online syllabus:


electronic reserve:


listserv website:


listserv address:


~ schedule ~



English 227: Writing about Literature

fall 2004

Dr. Abby Coykendall

Office Phone: (734) 487-0147

Office Location: Pray-Harrold Hall 603G

Office Hours: Wednesday 10-12; Friday 10-1

~ or email for an appointment ~

MONDAY, Wednesday, FRIDAY 9:00 am - 9:50 AM
Pray-Harrold Hall 608


English 227: Writing about Literature

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 communication skills requisite to succeed in them.  To this end, we will investigate a wide variety of literature (short fiction, novels, poetry, and drama) as well as a wide variety critical methodologies, particularly those most representative of the major movements in literary studies: marxism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, semiotics, feminism, queer theory, cultural studies, and post-colonialism.  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 they assist in and apply to the study of literature.  By the end of the semester, you will 1) be conversant in the techniques, thematic concerns, and formal structure of the principal genres of literature, 2) be acquainted with the history, terminology, and theoretical positions of contemporary schools of literary criticism, and 3) be 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.  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 the 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       Short Guide to Writing About Literature, Ed. Sylvan Barnet (Longman 2003; ISBN # 0321104765)

v       John Berger, Ways of Seeing (Penguin 1995; ISBN # 0140135154)

v       Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Dover Thrift 1993; ISBN # 0486275434)

Make sure to get the same editions pictured and listed above; otherwise, the differing page numbers will make it difficult, if not impossible, for you to follow along with class discussions.  Most of the required texts are located in the Halle Library’s Electronic Reserve:  (Contact another student or myself if you forget the password.)  It is best to print out the Electronic Reserve materials in one sitting every few weeks in advance from the multimedia computers on the first floor of the Halle library.  These computers are more likely to be able to open the files (and to open them quickly) than your own computer.  If you experience any difficulty viewing these texts on your own computer, see the link “Problems viewing PDF or other file formats? Read this!”  You may need to download small versions applications (Adobe, MS Word, etc.) in order to open them.  

Nothing is more vital for success in this class than keeping up with, and actively engaging in, the weekly reading assignments and class discussions.  Make sure to bring a copy of each text that we will be discussing to class.  You will have to have read the assigned material, and have it on hand, when I call on you in class or when we do group work, which will be often.  There will also be periodic, unannounced quizzes to ensure that you are keeping up with the reading.






Responses, Participation, Quizzes,

& Homework Assignments



3 pgs.

Essay One (Fiction): Ellison or Dickens and Marx

Essay Two (Poetry): Browning or Plath and Freud

September 27

October 25


5 pgs.

Revision of Essay One (Incorporating Graff or Bloom)

Revision of Essay Two (Incorporating Lacan or Derrida)

October 11

November 15


4 pgs.

Essay Three: Carroll or Hwang incorporating

Sedgwick, Said, or Spivak

December 6


6 pgs.

Essay Four (Research Paper): Expansion of

Revision One, Revision Two, or Essay Three

December 20


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 thus 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 those essays will be worth as much, if not more, than the first versions.  They 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.  Essay Four will be graded the same as the revisions, only the research component will be factored in along with the revision effort and essay quality (30% and 35% respectively). 

Any late essay will drop a third of a grade for each clas late; that is, an A paper will turn into A- if turned in one class late, an A paper will turn into B+ if turned in two classes late, and so on.  Likewise, any essay that is shorter than the required length will be marked down in proportion to the pages missing.  For instance, a 2-page essay that is supposed to be 3 pages will receive at most a grade of 83% or B- since it is missing 17% of the required length.  All essays must be double spaced in 12 pt. Times New Roman font, with one-inch margins and no unnecessary paragraph breaks.

