online syllabus:


electronic reserves:


listserv website:


listserv address:


~ schedule ~



English 227: Writing about Literature

winter 2005

Dr. Abby Coykendall

Office Phone: (734) 487-0147

Office Location: Pray-Harrold Hall 603G

Office Hours: Monday & Wednesday 12:00-1:30; 4:15-5:15

~ or email for an appointment ~

MONDAY & Wednesday 3:00 PM - 4:15 Pm
Pray-Harrold Hall 618


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       Pocket Style Manual, Ed. Diana Hacker, 4th ed. (Bedford/St. Martins 2003; ISBN # 0312406843)

v       Charles E. Bressler, Literary Criticism (Prentice Hall 2002; ISBN # 0130333972)

v       Writing about Literature, Ed. Janet E. Gardner (Bedford/St. Martins 2003; ISBN # 0312412827)

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 Reserves:  (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 biweekly reading assignments and class discussions.  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, 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 keep up with the reading.






Responses, Participation, Quizzes, Research Presentation, & Grammar Exercises



3 pgs.

Essay One (Fiction): Bierce or Ellison and Marx

Essay Two (Poetry): Browning or Plath and Freud

February 9

March 23


4½ pgs.

Revision of Essay One (Incorporating Graff or Bloom)

Revision of Essay Two (Incorporating Lacan or Derrida)

March 7

April 11


4½ pgs.

Essay Three (Research Paper): Hwang and Said, incorporating Mulvey or Sedgwick

April 25


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 the 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. 

Any late essay will drop a third of a grade for each class 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 2½-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 grammar exercises, 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 -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.  Responses to the readings will be posted periodically to the class listserv, emailed in plain text and without attachments to and thence dispersed to all of the members of the class at once.  See to subscribe to the listserv, and then visit the listserv archives to double check that your response went through or view the responses of other class members.  Responses may also be handwritten if you prefer privacy or have difficulty accessing the internet.  All responses are listed on the schedule below and due by the following class period, but if you post them by 6 PM on the previous evening, you will get them back much earlier.  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 enhance 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.  

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 one of the first two essays, you can expect, at most, to receive a B+ (or 88%) for your final grade, supposing that you did everything else in the class perfectly; if you plagiarize the final research essay, you can expect, at most, to receive a C (or 74%) 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, January 5:  Introduction to the Course; Conjectural response on Literature / Homework: Review the syllabus and write down any questions that you have; Get books; Read “Defining Criticism, Theory, and Literature” in Literary Criticism (LC), pgs. 1-15; Gerald Graff, “Disliking Books at an Early Age” (41-48), as well as Langston Hughes, “Theme for English B” (1 pg.), in the Electronic Reserves (ER) at (password 227). [23 pgs.]


Monday, January 10: Discuss Ethics, Aesthetics, and Approaches to Literature / Homework: Read “Writing about Literature” and “The Role of Good Reading” in Writing about Literature (WL), pgs. 1-13; “Analyzing Fiction” (ER 2-21); Ambrose Bierce, “Chickamauga” (ER 213-218). [37 pgs.]


Wednesday, January 12:  Discuss Fiction, Writing about Literature, & Bierce / Homework: Read “A Historical Survey of Literary Criticism” (LC 16-21, 24-29, 30-35); Harrold Bloom, “Elegiac Conclusion” (ER 224-233); Ralph Ellison, “Battle Royal” (ER 314-27) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Write a 400-word response on Ellison, drawing on Bloom in some fashion; Subscribe to the class listserv at; 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); Do not send the response in an email attachment; For confirmation, visit the listserv archives at (make sure to refresh the page to see the latest posts); Email your response to me ( if you have any difficulty, or hand it in as a hard copy during class.  There will be extra credit for the student who posts the first response.  This response (as well as all future responses) is due by the next class period, but if you post it by 6 PM on the previous evening, you will get it back much earlier. [39 pgs.]


Monday, January 17: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, No Classes


Section II: New Criticism & Marxism


Wednesday, January 19: Discuss Literary Criticism, Ellison, and Bloom / Homework: Read “Literary Criticism and Literary Theory” (WL 40-46); “New Criticism” and “Marxism” (LC 37-48; 161-74); Karl Marx, “The Meaning of Human Requirements” (ER 93-98) [35 pgs.]


