to thinking critically will receive a boost by writing clearly and carefully.  In order to ensure that you put effort into enhancing both aspects of your writing, however, the revisions of essays will be worth as much, if not more, than the first versions.  Revisions will also be given two grades: one for the amount of effort put into revision and one for the quality of the essay as a whole. 


Essays in Depth

The primary goal of the papers is to demonstrate an understanding of the formal nuances of fiction, poetry, or drama, and to use that understanding to defend a unique interpretation of the literature that is either in concert with or in contention with an accurate understanding of one of the critical schools discussed for that section of the course. 

Essay One:

Either a New Critical or Reader Response close reading of the Bierce short story, or a close reading which is critical of one or the other of those methodologies. 

 Essay Two:

Either a Marxist or Deconstructive interpretation of the Coleridge poem, or an interpretation which is critical of one or the other of those methodologies. 

 Essay Three:

Either a Feminist or Psychoanalytic interpretation of the Williams play, or an interpretation which is critical of one or the other of those methodologies.  **This essay must employ one outside source.


 Revision One:

An extension of Essay One to at least four pages that significantly restructures the original essay to expand or clarify its focus.  It should also address and amend complex and recalcitrant mechanical concerns like passive voice or comma splices.  See the feedback on Essay One for the organizational or grammatical issues most applicable to your particular essay.

 Revision Two:

An extension of Essay Two to at least four pages, which along with the kinds of revision mentioned above, incorporates outside research and includes a Works Cited page properly formatted.

Essays One and Two must be at least 3˝-4 pgs.; the revisions of those essays, as well as Essay Three, must be at least 4-4˝ pgs.  The shortness of the papers is meant to give you more time to concentrate on polishing the writing; however, for that reason, it is important to attain the minimum length for each assignment.  Although you can go over the page limit as much as you like, try to focus on fine tuning what you already have rather than on adding more.  Writing skills are more effectively enhanced by honing your revising skills than by practicing writing in and of itself.  Important reminders:

·   Format your papers properly and do not attempt to make them look longer than they actually are.  To establish a fair standard for all students, every paper (excluding responses or homework) must be double spaced in 12 pt. Times New Roman font, with one-inch margins, with the standard 23 lines per page, and without superfluous indentations or paragraph breaks.  Papers must also follow MLA formatting conventions (which we will cover in class), although only the research papers (Revision Two and Essay Three) need to have a Works Cited page. 

·   Any paper that is shorter than the required length will be marked down in proportion to the amount of text missing.  For instance, a 3-page essay that is supposed to be 3˝ pages will receive a grade of 86%, or B, at most since it is missing 14% of the required length; if that essay is B quality, it will ultimately receive a 73%, or C-, which is 85% of the possible 86 percentage points.

·   Late papers will drop a third of a grade for each class period late; that is, an A paper will turn into A- if turned in one class period late, an A paper will turn into B+ if turned in two class periods late, and so on.

·   Make sure to keep a copy of returned essays on hand for the revisions.  I grade the effort put towards revision, so you must turn in the original essay (the version that has my commentary) along with the revision itself.


Because this class primarily consists of reading and discussion — rather than facts, figures, or memorization — attendance is crucial.  You may be absent five times without penalty.  Each absence after that will result in a reduction of your final grade by one-third the letter grade: that is, the sixth class missed will turn a final grade of an A into an A-; the seventh, into a B+; and so on.  Aside from the grade reduction, missing classes will hinder your ability to do the assignments properly and promptly.  If you are absent from class, contact another student to fill you in on missed work before contacting me.  Above all, make sure to withdraw from the course if you find that you cannot attend class regularly or fall too far behind in the reading. 

The five absences are for emergencies, so if you ditch the class five times, do not expect a reprieve from the rule if you become ill or have other extenuating circumstances towards the end of the semester.  If there is a documented emergency (a death in the family, lost limb, prison term, &c.) at the end of the semester, I will go out of my way to help in any way I can, including giving an incomplete, supposing that you have otherwise kept up with the assignments, attended class regularly, and finished a majority of the course. 