The participation grade, largely based on responses, quizzes, and other homework assignments, is a considerable portion of your final grade — 20% — so keep up with the reading and response assignments and make your voice heard in class.  Late responses are marked down only minimally, but must be turned in within a week of the initial due date.  Other late assignments (e.g. the rare grammar exercise, the summaries of the theorists, etc.) can only be made up for half credit, unless of course you are absent and turn them in the following class period.  Your total response points will be averaged, put on a fair grading curve, and then bumped up or down slightly depending on how actively you engage in class discussions.

Extra credit: You can get a significant amount of extra credit — 4% added to your final grade — if you extend any of the responses into a polished five-page essay, supposing that you have not already done so to fulfill the requirements of the course.  Like the other essays, the extra-credit essay must incorporate both theory and literature.



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.  The responses will be posted to the class listserv (, but they may also be handwritten if you prefer privacy or have difficulty accessing the internet.  Each response should be at least 400 words, or roughly two paragraphs and one page, although longer (or more engaged) responses will not only enhance your grade, but also increase the ability of other students and myself to offer feedback.  In contrast to the responses, the essays will offer a thorough examination of the readings and have the proper academic format.  The primary difference between a response and an essay is that with the response, the mechanical elements of writing do not matter in the least, and the goal is to freely and openly express ideas; whereas, with the essay, the mechanical elements of writing must be attended to very thoroughly and the goal is to defend a focused argument clearly, coherently, and persuasively.  

Guidelines on the research essay will be available online — 227/research227.htm — and in the ER.  There will also be informal, in-class presentations of your research during our last class, in lieu of a final exam.  However, the fourth essay will be similar to a final exam in that it must demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the skills that we have covered over the course of the semester, whether in writing, critical thinking, or literary theory. 


Academic Dishonesty

Plagiarism is a very serious offense against the Code of Student Conduct.  According to Funk and Wagnalls’ New Standard Dictionary, plagiarism is the act of “appropriating the ideas, writings, or inventions of another without due acknowledgment; specifically, the stealing of passages either for word or in substance, from the writings of another and publishing them as one’s own.”  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.  Turning a paper in that you wrote for another class for this class, i.e. recycling the same words for double credit, also constitutes academic dishonesty at EMU. 

Any academic dishonesty will result in a failing, zero-percent grade for the assignment.  Thus, if you plagiarize the first two essays or revisions, you can expect, at most, to receive an A- (or 90%) for your final grade, supposing that you did everything else in the class perfectly, and if you cheat on the final research essay, you can expect, at most, to receive a B- (or 80%) for your final grade, again supposing that you did everything else perfectly.  With the internet, plagiarism is quite easy and tempting to do; however, the internet also makes plagiarism that much more easy to catch and document, so do not even think about doing it in this class or elsewhere.   


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.  


Section I: Current Conversations in Literary Studies

Wednesday, September 1: Introduction to the Course; Conjectural response on Literature / Homework: Review the syllabus and write down any questions that you have; Get books; Read “The Writer as Reader” in the Short Guide (SG), pgs. 3-9; Gerald Graff, “Disliking Books at an Early Age” (41-48), and Langston Hughes, “Theme for English B” (1 pg.), in the Electronic Reserves (ER) at (227) [14 pgs.]


Friday, September 3: Discuss Ethics, Aesthetics, and Approaches to Literature / Homework: Read “Writing About Fiction” (SG 125-29, 132-37); Ralph Ellison, “Battle Royal” (ER 314-27) [22 pgs.]


Monday, September 6: No Class — Labor Day Recess


Wednesday, September 8: Discuss Ellison / Homework: Read “Writing About Fiction” (SG 142-46,151-52); Harrold Bloom, “Elegiac Conclusion” (ER 224-233) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Subscribe to the class listserv at; Write a response on Ellison, drawing on Graff and/or Bloom in some fashion; Send your response as an email in plain text to the listserv address at (if you use my.emich, the email will automatically be in plain text); For confirmation, visit the listerv archives at; Email your response to if you have any difficulty.  There will be extra credit for the student who posts the first response.  This response and all other responses are due by the next class period, but if you post by 6 PM on the previous evening, you will get it back much earlier [15 pgs.]


