. . . a dead language is not only one no longer spoken or written; it is unyielding language content to admire its own paralysis. Like statist language, censored and censoring. Ruthless in its policing duties, it has no desire or purpose other than maintaining the free range of its own narcotic narcissism, its own exclusivity and dominance. However moribund, it is not without effect, for it actively thwarts the intellect, stalls conscience, suppresses human potential. Unreceptive to interrogation, it cannot form or tolerate new ideas, shape other thoughts, tell another story, fill baffling silences. Official language smitheryed to sanction ignorance and preserve privilege is a suit of armor, polished to shocking glitter, a husk from which the knight departed long ago. Yet there it is: dumb, predatory, sentimental. Exciting reverence in schoolchildren, providing shelter for despots, summoning false memories of stability, harmony among the
public. Toni Morrison, Nobel Lecture 1993
Do the rocks here know us, do the trees, do the waters of the lakes? Not unless they are addressed by the names they themselves told us to call them in our dreams. Every feature of the land around us spoke its name to an ancestor. ... And unless the earth is called by the names it gave us humans, won't it cease to love us? And isn't it true that if the earth stops loving us, everyone, not just the Anishinaabeg, will cease to exist? That is why we must speak our language, nindinawemagonidok, and call everything we see by the
name of its spirit." Louise Erdrich, Last Report on the Miracles of Little No Horse
Instructor: Dr. Deirdre Keenan Office Hours: MW 1:30-2:30, T 10:00-11:00 MacAllister 302 and by appointment. Ext. 7254 (262-524-7254) [email protected] Class: MWF 10:40-11:50AM – Main 116
Course Objectives • This course is designed to provide concentrated reading in select major writers—Toni Morrison and Louise Erdrich, • to survey critical responses to those writers, • to develop familiarity with select critical theories and approaches to critical writing, • and to develop a professional-level, conference-style paper through a process that includes proposal, draft, and revision.
Learning outcomes for GE2/CCD • Understand world cultures. • Critically evaluate [select] global issues from multiple perspectives. • Understand the methodologies germane to the fine arts, humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences as well as their larger social context. • Analyze and integrate material in a field outside the students’ major area of study. • Develop and defend a position that demonstrates logical reasoning in writing. • Demonstrate information fluency by gathering, analyzing, and synthesizing information using emerging technologies and traditional media.
Grade Distribution Class Participation 10% Reading Responses 15% Two Critical Article Outlines 20% (10% each and without formal presentation) Midterm Exam 10% (concentrates on Morrison and allows) Paper (including draft and abstract) 25% (reduces weight of paper) Final Exam (limited cumulative) 20% (limits the cumulative nature of the final)
These policies are designed to help clarify academic and professional expectations in this course. They are implemented in fairness to all students.
Classroom Professionalism and Personal Technology: For Class Discussion.
The reading load is rigorous and commensurate with an upper level literature course. The reading schedule is designed to allow us to absorb the assigned novels before turning to critical sources. The reading schedule presumes that students will make time every day to complete reading assignments on time.
Participation: Because this course is discussion based, its success depends on everyone’s prepared and thoughtful participation; if you are unprepared, please refrain from participating in the day's discussion unless invited to do so.
Attendance: More than three absences will negatively affect your grade. Over nine absences automatically constitute course failure. Because the calendar is subject to change, if you are absent it is imperative that you find out what is due on the day you return (in other words, prior absence is not an excuse for lack of prepared attendance).
Reading Rewards: Because these are intended to give credit for daily preparation and learned lecture material, reading rewards cannot be made-up. No exceptions.
Additional assigned articles must be downloaded from My Courses or available through the Carroll Library, read carefully, and brought to class.
Paper: One professional conference style paper (10-14 pp.), typed in conventional MLA format (1” margins, 12 pt. font) and with secondary sources properly documented. The project includes the submission of drafts prepared for peer revision workshops. Students will be encouraged to submit papers to professional conferences. Grade penalties will apply to late submissions, including draft workshops (3 point penalty per late submission).
Conferences: As soon as you have decided on a paper topic based on one of the course texts, make an appointment to meet with me to discuss topic. In addition, you are welcome at any time to meet with me for continued conversation or help. I am happy to provide help at any stage of the process—topic selection, research, outlining, revision.
Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of another’s ideas, words, or format and constitutes the theft of intellectual property. Paraphrasing or changing a few words still requires citation. Plagiarism violations will be treated seriously according to the policy of Carroll University (see Student Handbook), ranging from a failed assignment or course failure depending on the severity of the incident, and including a report to the Student/Faculty Ethics Committee, as mandated by the policy.
