English 4308-001
Selected American Authors after 1910

Myth in Fiction / Ceremonial Sisters -- Fall 2003

 

Dr. Roemer Office Hrs. : T/TH 2:30-3; MWF by apt., 405 Carlisle
103 Preston Please schedule appointments in advance.
T/TH 11 a.m. - 12:20 Phone: 272-2729; Please leave name and phone number.

GOALS

This course offers an intensive study of selected written, visual (photography, film, line drawings) and musical works of Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, and Ursula K. Le Guin. We place emphasis on the fiction and on how these authors represent myth, ritual, ceremony, and fate in the modern world. By the end of the semester, students who have participated in class and group discussions and completed the reading and written assignments successfully should (1) have good acquaintance with selected works of three significant contemporary authors; (2) be able to discuss intelligently how the authors' depictions of myth, ritual, ceremony, and fate can be related to their backgrounds, to the landscapes and cultures they describe, and to their own, their publishers, and their readers expectations about gender and the conventions of relevant genres (e.g., American "Indian" fiction, science fiction, utopian literature); (3) be able to understand how their own backgrounds relate to their responses to the authors; and (4) be able to write a convincing, short research paper. The primary means of achieving goals 1 and 2 are the class discussions, readings, and exams. The two papers focus on goals 3 and 4. For means of assessment, see "examinations," "papers," and "approximate grading weights" below.

REQUIRED READINGS (Books: at the UTA Bookstore; Short Readings: Bird's Copies)

Silko, Storyteller
Silko, Ceremony
Erdrich, Love Medicine
Erdrich, Tales of Burning Love
Erdrich, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
Le Guin, "Omelas," "The Day Before the Revolution," and "Sur"
Le Guin, Always Coming Home
A packet of short readings ( SR ) written by the authors and critics, available at Bird's Copies, 208 S. East St., near the downtown post office.

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE OF TOPICS, READINGS, EXAMS, AND PAPERS

Introduction to the Course 8/26

Contemporary Myths from the Oral Traditions and Land of the Southwest

Running on the Edge of the Rainbow (film) & Clements ( SR ) 8/28
Storyteller (focus on: "Yellow Woman," Allen ( SR ) "Storyteller,"
"Estoy-eh-muut . . .," "Man to Send Rain Clouds,"
"Story from Bear Country," "Coyote Holds a Full House,"
"Deer Song," "In Cold Light," Prayer to the Pacific,"
"Skeleton Fixer," and "Storyteller's Escape." 8/28,9/2,4
Ceremony and Roemer ( SR ) 9/9, 11, 16
Exam Review 9/16
Arrowboy and the Witches (film ) 9/18
First Examination 9/23

Contemporary Rituals from the Plains: Anishinaabe Tough to
Gothic Catholic to Suburban Bureaucratic

Love Medicine & Beidler ( SR ) 9/25,39,10/2
Tales of Burning Love 10/7,9,14
First Paper Due 10/14
Tales of Burning Love 10/16,21,23
Exam Review 10/23
Exam and Second Paper preparation 10/28,30
Second Exam 11/4

Contemporary Myths and Ceremonies from Nowhere, the South Pole,
and a Napa Valley people who "might be going to have lived
a long, long, time from now"

"Omelas," "The Day Before the Revolution," "Sur,"
Attebery, Roemer, Khanna, (all in SR ) 11/6,11
Second Paper Due 11/25
Always Coming Home and Le Guin "Non-Euclidean" ( SR ) 11/13,18,20, 25, 12/2

Review for Final 12/4
Final Examination 12/9, 11 am

EXAMINATIONS

All exams will include (1) short-answer questions / identifications drawn from the readings and (2) one or two essay questions. During the class before the exam (or for the first exam, two classes before), I will discuss sample short-answer questions and the essays and distribute a study sheet. Grading criteria for the essays: I am particularly interested in the strength and focus or your arguments (e.g., how well you support your claims with relevant examples and how well you concentrate on the question). Although your "mechanical" writing skills will be taken into account, they will be examined more closely in the papers.

FIRST PAPER

Reader-response paper: transformational associations. (Length: approx. 1500 wds.; about 5-6 pages double-spaced) Select one of the reading or viewing assignments. As you re-read or re-view it, note any especially strong negative or positive responses or combinations of both. Attempt to explain why you responded this way. For example, was the episode, character, or issue somehow associated with a personal experience, a past reading or viewing experience, specific reading or viewing tastes, religious or political beliefs, etc. ? After finishing this process, look over your notes. Are their any repeated types of associations shaping how you respond? Use these notes and discovered patterns to construct an outline or rough draft of a paper that identifies the FIVE most important types of influences that shaped your reading. Place the MOST IMPORTANT LAST. In each of the five sections of the paper, you should (1) define the influences/associations, (2) indicate which part or parts of the text they affect, and, most importantly, (3) discuss how the resulting responses were shaped by the interactions of the text and these influences / associations. Conclude by briefly discussing what you learned from this reading/writing experience. Grading criteria: You are the expert on which types of influences you identify. But I expect clear definitions of each of the five influences / associations and definite indications of the resulting responses to specific parts of the text. I also expect competent writing, which certainly includes demonstration of mechanical skills in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It also includes the ability to construct coherent sentences and paragraphs, to support claims with relevant evidence, and to engage the reader with sensible and lively language. Except for documented emergencies, no late papers will be accepted.

SECOND PAPER

Short research paper. (Length: approx. 2000-2500 wds.; 8-10 pages double- spaced) Grading criteria: The paper should demonstrate your ability: (1) to select a focus and argument that you can justify as being significant; (2) to integrate your own ideas and the ideas of relevant scholars and critics; (3) to support arguments adequately and to organize them in logical and convincing ways; (4) to present your arguments in an engaging fashion; and (5) to master the basic mechanics of writing (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.). The focus should be influenced by the length. Too broad a focus will invite a superficial paper. An overly narrow focus can invite repetition, an inability to define the significance of the paper, and the wide-margin, large-font disease. You may wish to concentrate on one text or to do a comparative study. The methodological approach is open: e.g., New Critical close readings or cultural, feminist, biographical, historical, genre approaches are all acceptable. The articles from the DLB volumes (Clements, Beidler, Attebery) offer guides to scholarship and criticism. If you consult with me early in the semester, I can offer more specific guidance to printed and electronic sources. Except for documented emergencies, no late papers will be accepted.

IMPORTANT CLASS AND UNIVERSITY POLICIES

Attendance is important. Professors are not permitted to drop students for excessive absences; however, in this class, for every 5 unexcused absences, the semester grade drops by a half grade. If you withdraw from the course, you must follow University procedures. If you do not, the grade sheet reads F. Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty will be handled according to University policies. For a good definition of plagiarism, see ch. 2 of the new MLA Handbook (66-75) and the "Writer's Responsibility" section of the Graduate School's Thesis and Dissertation Manual available at <www.uta.edu/etd/> .

APPROXIMATE GRADING WEIGHTS & ENCOURAGEMENT

Each of the exams (20%); first paper (15 %); second paper (25%). Improvement and consistent class participation can raise the semester grade significantly. Also I am very willing to work with students with disabilities. At the beginning of the semester these students should provide me with documentation authorized by the appropriate University office. Academic and personal counseling are availavle in the Office of Student Success (817-272-6107).

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