Monday, January 24: Discuss New Criticism & Marxism / Homework: Read “Literary Criticism and Literary Theory” (WL 46-50); “The Writing Process” and “Some Common Writing Assignments” (WL 14-26, 29-40); “Guidelines on Essay Formatting and Organization” (ER, 10 pgs.); Review the “Sample Essay” (ER) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Adapt the “Sample Essay” file for Essay One (Three pages; Due February 9, on Marx and Bierce or Marx and Ellison; the revision will incorporate either Bloom or Graff), adding in your own header, title, name, and other information and deleting the other words.  Print a copy to turn in. [34 pgs.]


Wednesday, January 26: Discuss Writing Essays / Homework: Read “Paragraphs” (ER 397-419); “Clarity” in the Pocket Style Manual (PSM), pg. 2-7; Do Electronic Grammar Exercises 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, 3-1, and 3-2, which are available online ( / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Add a thesis statement, three topic sentences, and one body paragraph to the file that you have adapted for Essay One, using one of the organizing ideas mentioned in “Paragraphs” for your body paragraph; Print a copy to turn in. [27 pgs.]


Monday, January 31: Discuss Essay Organization, Paragraphing, Introductions / Homework: Read “Paragraphs” (ER 420-426); “Clarity” (PSM 8-22); Do Electronic Grammar Exercises 4-1, 5-1, 5-2, 6-1, 7-1, and 7-3 ( / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Add an introductory paragraph to the file that you have adapted for Essay One, formatting the first page, quotations, and titles properly, and proofreading the language for the clarity concerns covered in the Pocket Style Manual; Feel free to revise the body paragraph, title, or remaining topic sentences as needed; Print a copy to turn in. [20 pgs.]


Wednesday, February 2: Discuss Essay Organization, Paragraphing, Introductions / Homework: Read “Peer Editing and Workshops” (WL 26-29); “Integrating Literary Quotations” (PSM 123-27); Do Electronic Research Exercises 30-1 & 30-2 ( / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Revise the introduction and first body paragraph and write two more body paragraphs for Essay One, incorporating one long (indented) quotation and one short quotation at some point, and formatting the titles and quotations correctly; Bring three copies of the essay for the peer workshop on Monday. [7 pgs.]


Section III: Psychoanalysis


Monday, February 7: Peer Workshop of Essay One / Homework: Do Electronic Grammar Exercises 8-1, 8-3, 9-1, 9-2, and 9-3 (; Read Sylvia Plath, “Daddy” (ER, 1 pg.) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Essay One (Three pages; Due February 9); Review the “Checklist for Essay One,” and turn it in with the essay itself. [1 pg.]

Wednesday, February 9: Watch Voices & Visions segment on Sylvia Plath / Homework: Re-read Sylvia Plath, “Daddy” (ER, 1 pg.); Read “Reader-Response Criticism” (LC 55-70); “Analyzing Poetry” (ER 22-41). [34 pgs.]


Monday, February 14: Discuss Poetry and Poetics / Homework: Read “Psychoanalytic Criticism” (LC 119-136); Sigmund Freud, Interpretation of Dreams (ER 913-26); Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess” (ER, 3 pgs.). [33 pgs.]


Wednesday, February 16: Discuss Browning and Psychoanalytic Criticism / Homework: Read Freud, “The ‘Uncanny’” (ER 929-52); Re-read portions of Freud, “The ‘Uncanny’” (942-52) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Write a response on Browning and Freud or Plath and Freud, sending it as an email in plain text (and not as an attachment) to the listserv address at; Email your response to me ( if you have any difficulty, or hand it in as a hard copy during class. [43 pgs.]


Monday, February 21: Discuss Browning, Freud, and Responses / Homework: Read “Structuralism” (LC 75-89); Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror Stage” (ER 1278-90); “Grammar” (PSM 24-36); Do Electronic Grammar Exercises 10-1 & 10-2 ( [38 pgs.]


Wednesday, February 23: Discuss Structuralism, Lacan, Essay One / Homework: Read  “Grammar” (PSM 36-44); “Deconstruction” (LC 94-114); Do Electronic Grammar Exercises 12-1, 12-2, 12-4, 12-5, 12-9, and 12-10 (; Re-read Lacan, “The Mirror Stage” (ER 1285-90) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Revision of Essay One, incorporating Graff or Bloom (4½ pages; Due March 7); Review the “Checklist for Revision One,” and turn it in with the revision and essay itself. [33 pgs.]


