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Searching for the Self (English 220: Introduction to Writing about Literature, Fall 2014)

Searching for the Self: English 220-16: Introduction to Writing about Literature, Fall 2014

Hunter College, The City University of New York

Elizabeth Goetz


Classroom: 610 HW, Tuesdays and Fridays, 8:10-9:25 a.m.

Office hours: Room 1436 HW, Fridays, 9:30-10:30 a.m. and by appointment

3 hours (3 credits)

Course Description: With an emphasis on close reading and analytical writing, English 220 intends to develop in students the analytical and interpretive skills necessary for both written and verbal critical response to literature that is firmly grounded in the text. It also establishes a common knowledge base, however minimal, in literature in English, and equips students with the vocabulary and techniques for describing and analyzing literary works, with an emphasis on developing critical writing skills specific to literary analysis. In addition, the course develops in students an appreciation and understanding of the aesthetic qualities of literature, as well as an awareness that literature is part of a larger ongoing cultural, social, and historical dialogue that informs, influences, and inspires our experience.

Course Goals: By the end of the semester, students should be able to:

  1. Write thesis-driven analytical essays of 3-5 pages on all three genres (poetry, fiction, and drama) that incorporate evidence from literary texts and demonstrate close reading skills.
  2. Write an analytical research paper of at least 5-7 pages that demonstrates close reading skills and the appropriate use of evidence from literary texts; the ability to create a clear thesis statement; and the ability to incorporate and engage scholarly critical sources as part of a well-organized, thesis-driven argument.
  3. Discuss fiction, poetry, and Shakespearean drama verbally through the use of close reading skills and, where appropriate, basic literary terminology.
  4. Demonstrate some familiarity with literary criticism in class discussion or writing, or both.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to compare and/or contrast literary works in a final exam essay.

Texts: All texts listed below are available for purchase at Shakespeare & Co. (located on 930 Lexington Avenue at 68th Street). You may also purchase these texts online or elsewhere, but you should purchase the same editions that are listed below. Different editions often have varied pagination and lack needed supplementary essays. Prices are subject to change. You must bring the appropriate textbook and printed copies of the online materials included in each day’s readings to class. Refer to the reading schedule below. Additional texts will either be posted to Blackboard (notated “Bb” below) or available via hyperlinks from the syllabus (which you can access via “Course Information” on Blackboard).

Required texts include:

Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Eds. Gail Kern Paster and Skiles Howard. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 1999. Print. ISBN 978-0-312166212. ~$15.12.

Woolf, Virginia. Jacob’s Room (Norton Critical Edition). Ed. Suzanne Raitt. New York: Norton, 2007. Print. ISBN 978-0-393-92632-3. ~$18.85.

Any college-level dictionary with at least 70,000 entries, e.g., The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Revised ed. 2004. Print. ISBN 978-0-877-79930-6. ~$4.85.

You must print, bookmark, bring to class, and refer to the MLA guidelines to documentation. A brief version is available online at

Recommended texts include:

Bullock, Richard and Francine Weinberg. The Little Seagull Handbook. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2011. Print. ISBN 978-0393911510. ~$23.75.

Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010. Print. ISBN 978-0-393-93361-1. ~$26.

Other necessary supplies include a bound notebook and a daily calendar/planner (to keep track of assignments and due dates once they have been announced).

Writing Requirements

Assignment instructions will be distributed in advance of the due date. For the research essay, you will have the option of developing your own topic and research question.

Essay 1 is a short formal essay of ~3-4 pages in which you will analyze one of the short stories we read in class. It does not entail outside research.

Essay 2 is a short formal essay of ~3 pages that uses close reading to analyze A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It does not entail outside research.

Essay 3 is an in-class midterm essay comparing and contrasting two poems.

The Research Essay and Annotated Bibliography build on the skills from earlier essays, but adds research. It should be 5-7 pages on Jacob’s Room. You will consult outside (secondary) sources, both from your editor and from reliable sources that you will need to locate via the library catalog and online databases. You should use secondary sources to inform your own interpretation of the text. You must have a minimum of 3 scholarly, peer-reviewed sources in addition to your primary text. At least 1-2 sources must be from the library’s online database JSTOR. You must complete a proposal and an annotated bibliography for this project. Failure to turn in the proposal and/or bibliography will lower your essay grade substantially.

The Final Exam (In-class Essay and Short Answer) is a 2-hour exam in which you will write a 1-hour comparative essay on two poems. In the second hour, you will have a series of short answer questions on concepts and texts from our course that require analysis. This exam does not require any memorization, but it does require extensive study.

