Introduction to Textual Analysis and Interpretation
Spring 2006

 

English 2350-003 Office Hrs: T/TH 3:30-5 or by apt.; 405 Carlisle Hall
Instructor: Dr. Roemer Please schedule all appointments.
M-TH: 11:00 -12:20 Phone: 817-272-2729
Preston Hall 300 roemer@uta.edu (note: I prefer phone messages.)

Be Aware: Classes begin at 9:30. We often have short-answer exams at the beginning of class, so please be on time. Be sure to bring the relevant texts(s) to class, which for certain classes will include the course packet.

Preamble: Although we will be reading and discussing works of literature, this course differs from many other literature courses, since in the readings and discussions we will be examining various ways of interpreting the literature as much as we will be discussing the literature per se. Also, approximately three-quarters of this course will be a class-and-group discussion experience. After that, the course will transform into individual conference meetings as the focus changes to your final paper.

Goals and Requirements

The Departmental goals for this course are to prepare students to: (1) identify characteristics of literary genres (at least three); (2) recognize and understand critical and literary terms; (3) develop methods and strategies for analyzing and interpreting texts; and (4) demonstrate a command of these methods and strategies in written work.

The basic Departmental written requirements aimed at achieving and demonstrating the goals are: (1) a close reading of a text or a portion of a text; (2) an analyses of a text or portion of a text using an appropriate critical term or critical method; and (3) a research paper that demonstrates a knowledge of criticism on the text and (a) method(s) relevant to the study of that text.

To be more specific, in this course we will address the goals in (1) class and group discussions; (2) assigned readings; (3) short answer exams drawn from terms in the Bedford Glossary , Critical Theory Today, and course packet; (3) three essay exams; and (4) the three relatively short papers described below.

The selection and pairing of texts addresses the first goal in particular. We examine works of fiction, poetry, and life narrative (autobiography). In each case we begin by discussing a well-known American work (or poems) that are routinely defined as a novel, poetry, or autobiography. I pair these texts with Native American texts that can also be defined as novels, poetry, or autobiography, but they challenge typical ways of defining these genres. The pairing should generate discussion about how readers, authors, editors, scholars, and publishers conceive of genres and about literary canon formation

Required Readings (continued on next page)

Course Packet (CP)
The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, Murfin and Supryia (BG)
Critical Theory Today, Tyson (CTT)
The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
Ceremony, Silko
Selections of different versions of Dickinson's poetry (CP)
Translations of American Indian Songs (CP)
The Autobiography, Franklin, focus: Part 2 (the other writings are NOT required)
The Way to Rainy Mountain, Momaday
The MLA Handbook (6th Ed.) Gibaldi

Topics, Readings, Exams, Tentative dates (Note: Except for the first short-answer exam, the short-answer exams are not listed. They occur approximately once a week.)

1/17 Introduction to the Course

(Goals, Assignments, Schedule, Criteria, Policies)
Reading: syllabus; Gatsby; handouts; see list of terms for the genre exam

1/19 Pre-Reading Reading: How Genre Categories Make Us Pre-View Literature

Readings: Terms from BG: allegory, autobiography, essay, fiction, genre, novel, poetry; brief selections from CTT: Stanley Fish (172-73); Northrup Frye and Robert Scholes (210-14); Jonathan Culler (222-24); Tyson, from "Overview," 426-29 (CTT)

1/24 Short Answer Test on Genre Terms (see list)

Novels

At the Top of (Almost) Everyone's 100 Best American List and Canonized Beyond a Doubt -- The Great Gatsby

1/24, Readings: The Great Gatsby; CTT: "New Criticism"; "Marxist Criticism"
26, 31

1/31 Short, Close Reading Paper Due

At the Top of an Alternative Canon an Alternatively Shaped Novel --
Ceremony

2/2, Readings: Ceremony; CTT: "Postcolonial and African American Criticism";
7, 9 "Psychoanalytic Criticism"; Abraham Maslow's Needs & Self-
Actualization: Humanistic Psychology (CP)

