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 two novels, short stories, one essay, one play, and some poetry.
The course will, however, differ from the introductory course in that you will be asked to use these skills we review to write essays about a few great and popular American books. Although since the "Community Text" for this year in the English Department is Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, we will be reading books written by Southern and Western American writers, our general area of study will still be our culture in all its concrete manifestations of class, sex, race, war, occupations, religion, and art with an emphasis on how these affect our individual private lives.
The idea is to to stretch your use of language to convey to the reader in clear exact words what you suggest that reader would see and feel had he gone to the Memorial. We will discuss how to construct a piece of prose so as to enable a reader to visualize something. My aim is also to ask you to reflect on this object of real significance in American culture and to use language to write down such reflections in an ordered clear way. Finally you are asked to practise writing about a novel from the point of view of the social issues it presents.
You can research the life or work of Mason and the building or history of the Memorial. You don't have to, but if you do, you should document your sources, all quotations, and paraphrases. We will review documentation before this essay is due. Length: 3-5 double-spaced typed pages.
The idea here will be to pick a central theme which unites these two books and show how the two books deal with it in both similar and different ways. You can trace changes in attitudes towards violence and aggression, towards race, towards children, towards occupations and class. You can also compare the different moods of the books and their structures.
Again you can research the lives and works of Styron and Twain, but I would prefer that you concentrate not so much on how these books reflect the lives of their individual authors but rather how they mirror our culture at two different points in time. In this it would help a great deal to know something about Twain's and Styron's lives, milieus, and opinions, or about their books (depending on your thesis). Be sure to document your sources, all quotations, and paraphrases; and be careful not to plagiarize. Length: 3-5 double-spaced typed pages.
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. See appended list of books. The problem is our earliest memories may be vivid and have had a profound influence on how you became what you are thus far, but these memories are fragmentary and unclear. The idea is to use memory and literary analysis. So, for example, 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.
The aim is to search into your memory and self, to enact a group of beliefs; to wit, 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 felt as a labor of love and the process be valuable to you in ways beyond learning how to write about books. Length: 4-6 double-spaced typed pages.
The Annotated Bibliography: As part of this third 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. You are asked to have four sources on your chosen book or its author or type or children's literature.
An Abstract or Precis: 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 Précis writing, summarizing, paraphrasing, and writing synopses.
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. Our course Bible, John Trimble's Writing With Style is based on this belief. My "lectures" on writing will be devoted to trying to get everyone to use his or her tongue. A writer must learn to think of his material as something he is communicating to someone else; not something he or she is mumbling to him or herself in the hopeless hope that no-one will actually read it, much less read it aloud. To do a short talk forces the student to experience these assumptions.
Thus, each student will be asked to prepare a coherent seven to fifteen minute talk for classroom presentation on one of our set texts.. The talks are listed in the calendar and you give your talk during the week it is scheduled; the talks will begin the third week of the semester. The idea is to practice inventing a clear thesis-statement which is supported by analysis of the text including concrete details from that text and your own experience.
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.
I will, in turn, try my best to write comments on your essays which will help you see how better to write clearly and gracefully and how better to organize your thoughts--the latter the hardest task of all and one people can be helped with.
We have one optional book which offers advice on how to write clearly and vividly. I will be going over the content of this in class, but if you think owning a book which provides very specific "handles" on what to do in specific instances, it is there for you to purchase. I have ordered for the whole class a general book which provides sensible advice which can be followed on how to write good prose essays on any and all subjects. Trimble's Writing with Style will be the first book we read, and we will be making reference to Trimble's outlook and advice throughout the term.
Still the average of many students' grades will not fall neatly on a letter, but either be above or below a letter or perhaps just off a letter; that's when I remember and check 1) your attendance record; 2) your participation in class; 3) if you came for help if you needed it (i.e., planning the essay, thinking up a perspective; organizing it, revising it and so on); and, 3) those essays or short talks which showed that you cared, that you really thought about your subject and made an effort to find something out about it or to explore it and to write something intelligent and coherent and complete. While I, of course, will not deny the genius his or her A, I always also take hard work into account and will reward someone who has journeyed from a lesser place to a better one through effort. I also take attendance and class participation into account; it matters to me whether you come and it matters whether you have done the reading or participate or not (see "Assumptions" above).