Friday, September 10: Discuss Ellison, Graff, and Bloom / Homework: Read “The Reader as Writer” (SG 13-22); “Writing About Fiction” (SG 164-68); Background on Marx, Engels, and Marxism (ER, 2 pgs.); Karl Marx, “The Meaning of Human Requirements” (ER 93-98); Begin Reading Dickens, Hard Times (ER 1-13) [33 pgs.]


Section II: Marxism

Monday, September 13: Discuss Marxism and Dickens / Homework: Read “The Reader as Writer” (SG 23-26, 28-31, 35-36); “Two Forms of Criticism” (SG 37-39, 42-52); Charles Dickens, Hard Times (ER 14-21) [27 pgs.]


Wednesday, September 15: Discuss Marxism and Dickens / Homework: Read “Two Forms of Criticism” (SG 52-59); Finish Dickens, Hard Times (ER 22-41) [26 pgs.]


Friday, September 17: Discuss Marxism and Dickens / Homework: Read “Paragraphs,” Part I (ER 397-413) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: On a computer, write a thesis statement, three topic sentences, and one body paragraph for Essay One (Due Sept. 27, on Marx and Ellison or Marx and Dickens; the revision will incorporate either Bloom or Graff) [16 pgs.]


Monday, September 20: Discuss Essay Organization, Paragraphing, Introductions / Homework: Read “Guidelines on Essay Formatting and Organization” (ER, 10 pgs.); Begin Reading “MLA on Titles and Quotations” (ER 102-11) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: On a computer, write an introductory paragraph for Essay One, formatting the first page and the titles properly [19 pgs.]


Wednesday, September 22: Discuss Introductions, Guidelines / Homework: Read “Paragraphs,” Part II (ER 414-26); “Style and Format” (SG 274-77); “MLA on Titles and Quotations” (ER 114-21) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Revise the first body paragraph and write a second one for Essay One, incorporating one long and one short quotation at some point, and formatting the titles and quotations correctly; Bring a draft of the Essay (with the introduction, body paragraphs, and remaining topic sentence) for peer workshop on Friday [22 pgs.]


Section III: Cultural Studies

Friday, September 24: Discuss Writing Conventions, Peer Workshop of Essay One / Homework: Read “Quick Overview of Literary Theory” (ER, 1 pg.); Begin Reading John Berger, Ways of Seeing (6-21); Better images are available on the web at bergersup.html / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Essay One (Three pages; Due Sept. 27) [16 pgs.]


Monday, September 27: Introduction to Cultural Studies / Homework: Read “Commas” (ER 3 pgs.); Berger, Ways of Seeing (21-47) [29 pgs.]


Wednesday, September 29: Discuss Berger / Homework: Read “Other Kinds of Writing about Literature” (SG 60-63); “Style and Format” (SG 257-61); Berger, Ways of Seeing (47-81) [33 pgs.]


Friday, October 1: Discuss Berger / Homework: Read “Style and Format” (SG 262-65, 270-72); Finish Berger, Ways of Seeing (114-56) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Write a response on Berger, sending it as an email in plain text to the listserv address at [35 pgs.]


Monday, October 4: Discuss Berger, Responses / Homework: Begin Reading “Effective Sentences” (ER 104-17); Read “Run-On Sentences” (ER, 7 pgs.) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Do the exercises in “Run-On Sentences” [16 pgs.]


Wednesday, October 6: Review Sentence Structure, / Homework: Read Sigmund Freud, Interpretation of Dreams (ER 913-26); Begin Reading Freud, “The ‘Uncanny’”(ER 929-34) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Copy three sentences from Essay One, revising them based on three different suggestions in “Effective Sentences”; Work on Revision of Essay One incorporating Graff or Bloom (Five pages; Due Oct. 11) [18 pgs.]


