Syllabus / Schedule

—ENGL 270:700    Spring 2021—

Last Updated: 10 April 2021













      Contact Info      SyllabusSchedule
ESSAY #1Essay Gradesheet (PDF)
ESSAY #2MLA Tips & Template (WORD doc.)
 Correction Symbols

Contact Information: THOMAS C. GANNON        

[OFFICE:346 Andrews Hall]
[MAILBOX:227 Andrews Hall]
ZOOM OFFICE HOURS:W, TH, & FR: 2:00-3:00 p.m. (access ZOOM via Canvas) . . . and email, of course::::


"There is nothing outside the text."

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course is based on the premise that both the writing and reading of "literary" texts are political acts, fraught with the cultural contexts and ideological biases of class, race, gender, species, etc. Students will be introduced to various crucial theoretical approaches of the of the 20th & 21st centuries—some that have privileged one or more of the contexts above (e.g., Marxism, feminism), some that have repressed most or all by denying such contexts (various brands of formalism), and some that have (seemingly) denied the viability of privileging anything at all (poststructuralism). The act of reading, then, becomes a richer (if rather dizzying) experience, as we examine the text as language, form, & genre, the author as creative genius or interpellated subject, the reader as a psyche of complex expectations and desires, and various cultural forces & identities as polyphonic "voices" in the often maddening dialogue of race, class, and gender that is our current socio-political milieu.

This course will provide students with the fundamental concepts and vocabulary and historical background in literary studies to enable them, for starters, to distinguish between such concepts as "literature," textuality, & discourse; and literary criticism, literary theory, & critical theory. After course readings & lectures, students will demonstrate their knowledge of these fundamental concepts of literary studies via oral discussion, online discussion-board prompts, and in the semester's first several informal writing responses.
This course will introduce students to the concepts & methodology of various crucial critical approaches of the 20th & 21st centuries. These will include most or all of the following: New Critical formalism, structuralism & poststructuralism, psychoanalytical theory, feminist & queer theory, Marxist theory, postcolonial theory & critical race theory, and ecocriticism. Students will demonstrate their knowledge of these various critical approaches through a series of quizzes, informal writing responses, and formal essays by applying the various approaches to actual texts, either provided by the instructor or chosen by the student.
This course will provide the conceptual tools for students to respond to "literary" and other cultural texts in order to understand their content and context via the critical theories & methods introduced in this course. Students will demonstrate this ability byanalyzing, interpreting, and evaluating texts through a variety of critical approaches throughout the semester, in both informal written responses and formal essays.
This course will ask students to consider all human textuality & discourse as inherently involved with diversity—be it race, class, gender, or species. After course readings & lectures on (especially) the course's latter approaches—e.g., feminism, Marxism, postcolonial theory, critical race theory, and ecocriticism—the student will evaluate texts from the point of view of various human (and non-human) alterities, in both informal written responses and formal essays.

    By passing this course, you will also fulfill ACE Learning Outcome 5: "Use knowledge, historical perspectives, analysis, interpretation, critical evaluation, and the standards of evidence appropriate to the humanities to address problems and issues." Your work will be evaluated by the instructor according to the specifications described in this syllabus. At the end of the term, you may be asked to provide samples of your work for ACE assessment as well.
    Opportunities to achieve this outcome: English 270—Literary/Critical Theory—is an introductory course to a group of theories, many of which originated outside of English in areas such as psychology, economics, semiotics, and philosophy, that readers have used to analyze and interpret literary texts in order to understand their context and significance. The goal of the course is to help students learn major theoretical approaches to literature (see partial list above), and to apply those approaches to the interpretation and critical evaluation of texts.
    Opportunities to demonstrate achievement of this outcome: Students will be asked to demonstrate their ability to understand and apply these critical approaches both in writing and orally. All students will be required to write formal papers in which they articulate a particular theory (or theories), applying the theory's (or theories') principles to a text or texts. Students will also be required to write shorter informal response papers and take quizzes on the readings.

While the following texts are/will be available at the Bookstore, may be the "safer" way to go?::::
Bressler, Charles E. Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. 5th ed. Pearson/Longman, 2011.
Lynn, Stephen. Texts and Contexts: Writing About Literature with Critical Theory. 7th ed. Pearson/Longman, 2017.