Write to me by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; you can write me 24 hours a day; I look at my mail at least twice a 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.
You can call the phone in the office I use (993-1176) or the English office (993- 1160) or leave a message in my box in the English Office, which is in Robinson Hall on the fourth floor. It is, however, well to remember that I am on campus only 3 days a week from around 9:10 am to 1:30, and the secretaries don't call me; they simply place put the note in my box. Further, leaving essays in my box is a chancy business because materials get lost this way. No-one stands guard over the boxes. The safest speediest way to get a late essay to me is 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 M/W/F from 11:30AM-12:20 PM in Robinson Hall A455. Sign up on the stenography pad which will be placed on the corner of my desk every time the class meets.
Course introduction; explanation of syllabus; Importance of thesis statement; how to formulate; Making Inferences and Defining a Good Thesis. Essay #1.
Assignments: 1) Read for Wed, Fri, and following Mon (Sept
3rd): Trimble, Writing with Style, pp ix-xi, Chs 1, 2, 4, 5,
(omitting pp 46-50), 6 & 10.
Begin reading and finish for Week 3 (aim for Mon, Feb 9th): Mason's In Country, Part One, Chs 1-2, and Part Two, Chs 1-20.
Openers; Middles; Closers; How to Write and Fill a Paragraph; What is a Paragraph; what is a Line of Argument; In-Class Vignette. Short Talks thoroughly explained; Documentation begun.
Assignments: You should be reading In Country. You should go or be planning when you are going to go to the Memorial.
Bobbie Ann Mason's In Country. Mon: Short Talk 1: Part One, Chs 1-4, Part 2, Chs 1-2: The Opening Sequence: The Anonymous Landscape and Popular Culture in the Book and Emmet's desire to see an Egret; Wed: Short Talk 2: Part 2, Chs 3-8: Emmet and Sam's Relationship: Father and Daughter?; and Fri: Short Talk 3: Part 2, Chs 9-14: Memory and Imagination in the Book: How is Vietnam viewed through this perspective?
Assignments: For Week 4 finish Mason's In Country. You should be working on Essay #1.
Mon: Short Talk 4: Part 2, Chs 15-20: The Dance: The Depiction of the other Vietnam Vets in the Book: The Wounded Men, Their Wives, Girlfriends and the Town; Wed: Short Talk 5: Part 2, Chs 21-6: The Return of Irene who doesn't want to remember and Dwayne Hughes' letters: The Use of Irony in the Book; and Fri: Short Talk 6: Part 2, Chs 27-30, Part 3, Chs 1-2: Dwayne Hughes's Diary, the Scene in the Swamp and the Conclusion at the Memorial: Why Are These Juxtaposed in the Way They Are.
Assignments: ESSAY #1 IS DUE ON MON, FEB 16TH. Begin Styron's A Tidewater Morning ("Love Day, "Shadrach" and "A Tidewater Morning") to finish by Mon Feb 23rd:
Mon: Essay #1 Due; Introduce subject of Southern Culture, race relations, the role of military in our culture, families. Wed: Return & discussion of #1. Fri: Short Talk 7: "Love Day." Essay #2 assigned.
Assignments: You should begin reading Huckleberry Finn (aim to finish by Mon, Mar 16th); for Week 7 read Trimble Writing with Style, Chs 8-15.
Mon: Short Talk 8: "Shadrach;" Wed: Short Talk 9: "A Tidewater Morning." Fri: Achieving clarity, the importance of a voice, review of punctuation & documentation & how to avoid plagiarism.
Assignment: You should begin work on Essay #2; The Name of the Book you intend to write Your "In Search of Lost Time" upon is due Fri, Mar 6th.