2/14 Novel Essay Exam

Poetry

The First Lady of American Canonization: Emily Dickinson (in many versions)

2/16, Readings: versions of Dickinson's poems (CP); CTT: "Reader-Response 21, 23 Criticism"; "Lesbian, Gay, and Queer Criticism”; Norton Poetry Guides (handout)

 



One of the Least Canonized and Most Misunderstood American Poetries --
American Indian Song and Chant Translations

2/28, Selections of Translations (CP) & film: "By This Song I Walk"; CTT: "New 3/2, 7 Historical and Cultural Criticism"; Robert Dale Parker, "Text. Lines, and Videotape: Reinventing Oral Stories as Written Poems" (CP)

3/9 Poetry Essay Exam

3/13-19 Spring Break

3/21 Critical Method Paper Due

Note: You should have begun thinking seriously about the final paper by this point
Reading: MLA Handbook: Chapter 1: "Research and Writing" (especially pages 3 - 7) and begin work on the prospectus.

Life Narratives

The Known American Life Model -- The Autobiography

3/21,23 Readings: Franklin's Autobiography (focus on Pt II [Ten years of more ….To Thus far written at Passy]); CTT: "Feminist Criticism"; "Deconstructive Criticism"

The Unknown American Process of Self / Community Creation -- The Way to Rainy Mountain

3/28,30,Readings: The Way to Rainy Mountain; CTT: "Structuralist Criticism";
4/4 Henry Louis Gates. Jr., " 'Ethnic and Minority' Studies" (CP)

4/6 Life Narrative Essay Exam [proctored]

The Research Paper: "Prospected," Drafted, and Re-drafted

4/11 Re-discuss the Prospectus and Paper

4/13 Prospectus Due, (which will be graded). If you turn a draft in earlier, I can start helping you earlier. No class; turn in prospectus by 5 p.m.

4/18,20 Conferences to discuss prospectus.

4/25 Draft of paper due by 11 a.m.

4/27 Drafts returned, discussed

5/2 Optional conferences

5/4 Final Draft Due by 5 p.m.

5/11 Papers Returned / Discussed

 

Examinations

As suggested above, there will be two types of exam questions: short answer and essay. The short answer questions will be identifications taken from the lists attached to the syllabus; the lists are drawn from The Bedford Glossary (BG), the italicized words in Critical Theory Today (CTT), classes, and the course packet (CP). The short answer exams will be given approximately every week at the beginning of the class; the class before each exam I will indicate which sub-section of the lists will be tested. The class before each essay exam I will distribute a study sheet that will indicate the nature of the essay questions. Essay grading criteria: how well you address the question and how well you support your arguments with relevant and specific examples from the readings. I will also consider writing coherence and mechanics, though I will be more demanding on the mechanics when I evaluate the papers.

Papers

First: Close Reading (approximately 750 words [three double-spaced pages]); using the "New Criticism" CTT chapter and class discussions as guides, select a portion of Gatsby (no longer than a chapter, no shorter than a paragraph). (1) Define the primary themes, questions, and / or issues you discovered "in" the selection. (2) Indicate how two or three relevant elements of the selection (e.g., diction, imagery, narrative voice, tone, setting description, characterization) contribute to and/or detract from that primary theme, question, or issue you defined.

Second: Critical Method (approximately 750-1000 words [three-to-four double-spaced pages]); apply one of the interpretive methodologies we study (except for New Crit.) to one the texts (except Gatsny, but you are not limited to the methods and texts studied before the paper due date). (1) Indicate why this particular interpretive orientation is appropriate for studying the text you selected. (2) Using the class discussion and the sample Gatsby essays in CTT as guides, demonstrate the effectiveness of using the selected method.