Monday, February 28 — March 2: Winter Recess


Section IV: Deconstruction


Monday, March 7: Discuss Lacan and Deconstruction / Homework: Read Jacques Derrida, “Structure, Sign, and Play” (ER 352-63); “Grammar” (PSM 44-62); Do Electronic Grammar Exercises 13-1, 13-2, 14-1, 15-1, and 16-3 ( [29 pgs.]


Wednesday, March 9: Watch and Discuss the film Derrida / Homework: Re-read Derrida, “Structure, Sign, and Play” (ER 352-63); Read “Punctuation” (PSM 64-72); Do Electronic Grammar Exercises 17-1, 17-2, 17-3, and 17-4 ( / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Write a thesis statement, introductory paragraph, and three topic sentences for Essay Two (Three pages; Due March 23, on Plath and Freud or Browning and Freud; the revision will incorporate Lacan or Derrida). [19 pgs.]


Section V: Feminism & Queer Theory


Monday, March 14: Discuss Derrida / Homework: Read  “Analyzing Drama” (ER 42-53); “Punctuation” (PSM 72-76); Do Electronic Grammar Exercises 18-1, 18-2, and 18-3 ( / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Write two body paragraphs for Essay Two (Three pages; Due March 23), adding them to the introductory paragraph and remaining topic sentence; Bring three copies to class for peer revision. [15 pgs.]


Wednesday, March 16: Peer Workshop of Essay Two / Homework: Read “Feminism” (LC 142-56) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Essay Two (Three pages; Due March 23). [12 pgs.]


Monday, March 21: Discuss Drama & Feminism / Homework: Read “Punctuation” (PSM 76-86); Do Electronic Grammar Exercises 19-1, 20-1, and 21-1 ( / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Essay Two (Three pages; Due March 23); Review the “Checklist for Essay Two,” and turn it in with the essay itself. [10 pgs.]


Wednesday, March 23: Watch Madame Butterfly / Homework: Read Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (ER 57-79); Begin Reading D. H. Hwang, M. Butterfly (ER 2111-17). [28 pgs.]


Section VI: Post-Colonial Theory and Cultural Studies


Monday, March 28: Discuss Feminism, Mulvey, and Madame Butterfly / Homework: Read Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Epistemology of the Closet” (ER 744-50); Hwang, M. Butterfly (ER 2118-32); “Mechanics” (PSM 88-99)  [31 pgs.]


Wednesday, March 30: Discuss Sedgwick, Said, & Hwang; Watch Edward Said on Orientalism / Homework: Read Edward Said, “Imaginative Geography” (ER, 5 pgs.); D. H. Hwang, M. Butterfly (ER 2133-63) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Write a response on Mulvey, Sedgwick, and Hwang, or Mulvey, Said, and Hwang, sending it as an email in plain text (and not in an attachment) to the listserv address at; Email your response to me ( if you have any difficulty, or hand it in as a hard copy during class. [35 pgs.]


Monday, April 4: Discuss Said & M. Butterfly / Homework: Read “Cultural Poetics” and “Cultural Studies” (LC 179-90; 197-209) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Revision of Essay Two, incorporating Lacan or Derrida (4½ pages; Due April 11). [23 pgs.]


Wednesday, April 6: Discuss Cultural Studies / Homework: Read  “Research” (PSM 101-23); Do Electronic Grammar Exercises 22-1, 23-3, and 24-1 ( / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Revision of Essay Two, incorporating Lacan or Derrida (4½ pages; Due April 11); Review the “Checklist for Revision Two,” and turn it in along with the revision and essay itself. [22 pgs.]


Monday, April 11: Discuss Research Essay / Homework: Read “Researching Literature” (ER, 2 pgs.); “Research” (PSM 127-44) / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Write a thesis statement, introductory paragraph, and three topic sentences for Essay Three (pages; Due April 25, on Hwang, Said, and Mulvey or Hwang, Said, and Sedgwick). [19 pgs.]


 Wednesday, April 13: Discuss MLA Documentation / Homework: Do Electronic Research Exercises 32-1, 32-2, & 32-3 (; Find four sources for Essay Three with at least one of the following: 1) cultural/historical context, 2) secondary literary 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. [0 pgs.]


Monday, April 18: Discuss Research Essays; Revisit First-Day Conjectural Response / Homework: Read Sources for Essay Three / WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Work on Essay Three (pages; Due April 25)


Monday, April 25: Research Presentations; Essay Three Due


[Syllabus last modified January 4, 2005]