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ENGLISH 170W: Introduction to Literary Study

Dr. Kevin L. Ferguson ENGL 170W-01: Fall 2011
M/W, 1:40-2:55, King 107
Twitter: @ProfFerguson @ENG170W
Office Hours: M/W, 3:00-4:00 in Klapper 711

BULLETIN Course Description: An inquiry into what it means to study literature, involving close reading and critical analysis of a wide variety of prose fiction, drama, and poetry, and informed by an introduction to some of the theoretical issues currently invigorating literary studies. This course combines a study of literature with continued training in clear and effective expression. Designed for prospective English majors and other interested students.

A HYBRID COURSE: What is a hybrid course? A hybrid (or “blended”) course is when between 20% and 80% of scheduled class meetings are replaced with online activities or virtual meetings. Our class will replace 50% of our face-to-face meetings with digital components. We will use Twitter and a Qwriting blog to stay connected when we are not meeting face-to-face.

A “W” COURSE: What is a “W” course? A writing-intensive “W” course uses writing to help students develop their understanding of course materials and concepts. “W” courses tend to be smaller than non-“W” courses, so that instructors can devote time and attention to the writing and writing process of individual students. “W” courses also give students a chance to practice writing in ways that are particular to specific disciplines.

Learning Objectives:

In reading and analyzing literature, students will learn how to . . .

  • Understand the conventions of and appreciate the skills required for the English major.
  • Respond carefully, critically, and sensitively to language, and identify and properly employ relevant literary terms, such as imagery, allusion, voice, tone, metaphor, meter, diction, figurative language, form, meter, and rhyme.
  • Recognize and use a variety of critical strategies in reading and writing about texts, such as close reading, formalism, structuralism, psychoanalysis, and reader-response.

In writing research papers, students will learn how to . . .

  • Identify genuine intellectual problems and conduct scholarly research by learning to recognize the conventions of literary criticism and theoretical academic essays.
  • Find and evaluate appropriate secondary sources (including visual, graphic, or numerical information), to select quotation for use as evidence, to integrate quotation, and to properly cite quotation using MLA style.
  • Develop and use strategies for improving writing and critical thinking through recursive practice, self-reflection, and the process of revision.

In creating an Internet-based research project, students will learn how to . . .

  • Effectively use web-based technologies in order to read and publish academic writing.
  • Understand the conventions of online presentations; prepare and deliver them; lead discussions based on such presentations.
  • Take advantage of a range of appropriate scholarly resources such as books, journals, indexes, online catalogues, web search engines, libraries, and the Oxford English Dictionary.


Assignments: All assignments will be posted to a Qwriting blog you create and maintain; this blog will also serve as a digital portfolio for this class. Most of the assignments will relate to a short story you choose to study throughout the semester, so the blog will also present a digital analysis of the story and its author.

a) Glossary of Terms: Select seven of the rhetorical devices defined on this webpage: (you might use other sites to help clarify your understanding of the terms). Track a topic related to your chosen story on Twitter, and find examples of each of the rhetorical devices (take a screen shot or copy the text to record the tweets), giving a short explanation of how the rhetorical device is used. In an accompanying essay, use this evidence to describe the “rhetorical sophistication” of Twitter conversations about your topic. Post the terms, tweets, and essay on your blog.

b) Digital Humanities Project: Create a Wordle for a short story of your choosing. From your Wordle, use Google Book’s Ngram Viewer to research relevant words and synonyms for your text. Draw on your Wordle and Ngram Viewer results to support an essay that argues for or against the claim that “digital humanities technologies are the best way to interpret literature.” In making your argument, your essay should discuss both the strengths and the limitations of these two software programs. Post your Wordle, Ngram Viewer results, and essay to your blog.

c) Annotated Paragraph: Select a paragraph of around 100 words from your short story. Perform a “close reading” of the paragraph by first annotating it. Using html, you should offer commentary on every relevant word or phrase; this might include identifying rhetorical techniques, defining unusual words, noting repetition, or identifying images or symbols. Accompany your annotated paragraph with your close reading: an essay that analyzes how the author’s word choice and syntax (word order) create literary meaning (not just literal meaning).

d) Annotated Bibliography: Find three secondary sources to inform your investigation (i.e., journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, author interviews) using electronic databases like JSTOR, EBSCOHost, and the CUNY+ catalog. Following MLA style, create an annotated Works Cited page with citations and one-paragraph evaluative summaries of each article.

e) Self-Guided Conference Presentation: Imagine you have been asked to speak at a literary conference about your short story. Drawing on all the previous assignments, create a slide show presentation for the conference. Your presentation should quickly introduce the text to reasonably educated viewers, and then spend most of its time on introducing and supporting an argument about the literary meaning of your text. This argument should be based on one of the literary theories we have discussed.

f) Final Project: For your final project, revisit and revise the materials from the semester and create a webpage about your short story. In addition to the above assignments, you should also include separate Pages with biographical information, historical context, analyses of the story from at least two literary theory perspectives, and other relevant information like maps or images. Introduce your website with a cover letter to me that explains the process you went through to create your digital portfolio, describes the strengths you have gained by producing the pieces of writing and the challenges you still face as a writer.