If you are not chronically late, there will be no penalty for lateness.  However, lateness can have several undesirable consequences: you may miss crucial information (such as the extension of a deadline) often covered in the first ten minutes of class and, of course, you will likely distract other students and myself while entering the room.  It is your responsibility to ensure that you have not been marked absent because you were late.  


Academic Integrity

Plagiarism is a very serious offense against the Code of Student Conduct.  Any plagiarized writing will automatically result in a failing, zero-percent grade for the assignment, as well as in further disciplinary action from the Student Judicial Services if egregious.  The general rule is that if you use three or more words of another writer in a row without enclosing those words in quotation marks and acknowledging your source, you are guilty of plagiarism. 

See for more specific guidelines on plagiarism.  With the internet, plagiarism is easy and tempting to do; however, the internet also makes plagiarism that much more easy for professors to catch and document, so do not even think about doing it in this class or elsewhere.  **Note: turning a paper in that you wrote for another course for this course, i.e. recycling the same words for double credit, also constitutes academic dishonesty at EMU. 


Section I: Reader Response and New Criticism (Short Fiction Case Study)

Wednesday, September 7: Survey of Course; Student Introductions; Conjectural Responses/ HOMEWORK: 1) Review the syllabus and note down any questions that you have; 2) Begin reading “Critical Worlds” in Texts and Contexts [TC], 1-23; 3) Read Ambrose Bierce, “Chickamauga” in the Electronic Reserves [ER] (; password 227), including the discussion questions at the end; 4) Write a brief, paragraph-long response on the short story from the point of view of New Criticism, Reader-Response Criticism, or Deconstruction (as briefly described in TC), perhaps inspired by one of the discussion questions. **Either do this response, as well as future homework assignments, on a computer or make a copy of your handwritten drafts to turn in to me. [28 pgs.]

Monday, September 12: Review Approaches to Literature; Groupwork on Bierce/ HOMEWORK: 1) Finish “Critical Worlds” [TC 23-34]; 2) Begin reading “Analyzing Fiction” [ER 1-12]; 3) Re-Read Bierce, “Chickamauga” [ER 213-218]; 4) Extend your response a second paragraph, analyzing the short story from the point of view of Cultural Studies, Psychology, or Feminism (as described in TC), preferably by disputing or reconfirming some argument that you made in your initial paragraph. [28 pgs.]

Wednesday, September 14: Continue Work on Bierce/Literary Criticism; Jigsaw Review of the Elements of Fiction/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read Texts and Contexts [TC 37-48, 61-75]; 2) Finish “Analyzing Fiction” [ER 12-21]; 3) Extend your Bierce response a third paragraph, articulating and synthesizing your own perspective on the story now that you have analyzed it closely from a number of different angles, preferably by using some of the concepts or terminology in “Analyzing Fiction” to support your argument. [34 pgs.]

Monday, September 19: Discuss Reader Response and New Criticism; Jigsaw Review of the Elements of Fiction/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read “Guidelines on Essay Formatting and Organization” [ER 10 pgs.]; 2) Review the “Sample Essay” [ER]; 3) On a computer, adapt the “Sample Essay” file, substituting a provisional title, your own header, name, section, and other information for Essay One; 4) Print a copy to turn in. **Use this template file for all future essays, without altering the margins or fonts, but changing the specific information and saving it in a new file as the need arises. [11 pgs.]

Wednesday, September 21: Jigsaw Review of Essay Conventions; Workshop Papers Topics/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read Texts and Contexts [TC 48-55, 76-88]; 2) Add an introductory paragraph, complete with a thesis statement, to the “Sample Essay” file, as well as three topic sentences; 3) Email a copy of the draft to by Sunday 4PM. [19 pgs.]

