ENG 182: Narratives (The Novella)

Fall 2015 (Module 2: October 15th – December 15th, 2015)
Professor Amy Butcher

Course Description:
In this course, we’ll strengthen our understanding of the way narrative develops, functions, and shapes writing over time through a selection of longer form fiction readings. More specifically, we’ll analyze and discuss four novellas—by Philip Roth, James Baldwin, Albert Camus, and George Saunders—and ask of each how the plot structure, character development, and narrative arc are developed and sustained throughout the duration of the work. We’ll consider, too, the value and function of such a form and will no doubt debate whether such a unique qualifier is even necessary to distinguish a text longer than a short story, certainly, but shorter than a novel. Above all, we’ll continue to deepen our understanding of narrative, strengthen our abilities as close readers and writers, and develop a unique space to converse about art and literature.

Course Texts:
Goodbye, Columbus, Philip Roth, (978-0679748267)
The Stranger, Albert Camus, (978-0679720201)
Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin (978-0345806567)
The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, George Saunders (978-1594481529)

Class Participation:

There is no place in my classroom for intellectual apathy; it is not enough, in other words, to simply show up and warm a seat. This class depends and in fact thrives upon the individualized interpretation and thoughtful engagement of each and every student, and as such, class participation is integral and in fact the primary way in which we learn. Many students make the unfortunate mistake of thinking that it is

enough to attend class; on the contrary, I consider class participation to be the act of demonstrating yourself to be an actively engaged and enthused part of our classroom conversation. I expect you to come to class with the day’s readings in hand, the reading completed in its entirety and with your full attention, and the pages marked to evidence passages you found relevant, thought provoking, significant, curious, or, especially well-written; moreover, I expect you to look up all words or terms you’re unfamiliar with. Successful participation, too, means students are expected to self-regulate; those who attempt to monopolize conversation, reiterate what other students have already said, or make inappropriate comments will be equally penalized. One of the most integral skills we’ll aim to develop over the duration of this module is how to respond intelligently, thoughtfully, and nonthreatening to other people’s ideas and analyses, which is to say that while you’re welcome to disagree with your peers or with me, of course, please remember that all comments should be considerate, thoughtful, respectful, and grounded in close analysis of the text. In my experience, the best participants in a discussion-based literature course like this one not only listen to what their classmates have to say, but work to engage, build upon and complicate those sentiments, rather than simply waiting for their turn to speak or reiterating what has already been presented. While I hope it goes without saying, an engaged and respectful student gives his or her full attention to the materials and the discussion at hand; your phone should not be on your desk, your laptop should not be open, and under no circumstances should you be texting or falling asleep in class. Repeated failure to do so will result in an F for class participation.

Critical Response Journals:

In addition to regular attendance and participation, students will complete weekly journal entries that analyze a key passage and the author’s precise use of language. Please note that these journal entries are not informal reactions to the texts or reflections on how the text mirrors your own life, but rather, a close analysis of the author’s unique word choice and, if applicable, a discussion of how the present literary devices—metaphors, similes, hyperbole, etc.—are working to shape the text and your particular interpretation. All entries should construct a coherent narrative, be scholarly in tone, employ complete sentences, and be grammatically correct and free of spelling and typing errors. Please refer to our in-class handout for further illustration of the level of engagement and effort I expect. These journal entries should be strictly 500-700 words in length and must be uploaded by the start of class each Tuesday to our course Blackboard site. No late entries will be accepted.

Reading Quizzes:
These will be unannounced and frequent and are designed to ensure that you’re keeping up with the reading. Please note that a low grade in this section can seriously damage your final grade. If you are absent on a day in which a reading quiz is assigned, you receive a 0% for that quiz.