READINGS: All texts are on class blog:  [password: eng170w]

You must bring a printed copy of the readings to class.

Follow the class group on Twitter @ENG170W. I will have the group follow you back. Then, send a “Direct Message” (not a tweet) to @ENG170W and the program GroupTweet will rebroadcast the message to all followers.

PARTICIPATION: You should not miss more than two classes. I do not differentiate between excused and unexcused absences. If you come unprepared to class, you are not present; “coming unprepared” includes such things as not doing the reading, not bringing the text to class, sleeping during class, not making an effort to participate, arriving late or leaving early. If you know you cannot attend, contact me before to ask about homework; I do not accept late assignments.

We will meet face-to-face on Mondays (except when the college is closed). On Wednesdays, we will meet virtually via the blog and Twitter. That is, just because we’re not meeting in person doesn’t mean we’re not having class, so be available during all class times.

If you have a learning, sensory, or physical reason for special accommodation in this class, contact the Office of Special Services at 718-997-5895 and please inform me.

Evaluation / Grading:

Students will be evaluated in three broad areas:

1) their ability and diligence in completing all writing assignments on time, reading and reflecting on assigned readings before class, and participating in class discussions.

2) their competence in meeting the learning objectives identified above.

3) their ability to demonstrate, through the pieces in their final web project and their meta-reflective cover letter, that they have made thoughtful and careful revision from earlier drafts.

In practice, the final grade will be more of a “negotiation” than a reward. Sometime during the final third of the semester, students should meet with me one-on-one. During this time we will discuss their current strengths and weaknesses and establish a set of expectations for the remainder of the semester. The student and I will agree on what is an appropriate final grade, dependent upon their completing a list of expectations. This list might include specific revision of certain assignments, good faith effort to participate more, or mastery of certain recurring problem areas. Students will submit a short memo outlining our conversation, to serve as a grading contract.

CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity

Violations of academic integrity include: cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty, plagiarism, and denying others access to information or material. It is the student’s responsibility to be aware of what constitutes academic dishonesty; students who are unsure of whether their work meets criteria for academic integrity should consult with their instructor. Students should look at the full policy, which provides further examples and possible consequences for incidences of academic dishonesty.

In short:  I have a zero-tolerance policy towards plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

The minimum punishment for any plagiarism in this course is receiving an F as a final grade and being reported to the appropriate campus officer.

Course Calendar

(Come to Class) What is reading?
Read: Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Sonnet V”

Work on: What is the English Major? What is it good for? Use Twitter (“use” means: search, find hashtags, find followers).

How to Read?
Read: “Connotation/Denotation” definitions, “Fabula/Sujet” definitions, E.M. Forster on “Story/Plot,” and Raymond Queneau from Exercises in Style
Work on: Create and set up your blog, pick a theme, tweet about it, make your first post. Check out and tweet about your peers’ blogs.


Rhetorical Terms
Read: Harvey “Elements of the Academic Essay,” Yeats “When You Are Old,” and Roethke “My Papa’s Waltz”
Work on: continue discussion of literary terms. Retweet tweets that use metaphor, simile, synechdoche, and metonymy. Pick a short story to focus on this semester.

Metaphor and Metonymy
Read: “Metaphor, Metonymy, Simile, Synecdoche” definitions and Hemingway “A Very Short Story”
Due: Glossary of Terms Assignment

Digital Humanities
Read: All six “Humanities 2.0” articles:
Create a Wordle for a short story you like. Do ngram comparisons between the prominent words and other words (synonyms, other things in the signifying chain)


Read:  Richter “ Mapping Critical Theories” and Barry “Beginning Theory”Work on: best definition of “literary theory” game
Due: Digital Humanities Project

Close Reading
Read: Bressler “New Criticism”
Work on: annotate a Shakespeare sonnet together via twitter

Read: Ferdinand de Saussure “Nature of the Linguistic Sign”
Apply structuralism to a Shakespearean sonnet
Due: Annotated Paragraph

Read: Sigmund Freud “The Dream-Work”
Work on: Tweet a link to a website about interpreting dreams. What would Freud say?

Read: Claude Lévi-Strauss “Structural Study of Myth”
Work on: Structural study of myths that are still popular today

Library Research
Read: all the tutorials here:
Work on: MLA citations. We also need to decide on a longish “literary” novel to read (around 300 pages)

Read: Stanley Fish “How to Recognize a Poem When You See One”
Work on: Finding poems on the webDue: Annotated Bibliography


Reading I
Read: Novel first third
Work on: What is biographical criticism good for? What is New Historicism good for?

Reading II
Read: Novel second third
Due: Conference Presentations
Work on: compile bibliographies of other theoretical approaches

Reading III
Read:Novel to end

Final projects due on Monday 12/19 by midnight.

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