Third: Process for the Research Paper (approximately 1250-1500 words [five-to-six double-spaced pages] plus the "Works Cited" section--a minimum of five critical sources). Select one of the assigned readings; determine a focus/thesis and select one or more of the interpretive methods that will facilitate your analyses; discover relevant parts of the text that define and support your focus/thesis; using the annual American Literary Scholarship volumes (in print and online) and other print and electronic bibliographic sources (see MLA Handbook ), identify articles and chapters that will give your arguments authority and clarify your thoughts on your interpretation; prepare and submit the (graded) prospectus (see attached model) ; revise the prospectus; write and revised drafts; turn in final draft. Use MLA format; see especially sections 4.3-4.6 and chapters 5 and 6 of the MLA Handbook. Note: This process is not lock-step; e.g., you may prefer to start some of the writing before you prepare a prospectus; you might want to go to the secondary criticism early, though it's best to have some idea of your focus and thesis before reading much criticism.

Grading Criteria: For all three papers, how well you fulfill the specific requirements of each assignment will obviously be important. For the research paper, I will be concerned with how well you integrate your ideas and arguments with the "voices" of the critical articles. We will discuss this at length in class. For all the papers, I will expect coherent, well-organized, and engaging writing and writing mechanics (e.g., spelling, grammar) worthy of an English major. If you have had writing problems in the past, please visit the free Writing Center on the fourth floor of the library.

 

Approximate Grading Weights

Exams (50%): Combined grade for the short-answer tests (20%); the three essay exams (10% each = total 30%).

Papers (50%): First (10%); Second (15%); Research (25%: prospectus, 5%; final draft, 20%).

Constructive Warnings

Professors are no longer allowed to drop students for excessive absences. If you plan to withdraw from the course, you must follow University procedures. If you do not, you will receive an F for the semester. Excessive unexcused absences (more than FOUR classes) will affect your grade (half grade for each set of FOUR absences), since the group discussions / presentations are a significant part of the class time.

In the past I have had few problems with plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty. An excellent definition of plagiarism is included in the MLA Handbook (Chapter 2). Instances of academic dishonesty, including plagiarism, will be turned over immediately to the office of the Associate Vice-President for Student Affairs.

Encouragement

Intangible grading factors: improvement and consistent class participation (especially in the group discussions and presentations) have turned many a C+ into a B- and quite a few B+s into A-s. I am very willing to accommodate disabled students. Early in the semester, they should present their authorized documents from appropriate University offices. Students needing academic or personal counseling should consult the English Undergraduate Advisor and if necessary the Office of Student Success Programs (817-272-6107)

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Use this Prospectus Format

1. Thesis / Significance (one paragraph): indicate the book or poem(s) selected for examination; define the primary argument(s) claim(s), or question(s); indicate the significance of your thesis (i.e., address the "So what question?").
2. Feasibility (short paragraph): Is it possible to address this thesis adequately in a five-to-six-page research paper and during an intense summer semester course? Does our library or do other metroplex libraries have the resources you will need.
3. Method (one paragraph): identify the critical approach(es) to interpretation that you will use (see the CTT chapters). Indicate why these are appropriate for your book or poem(s) and your thesis.
4. (Very) Tentative Organization (brief paragraph): In a few sentences justify how you will order the paper.
5. (Very) Preliminary Bibliography (list): Remember, the paper requires at least five critical sources in your Works Cited list that will be well-integrated into your discussion (i.e., not just tacked on to reach the five minimum).

**********

 

Lists for Short Answer Exams

First Exam Short Answer / Genre

You will be asked to write brief identifications for TEN of the following terms from the Bedford Glossary. (Typically a sensible version of the first two or three sentences of the Bedford definition will suffice.)

1. allegory
2. archetype
3. autobiography
4. bildungsroman
5. biography
6. dystopia
7. epic
8. essay
9. fable
10. fiction
11. genre
12. gothic
13. hymn
14. local color
15. myth
16. naturalism
17. novel
18. parody
19. poetry
20. primitivism
21. surrealism
22. tragedy
23. utopia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terms Related to the Short Answer Tests on Novels and "New," Marxist, Postcolonial, and Psychoanalytic Criticism. CTT = Critical Theory Today (italicized terms).

