English 302H07 (Mon/Wed, 3:00-4:15 pm, Robinson A245)
Dr Ellen Moody. My homepage address:
http://www.jimandellen.org/ellen/emhome.htm; for Course Materials, go to http://www.jimandellen.org/gmuhom
e/emcourse.htm. My preferred email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advanced Writing: On the Humanities
This is an advanced writing course. In some ways it may remind you of the introductory college freshmen writing course you took a few semesters ago. We will talk about how to write plainly and clearly, about the ways of constructing arguments, about how to synthesize materials to compose a research paper, about punctuation, documentation -- about, in short, everything we can think of having to do with writing essays; and we will read and discuss full-
length books, stories, and essays.
The course will, however, differ from the introductory course in that you will be asked to use these skills to write about imaginative literature and film in such a way as to cover all the aspects of the arts in our culture: words, music, pictures, landscape, architectural spaces. We will delve into how artists transform their experiences into art and how readers and viewers respond. We will deal with "high" and serious art and pop culture. We are looking to see how our memories of books, films, music, pictures, buildings and landscapes have helped to make us what we are today. Since there is no specific art prerequisite for this course, our perspective and discussions cannot be specialized or narrowly-focused on any art form: you do not have to have taken a film study course to do well here. The background knowledge assumed is that of the typical generally-educated reader who has attained Junior status in a senior college.
Required Texts (in the order we will read them)
- Trimble, John. Writing with Style: Conversations on the art of writing. NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1999. Second edition. ISBN 0-13-025713-3.
- Carr, J. L. A Month in the Country. NY: New York Review of Books edition, 2000. ISBN 09403224
- Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing about Film. NY: Longmans, 2003-6. Fourth, fifth, or sixth edition. It doesn't matter which. ISBN (for fifth edition): 0321096657.
- Patchett, Ann. Bel Canto. NY: Harper Perennial, 2005. ISBN 0060838728
- Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
- Mason, Bobbie Ann. The Girl Sleuth: On the trail of Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, and Cherry Ames. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1995. ISBN 082031739X
- James, Henry. Daisy Miller. NY: Modern Library, 2002. ISBN 0375759662
- Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility, ed. Margaret
Drabble. NY: Signet, 2008. 978-0451531018.
- Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. NY: Random, 2004. ISBN 081297106X
- Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing about Film. NY: Longmans, 2003-6. Fourth, fifth, or sixth edition. It doesn't matter which. ISBN (for fifth edition): 0321096657.
Films We will study:
- A Month in the Country. 1987 Channel Four/Orion Film. Produced by Kenneth Trodd. Director, Pat O'Conner; screenplay, J. L. Carr and Simon Gray; starring Colin Firth, Kenneth Branagh, Natasha Richardson, Patrick Malahide, Richard Vernon, Jim Carter, Vicki Arundale, Martin O'Neile, Tim Barker, Eileen O'Brien, Barbara Marten, Kenneth Kitsen, Elizabeth Anson. Original Music: Howard Blake. 96 minutes.
- Namesake. 2006 Fox. Produced and directed by Mira Nair, screenplay Sooni Taraporevala. Starring Tabu, Kal Penn, Irrfan Khan, Jacinda Barrett, Zuleikha Robinson, Sahiri Nair. 122 minutes.
- Daisy Miller. 1974 Paramount film, produced and directed by Peter Bogdanovich, from screenplay by Frederick Raphael, adapted from story by Henry James, starring Cybill Shepherd as Daisy Miller, Barry Brown as Frederick Winterbourne, Chloris Leachman as Mrs Ezrar Miller. 91 minutes
- Sense and Sensibility. 1995 Miramax film, produced by Lindsay Doran, co-producer Laurie Borg and James Schamus, directed by Ang Lee director, written by Emma Thompson, starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslett, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Gemma Jones, Gregg Wise, Emilie Francois, Elizabeth Spriggs, Robert Hardy, Harriet Walters. 134 minutes. We'll also see clips from 2000 Sri Surya I have found it, produced by A.M. Rathnam and Kalaippuli S. Thanu, directed and written by Rajiv Menon, starring Aishwarya Rai, Mammootty, Ajith, Tabu, Abbas, Pooja Batra; and 2008 WBGH/BBC Sense and Sensibility, produced by Vanessa de Sousa and Anne Pivcevic, directed by John Alexander, written by Andrew Davies, starring Hattie Morahan, Charity Wakefield, Janet McTeer, David Morrissey, Dan Stevens, Dominic Cooper.
