January 26, 2009 Listing

Beyond Plot Summary

In high school, you probably earned points for demonstrating that you could summarize the plot. But a college literature class asks you to move beyond plot summary. What else is there to talk about? (Covered in detail in Foster, How to Read Literature Like a Professor)

Key Themes

Setting (natural, agricultural, rural, suburban, urban? Romanticized, realistic, horrific?)
Gender (celebration of and challenges to traditional roles; explorations of alternatives)
Race/Ethnicity (multiculturalism, immigration, prejudice, assimilation)
Technology (antagonist? romanticized?)

Assigned Text:


The official version is online. The printout is just for your convenience today.

Assigned Text:

Frost (selections)

In-class handout.

A short, in-class benchmarking exercise, so I can see where I need to spend my time.

Overview of early 20th Century America

Analyze a poem (TBA)

Movabletype, Turnitn.com

Upload to Turnitin.com.


A close reading is a careful, thorough, sustained examination of the words that make up a text.

In a close reading, a literary work is not so much a window to look through, nor is it a mirror to reflect yourself. Instead, you look closely at the language the author chose, in order to analyze what the author has accomplished.

Note: Close reading is always re-reading.

A short homework assignment, comprising a brief quotation from the assigned text,, a non-obvious question or observation, and a contribution to the class discussion (if called on).

Mon, 6:00 PM - 8:30 PM (1/21/2009 - 5/8/2009) Location: SHU ADMIN 410

Some online homework will be due on Friday mornings, so that I will have time to review it before the next class meeting, but there is only one class meeting per week.

Dennis G. Jerz (jerz.setonhill.edu)

  • Office: 403 St. Joseph, Box 461
  • E-mail: My last name, (at) setonhill.edu
  • Phone: 724-830-1909 (but you'll usually have better luck with e-mail)

Office Hours

  • Monday: 3:30pm; Tuesday 2pm; Wednesday 11am; Thursday 3pm; M-F, by appointment.
  • Occasionally I step out of my office briefly to run errands during my scheduled office hours. (If my light is still on, I'm probably not far away.)

Office Visits

I generally leave my door open. If you should happen to drop outside when my door is closed:

  • If it is during my office hours, I may be with another student; please knock so I know you're waiting.
  • If it is not my scheduled office hour, I'm probably trying to concentrate on something; please send me an e-mail or leave me a note with contact information, so that we can schedule a time that's convenient for both of us.

Explores a diverse body of twentieth-century literature, including fiction, poetry, narrative, and essays, written in different regions of the United States by men and women of various cultural groups.

Any survey course has a particular set of meanings for students who are taking them in order to fulfill a general education area requirement, an education certification requirement, or purely as an elective.

The Seton Hill University Learning Objectives (found on page 2 of the 2008-1010 course catalog) lists several skills that this course is especially designed to help you develop:

  • Use technological skills to access information, organize knowledge, and communicate.
  • Express arguments or main points clearly, in written and oral communication.
  • Assess privilige and oppression from the perspective of culture, race, class, and gender.
  • Find, evaluate, and apply information.
  • Locate and analyze expressive media to gain information or comprehend the significance of an issue or event.

A literature survey course has an additional meaning for English majors and minors, who will be expected, in their other courses, to demonstrate familiarity with the scholarly techniques (how to read and write about a literary text) and subject matter (major authors and themes of American literature since 1915).

These goals of the English program all apply directly to EL 267:

  1. Examine a wide range of genres, styles and cultural literatures.
  2. Examine the traditional canon and innovative nontraditional writers and writing.
  3. Demonstrate analytical skills of reading literature.
  4. Demonstrate a high level of research and writing skills.
  5. Write and speak in a wide range of formats appropriate to major emphasis: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, critical essay, oral presentation.
  6. Speak and write about issues in the discipline and how they interact with the culture at large.
  7. Articulate the ongoing relation between personal habits of reading and writing and the evolving study of English.
Your Objectives for EL267

  1. Deeply and critically read literary texts
  2. Demonstrate familiarity with the social and political forces shaping American culture during the time period
  3. Use textual evidence to support your claims in oral and informal written discussion of assigned texts, without oversimplifying or ignoring views which differ from yours
  4. Organize and develop your initial reactions to assigned texts, through informal writing, peer critiques, and discussion
  5. Write two college-level papers (one supported by primary sources, another supported by both primary sources and secondary research)
  6. Contribute actively to a positive learning environment
To help you reach those goals, you will need to:
  • read all assigned texts and reflect meaningfully on them (a process that includes re-reading parts of large texts or the whole of shorter texts) before class,
  • complete exercises, quizzes, and exams in order to offer me opportunities to assess your achievements,
  • write two papers (see section 6, Assignments)

At the end of this course, you should be able to demonstrate

  1. Competence in interpretive, critical reading of literary texts
  2. Intellectual engagement with your peers (in person and online)
  3. Awareness of the historical, cultural, and formal issues that influence your developing responses to texts on the syllabus
  4. Ability to plan, research, draft, revise, and polish college-level essays, using appropriate sources to explore and defend a non-obvious claim about your chosen text

The class format will be a seminar, with lots of discussion and some lecture.

