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EN424, Fall 2012: Crime, Critique, Ethics, Fiction

Page history last edited by Tonya Howe 11 years, 5 months ago

EN424: Senior Seminar (Fall 2012)

Crime, Critique, Ethics, Fiction
Dr. Howe

Class Meetings: Friday, 9:30am-12:15 – Rowley G211

Final Exam: F (Dec 14) 9-11:30

Course Website: http://thowe.pbworks.com 

 


Course Description

An intensive study of a selected literary genre, movement, or period from either British or American literature.  Students produce a seminar paper related to the topic studied. (3)

 

This term, we will be examining a selection of contemporary novels that take up issues of ethics, ethical action, responsibility, crime, and criminality. We will be particularly interested in exploring the relationship between ethics, reading, analysis, and critical thinking, asking such questions as: "What is the reader's responsibility to the text?" "What is the relationship between fiction, truth, and lying?" "What is the ethical value of literature?" "What is the civic value of literature?" and "How do we engage with literature in an ethical manner, attentive to the myriad complexities of human experience?"

 

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students will:

  • Understand the issues relevant to the ethical study of literature and the role of literature—particularly the novel—in the development of an ethical critical mind.
  • Critique the representation of crime, criminality, and the possibilities for just action made visible in a fictional realm that encourages us to engage fully with these issues in highly-realised and specific contexts.
  • Analyze the relationship between fiction, ethical thought, and social action.
  • Interrogate the ethical position of the reader in the text and the responsibility of her critical voice.
  • Exhibit mastery of undergraduate research skills, especially by cultivating an awareness of the role of the responsible student writer who holds membership in a community of scholars, thinkers, and readers.
  • Exhibit mastery of undergraduate-level skills of critical analysis, close reading, and logical argumentation through the successful completion of a substantial researched writing project.

 

Grade Breakdown

Your final grade in the course will be calculated based on the following formula. 

 

 

Policies specific to this class

These policies, below, override any others I may use for lower-level undergraduate courses; however, if you need my behavioral policies spelled out,  you can find them here. In the case of a conflict, the policies below apply to this class--it is a senior-level, majors-only class, and so my expectations are different.

  • Regular attendance is required in the course. 
  • Your participation, including essay drafts and other in-class and out-of-class assignments, is crucial to your learning and success in this course. Lack of thoughtful participation can radically alter your grade. This class is about ethics, literature, and criticism—plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty are unethical, but handicapping your classmates through lack of participation is also unethical.
  • Late assignments will not be accepted, unless you have reached out to your professor in a timely fashion, well in advance of the due date. I may not agree to accommodate late work.
  • You will deliver oral presentations and lead discussions during the semester. If you are absent on the day you are scheduled to present to the class, you will not be able to make up the work.
  • To pass this course you should score a minimum grade of C. This course is required for all English majors.
  • All of the reading assignments must be completed by the assigned date.
  • Behavior—please be respectful of others’ beliefs, but not uncritical of them.  Your job is to be a critical thinker, not just when you read novels, but when you interact with your peers and your professors.

 

Required materials

Google Drive Coursepack and Workshop Space

Notebook, pens, pencils

Computer or laptop with Internet

Richard Wright, Native Son, Harper Perennial

Cormac McCarthy, Child of God, Vintage
Lionel Schriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train, Norton

J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace, Penguin

Reading guides

 

Schedule

This is a general schedule for informational purposes only. I will give specific assignments and additional readings to you in class, so be sure to check with peers in the event of an absence.

 

Friday, August 31: Introduction to the course. Wright, Native Son. Weekly writing assignments, keeping your work on blog or paper.

 

Friday, September 7: Native Son. Response 1 due (1-2 pages) on a developing theme in Book 2: Flight. Read Rorty: Google Drive Coursepack and Workshop Space 
Discussion leader: Ben

 

Friday, September 14: Native Son. Response 2: Relate "How Bigger Was Born" to your reading of the novel. OR: Assess the theme of storytelling as it develops in the novel. Read Booth, from The Company We Keep: Google Drive Coursepack and Workshop Space
Research Presentation: Courtney

 

Friday, September 21: Coetzee, Disgrace. Essay topic: What is the single most important ethical question raised in the novel, and why? 
Discussion leader: Stephanie

Research Presentation: Mary Kate

 

Friday, September 28: Disgrace. Read Gallop essay : Google Drive Coursepack and Workshop Space. Come prepared to discuss the value of close reading and the shift in the critical landscape. How does Gallop's ideas about historicization reframe Booth's ideas critique of formalism? Essay topic: Find a significant passage in Coetzee's novel, and close read it. Why is this passage important? OR: How is the theme of storytelling functioning in this novel?
Research Presentation: Ben

 

Friday, October 5: Midterm Exam; Hitchcock, Strangers on a Train. Read: Nussbaum, Poetic Justice: Google Drive Coursepack and Workshop Space. No essay (exam is essay).

 

Friday, October 12: Highsmith, Strangers on a Train. Read J. Hillis Miller, The Ethics of Reading : Google Drive Coursepack and Workshop Space. Essay: Identify an appropriate idea from the contextual readings, either Nussbaum or Miller, and show how it can help us examine Highsmith. Revise one previous essay. 