Bedford Glossary CTT CTT
ambiguity (NC) NEW CRITICISM MARXIST CRITICISM
anti-hero "the text itself" socioeconomic class
authorial intention (NC) intentional fallacy material circumstances
canon affective fallacy consumerism
catharsis heresy of the paraphrase commodity
characterization organic unity use value
close reading (NC) paradox exchange value
form irony sign-exchange value
narrator tension commodification
point of view theme imperialism
figurative language colonized consciousness
image alienated labor
symbol bourgeoisie
proletariat
ideology
classism

CTT CTT CTT
POSTCOLONIAL PSYCHOANALYTIC I will quote two of the
cultural colonization unconscious questions found on:32-33,
colonialist discourse repression 65, 134, 378-79. You will
othering oedipal conflict identify which of the four
Eurocentrism defenses critical approaches
subalterns denial are associated with the
universalism avoidance questions.
orientalism displacement
colonial subjects projection
diaspora trauma
unhomeliness phallic symbols
hybridity/syncretism female images
white settler colonies death drive/thanatos
new-colonialism ego
cultural imperialism id
libido

 

 

 

Terms Related to the Short Answer Tests on Poetry and Reader Response, Lesbian, Gay, Queer, New Historical, and Cultural Criticism

Bedford Glossary CTT CTT
alliteration READER RESPONSE (r-r) LESBIAN, GAY, QUEER
blank verse (including Buckingham) a homophobic reading
caesura transactional r-r theory heterosexism
concrete poetry efferent mode biological essentialism
confessional poetry aesthetic mode social constructionism
couplet determinate meaning homoerotic
elegy indeterminate meaning homosocial
enjambment affective stylistics woman-identified woman
half-rhyme symbolization coded lesbian meaning
heroic couplet resymbolization camp
ode experience oriented r-r gay sensibility
onomatopoeia statements queer (see 337)
persona identity theme
sonnet interpretive community NEW HIST & CULTURAL
informed reader impossibility of objective
TEXTUAL/BIB. implied reader analysis
Know the narratee discourse
significant differences totalizing explanations
between Dickinson : master narrative
collections edited by thick descriptions
Higginson, Johnson, cultural work
and Franklin. self-positioning
PARKER (one question) "POETIC FORMS" Norton CTT
Know the basic Know the five types I will quote two of the
differences between of poetic feet (2639). questions found on: 175,
Hymes', Tedlock's, Know the seven types of 278,287,295, 297-98,
Mattina's, and Evers' verse lines (2340) 344-45. You will identify
(video taping) approaches stanza which of the three critical
to representing American terza rima approaches in CTT (studied
Indian songs and narratives quatrains for the poetry section) are
in written English. associated with the questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terms Related to the Short Answer Tests on Life Narratives and Feminist, Deconstructive, Structuralist, Ethnic, and History of the Book Criticism

Bedford Glossary FEMINIST CRIT. (CTT ) DECONSTRUCTIVE CRIT. (CTT )

caricature patriarchal woman trace
catharsis patriarchy language is non-referential
classical traditional gender roles diffÈrance
connotation biological essentialism the privileged element of a
didactic gender binary opposition
epilogue good girls / bad girls logocentric
hyperbole Ècriture fÈminine decentered
intertextuality sisterhood undecidability
memoir ethnic cultural feminism (97)
monologue
motivation
unreliable narrator

STRUCTURALIST (CTT ) ETHNIC CRIT. (Gates) HIS. OF THE BOOK

surface phenomena the black arts movement (290)
language understood formalist organicism (291) Indicate a significant
synchronically black women studies (292) change between the
langue center-margin topography (293) designs of different
parole initial uses of "ethnic" (293) editions of WTRM.
a linguistic sign ethnic decent of authors (293) Indicate one implica-
signifier authenticity (294) tion of the change.
myththemes accountable spokesperson (294)
semiotics (205) ideological correctness (294) CTT
icon ideology of tradition (295) I will quote two of
symbol privileging the vernacular (295) the questions found on
archetypal criticism representation vs. articulation (296) pages: 102-02; 259,
narratology official marginality (298) 224-25. You will
literary competence black essentialism (299-300) identify which of the
convention of distance three critical
and impersonality approaches from CTT
naturalization are associated with the
question.

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