online syllabus:


electronic reserves:

password (227)

halle library website:

class handouts:


~ schedule ~



English 227: Writing about Literature

Literature ~ Literary Theory ~ Literary Criticism

fall 2006

Dr. Abby Coykendall

Office Location: Pray-Harrold Hall 603G

Office Phone: 734-487-0147 (messages only)

Office Hours: MW 1:45-3:00; T 3:15-4:15; Th 10-11

~ or email for an appointment ~

REGISTRATION # 13792; Section #004
MONDAY & Wednesday 12:30-1:45 Pm
Pray-Harrold Hall 329


English 227: Writing about Literature

Course Description: This course will not only provide the background in literature and literary criticism necessary to appreciate and to comprehend upper-division literature classes, but it will also furnish the writing and critical-thinking skills necessary to succeed in them.  To this end, we will focus on the three major literary genres (short fiction, poetry, and drama), along with surveying the wide variety of interpretive practices and critical methodologies with which scholars and students can approach them.  We will pay especial attention to those approaches that are most representative of the major movements in literary criticism; namely, 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, particularly by honing in on those skills that most assist in and apply to the study of literature. 

Course Objectives: By the end of the semester, you will have become

1. Conversant in the techniques, thematic concerns, and formal structure of the principal literary genres;

2. Acquainted with the history, terminology, and theoretical positions of the major schools of literary criticism;

3. Capable of applying this new knowledge in writing, first and foremost by developing clear, coherent, and persuasive arguments that reflect the conventions of literary criticism. 

Required Texts

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


Text and Contexts [TC], Ed. Steven Lynn, 4th ed. (Longman, 2004; ISBN 0321209427)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner [RAM] (Dover, 1992; ISBN 0486272664)

William Shakespeare, Hamlet [HM], Ed. Susan L. Wofford (Bedford Critical Edition, 1994; ISBN 0312055447)

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 the ISBN number, a fingerprint of sorts for the book. ***It is especially important to get the correct edition of Hamlet, for we will be using many other materials from that edition besides the play itself.

Several required texts are located online through the Halle library’s Electronic Reserves (ER):  Print the Electronic Reserve materials in advance from the computers on the first floor of the Halle library, where you will find a station with multimedia computers equipped with the Course Reserve software, as well as technicians 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 handout from the Electronic Reserves.  You will need to have read the assigned material, and have it on hand, for groupwork and class discussions.


Course Itinerary


Section One:

Reader Response and New Criticism

(Short Fiction Case Study)

Main Texts:

Isak Dinesen, “Cardinal’s First Tale”

Survey of Criticism in Texts & Contexts

Key Skills:

Organization &


Section Two:

Marxism and Deconstruction

(Poetry Case Study)

Main Texts:

Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

Marx, Derrida, Horkheimer & Adorno

One Representative Scholarly Article

Survey of Theory in Hamlet Critical Edition

Key Skills:

In-Depth Textual Analysis & Effective Quotation

Section Three:

Psychoanalytic and Feminist Criticism

(Drama Case Study)

Main Texts:

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Select Literary Criticism on  Hamlet

Self-Directed Outside Research on Hamlet

Key Skills:

Research &


Each of the three sections of the course is devoted to one genre of literature (fiction, poetry, or drama), as well as to one or more schools of literary criticism.  In addition, we will focus on two writing skills of especial importance for each section: organization and argumentation (section one); in-depth textual analysis and quotation (section two); and finally research and documentation (section three). 

Altogether, you will compose three essays (one pertaining to each of the three literary genres), as well as undertake two substantive revisions of the essays on fiction and poetry. ** See the “Guidelines on Essays and Revisions” for more information about the specific requirements:


Assignments & Assessments



Responses, Homework, & Participation


due dates: 

15% each

Essay One (Fiction): Dinesen

Essay Two (Poetry): Coleridge

3½-4 pgs.

October 4

November 1

15% each

Revision of Essay One

Revision of Essay Two

4-4½ pgs.