Section II: Marxism and Deconstruction (Poetry Case Study)

Monday, September 26: Discuss Critical Approaches; Workshop Papers; Listen to Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”/ HOMEWORK: 1) Begin reading “Analyzing Poetry” [ER 22-29]; 1) Read Ferguson, “Coleridge and Deluded Reader” in Rime of the Ancient Mariner [RAM], an example of Reader Response criticism; 2) Add a body paragraph, complete with an indented citation, to the “Sample Essay” file, formatting the citation properly (refer to the original “Sample Essay” file for reference, as well as to the “Essay Guidelines” handout [ER]); 3) Print a copy to turn in. [~20 pgs.]

Wednesday, September 28: Workshop Papers; Discuss Coleridge Stanza; Ferguson/ HOMEWORK: 1) Finish “Analyzing Poetry” [ER 29-41]; 2) Read “Biographical and Historical Contexts” and the 1798 version of the “Rime” [RAM]; 3) Add another body paragraph and conclusion to Essay One, revising the other portions as needed; 4) Bring two copies of the paper to next class. [~40 pgs.]

Monday, October 3: Jigsaw Review of the Elements of Poetry; Application to Coleridge; Peer Workshop of Papers/ HOMEWORK: 1) Do “Critical Theory Exercise,” Part I, for Marxism [ER]; 2) Read “What Is Marxist Criticism?” [RAM]; 3) Read Karl Marx, “Meaning of Human Requirements” [ER 93-98]; 4) Finish final copy of Essay One (3˝ pages, due Oct. 5). [~18 pgs.]

Wednesday, October 5: Discuss Marx; Watch portions of Karl Marx and Marxism/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read Simpson, “How Marxism Reads ‘The Rime’” [RAM]; 2) Do “Critical Theory Exercise,” Part I, for Deconstruction [ER]; 3) Read “Deconstruction and ‘The Rime’” [RAM]. [~39 pgs.]

Monday, October 10: Discuss Marxism, Deconstruction, and Coleridge/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read Williams, “An I for an Eye: ‘Spectral Persecution’ in ‘The Rime’” [RAM]; 2) Read Modiano, “Sameness or Difference? Historicist Readings of ‘The Rime’” [RAM]; 3) Write a polemic debate question on the poem, including mutually exclusive pro-con propositions (see examples in the ER); 4) Bring two copies of the propositions to class. [~26 pgs.]

Wednesday, October 12: Discuss Coleridge and Criticism; Vote on Debate Questions; Debate “The Rime”/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read the 1817 version of Coleridge, “Rime” [RAM]; 2) Read Texts and Contexts [TC 106-12]; 3) Write an introductory paragraph, complete with a thesis statement and three topic sentences, for Essay Two; 4) Email a copy of the draft to by Sunday 4PM. [~40 pgs.]

Monday, October 17: Discuss Essays and Coleridge; Watch and Discuss portions of the film Derrida/ HOMEWORK: 1) Do “Critical Theory Exercise,” Part I, for Psychoanalysis [ER]; 2) Read “What Is Psychoanalytic Criticism?” [RAM]; 3) Read Texts and Contexts [TC 189-99]; 4) Continue working on Essay Two. [~39 pgs.]

Section III: Psychoanalytic and Feminist Criticism (Drama Case Study)

Wednesday, October 19: Discuss Psychoanalysis/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read Freud, Dora [D 1-39], including the footnotes; 2) Add two paragraphs to Essay Two and revise the thesis and intro; 3) Bring two copies of the draft to next class. [39 pgs.]

Monday, October 24: Discuss Freud; Workshop Essays/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read Freud, Dora [D 39-55]; 2) Finish final copy of Essay Two  (3˝ pages, due Oct. 26). [16 pgs.]*

Wednesday, October 26: Critical Exercise: Deconstructing Freud/ HOMEWORK: 1) Finish selections from Freud, Dora [D 85-119]; 2) Write a one- to two-paragraph response on Freud, explicating one of his arguments, applying that argument to another of his passages, and using your understanding of the argument to “read against the grain of the text” and to psychoanalyze Freud himself. [34 pgs.]