Your job is not to walk into the classroom as a blank slate, ready to write down what your professor says the literary works mean, so that you can spit it (or something you memorized from Spark Notes) back on an exam. Rather:

Present your own original, examined, organized reactions to the readings, carefully supported by direct quotations.

There are many "right answers" in literary interpretation, and some of them conflict with each other; however, diversity of interpretation is not the same thing as "anything goes"; nor does it imply that our job is to look up what the author says he or she wanted to accomplish.

  • Even though it is *possible* to read "Puff, the Magic Dragon" as a celebration of marijuana culture, that possibility does not preclude other, possibly more productive, readings.
  • Even though the the guy who wrote "Puff, the Magic Dragon" has gone on record denying the song has any drug-related meaning, that denial does not obliterate the significance the song has had for the drug subculture.
Because an author's original words are the primary source for any literary interpretation, it should goe without saying that students should keep up with the readings. You will need some time to reflect on the readings in order to participate meaningfully in a collaborative learning environment, and to that end, some assignments are designed to encourage to you start you reading early.

I will often send out bulk e-mails to the address on file for you in GriffinGate. If you check a different address more regularly, please use SHU's e-mail forwarding service so that you don't miss important updates.

The most important requirement is that you carefully read the assigned texts. All the other work will come much more easily if you are familiar with the works (and bring them to class with you, so that you can consult them during class).

Students are expected to attend every class. (See Seton Hill University Catalog, p. 28-29, "Class Attendance" and "Excused Absences".)

Seton Hill University recognizes that extra-curricular activities of all sorts are important components of a liberal arts education, but your instructors expect you to take an active role in reducing the impact of your absences.

  • Students who miss class for any reason are still responsible for the material collected, covered, and/or assigned during that period.
  • An excused absence does not automatically include extensions.
  • I welcome the chance to help you get caught up, but would prefer to speak to you after you have consulted the syllabus and a classmate's notes. (Please resist the impulse to ask me to e-mail you a summary of what you missed.)
If you are absent from class on a day when a major assignment is due, I reserve the right to assess, on top of the unexcused absence, a late penalty of one extra day. (You might as well come to class so you don't fall farther behind, and then turn in the paper the next day.)

5.1.1. Emergency Absences

Those who miss class due to an unplanned emergency should submit an "Absence Form," with proper documentation, as soon as possible.

For each class that you miss, download the word processor version of my "Absence Form" (available at http://jerz.setonhill.edu/teaching/Absence.doc) and submit it to me (either via e-mail or as a printout).

After you initiate this contact, we will start working out whether or what kind of alternate assignments might be appropriate.

5.1.2. Scheduled Absences

Those who miss class due to a scheduled activity must plan to complete all make-up assignments before the missed class. This means that you must submit an acceptable "Absence Form" (see above), at least a week before the missed class.

If there is insufficient time for us to agree upon an acceptable suggestion for making up missed work, or if an approved make-up assignment is late or unsatisfactory, then I may record the absence as unexcused.

Students are expected to contribute actively to a positive classroom environment, both in person and online. Students who dislike public speaking may wish to invest more effort in their online writing, and vice-versa.

Late arrivals and early departures, disruptive or inattentive behavior, and lack of preparation will impact your participation grade.

Those who participate above and beyond the call of duty will receive a bonus.

If the assignment asks you to submit a printout, obviously you need to get the printout into my hands.

Most of your work will be uploaded to Turnitin.com. If you have a problem submitting your work in the proper format, you may stop the late clock by e-mailing your word-processor file as an attachment or by getting a printout into my hands.

Getting Credit for Late Work

If you submit your work before I've finished marking the stack of on-time submissions, I'll probably return your grade along with everyone else's. But if I finish the whole stack before you submit your contribution, I may never even notice when your late paper comes in.

If your assignment is not in its proper online slot when I finish marking the submissions, I will record a zero for the assignment.

In order to replace that zero with my assessment of your late work, follow this two-step process.

  1. Submit the paper in the online slot where it belongs.
  2. Send me an e-mail that tells me I should look in the slot for your work. Include a subject line with your last name, the course name, the assignment name, and the word "Late".
    Example: "Smith EL267 Ex 2 Late"
    (There's no need to make an extra trip to slip a printout under my office door.)

I am willing to make exceptions in the event of extenuating circumstances, such as illness or conflicts caused by your mandatory participation in school activities. In the absence of an approved exception:

  • By default, late assignments automatically lose one letter grade per day.
  • By default, I will not accept any work that is more than a week late. (You may still have to submit, for zero credit, sequenced assignments such as a paper proposal or draft, before I will accept later assignments in that sequence. I will always be willing to meet with you during my office hours to help you catch up, but I cannot promise immediate turn-around if you submit a late assignment.)