[also available as an e-text]
Plus, a GOOD NUMBER of PDF files on Canvas


TEXTS "on RESERVE" (Love Library):
        • The following texts USED to be reserved for your research-essay efforts. But given the fact that most students now avail themselves of digital materials, this has become "just" a list of relevant books available at the Love. For many more secondary sources, in PDF format, see the "Recommended Reading"s on this course's Canvas site.
* Adams, Hazard, and Leroy Searle, eds. Critical Theory Since 1965. UP of Florida, 1986.
* ---. Critical Theory Since Plato. 3rd ed. Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.
* During, Simon, ed. The Cultural Studies Reader. Routledge, 1993.
* Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. U of Minnesota P, 1996.
* Easthope, Antony, and Kate McGowan, eds. A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader. U of Toronto P, 2004.
* Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., ed. "Race," Writing, and Difference. U of Chicago P, 1986.
* Glotfelty, Cheryll, and Harold Fromm, eds. The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. U of Georgia P, 1996.
* Moi, Toril. Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory. Methuen, 1985.
* Williams, Patrick, and Laura Chrisman, eds. Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader. Columbia UP, 1994.

COURSE DELIVERY/FORMAT: This is an online class, with asynchronous course delivery/participation.That is, course materials & pedagogy will be delivered/available via Canvas, and all assignments will be uploaded to (or completed in) Canvas. Because of the lack of F2F contact, please watch the course videos to get some notion that your instructor is not some disembodied spirit spewing literary terms; and checking into the ZOOM office hours is also highly encouraged!


AssignmentNumber of ~PointsTotal Points
Formal Essays2250500
Informal Responses450200
Canvas Discussions640240
Total:- - - - - - - -- - - -1,000
Final Point Total -> Final Grade:
970-1,000 = A+930-969 = A900-929 = A-- - - -
870-899 = B+830-869 = B800-829 = B-- - - -
770-799 = C+730-769 = C700-729 = C-- - - -
670-699 = D+630-669 = D600-629 = D-0-599 = F

    The four informal written RESPONSES will be graded holistically, and be assigned a point total (out of 50 possible) comparable to the final-grade schema above: e.g., an A- = 45 or 46, a C = 37 or 38, etc. For the formal ESSAY assignments, each component of the assignment (content, organization, and grammar/mechanics)—the detailed guidelines of which will be eventually spelled out below on this web syllabus—will be assigned a grade (translated into a point total) based upon the following rubric:
  A: "You are to be applauded for 'going beyond' most or all of the required criteria in an outstanding fashion!"    8-)
  B: "Not only did you meet the required criteria but, for at least some of these criteria, you went 'beyond the call of duty' in some noteworthy manner!"    :-D
  C: "Okay! You fulfilled the required/minimum criteria for this component!"    :-)
  D: "You failed to meet at least some of the minimum criteria for this component."    :-(
  F: "Your lack of attention to the minimum criteria for this component reveals a basic misunderstanding of the assignment and/or a lack of class attendance."    :'-{

CANVAS DISCUSSIONS: About every other week (see schedule below), you will be expected to respond to a prompt or set of prompts regarding the last several weeks' readings. For these discussions, you have been broken into four groups, with the goal of eventually building a sense of community, even comradery, within each group. Of the 40 pts. available to be earned for each response period, 20 pts. will be for an earnest RESPONSE to the discussion prompt of at least 250 words. The other 20 pts. will be allotted for two REPLIES—10 pts. each—to other students' posts in your group, of at least 100 words each. (Please include the word count for both your original response and your replies to others: Canvas gives you this number.) Finally, these points are not automatic just because you fulfilled your word count. Both responses & replies should be earnest engagements w/ the prompt (and the other students' ideas & opinions), and reflective of the fact that you've done the assigned readings. (I have a low tolerance for words-for-the-sake-of-words: that is, filler!)
2021 ADDs::
1. To earn the max number of allotted points, your response should USE at least three lit-theory terms from the critical approach(es)/reading assignments in question—with, of course, an understanding of what they mean.
2. To prevent that last-minute bottle-neck between student responses and other students' replies, all RESPONSES will be officially due at 6 p.m. the Sunday they are due; the discussion forum will then remain open until midnight for students' REPLIES. (Of course, doing your responses well in advance of that 6 p.m. is both allowed and highly encouraged!)