November 15

November 29


Essay Three (Drama): Shakespeare

4½-5 pgs.

December 18
(12:00 PM)


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.  

The participation grade, largely based on responses, in-class writing, and homework assignments, is a considerable portion of your final grade — 20% — so keep up with the coursework 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 to receive any commentary.  Assignments and essays will not be considered late simply because you were absent (I always assume that you have a good reason for missing class), but be careful not to exceed the minimum number of absences for the course.



Because this course primarily consists of reading and discussion — rather than facts, figures, or memorization — attendance is crucial.  After five absences, your final grade will start being reduced by one third; 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.  These five absences are for emergencies, so make sure to conserve them for the end of the term when you may become ill or have other extenuating circumstances.  Leaving halfway through a class period or arriving halfway into one each count as half an absence.  Please do not distract other students by coming in late, by walking in or out of class unnecessarily, or by answering your cell phone.  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.  **Note: turning a paper in that you wrote for another course for this class, 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 13: HOMEWORK [for 9/18]: 1) Review the syllabus, noting down any questions that you have; 2) Read “Analyzing Fiction” in Electronic Reserves (ER), pg. 1-21; 3) Read “Critical Worlds” [TC 3-28]; 4) See the discussion questions for Dinesen in the “Class Handouts” folder of the ER; 5) Read (and preferably re-read) Isak Dinesen, “Cardinal’s First Tale” [ER 3-26] (; password 227), with some of the “Analyzing Fiction” questions (pg. 20-21) and the discussion questions in mind.

Monday, September 18: Survey Course; Student Introductions; Conjectural Response; Begin Dinesen & Reader Response Criticism/HOMEWORK [for 9/20]: 1) Finish “Critical Worlds” [TC 28-34]; 2) Read “Unifying the Work” [TC 37-48]; 3) Read “Creating the Text” [TC 61-75]; 4) Write a brief, 250-word response on the Dinesen short story from the point of view of Reader Response Criticism or New Criticism (as briefly described in TC).

Wednesday, September 20: Continue Dinesen, Reader Response, & New Criticism/HOMEWORK [for 9/25]: 1) Read Texts & Contexts [TC 48-55, 76-88]; 2) Read “Guidelines on Essay Formatting and Organization[ER 10 pgs.]; 3) Review the “Sample Essay[ER]; 4) On a computer, adapt the “Sample Essay” file, substituting a provisional title for Essay One (on Dinesen using either New or Reader Response Criticism), along with your own header, name, section, and other information; 5) Write an introductory paragraph for Essay One in the same file, making sure that it has a thesis statement, as well as three topic sentences underneath for the body paragraphs; 3) Email a copy of the resulting outline to by Sunday 2PM. **Save this template file for all of your future essays, without altering the margins or fonts, but changing the specific information as the need arises.

Monday, September 25: Review of Essay Conventions & Literary Criticism; Workshop Paper Topics Discuss Critical Approaches; Essay Writing; Begin Poetics (Shakespeare, Millay, Hughes, Brooks)/HOMEWORK [for 9/27]: 1) Begin reading “Analyzing Poetry” [ER 22-29]; 2) Begin reading Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” [RAM], Parts I-II; 3) Add a body paragraph, complete with both indented and in-text citations, to Essay One, formatting the citations properly (see the “Guidelines on Essay Formatting” [ER]); 4) Print a copy to turn in. [~25 pgs.]

Section II: Marxism and Deconstruction (Poetry Case Study)

Wednesday, September 27: Workshop Paragraphs; Discuss Poetics; Listen to “Rime of the Ancient Mariner/HOMEWORK [for 10/2]: 1) Finish “Analyzing Poetry” [ER 29-41]; 2) Read Coleridge, “Rime” [RAM], Parts III-IV; 3) Add at least two paragraphs to Essay One, revising the earlier portions as needed; 4) Bring two copies of the draft to next class. [~25 pgs.]