Discussion leader: Mary Kate

Research Presentation: Aneke

 

Friday, October 19: Strangers on a Train. Return to Brooks, Nussbaum, Hillis Miller, and come prepared to discuss their approaches to the ethical functions of literature and reading. Essay: Craft an ethical analysis of Highsmith's novel. OR: Identify a key difference between Hitchcock's Strangers and Highsmith's Strangers, and assess the ethical implications of that difference. 

Research Presentation: Emily

Research Presentation: Megan

 

Friday, October 26: Read Eaglestone: Google Drive Coursepack and Workshop Space. McCarthy, Child of God. Essay: What argument about the relationship between social structure and criminality does McCarthy's novel seem to be making? In other words, what is the relationship between Ballard's criminality and his relationship to others in his community? OR: Apply an idea in Eaglestone to the novel. Draft proposal due (this may evolve; for the purposes of this first draft, identify a central question for your seminar essay and the primary source text you'll be working with, in addition to the stakes ("so what?") of your argument. Finally, also identify the key ideas from our theoretical readings you'll be bringing to bear on your research question. 2-3 pages.

Discussion leader: Walter!

Research Presentation: Stephanie

 

Friday, November 2: Child of God. Essay: Midterm exam revision due. Final proposal due: 3-4 pages. Identify the central question for your seminar essay, and begin outlining the way that issue is addressed in your primary sources. Then, begin drawing on your sources and your close reading to outline the shape of your argument. Include a working title for your essay, and an annotated bibliography of at least three secondary sources.
Discussion leader: Aneke*

Research Presentation: Walter!

 

Thursday, November 8th, the Center for Career Services will be holding a workshop from 5-6pm in Gailhac G103 called "Preparing For Life After Graduation".  Geared towards seniors who are still trying to figure out their post-graduation plans, this workshop will explore some of the  opportunities available to new college graduates  - including graduate school, long-term volunteer service, and entering the work force - and offer helpful resources to support students as they plan for and work towards their post graduation goals.  Most importantly, this workshop will equip seniors with the awareness, knowledge, and skills to make a successful transition from Marymount, regardless of what they plan to do once they graduate.

 

Friday, November 9: Schriver, We Need to Talk about Kevin. Read Siebers: Google Drive Coursepack and Workshop Space. Re-read the prefaces/introductions to Booth, Nussbaum, and Hillis-Miller. Turn in: 2-3 page analysis of the goals and purposes of their books, drawing on paraphrase and direct quotations. In one or two paragraphs of the conclusion, describe the purpose of your own seminar essay, keeping in mind that of the theorists you just discussed.

Discussion leader: Emily

Research Presentation: Kelly

 

Friday, November 16: We Need to Talk About Kevin. Post a draft (at least 8 pages plus an outline of the whole) to our Workshop Space before class, and bring your laptops. Reread Siebers, Introduction (consider, especially, how he understands the idea of "critical violence")

Discussion leader: Megan

 

Friday, November 23: Thanksgiving break. Watch We Need to Talk About Kevin, and continue to work on your essay draft. Read over all your peers' drafts on the workshop space, and comment on each. Insert one long comment in the draft in which you evaluate the strength of the working thesis, the strength of the argumentation, and the strength of the writing. Your comment should be about 3 paragraphs long. Use the following guidelines for your comment, filling in the blanks with feedback: 1.) Your essay seems to be arguing [restate in your own words]. The significance of your work is [not clear/clear--it is __________ ]. I would suggest emphasizing/clarifying/focusing on _______________ to strengthen the thesis. 2.) Strengths of your organization include _______________. I was confused by the logical relationship between ____________ and ___________. You could strengthen your structure by ____________. 3. Your writing in general is [describe]. I notice that you have difficulty with ___________--for example, _____________. I was confused at [describe one place that confused you because of the writing]. 4. Other notes--you may add these in comments throughout the essay.

 

Friday, November 30: We Need to Talk About Kevin. Note: This is our last class as a class! Feel free to bring coffee, breakfast treats, or other things to nosh. In class handouts: Find/Replace, Spell/Grammar/Style check, workshopping for organization. 

Discussion leader: Courtney

Discussion leader: Kelly

Workshopping.

 

By Sunday, 5:00pm: Post revised organizational paragraphs to our shared google doc.

 

Friday, December 7: Class canceled. MAKE AN HOUR LONG MEETING WITH ME VIA STARFISH THIS WEEK TO GO OVER YOUR ESSAY.

 

Friday, December 14: 9-11:30, Final Exam  NO FINAL PRESENTATIONS; USE THE TIME TO WORK ON YOUR ESSAYS!

 

December 16, 5:00pm: Final Essays due electronically (thowe@marymount.edu). Be sure you have spoken with me about your work as much as possible, and that I have given you a verbal sense that this is passable work. There is no more time to revise!

·        Understand the issues relevant to the ethical study of literature and the role of literature—particularly the novel—in the development of an ethical critical mind.

·        Critique the representation of crime, criminality, and the possibilities for just action made visible in a fictional realm that encourages us to engage fully with these issues in highly-realised and specific contexts.

·        Analyze the relationship between fiction, ethical thought, and social action.

·        Interrogate the ethical position of the reader in the text and the responsibility of her critical voice.

·        Exhibit mastery of undergraduate research skills, especially by cultivating an awareness of the role of the responsible student writer who holds membership in a community of scholars, thinkers, and readers.

·        Exhibit mastery of undergraduate-level skills of critical analysis, close reading, and logical argumentation through the successful completion of a substantial researched writing project.

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