You are required to write three essays; to pass an open-book midterm exam and open-book final exam (which will take the form of writing essays in class on the books and films and answering short answer questions outside), and to give one short talk.
First Essay (#1)
Writing About Art. You asked to go to a museum and describe a painting, sculpture or other artefact defined as art or craft that you see there. You can also describe a building if it's one that has been made by an architect with aesthetic values in mind or if it's a historically preserved building. See online models.
Second Essay (#2)
Writing about Music. You can asked to write an essay in which you describe a piece of music. We will discuss how to go about this and use the online models.
Third Essay (#3)
In Search of Lost Time
- Two of our books, Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Teheran and Bobbie Ann Mason's The Girl Sleuth are about what reading can mean to people personally. I will ask you (about a third of the way through the semester) to find, and then (for the research essay of the semester) read and write about a favorite book of your own choice from your early adolescence or teenage years.
You are asked to try to remember what you were when you first read this book and the circumstances of your life; then to try to remember why you liked it. When you reread your book, try hard to call to mind how your present reading may differ from the first one. Write an essay about the experience of this rereading. Another way to put this is: write about how the book seems to you now as opposed to the way you now remember it seemed to you when you first read it.
Our short talks will in fact be "little talking practices" of how to analyze literary texts and art. You are (in effect) asked to take what we have learned in class and apply it to your favorite book from later childhood.
- I do not rule out books from earlier childhood, but experience has shown me that a book which relies as much upon words as pictures leads to a more successful essay; it is also easier to remember our later childhood than our very early years. The earliest memories may be vivid, but they are fragmentary and unclear. The idea is to use memory and literary analysis. So Dr Seuss and the Madeleine books are good for this assignment, but very early childhood books, such as Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are will probably not provide you with the material you need to write.
I am aware that many students may have a favorite film but would strongly prefer that you choose a book for this assignment. The idea is to analyze a text and discuss the techniques of literary analysis apart from the techniques of film analysis (which will be covered by the essays in class for the midterm and final). I will permit a favorite film if it is an adaptation of a book; then you are asked to find the original book, read it and and compare it to the film. You can use fairy and folk tales too. Here is a list of typical books to show you
the kind and level of book that is most feasible.
- The aim is to search into your memory and self. The assumption will be that people primarily read literature for pleasure, that they take away from it what they bring to it, and that its value to them is individual. I would like you to chose a book which meant or still means something to you. If you begin with a genuine interest, the labor of analysis and research and all the rest of it may (I hope) be valuable to you in ways beyond learning how to write about books.
Length: 3-5 double-spaced typed pages. For this one you can go well over the limit if you want to (say 7 pages).
This is to be a researched essay and may be regarded as "the term project." I ask you to find four sources beyond your chosen book. Bobbie Ann Mason's The Girl Sleuth, about popular series books for girls, is the sort of book you might read for research into syndicated series and girls' books.
Here is a full bibliography of books on children's literature to help you.
The essay will include:
An Annotated Bibliography: As part of the researched essay, you will be asked to hand in an annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography provides short summaries and evaluations of the books and essays used in a research paper. The skill of synopsis will be reviewed. Models will be provided.
An Abstract: You will also be asked to hand in an abstract of your own essay. We will in class learn to and practice the art of writing abstracts, of summarising, paraphrasing, and writing synopses.
The Short Talk
Talk is primary and writing secondary. I believe everyone can learn to write more clearly and enjoy writing more if he or she would only learn to talk on paper, to use the real language he or she might use in the classroom or any other natural situation which demands a certain coherence. Much of the advice you will find in John Trimble's Writing With Style is based on this belief. A good writer must learn to think of his material as something he is really communicating to someone else. The success of a communication in whatever media is measured not only by how the reader or listener receives it, but by whether the reader or listener truly understands and can apply to themselves what the artist has to say.