NETIQUETTE: Netiquette is a set of rules for behaving properly online. Something about cyberspace makes it easy for people to forget that they are interacting with other real people. The following bullet points cover some basics to communicating in the Canvas Discussions forum:
Be sensitive to the fact that there will be students with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, as well as different political and religious beliefs. Canvas is not the place for divisive "Facebook wars."
Use good taste when composing your responses in Canvas Discussions. Gratuitous profanity should be avoided. Also consider that slang can be misunderstood or misinterpreted.
Don't use all capital letters when composing your responses, of course: this is considered "shouting" on the 'Net and is regarded as impolite or aggressive. It can also be stressful on the eyes when trying to read your message[!].
[To repeat point #1!:] Be respectful of others' views and opinions. Avoid "flaming" (publicly attacking or insulting) them because this can cause hurt feelings and decrease the chances of getting a real diversity of points of view.

QUIZZES: Each Canvas quiz will be available for a limited period of time (approx. two days): as online activites, such quizzes will necessarily be "open-book." I am mostly using these as reading comprehension checks. If you've done the reading, they should be easy points to earn. (Each quiz will consist of five multiple choice questions, worth one point apiece. You will have ten minutes to complete the quiz. Yes, Canvas will time you!)

INFORMAL Written RESPONSES: Every few weeks (see schedule below), you will engage a specific group of course readings in a TWO-page (or more) written response, in reaction to (a choice of) prompts provided by your instructor. In contrast to the formal essays, these will be evaluated (almost) solely on CONTENT; however, egregious organizational or mechanical problems that militate against a facile understanding of said content may result in a lower score. . . . While I will eventually provide possible writing prompts (both analytical & creative) for each response before it is due, a major grading criterion is that you demonstrate that you have done the assigned readings for the time span covered. In fact, one option will always be the simple keeping of a "reading journal" in which you respond to the readings as you see fit. Much of this may consist of brief paragraph responses to each of (or most of) the readings. I might even suggest doing these right after you read, to the profit of your discussion-board participation.

FORMAL ESSAYS: Guidelines for the formal essays will be presented later, on a detailed "handout" for each (to be available on this page, below). Both essays will allow, even encourage, you to choose your own texts for analysis. While this is not a "writing" class in the strictest sense of the term, a small percentage of your essay point total will be based on yr speling, punktuashun, sentens struktures, and adherence to the MLA stylesheet.

        DUE DATES, PAPER LENGTH, & ESSAY FORMAT: Unless special arrangements have been made, LATE written responses & essays will be docked 10% (= one letter grade) of their assigned point total for EACH DAY LATE, including all non-class days. . . . While there is no "short" penalty per se, a paper that obviously fails to meet the assignment's minimum length guidelines will no doubt fail to gain a goodly number of points in criterion areas such as adequate development and support. Note, too, that a page padded with margins > 1" and a font > 12 pt. type does not equal "one page." Essays should follow the MLA stylesheet format, including the documentation of sources via parenthetical citations and a Works Cited page (which, however, doesn't count as a "page" towards the length requirement). (See my WORD template linked on this SYLL page as a guide, if you're new to MLA.)

PLAGIARISM is the undocumented use of another's words or ideas as your own, whether it be an entire paper that you didn't write or an almost word-for-word "paraphrase" from an outside source. Don't do it. Not only are you cheating yourself by wasting your time and money, but plagiarism is one of the most serious of academic offenses and will result, at a bare minimum, in a score of 0 for the assignment. You may also be failed from the course and be subject to further University sanctions, as the incident warrants.

Students with Disabilities: I would like to hear from anyone who has a disability that may require some modification of seating, testing, or other class requirements so that appropriate arrangements may be made. Please talk with me before/after class or during my office hours.
        [Official SSD Statement:] The University strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience barriers based on your disability (including mental health, chronic or temporary medical conditions), please let me know immediately so that we can discuss options privately. To establish reasonable accommodations, I may request that you register with Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD). If you are eligible for services and register with their office, make arrangements with me as soon as possible to discuss your accommodations so they can be implemented in a timely manner. SSD contact information: 117 Louise Pound Hall; 402-472-3787.

Counseling and Psychological Services: UNL offers a variety of options to students to aid them in dealing with stress and adversity. Counseling and Psychological & Services (CAPS)Links to an external site.; is a multidisciplinary team of psychologists and counselors that works collaboratively with Nebraska students to help them explore their feelings and thoughts and learn helpful ways to improve their mental, psychological and emotional well-being when issues arise. CAPS can be reached by calling 402-472-7450. Big Red Resilience & Well-BeingLinks to an external site. (BRRWB) provides one-on-one well-being coaching to any student who wants to enhance their well-being. Trained well-being coaches help students create and be grateful for positive experiences, practice resilience and self-compassion, and find support as they need it. BRRWB can be reached by calling 402-472-8770.