For the Précis, I will assign you one of the supplementary historical or critical pieces included in your edition of Jacob’s Room to relate the novel. In two full pages, you should summarize the piece and analyze its relevance to the text. You will submit this via both SafeAssign and the Blackboard discussion forum.

Written Reading Responses: Each week, you must write a thoughtful, thorough response either in reply to a study question posted to Blackboard or following the charted response structure on your annotation worksheet. Your response should be on one of the literary readings for that week and must also include an original and open-ended discussion question of your own, which does not need to relate to the rest of your response (though it can), but which should at least focus on the same text. These will be due in hard copy at the beginning of class each Friday starting Sep. 5. Class work will often require you to share or work with your entries and questions in writing and/or verbally. Each response should include analysis of at least one cited quotation from the text. This writing should show your active engagement with our texts. Responses should be at least 1 page per short story, poem, act of a play, or selection of a novel’s chapters. Since class discussion is cumulative, bring all of your returned response print-outs with you to each class meeting. More specific instructions are on Blackboard.

Category / Approximate Percentage of Final Grade

Homework, précis (2 pages), and class participation / 10%

In-class essay (a.k.a. essay 3 or midterm) / 5%

Written reading responses / 15%

Essay 1 (3-4 pages) / 15%

Essay 2 (3 pages) / 20%

Research essay (5-7 pages), annotated bibliography, and research proposal / 25%

Final exam (another in-class essay) / 10%

This grading system is subject to change. Most major grades will be posted to Blackboard.

Assignment Processes and Details

Formatting and Word Count: Please ensure that all essays include your name, my name, the name of the course (including section number), and the date (left-justified), as well as an informative and creative title that should be centered. All essays should be typed and double-spaced in size-12, Times New Roman font with one-inch margins. This produces an average of 330 words per page. This means I would expect a 5-page paper to be approximately 1,650 words.

All of your essays should follow the formal guidelines of the Modern Language Association (MLA). MLA style requires in-text parenthetical citations, as well as a separate Works Cited section. Bibliographic information can be found on the copyright page of any printed text and will be appended to any reading material on Blackboard. Details of MLA citation are covered on and

Submitting Assignments: You are required to turn in all assignments by class time on the dates they are due in order to receive full credit. Please submit all final drafts of essay assignments via the designated drop box on Blackboard. You will receive your papers back from me via Blackboard with comments within a reasonable time period. If you have any questions or concerns about the comments on your paper or grades, please e-mail me or make an appointment during office hours to discuss.

Late and Missing Assignments: Reading, writing and research require significant time and effort, so it is in your best interest to realize any problems you are having sooner rather than later. If we have adequate time, we can address your issues. These policies are designed to encourage you to complete assignments on time to ensure that you do not fall behind.

If you are struggling with your work, please talk to me prior to its due date. I am happy to discuss any issues with you to help find solutions.

I do not accept late work.

Save hard copies and digital versions of ALL essays and drafts (diagnostic, take-home, midterm, and final). Use cloud-based storage (such as Google Drive) or a USB stick. Crashing hard drives are not an excuse for failure to submit assignments on time.

Participation: This is a seminar-style course and everyone is expected to contribute to class discussions. Simply filling a seat will not benefit your learning or your grades. You must be prepared to ask questions and discuss the readings and your own writing. Before coming to class, take notes, underline, and write in the margins of your texts. While you should not be afraid to express half-formed thoughts or to talk through your ideas, remember that your participation grade is a matter of both quantity and quality.

Attendance: Your final grade will be substantially reduced if you miss more than three days of class. If you miss six or more classes, it is very likely you will fail this course. If you do not attend the first week of the semester, I will drop you from the class according to college policy. I will take attendance at the beginning of each class; if you are late, you will be required to speak with me after class to obtain half credit for attendance. If you are more than ten minutes late, you will be marked absent. There are no excused absences. Because I don’t accept late work, you may not make up missed assignments, but you are responsible for ascertaining (from a classmate—exchange contact information accordingly) what material was covered in any missed class time.

Essays and other at-home assignments must be submitted via Blackboard (Discussion Boards and SafeAssign) by the beginning of that class session unless otherwise noted.

The work in this course is intensive, and it will be difficult to catch up if you fall behind. Students must come to class prepared to participate. Thus, the reading and assignments must be done on time before each class session. Unless students have been granted prior permission from the instructor, assignments turned in via e-mail or hard copy will not be accepted. Students unable to participate in class discussions because they haven’t done the reading will find their class participation grade will suffer.

Cellular telephones and other electronic devices may not be used in class for any purpose, including texting. Leave them at home or keep them concealed and silent in your bag. If I hear or see you using one, you will receive no participation credit for the day. If you want to check the time, wear a watch.

