Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Course Syllabus

Course Approach

The calendar title of English 436 (writing intensive) is "Literature of Transition." We focus on the transition from the 19th to the 20th Centuries which, happily, has its very own "Age"—to wit, the Edwardian, corresponding to the reign of King Edward VII (ending, according to one's understanding, with that Monarch's death in 1910, with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, or (my own understanding) the outbreak of WWI in 1914.) Our special concentration will be on the conception—seen most strongly in the arts; literature, drama, film and even popular music and culture—of the Edwardians as living a Golden Age.
Supporting this conception are the plain facts that, one, the years following the great Victorian Era were a time of peace and prosperity for the British Isles; two, the mood of the literature and belle lettres evinces this mood; and, three, the representation of the Edwardians in later years (our own included) is manifestly nostalgic and enduring popular. Objections to this view have been, and still are, made, and strenuously; drawing attention to the fact that social injustices existed in Edwardian Britain, and, especially in recent years, dismissing Edwardianism tout courte for its Imperial character.
But, important for our course, the Edwardian literature shows that the Age has a subtly, and maturity and a multi-dimensionality that, lacking among its contemporary detractors, makes their objections seem facile polarisations. Left vs. Right, Good vs. Evil, Gold vs. Dross; these are the simplistic binaries of our own Age, not of the Edwardians. Imperfection, the Edwardians writers implied, is not, surely, the same as entire corruption. As a literary masterpiece can contain a flaw—even a large one—yet remain an artistic triumph, so an Age can contain injustice and still be held Golden. And, of course, part of—a large part of—the belle epoque aspects of Edwardian Britain that induce nostalgia, even Paradise Lost, for us, comes from the knowledge that the experience was transitory: doomed utterly and horribly by the irredeemably obscenity of WWI.
These and other Edwarian subtleties, and aspects of their culture, will be explored through our Term together in the works of some of their literary greats.

Schedule of Readings

Primary Course Texts

May 5th & 12th
—Chesterton, G. K. The Napoleon of Notting Hill
May 26th & June 2nd
—Wells, H. G. The Sleeper Awakes
June 9th & 16th
—Wodehouse, P. G. Psmith in the City
June 23rd & 30th
—Jerome, Jerome K. Three Men in a Boat
July 7th & 14th
—Potter, Beatrix Complete Tales
July 21st & 28th
—West, Rebecca, Return of the Soldier

Secondary Texts

May 5th—June 9th
—Corelli, Marie The Sorrows of Satan
June 16th—August 4th
—Grossmith, G. Diary of a Nobody

Nb: There is a four percent per day late penalty for all assignments, documented medical or bereavement leave excepted. For medical exemptions, provide a letter on a Physician's or Surgeon's letterhead which declares his or her medical judgement that illness or injury prevented work on the assignment. The letter must cover the entire period over which the assignment was scheduled and may be verified by telephone. For bereavement leave, simply provide, ex post facto, a copy of the order of service or other published notice of remembrance.
Support material available on Library Reserve.

Nb: “Participation requires both attendance and punctuality."

Assignment Due Dates

May 12th, Group Discussion Projects sign-up sheet.
June 2nd, Mid-Term Essay topics Posted.
June 9th, Group 'Transition' Project outline due.
June 16th, Mid-Term Essay Draft due.
June 30th, Graded Mid-Term Essay Draft returned.
July 7th, Mid-Term Essay Revision peer-edit in class.
July 14th, Mid-Term Essay Revision due.
July 28th, Mid-Term Essay Revision returned.
July 28th, Final Essay Outline or Thesis ¶ Draft due.
August 11th, Final Essay due.

Group Seminar Discussion Projects
In groups of three, lead a fifteen minute seminar discussion on some appealing aspect of the text for the week or the week to follow. Select a literary component of the text that your group judges to be exemplary (in he strict sense of that term.) The assignment will be graded according to the involvement of all group members equally, the pertinency and value of the aspect being discussed, and the successful engagement of the class in discussion. Technology is not outright prohibited in the project, but it is discouraged.
The grading is Fail, Pass, Succeed:
  • a cursory presentation is Fail at 0%
  • a half-hearted or notably flawed presentation is Pass at 50%
  • everything else is Success at 100%.
Group Transition Projects
Groups of five members will submit two written or creative projects that represent the Edwardian Age as a transition between Victorianism and Modernity. Elements or characteristics of Edwardian as belle epoque—as a contemporary phenomenon or in our own popular culture—lend themselves strongly here. A caveat is that in journalism and mass culture, "Edwardian" is oftimes adjectivally applied to things American, which is an academic solecism.
  • Each of the two assignments is worth 10% of the course grade, and thus requires 10% of the course effort.
  • The assignments can be related—two sides of an argument, for instance, or two contrasting course authors—or independent.
  • Submit your schedule of due dates for the two halves of the project along with a written proposal of between two hundred and fifty and five hundred words in class no later than June 9th. If the creative options is used (i.e. a form besides a scholarly essay) then the proposal must be in the form of failure standards. The sole criterion for the due dates is that they must be no less than two weeks apart.
  • Class time will be regularly available throughout the Term for work on the projects.
  • Originality, understanding, enlightenment and recognition of Edwardian characteristics—all implying some independent reseaarch—are included among the grading criteria.

Final Essay

Open topic. See the schedule of dates for the assignment components. The essay outline or thesis ¶ draft will be peer-edited and commented by the Lecturer in class.

Instructor Contact:
Office Hours: AQ 6094 -- Monday 14:30-18:00, Tuesday 12:00-15:00, Wednesday 11:30-12:30, 14:30-15:00. Bring your coffee and discuss course matters freely. E-mail to Telephone 778-782-5820. Bring your coffee and discuss course matters freely.

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