Monday, October 2: Discuss Coleridge; Poetics Review; Peer Workshop/HOMEWORK [for 10/4]: 1) Finish Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner [RAM], Parts V-VII; 2) Complete Essay One (3½ pages, due Oct. 4). [~15 pgs.]

Wednesday, October 4: Discuss Coleridge; Watch portions of Karl Marx & Marxism/HOMEWORK [for 10/9]: 1) Read “Background on Marx, Engels, and Marxism” [ER]; 2) Do “Critical Theory Exercise,” Part I, for Marxism [ER]; 3) Read “What Is Marxist Criticism?” from the Hamlet Critical Edition [HM 332-44]; 4)  Read Karl Marx, “Meaning of Human Requirements” [ER 93-98]. [20 pgs.]

Monday, October 9: Discuss Marxism & Coleridge/HOMEWORK [for 10/11]: 1) Read Horkheimer & Adorno, “Enlightenment as Mass Deception” [ER]; 2) Read David Simpson, “How Marxism Reads ‘The Rime’” [ER 148-66]. [25 pgs.]

Wednesday, October 11: Discuss Marxism & the Frankfort School/HOMEWORK [for 10/16]: 1) Read “What Is Deconstruction?” [HM 283-93]; 2) Read Texts and Contexts [TC 106-12]; 3) Read Background on Derrida [ER 1815-19]; 4) Read Jacques Derrida, “Wears and Tears” [ER 77-94]. [~31 pgs.]

Monday, October 16: Discuss Deconstruction & Derrida/HOMEWORK [for 10/18]: 1) Re-Read Coleridge’s “Rime” in its entirety [RAM]; 2) Note down the line numbers of a passage from the poem that seems to relate to Derrida (or seems ripe for deconstruction), along with a second passage related to Marx (or Marxism), and be prepared to discuss those passages in class. [~45 pgs.]

Wednesday, October 18: Discuss Deconstruction, Marxism, & Coleridge/HOMEWORK [for 10/23]: 1) Write an introductory paragraph, complete with a thesis statement and three topic sentences, for Essay Two (on Coleridge using either Marxism or Deconstruction and quoting Marx or Derrida directly); 2) Email a copy of the outline to by Sunday 2PM. [~18 pgs.]

Monday, October 23: Watch the film Derrida/HOMEWORK [for 10/25]: 1) Read “What Is Psychoanalytic Criticism?” [HM 241-51]; 2) Read Sigmund Freud, “Interpretation of Dreams” [ER113-27]; 3) Continue working on Essay Two (draft due 11/30). [~14 pgs.]

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

Wednesday, October 25: Discuss Freud & Psychoanalysis/HOMEWORK [for 10/30]: 1) Read William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Introduction and Act I [HM 3-56]; 2) Read “Analyzing Drama” [ER 42-53]; 3) Bring two copies of the draft of Essay Two with at least four paragraphs to next class [~45 pgs.]

Monday, October 30: Introduce Shakespeare & Drama; Peer Editing of Essay Two/HOMEWORK [for 11/1]: 1) Read Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II-III [HM 56-109]; 2) Finish Essay Two, due Nov. 1. [~45 pgs.]

Wednesday, November 1: Discuss Shakespeare; Watch portions of Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet/HOMEWORK [for 11/6]: 1) Read Freud, “The ‘Uncanny,’” Parts I-III [ER]; 2) Finish Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV-V [HM 79-109] ; 3) Write a 250-word response on Hamlet using Freud’s “The ‘Uncanny.’” [~45 pgs.]

Monday, November 6: Discuss Shakespeare & Freud; Watch portions of Hamlet/HOMEWORK [for 11/8]: 1) Read “What Is Feminism?” [HM 208-15]; 2) Do “Critical Theory Exercise,” Part II, for Showalter [ER]; 3) Read Elaine Showalter, “Representing Ophelia” [HM 220-38]. [25 pgs.]