Recording & Dissemination of Class-Related Activities: I invite all of you to join me in actively creating and contributing to a positive, productive, and respectful classroom culture. Each student contributes to an environment that shapes the learning process. Any work and/or communication that you are privy to as a member of this course should be treated as the intellectual property of the speaker/creator, and is not to be shared outside the context of this course.

Students may not make or distribute screen captures, audio/video recordings of, or livestream, any class-related activity, including lectures and presentations, without express prior written consent from me or an approved accommodation from Services for Students with Disabilities. If you have (or think you may have) a disability such that you need to record or tape class-related activities, you should contact Services for Students with Disabilities. If you have an accommodation to record class-related activities, those recordings may not be shared with any other student, whether in this course or not, or with any other person or on any other platform. Failure to follow this policy on recording or distributing class-related activities may subject you to discipline under the Student Code of Conduct.



    (—see this course's Canvas Assignments at any time for the next assignments immediately due—)

WEEK 1 (Jan. 25th . . .):: MODULE 1: Course Introduction: What is "Literature"? and "Theory"?—TU: Syllabus; Crit Theory "flow chart" {Canvas PDF}; Abrams' literary-approaches quaternity: outline-"handout" {Canvas PDF} and Abrams PowerPoint; TH: Lynn: Texts & Contexts 3-15; Bressler: Literary Criticism 1-18
—See also "Recommended Reading" under Module 1 on Canvas (Abrams and Eagleton)
    • FR, Jan. 29th (by midnight): ungraded 1+-page response to "text" (choice of four PDFs on Canvas) DUE (upload to Canvas)


WEEK 2 (Feb. 1st . . .):: ESSAY #1 assignment (below); MODULE 2: Formalism: The New Criticism—Lynn 19-23, 45-56, 58-59, 62-64; Bressler 52-64; MODULE 3: Structuralism: "It's a Sign, Man"—Lynn 26, 109-111; Bressler 76-77, 90-93, 96-105, 119, 120-121
—See also "Recommended Reading" under Module 2 on Canvas (several essays by Brooks) —In sum, check these out for each module! . . .
    • W-TH, Feb. 3rd-4th (on Canvas): Quiz #1
    • SU, Feb. 7th (by midnight): Discussion #1 DUE (Canvas)


WEEK 3 (Feb. 8th . . .):: MODULE 3: Structuralism (continued)—Jakobson: "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles" & my outline-"handout"; Barthes: "The Death of the Author" and "Myth Today"; Foucault: "The Discourse on Language" (148B-158A [thru "buzzing of discourse"] only) & my outline-"handout"
    • W-TH, Feb. 10th-11th (on Canvas): Quiz #2
    • FR, Feb. 12th (uploaded to Canvas by midnight): Response #1 DUE


WEEK 4 (Feb. 15th . . .):: MODULE 4: Poststructuralism: "It's the End of the World As We Know It"—Lynn 26-28, (109-111,) 111-125, 132-136; Bressler 88-90, 105-119, 120, 121-122; A Postmodern Vocabulary (outline-"handout"); Eagleton: "Post-Structuralism" (110-116); Deconstruction Binaries outline-"handout"
    • W-TH, Feb. 17th-18th (on Canvas): Quiz #3
    • SU, Feb. 21st (by midnight): Discussion #2 DUE (Canvas)

WEEK 5 (Feb. 22nd . . .):: MODULE 4: Poststructuralism (continued)—Nietzsche's "Truth & Lies"; Derrida's "Structure, Sign & Play" (at least my outline-"handout")
    • W-TH, Feb. 24th-25th (on Canvas): Quiz #4
    • FR, Feb. 26th (uploaded to Canvas by midnight): Response #2 DUE


WEEK 6 (March 1st . . .):: MODULE 5: Psychoanalytical Theory: "Sometimes a Cigar Is NOT Just a Cigar"—Lynn 33-36, 195-203, 204-205, 210-213; Bressler 123-142; Psych Diagrams & Psych Crit Outline "handouts"; Hoffman: "The Father-Figure in 'The Tell-Tale Heart'"
    • W-TH, March 3rd-4th (on Canvas): Quiz #5
    • SU, March 7th (by midnight): Discussion #3 DUE (Canvas)