Introducing Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn. Wed: Short Talk 10: Chs 1-7: The Relationship of Huck and Pap to One Another and the Outside World; Fri: Short Talk 11: Chs 8-16: The Relationship of Sam and Huck to One Another and the Outside World.
Assignment: Finish Huckleberry Finn.
You should be working on Essay #2; it is recommended that you read your favorite book from childhood over the recess.
Mon: Short Talk 12: Chs 17-21: The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons; The King and Dauphin; The Murder of Boggs by Sherburn: "Life As Farce Without Ceasing to Be Horror;" Wed: Short Talk 13: Chs 24-29: The Episode of the Masquerade as Englishmen: The Idiocy of the Average Person or a Tall Tale?; and Fri, 3/20: Short Talk 14: Chs 31-42: Is this a Serious if Evasive Book About Racism or A Boys' Adventure Story: The Return of Tom Sawyer.
Assignment: For Week 9, ESSAY #2 IS DUE ON MON, MAR 23RD; begin Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name, read "Introduction," and Essays 1, 3-4.
Mon: Essay #2 Due; Introducing Baldwin as One Voice Among Many of American Blacks; Wed: Return and Discussion of #2; Fri: Short Talk 15: Essays 1, 3 & 4: "The Discovery of What It Means to Be an American, " "Fifth Avenue, Uptown" and "East River, Downtown"
Assignment: Read Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name, Essays 5-10, 13.
Mon: Short Talk 16: Essays 5, 6 & 7: "A Fly in the Buttermilk," "Nobody Knows My Name," "Faulkner and Desegregation;" Wed: Short Talk 17: Essays 9 & 13: "Notes for a Hypothetical Novel" and "The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy;" Fri: Short Talk 18: Essays 2 and 8: "Princes and Powers," and "In Search of a Majority: An Address."
Assignment: Finish Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name, Essay 13; PREPARE TO WRITE IN-CLASS ESSAY #3 ON BALDWIN ON WED, APR 8TH.
Mon: Short Talk 19: Essay 13: "Alas, Poor Richard," all 3 Parts: "Eight Men, "The Exile," and "Alas, Poor Richard;" Wed: In-Class Essay #3 on Baldwin; Fri: Last Remarks on whole subject of American culture; Essay #5 explained.
Assignments: Read Bobbie Anne Mason's The Girl Sleuth, pp ix-xii, 3-18.
More on Essay #5, Memory and Imagination, Children's Literature; how to write an annotated bibliography; an abstract; back to Bobbie Ann Mason.
Assignments: for Week 14 you should read Mason, The Girl Sleuth, pp 19-98; you should begin work on Essay #5..
Short Talk 20: The Earliest & Still Popular Children's Series Books (pp 19-47: "The Land of Milk and Honey Bunch" & "Bobbsey Bourgeois"); How to Write an Abstract; Short Talk 21: The Queen of Them all: Nancy Drew (pp 48-76: "The Once and Future Prom Queen;" Short Talk 22: In the Footprints of Nancy: Judy Bolton & others (pp 76-98: "The Secret of the Pantom Friends")
Assignments: Read for Week 15: Mason, The Girl Sleuth, pp 99-139; you should be working on Essay #5; PREPARE TO WRITE IN-CLASS ESSAY #4 ON MASON'S THE GIRL SLEUTH.
Short Talk 23: The Career Girls: Cherry Ames, Vicki Barr & others (pp 99-125: "The Glamour Girls"). Day for telling about Essay #5; In-class essay on Bobbie Ann Mason's The Girl Sleuth
Assignment: FINISH YOUR FINAL ESSAY AND TERM PROJECT, In Search of Lost Time, ESSAY #5, COMPLETE WITH ABSTRACT AND ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY.
Essay #3, complete with an abstract, and annotated bibliography due on Monday, May 11th, 9:30-10:15 am, in this room.
If you plagiarize I am asked to fail you for the course. DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. What is plagiarism?
"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. Plagiarism is the equivalent of intellectual robbery and cannot be tolerated in an academic setting."