Section IV: Psychoanalysis

Friday, October 8: Introduction to Psychoanalysis / Homework: Finish Freud, “The ‘Uncanny’”(ER 935-52) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Revision of Essay One (Five pages; Due Oct. 11); Bring Essay One itself and turn it in along with the revision [17 pgs.]


Monday, October 11: In-Class Response on Freud / Homework: Read “Writing About Poetry” (SG 200-202, 207-16); Sylvia Plath, “Daddy” (ER, 1 pg.); Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess” (ER, 3 pgs.) [15 pgs.]


Wednesday, October 13: Discuss Poetry, Browning, & Plath; Plath on Video / Homework: Read “Writing About Poetry” (SG 218-22, 225-35, 241-43); Re-Read Plath, “Daddy” (ER, 1 pg.); Browning, “My Last Duchess” (ER, 3 pgs.); Optional: Watch Voices and Visions (Vol. 9 on Plath) on reserve in Halle library / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Write a response on Plath or Browning, drawing on Freud and sending it as an email in plain text to the listserv address at; Make sure to use the Freudian material that you have read rather than speculating about Freudian theories that you may have heard discussed elsewhere [20 pgs.]


Friday, October 15: Groupwork on Browning and Plath / Homework: Read Jacques Lacan, Background and “The Mirror Stage” (ER 1278-90); Re-Read “The Mirror Stage” / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: On a computer, write a thesis statement, introductory paragraph, and three topic sentences for Essay Two (Due Oct. 25, on Plath or Browning and Freud; the revision will incorporate Lacan or Derrida) [17 pgs.]


Monday, October 18: Discuss Lacan / Homework: Read (and Re-Read) Lacan, “Signification of the Phallus” (ER 1302-10) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Summarize three points that you believe Lacan is attempting to convey; Work on Essay Two (Due Oct. 25) [16 pgs.]


Wednesday, October 20: Discuss Lacan / Homework: Read Jacques Derrida, “Background” (ER 1815-19); “Deconstruction and Post-Structural Analysis” (ER 161-69); “How to do Deconstruction” (ER 106-12, 127-130) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Essay Two (Due Oct. 25) [21 pgs.]


Section V: Deconstruction

Friday, October 22: Discuss Deconstruction, Begin Watching the film Derrida / Homework: Read and Re-Read Derrida, “Of Grammatology” and “The Father of Logos” (ER 1822-30, 1839-46) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Summarize three points that you believe Derrida is attempting to convey; Work on Essay Two (Due Oct. 25) [30 pgs.]


Monday, October 25: Watch and Discuss the film Derrida / Homework: If you are absent, watch the film that is on reserve in the Halle library; Begin Reading Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (v-35) [40 pgs.]


Section VI: New Historicism & Feminism

Wednesday, October 27: Discuss Deconstruction, Carroll / Homework: Read Carroll, Alice’s Adventures (36-72) [36 pgs.]


Friday, October 29: Discuss Carroll / Homework: Begin Reading Nancy Armstrong, “The Occidental Alice” (ER 536-49); Finish Carroll, Alice’s Adventures (72-86) [27 pgs.]


Monday, November 1: Discuss Armstrong, Carroll / Homework: Finish Armstrong, “The Occidental Alice” (ER 548-62) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Write a response on Carroll and Armstrong, drawing on Lacan or Derrida and sending it as an email in plain text to the listserv address at  at [13 pgs.]


Wednesday, November 3: Discuss Armstrong, Carroll, Responses / Homework: Read Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Epistemology of the Closet” (ER 744-50) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Revision of Essay Two, incorporating Lacan or Derrida (Five pages; Due Nov. 15) [6 pgs.]


Section VII: Queer Theory

Friday, November 5: In-Class Response on Sedgwick / Homework: Read Select Poems from “Queer Poetics,” William Shakespeare, David Bergman, Aphra Behn, Walt Whitman, and Gregory Corso (ER, 7 pgs.) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Revision of Essay Two (Five pages; Due Nov. 15) [8 pgs.]