WEEK 7 (March 8th . . .):: MODULE 5: Psychoanalytical Theory (continued)—"Eagleton Explains Lacan" (my outline-"handout"); Abrams: "How to Do Things with Texts" (445-448, on H. Bloom); MODULE 6: Feminism & Queer Theory: "Gender Matters"—Lynn 37-39, 221-237, 241-244; Bressler 143-164, 220-229; Gilbert: "Literary Paternity"
    • W-TH, March 10th-11th (on Canvas): Quiz #6
    • SU, March 14th (uploaded to Canvas by midnight): ESSAY #1 DUE


WEEK 8 (March 15th . . .):: ESSAY #2 assignment (below); MODULE 6: Feminist & Queer Theory (continued)—Cixous: "The Laugh of the Medusa"; "Poetic Interlude"; Midterm Vocabulary ("handout");
    • W-TH, March 17th-18th (on Canvas): Quiz #7


WEEK 9 (March 22nd . . .):: MODULE 7: Marxist Theory: "Workers of the World, Unite"—Lynn 39, 147 (Milton sonnet, for=>) (150-153,) 156-160; Bressler 165-180
    • W-TH, March 24th-25th (on Canvas): Quiz #8
    • SU, March 28th (by midnight): Discussion #4 DUE (Canvas)

WEEK 10 (March 29th . . .):: MODULE 7: Marxist Theory (continued)—Althusser: from "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" [241A-249A only]; Adorno: from "On Popular Music"
    • W-TH, March 31st-Apr. 1st (on Canvas): Quiz #9
    • FR, Apr. 2nd (uploaded to Canvas by midnight): Response #3 DUE


WEEK 11 (Apr. 5th . . .):: MODULE 8: Postcolonial & Critical "Race" Theory: From Columbus to Standing Rock—Lynn 31, 41, 160-163, 163-164, 247-251 (short story); Bressler 197-209, 210-219; Said: from Orientalism
    • W-TH, Apr. 7th-8th (on Canvas): Quiz #10
    • SU, Apr. 11th (by midnight): Discussion #5 DUE (Canvas)


WEEK 12 (Apr. 12th . . .):: MODULE 8: Postcolonial & Critical "Race" Theory (continued)—Vizenor: "Ishi Obscura"; Spivak: "Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism"; "Poetic Interlude"
    • W-TH, Apr. 14th-15th (on Canvas): Quiz #11
    • FR, Apr. 16th (uploaded to Canvas by midnight): Response #4 DUE


WEEK 13 (Apr. 19th . . .):: MODULE 9: Ecocriticism: Speaking for the Non-Human Other—Lynn (new mention!): 36-37, 40-41; Bressler: 158 (ecofeminism), 230-238; Ecocriticism outline-"handout"; Glotfelty: Introduction to The Ecocriticism Reader (xv-xvii)
    • W-TH, Apr. 21st-22nd (on Canvas): Quiz #12
    • SU, Apr. 25th (by midnight): Discussion #6 DUE (Canvas)

WEEK 14 (Apr. 26th . . .):: MODULE 9: Ecocriticism (continued)—Buell: "The Emergence of Environmental Criticism"; Sanders: "Speaking a Word for Nature" {Canvas PDF}; Griffin: "His Power: He Tames What Is Wild" . . . Course finish-up/evaluations
    • SU, May 2nd (uploaded to Canvas by midnight): ESSAY #2 DUE


** Literary/Critical Theory--ESSAY #1: "Practical Criticism"—The Approaches Applied **
[--but make up your own title!]

ENGL 270:001—Spring 2021

—My Essay Gradesheet, if you're interested!


