POLICIES FOR E491 TRADITIONS OF LITERARY CRITICISM, CSU FULLERTON FALL 2007 (UPDATED 8/22/07)
Course Information. English 491, Course Code 13102. Thurs. 7:00-9:45 p.m., Humanities 226. Office hrs: Thurs. 6:00-6:50 in University Hall 329. E491@ajdrake.com. Catalog: "(covers) the major English critics, from the Renaissance to the beginning of the 20th century, in relationship to the classical theories of criticism. Units (3)." Prereq: ENGL 300 or equivalent. I will use +/- grading.
Course Objectives. While the ultimate goal of studying the history of criticism and theory is to return to literature with fresh insights, E491 as I have structured it is not a course in practical, applied criticism. It is a course consisting of lecture, presentations, and discussion that aims to ground students in the history of literary criticism and theory, from Plato's ancient critique of literary "imitation" to Ferdinand de Saussure's early 20th-century structural linguistics. I have chosen our syllabus in part with the aim of helping you prepare for the study of literary theory from the mid-20th Century onwards. Some of our material is relatively straightforward, but some of it is rather difficult -- don't be discouraged in the least if you don't feel that you have 100% comprehension: understanding the philosophical and aesthetic texts that have informed contemporary thought about literature comes with time and re-reading; it doesn't happen "all at once." The more you return to this material over time, the more valuable it will become in your engagement with primary works of literature.
Major Study Units. The course will follow a roughly chronological order and will cover Classical criticism, medieval sign theory, Renaissance and Neoclassical criticism, German Idealist philosophy relevant to aesthetics and literary study, British and American Romanticism, British Victorian criticism, and modern philosophy, psychoanalysis, and linguistics up to around the beginning of the 20th Century. I have not confined our selections to English critics; literary criticism and theory, in my view, is best studied in an internationalist context. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and others are excellent in their own right, but they are best understood in the broad context of European literature and literary theory.
Classroom Activities. Lecture, student presentations, and discussion when students pose questions or offer comments to me or to the entire class. I encourage such questions and comments -- thoughtful student participation improves any course, broadening its scope and introducing a variety of opinion that wouldn't be available otherwise. A key point: my lectures improve significantly when students take an active part in the class: I remember to mention things I might have forgotten to say, and sometimes make connections I hadn't thought of. My tasks are to lecture concisely, to listen well, to ask good questions, and to help you find out more about the texts we study. Your tasks are to listen, respond, and develop your own ideas, your own "voice," as a reader of literary works. In humanities study, insightful interpretation and an ability to make interesting connections between one author or concept and another are central goals.
Evaluation Methods. A term paper; a journal requirement; in-class presentations based in part on prior discussion by email with the instructor, an in-class final exam. YOU CANNOT PASS THIS CLASS WITHOUT SUBSTANTIALLY COMPLETING ALL FOUR REQUIREMENTS. I will use +/- grading.
Attendance. Students should attend regularly. Missing an inordinate number of meetings (i.e. more than 20%) may become a factor in the final grade. Students are responsible for keeping up with missed sessions by listening to the audio files that become available within a few days of each session.
Exam, Alternate Scheduling. If you run into a scheduling problem, taking the final a day or two before its set date might be possible at our mutual convenience. Please inquire about this well before you make such a request.
Paper Rough Drafts. One-paragraph descriptions of projected paper required. Please read the term paper instructions carefully since they contain the prompt and advance draft comments. I reserve the right to require proof of the final paper's authenticity, such as notes or an early draft.
Paper Final Drafts. The default due date for final papers is the day of the final exam, although if possible (based on my schedule and when I must turn in grades) I will try to extend that deadline several days. Please send papers by email attachment; if you do so and do not receive confirmation within approximately three days, it is your responsibility to email me. IF YOU DON'T RECEIVE CONFIRMATION, I DID NOT RECEIVE YOUR WORK!
Presentations. Presentations are fairly informal, but students should approach them with a sense of intellectual responsibility. Presentations are as much for others as for oneself. I will judge presentations on the following grounds: did the student 1) Consult with me beforehand, as required, to discuss substantive ideas? 2) Seem to have put genuine effort into preparing? 3) Send me a written version by email afterwards so I can post it to the collective students' blog? I won't judge students on their "rhetorical" skills during the actual presentation: the grade for this component will be based on how seriously they approached the task beforehand, and whether they followed up afterwards with a written version as required.
Journals. I will not mark journal sets down unless they are late, incomplete, or so brief as to suggest evasion of intellectual labor. They should consist of honest responses to the assigned readings, not "yes-or-no" style answers or quotation without further comment.
Plagiarism. Cheating on papers and tests will result in an "F" for the course. In severe or repeated cases, plagiarism can lead to suspension or even expulsion. Many problems are caused not so much by dishonesty as by a lack of experience in consulting and incorporating sources, so please read the writing guides (see "Resources" in your course menu, and click on "Guides") on citing texts and "Plagiphrasing." Please note that plagiarism isn't simply a matter of wicked intentions -- grades can be badly affected by a simple failure to handle sources responsibly.
Source Work. It is acceptable to consult legitimate sources (scholarly articles and books) while developing your paper, and if you are a graduate student you should engage with some secondary material. But if you are an undergraduate, the most important thing is to study your chosen primary texts patiently. Relying heavily on commercial notes (even good ones) may hinder this process. Other people's ideas are valuable only if you manage to make them your own in an honest way; if you do little more than repeat them under the guise of informing your audience (i.e. if you give a "book report" rather than offering a genuine analysis based mostly on your own insights), you haven't accomplished much with regard to your own education. Check your school library's online portal for article databases. Project Muse and JSTOR are among the best for humanities work. They not only list scholarly essays but, most often, even allow you to download them as HTML or PDF files. Chapman's portal is Chapman Library, and CSU Fullerton's (unless you use "My Fullerton") is CSUF Library.