Dr. Elisabeth Mermann

Office: FC 276

Phone: 825-5990

Office Hours: MW 10-11; M 6-7; TR 11-12




Good reading involves reading every text sympathetically, trying to get inside it, to understand the intentionality behind its composition. It also involves reading every text unsympathetically, critically–but the sympathetic has to come first or the critical reading is impossible.

Robert Scholes, The Rise and Fall of English


Course Description


The central question this class will seek to answer is what is literature? how has it been defined and redefined over the ages in an Anglo-American context? What does it mean today? What is its role in contemporary American society? We will pose and try to answer this question by looking at a variety of texts from the genres of prose fiction, poetry, and drama.


Course Objectives

To understand the ways in which different genres have been constructed; one of my assumptions is that you are able to write about literature better when you write literature, hence this class will provide opportunities for creative as well as critical writing;

To develop the terminology and skills necessary for analyzing, researching, and writing about literature;

To become familiar with a variety of approaches to literature, including formalist, feminist, marxist, and post-colonial theories so that you will become active participants in a community of critics.




Active participation in class discussion and attendance are crucial to your success in this course. You can miss two classes without penalty. For every subsequent class you miss, three points may be deducted from your final grade.


Informal writing: each student will keep a reading journal in which you relate our readings to the central question and objectives of the course. You can keep this journal whichever way you like (i.e. dialogue notebook, learning log, or more personal diary-like reflections), as long as you observe the following:

1. date each entry;

2. write at least a paragraph about each reading assignment you've completed (that is, each story, each assigned segment of the novel or plays, each chapter in Longman);

3. keep the journal separate from class notes;

4. bring your journal to class each time.

I will collect journals twice during the course of the semester. Good journals are those that are kept consistently and that clearly demonstrate your reading of the texts and your critical engagement with the ideas presented.


Three essays/projects, to be turned in in portfolio format that includes all draftwork: one literary analysis (on prose or poetry–your choice; 4-5 pages); one creative piece (short story or poetry–your choice); and one research essay on drama (5 pages). Please note that all drafting must be done outside of class.


One summary of a scholarly article (1 page, single-spaced).


Required Texts


Sylvan Barnet et. al., ed. An Introduction to Literature. 11th edition. New York: Longman, 1997 (in the course outline abbreviated as L)


Joseph Gibaldi. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 4th ed. New York: MLA, 1995



Course Outline




T, 1-16 Introductions

R, 1-18 The elements of fiction (L 56-57; 74-78; 92-95; 112-115)

Read: Hawthorne (L 95); Poe, "The Cask" (L 115)


T, 1-23 Writing about Literature (L 21-42)

Gilman "The Yellow Wallpaper" (L 244); Chopin "Desiree's Baby" (L 69)

R, 1-25 Types of criticism: L 1403-6 and 1415-1422

Faulkner, "A Rose" (L 287); "That Evening Sun" (handout)


T, 1-30 Carver, "Cathedral" (L 184); Jhumpa Lahiri, "When Mr. Prizada Came to Dine" (handout)

R, 2-1 Cisneros, "One Holy Night" (L 470); Viramontes, "The Moths" (L 475)


T, 2-6 Conrad, Heart of Darkness (L 1427-86)

R, 2-8 Conrad, ctd.


T, 2-13 Conrad Casebook (L 1486-1506)

R, 2-16 * First draft of literary analysis/creative project due





T, 2-20 Types of criticism (L 1407-1410)

L, Chapter 12; Blake "London" (L 655); Wordsworth "I Wandered" (L 656)

* Prose fiction project due

R, 2-22 No class


T, 2-27 L, Chapter 13; Eliot (L 678); Dylan (L 710); Anzaldúa (L 712)

T, 3-1 L, Chapter 14


T, 3-6 L, Chapter 15; Pound (L 677)

* First draft of literary analysis/creative project due

R, 3-8 No class


T, 3-13 L, Chapters 16 and 17

* Journals due

R, 3-15 * Poetry project due


March 19-23 Spring Break!




T, 3-27 Shakespeare, Hamlet (L 864)

R, 3-29 Elements of drama: L 777-783; 1044-46


T, 4-3 Shakespeare, ctd.

R, 4-5 Library Day

MLA, Introduction to research papers (2-37)


T, 4-10 Wilson, Fences (L 1301-51)

R, 4-12


T, 4-17 Valdez, Los Vendidos (L 1245)

R, 4-19 L, "Tragedy" (795-800); "Comedy" (977-980)


T, 4-24 Wasserstein, A Man in a Case (L 980)

* Summary of article due

R, 4-26 * First draft of essay on drama due


T, 5-1 Class conferences

* Journals due

T, 5-3 * Essay on drama due



Grade Breakdown


Discussion: 10 points

Journal (21 entries): 20 points

Essays: 60 points

Summary: 10 points





1. Our college catalogue defines "plagiarism" as "the presentation of the work of another as one's own work". This may lead to an F in the course. To avoid any suspicion of plagiarism, please make sure that you always cite your sources properly and that you clearly identify your own work if you study with other students.


2. Engl 2370 is one of the core courses that prepares students for the ExCET examination. I will be happy to discuss this test with you in more detail; I also encourage you to pick up a Preparation Manual in the Certification Office (College of Education).