Communication: I am available to meet with you during my office hours and by appointment. Feel free to contact me via e-mail with questions or concerns regarding your coursework or to set up an appointment. I will usually respond to e-mails within one business day, but don’t wait until the last minute to ask questions this way. When you e-mail me, provide a relevant subject line, address me in a greeting, and sign with your full name and course number. Students must be able to respond to e-mails within one business day. Students may use laptops in class only for assignments for which they are explicitly permitted.

Free tutoring is available in the Reading/Writing Center (located in Thomas Hunter, Room 416; for hours, go to I give extra credit for tutoring sessions or workshops with the RWC tutors or the English department’s writing fellows; to receive such credit, bring me proof of your work with these tutors (that they have signed and dated). If you have any questions about the course, readings, assignments, or grading, ask me.

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity: Hunter College regards acts of academic dishonesty (e.g. plagiarism, cheating on examinations, obtaining unfair advantage, and falsification of records and official documents) as serious offenses against the values of intellectual honesty. The college is committed to enforcing the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity and will pursue cases of academic dishonesty according to the Hunter College Integrity Procedures.

At the college level, it is essential that you learn to engage with primary texts yourself, as well as learn how to correctly and meaningfully incorporate others’ views and outside information into your own work. In many cases, this class will focus on close reading, which involves considering only form and content within the text itself. Occasionally, though, we will consult scholarly secondary sources. Note that writing that summarizes the texts we are reading, including common guides such as SparkNotes, No Fear Shakespeare, and CliffsNotes are never considered acceptable as sources in academic literary study. I am interested in your ideas about the texts we are reading and expect that any ideas you bring up in class or in your papers will be your own unless otherwise cited. When in doubt, cite.

Special Needs: In compliance with the American Disability Act of 1990 (ADA) and with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Hunter College is committed to ensuring educational parity and accommodations for all students with documented disabilities and/or medical conditions. It is recommended that all students with disabilities (emotional, medical, physical, and/or learning) consult the Office of Accessibility located in Room 1124 East to secure necessary academic accommodations. For further information and assistance please call (212) 772-4875 / TTY (212) 650-3230.

Tentative course outline: (Please note that we will attempt to adhere to this schedule, but I may adjust it as necessary to meet the needs of our particular group. You are responsible for noting any changes made in the schedule. I will usually announce changes at the beginning of class; if you are late, you might not learn the updated deadlines, but you are responsible for them regardless. Readings and assignments are to be completed BEFORE the week they are scheduled for discussion; you should be reading Shakespeare and Woolf ahead of schedule in order to relate the selections we focus on each class meeting to the text as a whole. You must always prepare the next class’s reading through annotations. Reading to be discussed on a given class meeting is listed under that date, not the date you should begin the reading. You must finish the whole novel, play, story, or set of poems before we begin class discussion. If students are not sufficiently prepared to participate in class, I will give unannounced reading quizzes.

Fri., Aug. 29    Course introduction: syllabus, personal introductions. Diagnostic essay.

Homework: Buy books. Read and take notes on Miranda July’s “The Swim Team” (Bb) for Friday. Read “Reading a Novel or Story” and “Invention: Annotating a Text.” E-mail me from your Hunter e-mail address and introduce yourself on Bb discussion board by next class. Download the digital syllabus (under Bb’s Course Information tab) so that you can click the hyperlinks to online texts.

Tue., Sep. 2     Presentation on RWC services. Finish diagnostic. Discuss July’s “The Swim Team” (Bb). Demonstration of annotation, reading responses, and discussion questions.

            Homework: From now on, come to class each Friday prepared with your reading response (including an open-ended discussion question) on a literary text assigned for that week printed in hard copy. E.g., for Tuesday, read, annotate, and write a response to July’s story “The Swim Team” or Moore’s story “How to Become a Writer.”

Fri., Sep. 5      Lorrie Moore, “How to Become a Writer.”

Tue., Sep. 9     Vote in the primary election! J. D. Salinger, “For Esme, with Love and Squalor” (Bb). How to move from interpretations to thesis/argument.

Fri., Sep. 12    Discuss Essay 1 prompt.Avoiding Plagiarism” (read “Overview and Contradictions,” “Is It Plagiarism?” and “Safe Practices”; complete the “Plagiarism Exercise” and bring to class in hard copy), “Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing,” “MLA Works Cited Page: Basic Format” (OWL), “MLA Formatting and Style Guide” (OWL), and “MLA Documentation Style” (RWC). Research/MLA demonstration in class. Homework due Tuesday: 1) Create a visual representation of the titular yellow wallpaper in Gilman’s story. Write a paragraph explaining your creative choices. 2) Write at least 2 paragraphs explaining what you think you might write your essay about. (Feel free to draw on your reading responses!)