Monday, October 31: Discuss Freud/Responses/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read Annette Kolodny, “Dancing through the Minefield” [ER 144-63] (make sure to read the whole article, for you may be reporting on any portion of it next class); 2) Write a polemic debate question on feminism, including mutually exclusive pro-con propositions (see examples in the ER); 3) Bring two copies of the propositions to class. [19 pgs.]

Wednesday, November 2: Jigsaw Kolodny; Vote on Debate Questions; Debate Feminism/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read Texts and Contexts [TC 211-27]; 2) Finish draft of Revision One (4 pages); 3) Bring two copies of the paper to next class. [16 pgs.]

Monday, November 7: Workshop Revisions; Watch Portions of Streetcar Named Desire (dir. Elia Kazan)/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read Williams, Streetcar [SND 1-45]; 2) Finish final copy of Revision One (4 pages, due Nov. 9); 3) Bring the original draft (Essay One), as well as the revision, to next class. [~30 pgs.]

Wednesday, November 9: Discuss Williams & Revisions; Watch Portions of Streetcar Named Desire/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read “Analyzing Drama” [ER 42-53]; 2) Read Williams, Streetcar [SND 46-99]. [~46 pgs.]

Monday, November 14: Discuss Williams; Workshop Scenes; Jigsaw the Elements of Drama/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read Williams, Streetcar [SND 100-50]; 2) Write a response on Williams, incorporating either Freud or Kolodny. [~33 pgs.]

Wednesday, November 16: Discuss Williams, Freud, Kolodny; Research Demonstration/ HOMEWORK: 1) Finish Williams, Streetcar Named Desire [SND 50-79]; 2) Read Texts and Contexts [TC 133-56]; 3) Review “Researching Literature” [ER]; 4) You must find at least one refereed article to incorporate into Revision Two (of Essay Two) by Nov. 28 (one not already included in RAM), so if you will be out of town and away from a computer over the break, do the research before you leave. [~43 pgs.]

Monday, November 21: * Watch & Discuss sections from All about My Mother (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 102 min.)/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read Texts and Contexts [TC 245-78]; 2) Read “MLA Style” and “MLA In-Text Citations” [ER]; 3) Finish draft of Revision Two (4 pages), incorporating a citation to at least one referred article; 4) Bring two copies of the paper to class. [~43 pgs.]

Wednesday, November 23: NO CLASS (Thanksgiving Recess)

Monday, November 28: Discuss Williams, Film Adaptations, and Research; Peer Workshop of the Revisions/ HOMEWORK: 1) Read “MLA Documentation” [ER]; 2) Finish final copy of Revision Two (4 pages, due Nov. 30), including a properly formatted Works Cited page; 3) Bring the original draft (Essay Two), as well as the revision, to next class. [9 pgs.]

Wednesday, November 30: Continue Discussion of Williams and Research/ HOMEWORK: 1) Find two refereed articles to incorporate into Essay Three (4 pgs.); 2) Write an introductory paragraph, complete with a thesis statement and three topic sentences, for  Essay Three; 3) Email a copy of the draft to by Sunday 4PM. [0 pgs.]

Monday, December 5- Monday, December 12: ** Conferences on Essay Three ** You must come during the appointment scheduled for you, but you do not have to go to the regularly scheduled class (missing the appointment will count as two absences) / HOMEWORK: 1) Add at least two paragraphs to Essay Three (4 pgs.) and revise the thesis and intro; 2) Bring two copies of the draft to class Dec. 14.

Wednesday, December 14: Workshop Essay Three; Revisit Conjectural Responses/ HOMEWORK: 1) Finish final copy of  Essay Three (4 pages, due Dec. 21)

Monday, Friday, December 16 (11:30 - 1:00 PM): *Research Presentations

Wednesday, December 21: Essay Three due in my English Department mailbox (612 Pray-Harrold) or under my office door (603G Pray Harrold) by 6 PM.





[Syllabus last modified September 6, 2005]