online syllabus:


electronic reserves:

password (300)

halle library website:

class handouts:



section one, two, three



English 300: Writing about Literature

Literature ~ Literary Theory ~ Literary Criticism

winter 2007

Dr. Abby Coykendall

Office: Pray-Harrold Hall 603G

Phone: 734-487-0147 (messages only)

Office Hours: M 3:15-5:30; Th 12:45-3:30 PM

~ or email for an appointment ~

REGISTRATION # 26341; Section #002
MONDAY & Wednesday 11:00-12:15 Pm
Pray-Harrold Hall 618


English 300: 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 (fiction, poetry, and drama), along with surveying the wide variety of interpretive practices and critical methodologies that scholars and students use to approach them.  We will pay especial attention to those methodologies that are most representative of the major movements in literary criticism; namely, marxism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, feminism, queer theory, cultural studies, and new historicism.  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 techniques that most assist in and apply to the study of literature. 

Course Objectives: By the end of the semester, you will have 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 major 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 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, 1994; ISBN 0312055447)

Make sure to get the same editions listed above even if you purchase the books online, where they may be significantly less expensive; otherwise, the differing page numbers will make it very difficult 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

(Fiction Case Study)

Main Texts:

Isak Dinesen, “The Dreamers”

Survey of Literary Criticism in Texts & Contexts

Key Skills:

Organization &


Section Two:

Marxism and Deconstruction

(Poetry Case Study)

Main Texts:

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

Karl Marx and Jacques Derrida

One Scholarly Article of Literary Criticism

Survey of Theoretical Approaches in Hamlet 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).  The third essay must demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the writing and critical thinking skills that have come before.

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


Assignments & Assessment

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): Dinesen

Essay Two (Poetry): Coleridge

3½-4 pgs.

February 7

March 19

15% each

Revision of Essay One

Revision of Essay Two

4-4½ pgs.

March 5

April 9


Essay Three (Drama): Shakespeare

4½-5 pgs.

April 30
(12:00 PM)


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.  Aside from the critical theory exercises (which cannot be made up after the due date), late homework assignments are marked down only minimally; however, late assignments 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 allowed 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 letter 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 or by answering your cell phone.  You should also never walk in or out of class midway through unless there is a genuine emergency.  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 (Fiction Case Study)

Monday, January 8: Survey Course; Student Introductions; Conjectural Response/HOMEWORK [for 1/10]: 1) Review the syllabus, making sure to note down any questions that you have; 2) Make up the Conjectural Response if you missed class [ER]; 3) Read “Critical Worlds” in Text and Contexts (TC), pg. 3-20; 4) Read Isak Dinesen, “The Dreamers,” Part I, in the Electronic Reserves (ER), pg. 271-91 (; password 300).

Wednesday, January 10: Begin Dinesen, Reader Response, & New Criticism/HOMEWORK [for 1/17]: Read “Analyzing Fiction” in Electronic Reserves (ER), pg. 1-21; 2) Read (and preferably re-read) Isak Dinesen, “The Dreamers,” Part II-IV [ER 291-355], with at least one of the “Analyzing Fiction” questions (pg. 20-21) in mind.

Monday, January 15: NO CLASS (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)

Wednesday, January 17: Continue Dinesen, Discuss the Elements of Fiction/HOMEWORK: 1) Read “Unifying the Work” [TC 37-48]; 2) Read “Creating the Text” [TC 61-75]; 3) Write a brief, 250-word response on the Dinesen novella from the point of view of either reader response or new criticism (as described in TC).

Monday, January 22: Continue Dinesen, Reader Response, & New Criticism/HOMEWORK: 1) Read Texts & Contexts [TC 48-55, 76-85]; 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 reader response or new criticism), along with your own header, name, section, and other information; 5) Print a copy properly formatted to turn in during class.**NOTE: Save this template file for all of your future essays, without altering the margins or fonts, but changing the specific essay information as the need arises.

Wednesday, January 24: Review of Essay Conventions, Literary Criticism, & Writing Technique/HOMEWORK: 1) Finish “Critical Worlds” [TC 21-34]; 2) Review “Guidelines on Essays and Revisions[ER]; 3) Write an introductory paragraph for Essay One in the same Sample Essay file from last time, making sure that it has a thesis statement, as well as three topic sentences underneath for each body paragraph; 4) **NOTE: You must email a copy of the resulting outline to by Sunday 2PM.