ASSIGNMENT: For your first Lit. Crit. essay, I ask you to select ONE poem*, brief short story*, or pop-culture "artifact" (e.g., TV show/episode, song w/lyrics, YouTube vid, internet meme, political speech, etc.) and discuss that "text" from the point of view of at least THREE critical approaches on our syllabus. (Obviously, the approaches we've covered by midterm should be easier, but I'm allowing ambitious students to "jump ahead" and employ postcolonial theory, "race studies," and/or ecocriticism.) Arrange your approach treatments in some intentional ORDER—for example, least useful to most enlightening—and summarize your findings regarding your approaches' varying degrees of usefulness in your conclusion, as a "thesis"/controlling framework for your essay. (Of course, your use of even the "worst" of the three should be a fair effort at application, not based upon a gross over-simplification or misunderstanding: that is, don't create a "strawman" to reject out-of-hand, just because I've been slammin' it [e.g., New Criticism?] all semester.) . . . Here's another organization/argumentation possibility: use one or two of your approaches as support for your climactic/third approach; for example, I can easily conceive of doing a psychoanalytical reading of your text, and then a deconstructive reading, and then have both "lead up to"/ lend support to, say, a feminist reading. Likewise, moving from a structuralist (or New Crit) reading to a deconstructive reading is a fairly straightforward move. In other words, using your three approaches as "cooperative" rather than "antagonistic" may be the superior strategy, ultimately—and more in accord with real-world contemporary lit-crit practice, which is often eclectic in its use of critical schools/approaches.

* I'm limiting your "traditional Lit." choices to the texts linked on Canvas on the page titled "'Literary' TEXTS," with the exclusion of the TEXT YOU CHOSE for our initial ungraded response (i.e.: you can't do, say, the Dostoevsky story or the Frost poem AGAIN). [LATER ADD: I've expanded this list of choices to any of "Touchstone poems" in the various modules.] . . . If this heinous limitation of choices drives to you choose a pop-culture "text"—well, good!? . . . Oh, I see I have some pop-song lyrics in that folder, by Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. If you do choose one of those, I'd track down the music: that's certainly part of the form, and of the text's very "discourse." Feel FREE to be creative in your choice of "texts": pop-culture/New Historicist critics revelled, back in the 80's & 90's, in "reading" matchbook covers, tatoos, etc. (I've even written article-length essays on bird guides.) This expansive definition of a "text" includes, of course, political speeches. (Or even Presidential tweets?!) . . .

—SECONDARY SOURCE REQUIREMENTS: I'm just asking for at least one "outside" secondary source** in support of each approach—that is, at least three 2ndary sources. (While many critical essays use more than one approach, such "hybrids" will only count as one of your three required sources.) Using a fourth approach?—need four sources; etc. These may well include the essays in the texts on reserve, PDF essays on Canvas, or "reputable" web pages (see the many links on my LitCrit web page). Sources that are (originally) "print"/academically published texts will earn your essay a more sympathetic & positive reader/grader (me). (Online articles from EBSCO, etc., also qualify here.) Your secondary sources may be either useful "general theory" texts about the approach, or—better, if available—critical works that actually involve your primary text. Finally, on your Works Cited page, document not only all your 2ndary sources, but your primary source, too, if citable (your poem, story, owner's manual, cookbook, YouTube vid, or whatever). . . .

**LATER ADD: To make things easier, I'm hereby defining "secondary source" as any text that isn't Lynn or Bressler. So this now includes any of the PDFs on Canvas, even if assigned for class (such as Jakobson, Derrida, etc.).

**LATER/LATER ADD: There are a couple online "crit/theory" sites that offer one- or two-paragraph summaries of the various approaches. Avoid these as sources, please, since they say nothing about the approach that Lynn or Bressler don't say already. Their use screams, in fact, "I've just getting a 2ndary source out of the way, and not helping my essay development one bit."

**LATER/LATER/LATER ADD: I now recommend a "NEW" Great SOURCE, for most of our crit. approaches: I've recently discovered that the Eagleton intro-to-theory text is now online, complete. I've uploaded it as a PDF on Canvas, in the top "Course Orientation & Resources" module. Best of all, it's a searchable PDF file. (Though aimed at grad students, I find many of its treatments of our approaches to be clearer than either Lynn's or Bressler's.)

Finally: if a topic angle/organization strategy occurs to you that doesn't fit into the specific assignment above, you may want to run it by me, via email. My only requirement here is that you still must deal with one "text" via at least three critical approaches in some fashion.

** LENGTH & FORMAT: At least 1,250 words (approx. 5 pages) [not counting Works Cited page]; double-spaced throughout according to MLA specifications; uploaded to CANVAS (as an MS WORD doc)

** DUE DATE: SUNDAY, MARCH 14th (uploaded to Canvas by midnight) **

* Content—60%—
150 pts.
—incl. quality & development of thought (especially use/understanding of approaches); support from primary & secondary sources (including quality of secondary sources); fulfillment of 2ndary source requirements    
* Organization—20%—
50 pts.
—incl. effective intro & coda; body cohesion/"flow," via clear org. strategies    
* Grammar, Mechanics, & (MLA) Format—20%—
50 pts.
—incl. spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, & MLA format    
    (incl. in-text parenthetical citations & Works Cited page; non-"plagiarism" in handling of sources)    

** Literary/Critical Theory--ESSAY #2: "Narrowing the Field"—One Approach, Multiple Texts **
[--but make up your own title!]