Thus, each student will be asked to prepare a coherent ten minute talk for classroom presentation on the readings from one of our books which is due the day he or she is scheduled to talk upon. The talks will begin the third week of the semester. Fundamentally what you must do is invent a clear instrumental thesis-statement about the topic connected to your text and/or film, and develop it coherently and concretely.
The whole class will listen and try to respond; their response will tell the student whether he or she has made him or herself clear; the ensuing dialogue and the student's own later thoughts about either what happened when he or she or another student talked will (it is hoped) teach everyone something about the basis of writing -- again, clear thinking in clear language which comes naturally to the speaker-writer.
Each student is asked to hand in an outline or cards (hand-written or typed) which he or she used to talk from, and I will return this material with the grade for the talk in the following session.
Open Book In-Class Writing
For the midterm, you will be asked to write about the texts and films we've covered up to that point: A Month in the Country,Bel Canto, and The Namesake. I will hand out a sheet of 20 short answer questions for you to type the answer to at home on Trimble, Writing with Style, and these three books. For the final you will be asked to write about the texts and films we've covered after the midterm: The Girl Sleuth, Daisy Miller, Sense and Sensibility, and Reading Lolita in Teheran. I will again hand out a sheet of 20 short answer questions for you to type the answers to at home on all four books.
There is a specific format for writing reviews of books and films which we will learn about. You will have the choice of writing one of the in-class essays in the review format or of following the literary essay with guidelines format. The writing in the course is generally intended to provide practice on how to select, elaborate upon and judge books, films, essays and all research sources. They are also intended to make you think about what is the best way to express analytical, evaluative, and appreciate ideas about art. Such essays usually include some or all of the following points:
- the book's context and intended audience;
- its thesis or theses;
- your evaluative statement about this thesis and the book's content;
- a synopsis or summary of its contents;
- an analysis of the book to reveal how the author's background or biases help or hinder the
author and the quality of the evidence.
We will discuss how a film review usually includes some or all of the following points:
- the film's producer, director, intended audience, and (if applicable) screenplay;
- its perspective (or "message");
- your evaluative statement about this perspective;
- a synopsis or summary of the story or literal content of the film;
- an analysis of the film's techniques (presentation of characters, use and juxtaposition of
scenes, use of music), dialogue, use of real actors, and particular ending to discuss how well or
poorly the film conveyed its perspective.We will discuss the various approaches taken towards literary works and how a good literary or filmic review usually includes some or all of the following points:
Obviously the midterm and final will test whether you have read all the assigned books with care, watched all the assigned films with sophisticated criteria in mind, and to reward those who attended class and listened to the short talks. But they are not "jump-through the hoop" exercises in which I try to catch you in literal mistakes. They are intended to provide opportunities for learning about more kinds of writing in the arts.
Reading and Class Attendance:
Assumptions behind this course : I think that 1) something is to be gained by coming to class, and that we all can learn a great deal from one another; 2) good writing can be discussed in simple words, and exemplified, learned, practiced, and improved through imitation of models; 3) people who write well are often people who read a lot; and 4) the only way to improve one's writing is by much practice over a long period of time; so:
- Classwork : I want everyone to attend class faithfully, to read all the books, and to participate in class discussions. I ask that you limit your unexcused absences to a minimum; I regard weeks of absence as one basis for a failing grade.
- Writing Assignments: I have allowed ample time for 1) writing and revision of each essay; for 2) discussion of student models to help you see what is expected and give you ideas on how to go about a particular task; and for 3) the class as a single group to listen to, analyse and comment on one or more of the essays someone in the class has written. I will try my best to write comments on your essays which can help you how better to organize your thoughts, correct your grammar, and write lucidly and engagingly.
By the end of the term there should be seven grades for each student on my roster. These I will average together to form the final grade. I should have three grades for the three essays, one for the short talk, one for the midterm and one for the final, one for the short talk. All shorter assignments (the proposals I ask for, any in-class writing) will be averaged together to form a seventh grade. If you hand your essay in late, the grade will be pulled down one element for every session, it is late. You must give your talk on the day cited on the short talk schedule so as to ensure only one person will talk on a given day. If you do not give your talk, you must take an F and that will be factored into your final grade.