Monday, January 29: Discuss Critical Approaches; Workshop Paper Topics; Begin Poetics (Shakespeare, Millay, Hughes)/HOMEWORK: 1) Begin “Analyzing Poetry” [ER 22-29]; 2) Begin Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” [RAM], Part I; 3) Add a body paragraph, with at least one indented or in-text citation, to Essay One, formatting the quotations properly (see the “Guidelines on Essay Formatting” [ER]); 4) Print a copy to turn in.

Section II: Marxism and Deconstruction (Poetry Case Study)

Wednesday, January 31: Workshop Paragraphs; Discuss Poetics; Listen to “Rime of the Ancient Mariner/HOMEWORK: 1) Finish “Analyzing Poetry” [ER 29-41]; 2) Read Coleridge, “Rime” [RAM], Parts II-III; 3) Add at least three body paragraphs to Essay One, revising the earlier portions as needed; 4) **NOTE: You must bring TWO copies of the draft to next class.

Monday, February 5: Poetics Review; Discuss Coleridge; Peer Workshop/HOMEWORK: 1) Finish Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner [RAM], Parts IV-VII; 2) Complete Essay One (3½ pages, due Feb. 7).

Wednesday, February 7: Discuss Essays, Poetics, & Coleridge/HOMEWORK: 1) Read “Background on Marx, Engels, and Marxism” [ER]; 2) After reading “What Is Marxist Criticism?” from the Hamlet Critical Edition [HM 332-44], do the “Critical Theory Exercise” (Part I only); 3) Read Karl Marx, “Meaning of Human Requirements” [ER 93-98].

Monday, February 12: Discuss Marxism & Coleridge/HOMEWORK: 1) Read David Simpson, “How Marxism Reads ‘The Rime’” [ER 148-66]; 2) Write a brief, 250-word response on the Coleridge poem from a Marxist perspective, directly quoting, analyzing, and applying the “Meaning of Human Requirements” at some point.

Wednesday, February 14: Discuss Marxism, Coleridge, & the Responses/HOMEWORK: 1) Read “What Is Deconstruction?” [HM 283-93]; 2) Read Texts and Contexts [TC 106-12]; 3) Read selections from Jacques Derrida, Given Time [ER 6-33]; 4) Read “Background on Derrida” [ER 1815-19].

Monday, February 19: Discuss Deconstruction & Derrida/HOMEWORK: 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 that seems to relate to Marx (or seems ripe for marxist analysis or critique); 3) Be prepared to discuss these passages in class.

Wednesday, February 21: Discuss Deconstruction, Marxism, & Coleridge/HOMEWORK: 1) Write an introductory paragraph, complete with a thesis statement and three topic sentences, for Essay Two (on Coleridge using either a marxist or deconstructive approach and quoting/analyzing Marx or Derrida directly at some point in the essay); 2) Finish Revision One (Essay One extended to 4 pages and substantially revised) due Mar. 5; 3) **NOTE: Make sure to bring the original draft of Essay One, as well as the revision itself, to class.

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

Monday, February 26—Wednesday, February 28: NO CLASS (Winter Recess)

Monday, March 5: Watch & discuss the film Derrida/HOMEWORK: 1) Read “Analyzing Drama” [ER 42-53]; 2) After reading “What Is Psychoanalytic Criticism?” [HM 241-51], do the “Critical Theory Exercise,” Part I; 2) Read Sigmund Freud, Selections from Interpretation of Dreams [ER113-27].

Wednesday, March 7: Introduce Drama, Freud, & Psychoanalysis/HOMEWORK: 1) Read William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Introduction [HM 3-24]; 2) Read Freud, “The ‘Uncanny,’” Part I [ER]; 3) Add at least three body paragraphs to Essay Two, revising the earlier portions as needed; 3) **NOTE: You must bring TWO copies of the draft to next class.

Monday, March 12: Discuss Shakespeare & Freud; Peer Editing of Essay Two/HOMEWORK: 1) Read Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I [HM 27-56]; 2) Read Freud, “The ‘Uncanny,’” Part II [ER]; 3) Work on Essay Two (3½ pages, due Mar. 19).

Wednesday, March 14: Discuss Shakespeare & Freud; Watch portions of Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet/HOMEWORK: 1) Read Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II-III [HM 56-109]; 2) Finish Freud, “The ‘Uncanny,’” Parts III [ER]; 3) Finish Essay Two (3½ pages, due Mar. 19).

Monday, March 19: Discuss Shakespeare & Freud; Continue Branagh’s Hamlet/HOMEWORK: 1) Finish Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV-V [HM 109-131]; 2) Write a 250-word response on Hamlet directly quoting, analyzing, and applying Freud’s “The ‘Uncanny.’”