ENGL 270:001—Spring 2021

ASSIGNMENT: For your second Lit. Crit. essay, I'd like you to select the ONE approach you find the most promising/amenable to your own concerns & interests & "ways of reading." Eligible approaches are as follows: New Criticism (but realize you'll be deemed incorrigibly "old-fashioned"!), Structuralism, deconstruction (poststructuralism), psychoanalytic theory, feminism and/or queer theory, Marxist theory, Postcolonial theory and/or critical race theory, and ecocriticism. (For starters, you might consider the approach that worked best for you in Essay #1?) Probably required is some decent expenditure of outside-of-class time more truly familiarizing yourself with this approach.

  Your task will be to 1) PRESENT your approach by way of introduction: Where is this approach "coming from"? What are its assumptions & methodology? Its strengths and weaknesses? (try to go beyond Lynn & Bressler here); and 2)—the bulk of your essay—APPLY the approach to ONE of the following topic choices:

        A. TWO of the following short-short stories [on Canvas, as PDFs]
            * Barthelme: "Game"
            * Dostoevski: "The Heavenly Christmas Tree"
            * Matheson: "Born of Man and Woman"

        B. TWO or THREE poems by the same author . . .

        C. TWO or THREE songs/lyrics (or "entire" CD) by the same band/recording artist . . .

        D. TWO or THREE other related (& short!) pieces of discourse (advertisements, videos, political speeches, etc.; feel free to mix genres; and by "short" I mean that I should be able to read/view each "text" entire with a few minutes' effort)

As you critique your text(s), DON'T worry about straying a bit into other approaches; most "professional" critical essays do (see the Spivak essay as an exemplary model of that). Finally—organizationally speaking—DO return to general considerations regarding your chosen approach by way of a conclusion.

        E. [2021 ADD!:] After reading your extra-credit responses to the "Blackface" colloquium, I've seen the wisdom of adding as a "topic choice" a current social ISSUE that involves either CLASS, RACE, GENDER, or the ENVIRONMENT. (The relevant critical approach for each should be obvious!) For your "primary sources," simply select TWO to FOUR "texts" that involve your selected issue from the popular media (web page article, YouTube video, Facebook meme!?, etc.). Your job here, then, is to "analyze" these several discourses on your issue via your critical approach. (Yes, your "primary" texts may agree or disagree with each other on the issue, and your critical approach should allow you to take either one or both or all of these "texts" to task.) The 2ndary source requirements remain the same.

SOURCE REQUIREMENTS: At least FIVE secondary sources (but document your primary source[s], too, on your Works Cited page). Secondary sources may include our class-assigned essays, this time including the chapters in Bressler and Lynn on your particular approach. Document the latter as an individual chapter; e.g.:

Bressler, Charles E.  "Feminism."  Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. 5th ed.
        Pearson/Longman, 2011, pp. 143-164.

See also the essays under "Recommended Reading" in your approach's Canvas module. And again, Eagleton's book may have a BETTER, clearer, and more in-depth chapter on your approach.) Your 2ndary sources can be applied to either your general commentary on your approach and/or your specific readings of your text(s); but at least one (and assumedly more) is required for the latter. (In other words, don't just "get 'em all outa the way" in your general treatment of the approach.) Also, sources that are actually culled from "outside" research will earn your essay a more sympathetic & positive reader/grader. And, of course, sources that are actually by critics who practice your approach (and better yet, deal with your "text"!) are highly recommended. . . . (Finally, avoid "uselessly brief" wiki-like web sources that merely rehash generalities about your approach that are already obvious in Lynn & Bressler.)

* Great SOURCE #1: again, the Eagleton text is on Canvas, complete. It's in the very first module, "Course Orientation & Materials." Best of all, it's a searchable PDF file. So do a search, or check the index, even if there isn't a chapter on your approach: Eagleton doesn't have a chapter on feminist crit, for instance, but there are several great paragraphs on literary feminism in the last two "summary" chapters.