Monday, November 8: Discuss Queer Poetics / Homework: Read Edward Said, “Imaginative Geography” (ER, 5 pgs.) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Revision of Essay Two (Five pages; Due Nov. 15) [5 pgs.]


Section VIII: Post-Colonialism

Wednesday, November 10: Watch and Discuss Edward Said on Orientalism / Homework: Re-Read Said, “Imaginative Geography” (ER, 5 pgs.); Read Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Imperialism and Sexual Difference” (ER 339-48) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Revision of Essay Two (Five pages; Due Nov. 15) [16 pgs.]


Friday, November 12: Discuss Said, Spivak, & Post-Colonialism / Homework: Begin Reading D. H. Hwang, M. Butterfly (ER 2111-23) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Revision of Essay Two (Five pages; Due Nov. 15); Bring Essay Two itself and turn it in along with the revision [12 pgs.]


Monday, November 15: Watch Madame Butterfly / Homework: If you were absent, you can watch the video on reserve in Halle library; Read Hwang, M. Butterfly (ER 2124-45) [21 pgs.]


Wednesday, November 17: Continue Madame Butterfly; Discuss Hwang / Homework: Finish Hwang, M. Butterfly (ER 2146-63) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Write a response on Hwang, drawing on Said or Spivak and sending it as an email in plain text to the listserv address at [17 pgs.]


Friday, November 19: Discuss Hwang / Homework: Read “Guidelines on the Research Essay” (ER); “Researching Literature” (ER); “Writing About Drama” (SG 178-196) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Essay Three (Due Dec. 6; Four pages; on Carroll or Hwang, using Sedgwick, Said, and/or Spivak extensively) [22 pgs.]


Monday, November 22: Discuss Drama, Research Essays / Homework: Begin Reading “The Research Essay” (ER 3-25) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Essay Three (Due Dec. 6) [22 pgs.]


Wednesday, November 24 - Friday, November 26: No Class — Thanksgiving Recess


Monday, November 29: Discuss Research Essays / Homework: Finish “The Research Essay” (ER 26-45, 70-75) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Essay Three (Due Dec. 6) [24 pgs.]


Wednesday, December 1: Discuss Research Essays / Homework: Read “Writing a Research Paper” (SG 278-79, 282-286); “MLA Style: English and Other Humanities” (ER, 1 pg.), “MLA In-Text Citations” (ER, 8 pgs.), and “MLA Documentation” (ER, 9 pgs.) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Essay Three (Due Dec. 6); If you wish to use this essay for Essay Four (the Six-Page Expansion of Revision One, Revision Two, or Essay Three into a Research Paper; Due Dec. 20), you must attach a note to the essay indicating that you plan to do so [24 pgs.]


Friday, December 3: No Class — Spring Recess


Monday, December 6: Discuss MLA Documentation / Homework: Find five sources for Essay Four, with at least one of the following: 1) cultural context, 2) secondary criticism, 3) a theorist not otherwise covered in this class or a different work of the same theorist / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Make a Works Cited page with these sources and format everything correctly; Write a thesis statement and six topic sentences for Essay Four (reusing those from before if they still are appropriate)


Wednesday, December 8: Discuss Research Essays, MLA Documentation / Homework: Read Sources for Essay Four / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Essay Four (Due. Dec. 20)


Friday, December 10: Revisit First-Day Conjectural Response / Homework: Read Sources for Essay Four / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Essay Four (Due. Dec. 20)


Wednesday, December 15, 9:00 - 10:30 AM: Brief Research Presentations; Missing this class will count as two absences / Homework: Read Sources for Essay Four / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Essay Four (Due. Dec. 20)


Monday, December 20 at 11 AM: Six-Page Research Essay Due.  Make sure to bring the earlier versions of the essay along with the new one.  Either drop the essays in my mailbox in the English Department (612 Pray Harrold) or slide them under my office door (603G Pray Harrold).  If the office is closed, you can approach the mailboxes from the back hallway.  Anything handed in after 11 AM sharp will not be given any credit.