For the final grade for the course I take into account 1) your attendance record; 2) your participation in class; and 3) if you came for help if you needed it in planning the essay, thinking up a perspective; organizing and revising it. A teacher can tell when an essay or short talks is done with care, is something really thought about, something for which a genuine self-educational effort was made. I respect serious hard work and reward it when I see it. I will also
reward someone whose work improves.
The Problem of Plagiarism:
DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Plagiarism is defined by the GMU English Department as follows:
'"Plagiarism means using words, opinions, or factual information from another person without giving that person credit. Writers give credit through accepted documentation styles, such as parenthetical citation, footnotes, or end notes; a simple listing of books and articles consulted is not sufficient."
If I discover that you have plagiarized, I will follow the guidelines of the English department which require that I fail or report you to the Chair of my Department. I am serious about this.
How to contact me outside class:
Without an appointment:
Write to me by e-mail. My preferred address is email@example.com. I look at my gmail during the day, and I write back. Be sure to type the e-mail address to which you wish me to send my reply at the end of your message. Please feel free to write me. I will provide thorough commentary on any drafts of essays that you send me through my e-mail addresses.
You can call the phone in the office I use (993-1176) or leave a message in my box in the English Office, which is in Robinson Hall on the fourth floor. I have no voice mail, and there is no way you can fax me. However, remember that I am on campus only on Mondays and Wednesdays; the secretaries will not call me and simply put notes in my box. Also, leaving essays in my box is a chancy business because materials get lost this way: no-one stands guard
over the boxes. If you send an essay through an attachment, it doesn't always come through. The securest speediest way to get a late essay to me is still to bring it to the next class and give it to me warm hand to warm hand.
With an appointment
Private conferences are available by appointment on Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:30 to 1:30, Robinson A455. Sign up on the stenography pad which will be placed on the corner of my desk every time the class meets.
Other Help Outside Class
The College of Arts and Sciences runs a University Writing Center where you will find tutors to help you with writing. Their phone number is 703-993-1200. Here is a description of the place and its services:
"The George Mason University Writing Center is a writing resource open to the entire university community, offering free tutoring in a comfortable, supportive atmosphere. During face-to-face and online sessions, trained graduate and undergraduate tutors form a variety of disciplines assist writers at all stage of the writing process. Tutors emphasize positive attitudes and stratgies that help writers at any level learn to evaluate and revise their work in order to be more confident and effective writers."
To find out more and to start to use the services offered, go to
Mon/Wed, Aug 31st/Sept 2nd
- In Class: Course introduction: brief explanation of syllabus and overview of course. Brief explanation of short talks. Watch the first half of A Month in the Country on Monday, and the second half on Wednesday.
- Outside Class: For next week, read Trimble, Writing with Style, Chs 1-8 and E. L. Carr's A Month in the Country and student models for short talks, Lane Jones's Religion, Sex, and Suicide in A Month in the Country and Diana Mullen's Gender and Self-Image in Chretien de Troyes's Erec and Enide. Be prepared to be assigned one talk for the term from one of our assigned books (see Short Talk schedules for choices and dates).
Wed/Mon, Sept 9th/14th
Wed/Mon, Sept 16th/21st
- In Class: Proposal for Essay #1 is due Wed, 9/16. Short talk 1: The story of the medieval painter and how it is reflected in the content of the painting in A Month in the Country, book and film; Short Talk 2: The characters, Tom Birkin and Charles (James in the film) Moon, the Reverend and Alice Keach in A Month in the Country, book and film. Short Talk 3: How religion functions to form modern communities and A Month in the Country, book and film.