* Great SOURCE #2: M. H. Abrams' essay criticizing Derrida, Fish, and Bloom ("How to Do Things with Texts," also a PDF under "General/Miscellaneous") is actually a good (& pretty fair?!) summary of Derrida's deconstruction, Fish's reader-response style, and Bloom's neo-Freudian theory, if you're doing any of those approaches.


LENGTH & FORMAT: At least 1,250 words (approx. 5 pages) [not counting Works Cited page]; double-spaced throughout according to MLA specifications; uploaded to CANVAS (as an MS WORD doc)

** DUE DATE: SU, May 2nd (uploaded to Canvas by midnight) **


* Regarding the CANVAS upload:
PLEASE INCLUDE your primary sources, if text (unless they're texts I've out on Canvas): i.e., poems, song lyrics, etc. You can either append these to your WORD doc after the Works Cited page, or as a separate document. . . . Oh, and if you're using song lyrics, make sure that you find "definitive" versions thereof; using some fan page's botched version of a song lyric doesn't look good for your research skills—or your critical reading of the lyric. (Yes, I've received some hilarious misreadings of the lyrics of "Me & Bobby McGee" and "Hotel California," for instance—but they didn't help the student's argument!)

Also, because I am not requiring xeroxes/printouts of your sources (as I did in the old hard-copy days), it is all the more important that you document them thoroughly, via proper Works Cited entries and in-text parenthetical citations. I'm not going to resort to Google to figure out your sourcework for you: if I can't ascertain the origin of a number of your quotations, paraphrases, etc., I can only assume that the essay—CONTENT-wise (which is 60% of yr grade)—is a poor implementation of a thesis-&-support research paper and that you haven't fulfilled the 2ndary-source requirement.

KEY to Correction Symbols/Abbrevs. I Commonly Use on Your Essays:


!great (or hilarious) point
>good point; "yeh, I'm followin' yu'"
?unclear; suspect point; "yu' lost me here"
cscomma splice: Subject+Predicate , Subject+Predicate
awkawkward grammatical/sentence structure
wwwrong word (denotation)
wcword choice (connotation)
/space needed here; especially between the "dots" in ellipses:
NOT: "I came...I conquered...."
INSTEAD: "I came . . . I conquered. . . ."
(If MS WORD auto-removes your spaces, I think you can turn off that reprehensible function in the "Auto-Correct" Preferences [or somethin' like that—sounded good to a Bill-Gates-o-phobe like me].)
paragraph break needed
transtransition needed
cohecohesion problem ("jumbled" or "abrupt" thoughts/sentences/paragraphing)
[others:]I can't reproduce here the "insert" and "delete" symbols that I also commonly use, but they should be intuitively obvious in their context.
Note on the DASH:A dash is not a single hyphen; use two hyphens, or a real "em" dash, with no spaces before or after:
NOT: "I - uh - love you."
INSTEAD: "I--uh--love you."
OR: use a real "em" dash ("I—uh—love you"): option/shift/hyphen on a Mac ("Windoz, I know nuttin'.")
Note on Lit./Media TITLES:The general rule is that works that are a "whole" (book titles, etc.) are italicized or underlined (e.g., Moby Dick) and works that are "part" of a whole (e.g., individual poems from a collection, etc.) are put within quot. marks (e.g., "Dover Beach"). The former—that is, italicized—include books, plays, magazine and journal titles (e.g., Newsweek), movies, CDs, and TV shows. The latter—that is, in quots.—include book chapter titles, essays, poems, songs, and TV episodes. (You may underline book titles, etc., rather than italicize them, but do one or the other throughout your essay.) Finally, your OWN essay title should be neither underlined or in quots.; emphasize it instead via bold type and/or caps if you so desire.
Finally:I have a bad habit of grading papers while standing up or pacing the floor, so if you can't read any of my comments, please ask me. . . . Further note: the "substandard" representation of dashes and ellipses (in isolation) probably won't cost yu' even a single point in my evaluation of your grammar/mechanix. But I'd think of the bigger picture: doing these little things right in your later academic and business writing will let your peers & superiors know that, yes, you know the fine points of that "grand game" called a college education.

To the Top

 TCG's Lit Crit/Theory (Resource) Page

 TCG's Outline of Lit-Crit TERMINOLOGY Page

ENGL 270 Class SYLLABUS Page--Spring 2021

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