Leading Discussion:
As this is a reading-intensive course, each student will lead our class once in discussion of the day’s assigned reading along with a partner. Students who lead us on the first day of a new text may begin with a brief author biography or career summary, but the primary goal should always be to develop thoughtful and critical conversation; you should come to class prepared with a thorough interpretation, work throughout the discussion to identify key literary devices and passages, and assert how they contribute to the text’s overall significance or interpretation. These discussions necessarily mean that you have not only read but digested the reading; that is, I want to see evident that you and your partner have interpreted the text and had a meaningful conversation about it ahead of time. To facilitate intelligent conversation, students must prepare five or more questions that target key passages or elements as a means of stimulating thoughtful and intelligent conversation. While you are certainly encouraged to do some research, I expect students to formulate their own analysis and interpretation of the text; please do not employ Sparknotes or any other reading summary website. A handout—with relevant passages, questions for discussion, and any other information you feel might prove beneficial—is highly recommended but not required. If you are absent on the day it is your turn to lead us in discussion, your partner will not be penalized but you will forfeit your grade. There are no exceptions.

Final Exam:
This course culminates in a final exam designed to show that you’ve completed all assigned readings, taken notes, and otherwise been an engaged, analytical, and critical close reader.

Blackboard Grades:
Please note that Blackboard displays grades for assignments turned in on Blackboard only; large components of this class, including class participation, leading discussion, and final exam grades are not entered here and therefore not included in any visible totals. Therefore, it is not an adequate reflection of your course grade. Please refer to the formula below and, if in doubt, please don’t hesitate to contact me about individual grades.

Absence and late work policy:
You are allotted two course absences, and I do not differentiate between excused and unexcused; why you are absent is your business, and I don’t need to know the specifics. That said, I do expect you to turn in any assigned work prior to 11am or else it will not count. Furthermore, any additional absence—excused or unexcused—beyond two will automatically result in the deduction of one subset from your overall final grade; that is, a participation grade of a B will automatically become a B- with the addition of a third absence. There are no exceptions. If you miss class on the day you are expected to lead discussion, you cannot substitute for another day or make up those points.

Please remember that I am a professional reader of words; I will therefore immediately notice any changes in sentence structure, vocabulary, or content. If you are caught plagiarizing, you will fail the assignment and likely the course. Furthermore, as an instructor of the University, I am required to report all cases of plagiarism to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; penalties include academic probation, suspension, and expulsion. Please don’t do it, don’t think about doing it, and don’t even think about thinking about doing it.

Grading and Evaluation:
The final grade is determined by the following:

Class Participation 25%
Reading Response Journal 30%
Leading Class Discussion 20%
Quizzes 15%
Final Exam 10%

Course Schedule:
Monday, October 20th: Class introduction, syllabus distribution, response journal and class discussion sign-up

Wednesday, October 22nd: Philip Roth’s Goodbye Columbus (Chapters 1-3 or pg. 1-47)

Friday, October 24th: Philip Roth’s Goodbye Columbus (Chapters 4-6 or pg. 47-98)

Monday, October 27th: Philip Roth’s Goodbye Columbus (Chapters 7-8 or pg. 98-136)

Wednesday, October 29th: Complete discussion on Goodbye Columbus

Friday, October 31st: Albert Camus’ The Stranger (pg. 1-24)

Monday, November 3rd: Albert Camus’ The Stranger (pg. 25-46)

Wednesday, November 5th: Albert Camus’ The Stranger (pg. 47-71)

Friday, November 7th: Albert Camus’ The Stranger (pg. 72-97)

Monday, November 10th: Albert Camus’ The Stranger (pg. 98-12)

Wednesday, November 12th: James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room (pg. 1-43)

Friday, November 14th: James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room (pg. 44-71)

Monday, November 17th: James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room (pg. 77-118)

Wednesday, November 19th: James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room (pg. 119-169)

Friday, November 21st: Complete discussion on Giovanni’s Room

Monday, November 24th: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)

Wednesday, November 26th: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)

Friday, November 28th: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)

Monday, December 1st: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)

Wednesday, December 3rd: George Saunders’ The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil (pg. 1-42)

Friday, December 5th: George Saunders’ The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil (pg. 43-84)

Monday, December 8th: George Saunders’ The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil (pg. 85-130)

Wednesday, December 10th: Complete discussion on George Saunders’ The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil

Friday, December 12th: Final Exam (Normal time & room)