ENGL 242 J: Reading Prose Fiction

Meeting Time: 
MW 12:30pm - 2:20pm
MGH 231
Joint Sections: 
C LIT 252 A
Leroy Searle
Leroy Searle

Syllabus Description:

Comparative Literature 252 A: Intro to Comparative Literature: The Novel

    offered with ENGLISH 242 J: Reading Prose Fiction

MW 12:30-2:20   Mary Gates Hall 231

Professor Leroy Searle  lsearle@uw.edu   cell: 206 409 8878                      Office Hours: in the HUB,

                                                                                                          Ground floor, Mezzanine 1:30 T & Th

TA: Jianfeng He  jfhe@uw.edu                                                        T.B.A.

This course is an introduction to the critical reading of narrative, with emphasis on the novel.  The course is joint listed, with two sections: C LIT 252A and ENGL 242J.  The course satisfies graduation and major requirements in both English and Comparative literature, so it makes no difference whatever which section you select.

We will start with short works, including a beginning with selections from the poetry of William Blake, for an eye opening introduction to critical reading and interpretation. The main focus of the class, however, is narrative and the novel, with the first two weeks on short stories and the remainder of the quarter on four extraordinary novels.  As the course will make evident, the interest and vitality of novels has persisted for more than 400 years, for very good reason.  This course satisfies general education requirements (VLPA) and the 'W' course requirement for Arts and Science majors.

A central premise in this course is that no one, and I mean no one, learns to write well without first learning to read actively and intelligently.  Narratives are not merely for entertainment, but are a primary form of thinking and explanation: what we can understand of experience overlaps to an astonishing degree with the human ability to render it in a story. Accordingly, this course is chiefly about reading, and the link with writing follows directly from that.  

There is a general assignment for all students, to maintain a daily writing log, with very simple requirements.  You are to write something every day (in a computer file you can access easily), and as you see fit, to explain something that your reading has led you to see. If you do this assignment, which counts for 25% of your final grade, you will get an A (for the log).  You will submit it three times during the quarter, but I will not grade what you write.  I'll comment, if you want, but the real point is to change in a relatively painless way your habits as you read.  YOU should comment, on what you see, what you react to, what you are led to think.

Similarly, there will be two mid-term graded writing assignments (25% of your final grade), but they will not be "papers."  Instead, you will be asked to write a focused commentary on selected passages from the novels we read.  I anticipate that you will find the experience of writing something every day helpful and illuminating for this purpose, but I am not interested in policing that, and definitely not interested in piling up busy work for 'points.'  The point of these assignments is to put you in serious conversation, based on detailed attention to what a text actually says, with the intelligence of an author who is really worth attending to.  The last thing at issue is confecting an 'I think' paper, where you come up with an opinion, based on nothing but what you already think you think.  As you will see early on, the primary emphasis is on understanding exactly how a novel can teach you to think in ways that are quite certain to surprise you.

There will be a final paper (45% of your final grade), designed to be consistent with these earlier assignments.  There will be specific topics available, giving you a good deal of latitude, and to the best of my ability, precluding the curse of presuming that you can find something to write about by slumming on the internet.  If you plagiarize, be prepared for the worst experience of your life.

The only remaining assignment will be a very short reading quiz at the end of each week (for 5% of your final grade).  It will be based on the reading assigned for the week.  There are no makeups, so you need no excuses: at the end of the quarter, I will count only the 8 best scores.  If you miss a quiz or two, those are the scores you will drop. 

A few other points concerning practices in this class.  I do not specify the length of what you are to write, but expect that it will be determined by the quality of the argument you are making.  So too, I generally do not establish iron-clad due dates.  If you need a little more time, I'd rather have you take it to finish your argument.  In this respect, due dates pertain to the earliest date on which an assignment can be submitted, all via the Catalyst drop-box for this course. If you need a day or two, take it.  We can operate on a general standard of reasonableness.  If you are working on something that is giving you fits, get in touch with me, but do not fret or gnash your teeth.  A conversation will usually get you unstuck.

Grading summary:

Writing Log: daily log, writing in response to what you read; open-ended. Do this, you get an A.  Screw it up, something less.         25%

Two mid--term commentary assignments.  Assigned passages, to be identified by source, with commentaries on two of them     25%.

Final paper:  Selecting from assigned topics.  You need to think to do this assignment, not surf the internet.                                       45%

Weekly reading quizzes:  5 short questions, on the week's reading.  This is a check on reading and remembering.                                 5% 

Texts:  Assigned texts from University Bookstore; Course reader from E-Z Copy and print, on the Ave, north of Bookstore

DO NOT select other editions.  NOTE WELL: The EDITIONS ordered are the least expensive available, and you will need to have the same pagination and editing as everyone else. Do not drag in your grandmother's copy: these are books YOU need to own.  If you seriously can't afford them, let me know.

William Blake: Poems from Songs of Innocence and of Experience (R) Course reader

Franz Kafka: "The Metamorphosis" (R)  Course reader

Jorge Luis Borges: "Funes, the Memorious," "Tlon, Uqbar and Orbis Tertius" (R)  Course reader

Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre (Dover edition) ASIN: B00BSZVU28

Henry James: The Portrait of a Lady (Dover edition) ISBN-13: 978-0486452418

Albert Camus: The Stranger (Vintage international) ISBN-13: 978-0679720201

J.M. Coetzee: Foe (Penguin) ISBN-13: 978-8420424965

Catalog Description: 
Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 10:10pm