Wednesday, November 8: Discuss Feminism & Shakespeare/HOMEWORK [for 11/13]: 1) Read “What Is New Historicism?” [HM 368-76]; 2) Read Edward Said “Imaginative Geography,” from Orientalism [ER]; 3) Read Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Epistemology of the Closet” [ER 244-50]; 4) Work on Revision One (due Nov. 15). [19 pgs.]

Monday, November 13: Discuss New Historicism, Post-Colonialism, & Queer Theory/HOMEWORK [for 11/15]: 1) Do “Critical Theory Exercise,” Part II, for Adelman [ER]; 2) Read Janet Adelman, “‘Man and Wife’” [HM 256-79]; 3) Finish Revision One (4 pages, due Nov. 15). [16 pgs.]

Wednesday, November 15: Discuss Adelman; Research Demonstration/HOMEWORK [for 11/20]: 1) Read Texts and Contexts [TC 245-78]; 2) Review “Guidelines on the Research Essay” and “Researching Literature” [ER]; 3) You must find at least one refereed article through the library databases to incorporate into Revision Two (of Essay Two) by Nov. 29, so if you will be out of town or away from a computer over the break, do the research before you leave. [25 pgs.]

Monday, November 20: * Optional Conferences during Regular Class Time (603G Pray Harrold)

Wednesday, November 22: NO CLASS (Thanksgiving Recess)/HOMEWORK [for 11/27]: 1) Read “MLA Style” and “MLA In-Text Citations” [ER]; 2) Read “MLA Documentation” [ER]; 3) Finish draft of Revision Two (4 pages, due Nov. 29), incorporating a quotation from at least one referred article and properly documenting the essay according to MLA conventions. [~43 pgs.]

Monday, November 27: Documentation & Research/HOMEWORK [for 11/29]: 1) Read Marjorie Garber, “Hamlet: Giving up the Ghost” [HM 297-329]; 2) Finish Revision Two (4 pages, due Nov. 29), including a properly formatted Works Cited page; 3) NOTE: Make sure to bring the original draft of Essay Two, as well as the revision, to class. [31 pgs.]

Wednesday, November 29: Continue Discussion of Shakespeare; Quiz on MLA Documentation/HOMEWORK [for 12/4]: 1) Find at least two refereed articles or book chapters on Hamlet to incorporate into Essay Three (a 4½-pg. feminist or psychoanalytic interpretation of Hamlet, using Showalter or Freud); 2) Write an introductory paragraph, complete with a thesis statement, for  Essay Three,  including three topic sentences and the two citations properly formatted; 3) Email a copy of the draft to by Sunday 2PM; 4) Be prepared to discuss passages from each of the two sources in class. [~40 pgs.]

Monday, December 4: Continue Discussion of Shakespeare and Research/HOMEWORK [for 12/6]: 1) Find at least one refereed article or book chapter of literary theory to incorporate into Essay Three (see the bibliographies in the Hamlet edition or see the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism on reserve at Halle); 2) Be prepared to discuss a passage from that source in class. [~25 pgs.]

Wednesday, December 6: Continue Discussion of Shakespeare and Research/HOMEWORK [for 12/11]: 1) Draft at least four paragraphs of Essay Three; 2) Bring two copies of the draft to next class. [~0 pgs.]

Monday, December 11: Workshop Essay Three/HOMEWORK [for 12/13]: 1) Read Conjectural Response from first day of class; 2) Write Optional 300-word Extra-Credit Response on the Conjectural Response, describing how your understanding of literature and literary criticism has been changed or reconfirmed; 3) Make up any outstanding homework by next class.

Wednesday, December 13: Revisit Conjectural Responses; Course Retrospect/HOMEWORK [for 12/15]: 1) Finish final copy of Essay Three (4½ pages, due 12PM Dec. 18)

Friday, December 15 (11:30-1:00 PM): *Research Presentations

Monday, December 18: Essay Three due by 12 PM (either put in it my English department mailbox, 612 Pray Harrold, or slide it under my office door, 603G Pray Harrold)  




[Syllabus last modified November 7, 2006]