- Outside class: Read half way through Bel Canto;
Chapters 1-3 of Corrigan's Short Guide to Writing about Film
and student model comparing film and novel, and Marco Werlang's "Opening Scenes in A Month in the Country", two student models on writing about music: Plainsong;
Etheride's "Royal Station 4/16; Read and bring to class the
guidelines for analyzing a literary work: How
to write a literary essay; also Bart Hart's Social Stratification and Class Consciousness in 19th Century England as depicted in Stephen Frears's Mary Reilly, Jennifer Klopsis, "The Class System in the Two Novels"
Wed/Mon, Sept 23rd/28th
- In Class: Essay #1 due Wed, 9/28 session. The classes are devoted to talking about how to write about film, how to write about music and introduction of Bel Canto
- Outside Class: Read Trimble, Chs 11 - 13 and browse Chapters 14 and 14. Finish reading Bel Canto.
Wed/Mon, Sept 30th/Oct 5th
- In Class: Return and discussion of Essay #1. Short talk 4: Turning a Newstory into a Novel in Bel Canto; Short Talk 5: How does Patchett make us identify with the "terrorists" as strongly as we do with the hostages in Bel Canto. Short Talk 6: How does music function to bring people together in Bel Canto?
- Outside Class: Proposal for Essay #2 is due. Read Corrigan, Chapter 4; read half-way through Last Orders.
Wed/Tues, Oct 7th/Oct 13th
- In class: Proposal for Essay #2 is due for the Wednesday session. The class watches all of The Namesake. We discuss six different approaches to film. Begin discussion of the novel The Namesake.
- Outside class: Finish The Namesake.
Wed/Mon, Oct 14th/19th
- In Class: We discuss Lahiri's book, Nair's film: The Namesake Short talk 6: How does Jhumpa Lahiri's Namesake treat romantic love as a viable ideal basis for a marriage in its comparison of the marriage of Ashoke and Ashimi and Gogol and Moushumi (take into consideration class and gender as well as ethnicity)? Short talk 7: In Lahiri's The Namesake, compare the problems of assimilation or living in the US in the cases of the two central characters of Namesake: Ashimi and Gogol (who for example, wants to be called Nikhil) Short Talk 8: The function of the different places the characters live and holiday in: apartment v private house in Boston, the family homes in India, Gogol v Maxine's apartments in New York City, Ashoke's apartment in Cleveland, Maxine's parents' lake house in New Hampshire
- Outside class: Write or finish Essay #2. Read student models and bring to class an announced selection. Ashley Morgan's The Namesake: on the landscape, background and visual images in the movie; on the use of scenes in the novel. We will discuss the coming midterm. You will be asked to write two essays in class: the first on the function of art and music in A Month in the Country and Bel Canto; the second on food, and sexual, courting, marriage customs and ceremonies in The Namesake.
Wed/Mon, Oct 21st/26th
- In Class: Essay #2 is due on 10/21. Handout of questions for the midterm. Oct 26th: Discussion of how to write a literary analysis of how to write a film review/analygis. Return and discussion of Essay #2; begin section on
children's literature; hand out essay questions for midterm.
- Outside Class: Prepare for midterm on 10/28; read Mason's The Girl Sleuth, Chs 1-3. Browse both the bibliography for children's literature
and list of children's books. Name of book for Essay #3 due Mon, Nov 2nd.
Wed/Mon, Oct 28th/Nov 2nd
- In Class: Open-book in class midterm, Oct 28th. 11/2: The importance of children's books and films continued. Short Talk 8a: Compare Mira Nair's film, The Namesake, with Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, The Namesake: how does the increased
emphasis on Ashima instead of Gogol and the emphasis on India change the themes of the story and our feelings for the characters?. Short Talk 9: Racism and Male and Female Stereotypes in Children's Books (Chapters 1-3 in The Girl Sleuth).
- Outside Class: Read Mason's The Girl Sleuth, Chs 4-7 for Wednesday; read the student models for Essay #3 and bring to class announced selection: "On Rereading The Wind in the Willows", "Go Ask Alice: A Believable Diary About Drug Use", "A Rediscovery of the Velveteen Rabbit", "E. B. White and Charlotte's Web, "A Memory to Live By: Where the Red Fern Grows", and the Instructions for how to write an abstract. For following Monday, read Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Teheran, Part One.