Tue., Sep. 16   Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In groups: Share proposals. How do we use these visual representations to build an argument?

Wed., Sep. 17  Last day to drop without the grade of “W.”

Fri., Sep. 19    Three hard (typed, printed, complete) copies of draft of Essay 1 due in class. Peer review. “Reverse Outlining” and “Beginning Proofreading,” “Proofreading for Errors,” “Proofreading Suggestions,” “Revision for Cohesion,” and “Steps for Revising.”

Tue., Sep. 23   CLASSES FOLLOW A FRIDAY SCHEDULE. FINAL DRAFT of Essay 1 due on Blackboard via SafeAssign before class begins. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act I; Paster and Howard 89-99, 110-126. Discuss student performances.

Fri., Sep. 26    NO CLASSES SCHEDULED. Read all of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Sep. 30.

Tue., Sep. 30   A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act II. Paster and Kern 149-158.


Tue., Oct. 7     A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III. Paster and Kern 166-182, 192-205. Discuss Essay 2.

Fri., Oct. 10    Last day to register to vote for the General Election! A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act IV. Paster and Kern 217-219, 221-224, 231-233, 238-241.

Tue., Oct. 14   A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V. Paster and Kern 245-251, 265-271. “Questions for Writing about Literature”; “Writing from Sources: Annotated Bibliography”; “Annotated Bibliographies”; and “Samples.”

Fri., Oct. 17    Three hard copies of complete draft of Essay 2 due in class. Peer review session of Essay 2.

Tue., Oct. 21   A Midsummer Night’s Dream, wrap-up; Paster and Kern 275-287, 295-298, 300-301, 307-317. Student performances of scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Fri., Oct. 24    FINAL DRAFT of Essay 2 due on Blackboard via SafeAssign before class begins. “Modern Novels” and Jacob’s Room ch. 1-2 (Woolf 175-181, 3-21). Try your best, keep a running log of your questions, confusion, and observations, and be patient. Trust me. “Writing a Research Essay,” “Close Reading,” “Developing a Thesis,” “Pre-Writing,” “Writing about Literature.”

Tue., Oct. 28   Jacob’s Room ch. 3-5 (Woolf 21-57). Keep adding to your log of observations and questions. Discuss précis.

Fri., Oct. 31    Jacob’s Room ch. 6-8 (Woolf 57-78). Discuss research proposal, annotated bibliography, and essay.

Tue., Nov. 4    Election Day! Register! Know your polling place! Vote! Jacob’s Room ch. 9-11 (Woolf 78-107).


Fri., Nov. 7     Jacob’s Room ch. 12-14 (Woolf 107-143).

Tue., Nov. 11  Précis assignment due. Kathleen Wall’s “Significant Form in Jacob’s Room: Ekphrasis and the Elegy” (in Woolf 281-303).

Fri., Nov. 14   Research proposal and annotated bibliography due via e-mail (by class time). William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet CXVI: Let me not to the Marriage of True Minds” and biography; “Poetry: Close Reading”; “Explicating a Poem and Symbolism”; John Donne’s “The Sun Rising,” “The Flea,” and biography. Discuss in-class essay and comparative essay structure.

Tue., Nov. 18  Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art,” Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl.” “Reading a Poem”; “Writing about Poetry”; “Image in Poetry”; “Images and Their Uses.” Homework: Write a 1-2 paragraph proposal explaining what poems you plan to write on for your in-class essay and why.

Fri., Nov. 21   Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric” and biography.

Tue., Nov. 25  In-class essay (comparing and contrasting two poems).


Tue., Dec. 2    Research paper due in three hard (typed, printed, complete) copies for peer review.

Fri. Dec. 5       Audre Lorde’s “Power”; Danez Smith’s “not an elegy for Mike Brown”; E. E. Cummings’s “[anyone lived in a pretty how town],” “[love is more thicker than forget],” and biography.

Tue., Dec. 9    Gwendolyn Brooks’s “Riot”; Lucille Clifton’s “my dream about being white”; Frank O’Hara’s “Meditations in an Emergency,” “Why I Am Not a Painter,” and biography.

Fri., Dec. 12    Research essay due via Blackboard. Langston Hughes’s “Harlem” and “Theme for English B”; Alice Walker’s “Gather” (Bb); Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy,” “Lady Lazarus,” and biography.

Fri., Dec. 19, 9-11 a.m. FINAL EXAMINATION.

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