Carroll University Policies Disabilities statement: Students with documented disabilities who may need accommodations, or any student considering obtaining documentation, should make an appointment with Ms. Martha Bledsoe, Director of Services for Students with Disabilities, Marty Bledsoe, no later than the first week of class. [email protected]
Syllabus Subject to Change The instructor and the University reserve the right to modify amend, or change the syllabus (course requirements, grading policy, etc.) as the curriculum and/or program require(s). ENG 300A Major Writers Calendar (subject to change): 10:40-11:50AM
NOTE: both authors often begin their novels before chapter one with critical epigraphs or narrative passages, so be sure to start your reading at the beginning.
F 9/6 Introduction and discussion of “the canon.”
M 9/9 Morrison, Bluest Eye, read beginning through “Winter.”
W 9/11 Morrison, Bluest Eye, read “Spring” (97-161: ends at a text break; stop before “So it was on a Sunday afternoon, in the thin light of spring. . .”).
F 9/13 Morrison, Bluest Eye, read to end.
M 9/16 Read “Teaching Differences Among Women from a Historical Perspective: Rethinking Race and Gender as Social Categories,” (2000) Tessie Liu. Posted on My Courses.
W 9/18 Morrison, Bluest Eye, open discussion. Read “Homeplace,” bell hooks.
F 9/20 Morrison, Jazz, beginning through p.73 (to text break).
M 9/23 Morrison, Jazz, 73-135.
W 9/25 Morrison, Jazz, 137-end.
F 9/27 Morrison, Jazz, questions and open discussion.
M 9/30 Critical Reading and Outline: read “A Politics of the Heart,” in Toni Morrison and Motherhood (Albany: SUNY Press, 2004) 1-16.
W 10/2 Morrison and Jazz open discussion.
F 10/4 Morrison, Sula, beginning through 66.
M 10/7 Morrison, Sula, 67-137.
W 10/9 Morrison, Sula, 138-end.
F 10/11 Morrison, Sula, questions and open discussion.
M 10/14 Critical Reading and Outline: Critical Reading and Outline: “An Elegy on Black Masculinity: The Beautiful Boys in Sula,” in Can’t I Love What I Criticize? Susan Neal Mayberry (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007) 51-70. Posted on My Courses
W 10/16 Toni Morrison Overview and midterm review; introduction to Louise Erdrich.
F 10/18 Fall break
M 10/21 Fall break
W 10/23 Midterm
F 10/25 Tracks, chapters One through Four.
M 10/28 Erdrich, Tracks, chapters Five through chapter Six.
W 10/30 Erdrich, Tracks, chapters Seven to end.
F 11/1 Erdrich, Last Report, beginning through chapter 4.
M 11/4 Erdrich, Last Report, chapter 5 through chapter 8.
W 11/6 Erdrich, Last Report, chapter 9 through chapter 11.
F 11/8 Erdrich, Last Report, chapter 12 through chapter 16.
M 11/11 Erdrich, Last Report, chapter 17 to end.
W 11/13 Critical Reading and Outline. “Unrestricted Territory. . .” posted on My Courses.
F 11/15 Erdrich, Last Report, questions and discussion.
M 11/18 Erdrich, Four Souls, beginning through chapter six.
W 11/20 Erdrich, Four Souls, chapter seven through chapter eleven.
F 11/22 Erdrich, Four Souls, chapter fourteen to end.
M 11/25 Critical Reading and Outline: “Even our bones nourish change”: Trauma, Recovery, and Hybridity in Tracks and Four Souls, Douglas Andrew Barnim; Posted on My Courses.
W 11/27 Paper Discussion
F 11/29 Thanksgiving break
M 12/2 Personal Writing Day. NOTE: Papers must be posted on My Courses by 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday (12/3); readers must download assigned paper and annotate response for class on Wednesday and Friday.
W 12/4 Paper Workshop; readers arrive with annotated response for revision workshop.
F 12/6 Paper Workshop; readers arrive with annotated response for revision workshop.
NOTE: Revised papers must be posted on My Courses by 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, after which readers may download paper for annotating response.
M 12/9 Revised Paper Workshop; readers arrive with annotated response for revision workshop
W 12/11 Last day of classes; Final Exam Review.
Papers Due on Reading Day—Thursday, 12/12, in my office by noon.
Wednesday, December 18 ...... 8:00 am
Critical Reading and Outline Guidelines: • All students must read and annotate the assigned critical readings. Assigned students will be asked to outline the article and post the outlines on My Courses before class discussion.