Wed/Mon, Nov 4th/Nov 9th
- In Class: Return and discussion of midterms. How literature
functions politically and personally for adults. Name of book and 2
sources due 11/4. Short Talk 10: Pseudo-power, classism, and glamor in Nancy Drew (as described and analyzed by Mason, Ch 4). Short Talk 11: Alternate Sleuths: country and rich girls, nurse, flight attendants, advertising agents (as described and analyzed by Mason,Chs 5-6). I will provide some background about the Iran/Iraq war, Iraqi revolution, and four different authors in Reading Lolita in Teheran. Short talk 12: How the group of young women and Nafisi formed their secret class, Chs 1-11 in Part One (Reading Lolita).
- Outside Class: Read Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita, Part
Two. You should be reading your chosen book/text for Essay #3. Do Practice I for learning to write an abstract.
Wed/Mon, Nov 11th/16th
- In Class: 11/16: Proposal for #3 is due. 11/9 and 11/11: How to write an abstract, how to write an annotated bibliography; how to compose an abstract. Short Talk 13: Nafisi's personal experience of returning to Iran after the first revolution, Chapters 1-11 of Part Two (Reading Lolita). Short Talk 14: Lolita as a book about male tyranny and fantasy and Great Gatsby as a book about aspiration or power as money: which is it? do you agree or disagree?: Chs 12-15, Part One, and 17-19, Part Two (Reading Lolita). We watch all of Daisy Miller in class.
- Outside Class: Read Part Three of Reading Lolita and Henry James's Daisy Miller. Do Practice 2 for learning to write an abstract.
Wed/Mon, Nov 18th/23rd
- In Class: Short talk 15: The hostile attitude towards young women's independence and sexuality in Daisy Miller, book and film. Short Talk 16: Nafisi's experience of the 1980 revolution, Chapters 1-11 of Part Three of Reading Lolita. Short Talk 17: The nobility and danger of ignoring or defying social mores in the fiction of Henry James, Nafisi's classroom, and in the lives of her young women students, Chapters 12-35 of Part Three of Reading Lolita. The class will go over Practice II. Introducing Jane Austen and Sense and Sensibility
- Outside Class: Read half-way through Austen's Sense and Sensibility (or as far as you can).
Mon/Wed, Dec 30th/Dec 2nd
- In Class: About half this week's time will be devoted to seeing
excerpts from several films of Sense and Sensibility. Short
talk 18: What do the terms "sense" and "sensibility" stand for and how does the depiction of the sisters amount to a debate on the values of each stance towards experience? Short talk 19: The relationship of money and/or property and how others treat you in the past and present stories of
Sense and Sensibility. Short talk 20: Connections between secresy and tact, and lying and manipulation, sickness and self-control in Sense and Sensibility. We will watch parts of different film adaptations of Sense and Sensibilty.
- Outside Class: Finish S&S; read Part Four of Nafisi's Reading Lolita. Finish Essay #3. Prepare to give 2-3 minute presentation on the progress of your research paper.
Mon/Wed, Dec 7th/9th
- In Class: Dec 4th: Essay #3 (with abstract and annotated bibliography) is due 12/9. Short Talk 21: Parallels between themes in Austen's novels, including Pride and Prejudice and Nafisi's girls in Part Four (Reading Lolita). Short Talk 22: Family barbarity, state terrorism and books in people's lives, Part Four (Reading Lolita) 2-3 minute presentations of progress of research papers. Review for final. Twenty short answer questions handed out.
- Outside class: Prepare for final.
Mon/Wed, Dec 11th/16th:
- The Final: Section 302.H05: Wed. 12/16, 1:30 pm – 4:15 pm, Robinson A125; Section 302.H07: Mon. 12/14, 1:30 pm – 4:15 pm, Robinson A245. In class writing of essay part of final. This will be two in-class open book essays, to which you will add your answers (typed at home) to a sheet of 20 short answer questions handed out the last day of class. You will be asked to write two essays; one on the relationship of Daisy Miller and Sense and Sensibility to a central concern of Reading Lolita in Teheran; the other a comparison of one of the films we've seen this term with its eponymous novel: you may write comparing the film A Month in the Country with J.L. Carr's novella, or the film Namesake with Jumpa Lahiri's novel, or the film, Daisy Miller, with Henry James's novella.
Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated 19 August 2009.