All Late Work

For all late work, contact me to tell me what I should look for -- otherwise I may never see it, and won't know that I should change the recorded zero. If you are asking that I waive the late penalty, e-mail a copy of your completed Absence Form with a subject line that follows this pattern: "Smith EL267 Ex 1-2 Absence Form".

Unless I grant you an extension in advance, all other assignments are penalized one letter grade for each day they are late (including Saturdays, but not counting Sundays or holidays when the university does not offer classes). (Students who have had me before should note, this is stricter than my previous policy.)

Special Cases

Online participation and reflection papers. These time-sensitive assignments (which are due for every assigned reading) earn no credit if they are late. (You should still complete any items that you missed, in order to get full credit for your class participation portfolio.)

Class Participation: The way to get credit for a missed in-class activity is to contribute substantially to the online discussion of that topic. Post thoughtful comments on the course website, your peers' websites, and/or your own. To make sure that I see and record credit for this alternative work, paste the URLs of your online contributions into a word processor file, and upload the file into the J-Web late paper box in order to make up a missed set of discussion prompts.

  • Conarroe, ed. Eight American Poets 0679776435
  • Ellision, Invisible Man 0679732764
  • Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby 0743273567
  • Foster, How to Read Literature Like a Professor 006000942X
  • Miller, Resurrection Blues 0143035487
  • Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife 015602943X
  • Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath 0140186409
  • Treadwell, Machinal 1854592114
  • Wilder, The Skin of Our Teeth 0060088931
Also required: Keys for Writers, SF Writer, or any other college composition handbook that explains the format for writing an MLA-style research paper,

Below are links to where you may purchase the required books on Amazon (though you may purchase them from any source.)
Excessive Absences

  • By default, a student who misses two class meetings in a row fails the course.
  • By default, a student who misses any three class meetings during the semester fails the course.
  • Late entries, early departures, disruptive behavior, and/or lack of preparation may accumulate as absences.

University Disability Statement

If you have a disability that requires instructor consideration please contact the Director of Disability Services at 724-838-4295.  It is recommended that this be accomplished by the second week of class.  If you need accommodations for successful participation in class activities prior to your appointment at the Disability Services Office, you should offer information in writing that includes suggestions for assistance in participating in and completing class assignments.  It is not necessary to disclose the nature of your disability.

University Academic Integrity Policy

Seton Hill University expects that all its students will practice academic honesty and ethical conduct. The University regards plagiarism, cheating on examinations, falsification of papers, non-sanctioned collaboration, and misuse of library material, computer material, or any other material, published or unpublished, as violations of academic honesty. Violators of the code may expect disciplinary sanctions, which are discussed in the Seton Hill University Catalog, page 30, Code of Academic Conduct.
Any unreferenced use of the written or spoken material of another, or of previously submitted work of the student's own, constitutes plagiarism.
Please not that paraphrasing (putting something into your own words) without adequately referencing the source is also plagiarism. Helpful information is available at the following web site: Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Recognize and Avoid It. Plagiarism or any other infraction of academic integrity on a reflection paper, exercise, or other work will also result in a zero. Plagiarism or any other infraction of academic integrity on any part of a sequenced assignment may result in a zero for the whole assignment.

This course assumes that you have completed Freshman Comp and/or STW, that you understand what plagiarism is, and that you know how and why you should avoid it.

See also "Plagiarism (and Academic Integrity)."

The whole course is based on 1000 points. Each individual assignment will be marked on a four-point scale, the same as your GPA.

Thus, if a particular exercise is worth 40 points, and you get 30 on it, then you earned 75%, or a B.

  • Papers (260 pts) -- Two formal papers (3-4, and 6-8 pages in length).
  • Exercises (200 pts) -- Homework assignments, some of which are collaborative. (These prepare you for the major papers.)
  • Participation Portfolios (200 pts) -- Online and in-class informal writing assignments based on the assigned readings.
  • Quizzes (100 pts)
  • Final Exam (240pts)

Recent Comments

Dennis G. Jerz on Academic Article -- Hanlon: Several students chose to write on Invisible Man f
Christopher Hanlon on Academic Article -- Hanlon: I've just stopped in to say I'm really flattered t
Nikita McClellan on Portfolio 2: http://blogs.setonhill.edu/NikitaMcClellan/2009/05
Jesssica Bitar on Portfolio 2: http://blogs.setonhill.edu/JessicaBitar/2009/05/po
Annamarie Houston on Portfolio 2: So, these blog things are not what I expected. I k
Marie vanMaanen on Portfolio 2: Portfolio 2: My Goodbye to Blogging? http://blogs.
April Minerd on Portfolio 2: Portfolio 2 http://blogs.setonhill.edu/AprilMinerd
Georgia Speer on Portfolio 2: Portfolio 2 - Rewind the 2nd half of the semester
Robert Zanni on Portfolio 2: http://blogs.setonhill.edu/RobertZanni/2009/05/por
Andrew Adams on Portfolio 2: A Look Back http://blogs.setonhill.edu/AndrewAdams
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