• Effective Outlines track an article’s main points, the way examples support those main points, and include key passages (verbatim quotes) useful to reconstructing the author’s argument. Understanding the structure of the argument is imperative. This ability to track the argument’s coherence is a valuable (and broadly applicable) skill that takes practice; it differs from “cherry-picking” handy quotes to drop into your own interpretation. The practice also helps you to develop stronger coherence in your own work.
• Select quotes that are rich with meaning and lend themselves to emphasis or further explication or application to a textual passage.
Guidelines for Critical Writing Keenan
1. The introduction should present a thesis that clearly reveals the paper's focus and purpose.
2. All quotes must be contextualized beforehand (identify who is speaking to whom, about what, when, where, why); in other words, signal the key points that serve your purpose (thesis). Then follow up quotes with commentary on their significance. Quotes are meant as supporting evidence for your ideas so explain their support. This is particularly important when you present long quotes (although you should keep that to minimum). Quotes do not speak for themselves and should not be relied on to make your argument for you. Also, all specific textual references, whether quoted or not, should be cited. Be sure to check citation form and definition of plagiarism. Quotes should not exceed more than one third of your paper (at most) and extended quotes should be kept to a minimum.
3. What you need to include: although you know I have read the book, you should not assume I (or other readers) have immediate recall or that I have interpreted the text as you do. A general guideline is to include enough information so that anyone could follow your discussion. That does not mean you need to summarize at length, but you should provide information that is necessary to understand your point.
4. Keep control of your paper's focus. Periodically refer back to your thesis (i.e. recall your purpose), which also sharpens the paper's coherence.
5. Coherence: Be sure to show how your discussion develops your stated purpose/thesis. In other words, make sure each paragraph is clearly (implicitly or explicitly) connected to your thesis. Test your coherence by checking to see if you can say how each paragraph serves your thesis. Clear paragraph transitions and hooks also strengthen coherence.
6. Use present tense in interpretive analysis, as the text exists now.
7. Avoid sweeping generalizations. Especially avoid starting with them in the introduction. Avoid building a discussion based on generalization. Build from specific information. The problems with generalizations are that most of the time they are simply not true. If they may be true, you are probably not in a position to support them. If they are unquestionably true, then you’re not saying much.
8. Avoid talking about the reader (this is a whole complex area of interpretive theory, called Reader Response Theory). One problem with focusing on reader: when you say “the reader,” you are positing a generic reader with the assumption that all readers see and respond in one way. But any act of reading is an act of interpretation and readers interpret differently. Instead focus directly on your subject (the text, character, action, the secondary source).
9. Consider your audience. When you write critical analysis, you are joining an ongoing conversation with others interested in the subject. Don't lecture and be very careful about making assumptions.
10. Critical writing must go beyond summary by providing insight, analysis, and explanation. Moreover, there should be a sense of balance between summary/ description/ illustration /quotes AND you explanation/ discussion/ insight because both elements are equally important. If, for example, you summarize plot or character for a whole paragraph and then include only one sentence on commentary (as if that is all the insight the summary can bear) then all that summary was not necessary to your discussion. The best papers go beyond insights introduced in class discussion.
11. Always check a handbook for technical rules, such as citation form and Work Cited pages.
12. Italicize all book titles and foreign words. Article titles, short stories and poems appear in quotation marks.
13. EDIT, edit, edit. Every word should matter. No word should be superfluous. As the writer, Kurt Vonnegut, says, "Have the guts to cut." Whenever possible use concretely descriptive language rather than abstract and vague.
14. Avoid passive voice unless strategic: Passive voice always adds superfluous words, it deadens style by removing actors, and it often raises questions left unanswered. • Passive voice means the action is being done to the subject, rather than the subject performing an action. • Passive voice e.g.: The tribe was given a warning to return the stolen horses. • Active voice e.g.: Sully warned the tribe to return the stolen horses.
15. Ask yourself what kind of voice you have created in the paper. Is it a voice that expresses genuine engagement in your subject, effort to think hard and carefully, and desire to explain your ideas? Is it bored, insecure, unprepared, or careless? What impression does your voice (intended or unconscious) create?
16. Avoid summary conclusions, which deflate a nuanced discussion and fail to prompt further consideration. Conclusions need not solve problems or provide answers. So do not reach for reductive solutions (e.g. "If people would just XXX"). Sometimes the best conclusions clearly define the remaining problems.
17. Before turning in a paper reread the assignment to make sure you have addressed it and proofread.
18. Use these guidelines as a final checklist (like a draft workshop on your own).