Wednesday, March 21: Discuss Shakespeare & Freud; Continue Branagh’s Hamlet/HOMEWORK: 1) Read “What Is Feminism?” [HM 208-15]; 2) After reading Elaine Showalter, “Representing Ophelia” [HM 220-38], do the “Critical Theory Exercise,” Part II [ER]; 3) Read Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Epistemology of the Closet” [ER 244-50].

Monday, March 26: Discuss Feminism, Queer Theory, & Shakespeare/HOMEWORK: 1) Read “What Is New Historicism?” [HM 368-76]; 2) After reading Janet Adelman, “‘Man and Wife’” [HM 256-79], do the “Critical Theory Exercise,” Part II [ER].

Wednesday, March 28: Discuss New Historicism, Adelman, & Shakespeare/HOMEWORK: 1) Read Texts and Contexts [TC 245-78]; 2) Review “Guidelines on the Research Essay” and “Researching Literature” [ER]; 3) You will need to find at least one refereed article through the Halle databases (literary criticism on Coleridge) to incorporate into Revision Two (of Essay Two), due Apr. 9.

Monday, April 2: Documentation & Research; Research Demonstration/HOMEWORK: 1) Read “MLA In-Text Citations” [ER]; 2) Read “MLA Documentation” [ER] closely enough to be able to pass the quiz on Wednesday (you will need to know how to cite books, articles, articles from databases, book chapters, and webpages in MLA formatting); 3) Begin work on Revision Two (4 pages, due Apr. 9); the revision must incorporate/analyze a quotation from at least one referred article (literary criticism on Coleridge); it also must have parenthetical citations, as well as a Works Cited page, properly documented according to MLA conventions.

Wednesday, April 4: Continue Discussion of Research Papers; Quiz on MLA Documentation/HOMEWORK: 1) After reading either Marjorie Garber, Michael S. Bristol, or Karin C. Coddon in the back of the Hamlet edition [HM], do the “Critical Theory Exercise,” Part II [ER]; 2) Finish Revision Two (4 pages, due Apr. 9), 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.

Monday, April 9: Continue Discussion of Hamlet Criticism, Revisions, & Research/HOMEWORK: 1) Read your Conjectural Response from the first day of class; 2) Write an optional 250-word Extra-Credit Response on the Conjectural Response (due 4/25), describing how your understanding of literature and/or literary criticism has been changed or reconfirmed; 2) Review the “Guidelines on the Research Essay”; 4) Write an introductory paragraph, complete with a thesis statement, for Essay Three (a 4½-pg. feminist or psychoanalytic interpretation of Hamlet, directly quoting/analyzing Freud or Sedgwick), including at least three topic sentences; 5) **NOTE: You must email a copy of the resulting outline to by Tuesday 2PM.

Wednesday, April 11: Revisit Conjectural Responses; Course Retrospect/HOMEWORK: 1) Find at least two refereed articles or book chapters on Hamlet (sources meeting the minimum research requirements, yet found through your own research and not already covered in class) to incorporate into Essay Three; 2) Print a copy of your citations in MLA formatted Works Cited page, including your other three sources and the play; 3) Be prepared to discuss passages from at least one of the outside research sources in class; 4) Begin work on  Essay Three (draft for peer editing due 4/18).

Monday, April 16: Continue Discussion of Shakespeare, Criticism, & Research/HOMEWORK: 1) Draft at least three body paragraphs for Essay Three, revising as needed the portions from before; 2) **NOTE: You must bring TWO copies of the draft to next class.

Wednesday, April 18: Peer Workshop Essay Three/HOMEWORK: 1) Make up any outstanding homework by next class; 2) Work on Essay Three (4½ pages, due 12PM Apr. 30).

Wednesday, April 25 (11:00-12:30 PM): *Research Presentations/HOMEWORK: 1) Finish final copy of Essay Three (4½ pages, due 12PM Apr. 30).

Monday, April 30: 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)


Online Handouts and Links for English 300 (Winter 2007)

·       Course Syllabus (

·       Course Schedule [Section I, II, III] (

·       Electronic Reserves (

·       Sample Essay File (

·       Guidelines on Essay Formatting and Organization (

·       Guidelines on Essays and Revisions (

·       Conjectural Response (

·       Critical Theory Exercise (

·       Guidelines on the Research Essay (

·       Researching Literature (

·       Roget's Thesaurus (

·       Foriegn Language Translation (

·       Glossary of Literary Terms [Norton Anthology] (

·       Writing about Literature [Norton Anthology] (






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