ENGL 202 A: Introduction To The Study Of English Language And Literature

Meeting Time: 
MWF 10:30am - 11:20am
GWN 201
LaPorte photo
Charles LaPorte

Syllabus Description:

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Introduction to the study of English Language and Literature

English 202A, Spring 2017

MWF 10:30-11:20

Gowen Hall 201


Professor Charles LaPorte

Office: A508 Padelford Hall

Office Hours: M 11:30-1:30

Email: laporte@uw.edu

TAs Sarah Faulkner (sef08@uw.edu) & Emily George (ecg136@uw.edu)


Course Description: Why study English? Why study literature? Are literary power or poetic beauty truly accessible to analysis? Does impassioned rhetoric move us because of its passion or because of its rhetoric? And whatever can it mean that various books or poems or writers are so often called great? Great for what, exactly?


This course is a "gateway" introduction to the English major. You need to take it if you are to be an English major (though you may also take it without any such intentions). It is designed to introduce students to the historical, cultural, and critical contexts of literature and literary study. Among other things, it will entail the reading and discussion of poetry, fiction, drama, and non-fiction. And it will introduce students to the kinds of debates that surrounded the creation of the first English departments in the nineteenth century, when the serious academic study of anglophone literature began. It cannot introduce you to every aspect of the English major (e.g., we will probably do no creative writing), but it will leave you with a broad sense of the field, with some grasp of major critical vantages like historicism and feminist theory, and with real training in the bread-and-butter parts of the discipline: genre analysis and explication de texte, or close reading. In it, I promise at least a little impassioned rhetoric and a lot of great reading.


n.b. -- This course permits (nay—encourages!) concurrent enrollment in English 297.


Learning objectives for this course will include the following:

  • To gain a deeper insight into and appreciation for anglophone literary and cultural

expression, including fiction, poetry, and non-fiction.


  • To understand some of the politics and technologies that have facilitated and shaped

literary production.

  • To better appreciate the importance of national and transnational contexts for literary

and cultural works.


  • To be able to produce a close reading (explication de texte) of a given literary object.


  • To enhance analytical, interpretative, and argumentative skills for discussing and

writing about cultural objects.


Books: William Shakespeare's Hamlet, New Cambridge edition (ISBN 9780521532525) Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Norton edition (ISBN 0393975428)

The Norton Anthology of Poetry, Shorter fifth edition (ISBN 0393979210)

Also please pick up a Coursepack from Ram Copy Center, 4144 University Way

[**** Please do buy these texts in paper and not in electronic format****]


Class Participation: Your attendance is required at all sections and recommended for all lectures. This is not a textbook course, and the ideas that we will discuss are not ideas that you can figure out alone in your room with a compass and protractor. Rather, the course concerns the evolution of cultural ideas, and I wish to give each of you ample opportunity to share your ideas about art and culture. (Don't worry if you feel like you don't have any such ideas to share; as we progress you will find that you have plenty!) Accordingly, I reward with high participation marks those who contribute to the classroom learning experience as a whole.


Kindly let your section leader know in advance if you'll miss a section but do not feel compelled to relate to me any reason behind a given absence. We trust your judgment, and do not wish to be the arbiters of legitimate and illegitimate excuses. Simply remember that the quarter is long, and that your participation points at the end of the term depend upon your contribution to the class. In order to get good marks in participation, you will also need to appear at class on time.


The Midterm and Final Exam times are non-negotiable. If you know that you will not be able to make the midterm or final, please drop this class and enroll in English 202 next term. (The English department offers it every Aut/Win/Spr Qtrs.)


Literary Activity Write-Up: One crucial piece of writing I will have you do for 202 is a short report on a literary activity that you will do outside of class.[1] You will have discretion in picking what you would like to do for this activity. For instance, you might choose to attend the Seattle Shakespeare Company's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (May 3-21) or of the ACT Theatre's Murder for Two (Mar 25-June 11) or of the 5th Avenue Theatre's The Secret Garden (April 14-May 6). And there are probably a dozen smaller playhouses in Seattle. Go see Theatre Off Jackson's Bad Panda (Mar 23-Apr 8) or Richard III (set in Chinatown) or Ghost Light Theatricals' Dr. Ballard's Vaudeville Players (Apr 14-May 6) or a Spanglish play put on by eSe Teatro. Go see the UW School of Drama productions of Orlando (Apr 25-May7) or Sueño (May 23-June 4) or attend "Whan that Aprile Day," an interactive academic event taking place in Allen Library this Friday. Seattle Arts & Lectures is bringing Helen Oyeyemi to town on Apr 25. Capitol Hill's Hugo House always has good reading events: consider a series night like Wendy C. Ortiz with Jennifer Natalya Fink on Apr 5 (Contagious Exchanges) or Terrance Hayes speaking about the poetry of Lynda Hull on Apr 18 (Word Works). Consider Elliott Bay Bookstore's reliably promising author lineup—or the UW Bookstore's. You might join spend an afternoon reading a play with the folks from Seattle's Shakespeare Meet-up Read-through Group: http://www.meetup.com/shakespeare-50/. Finally, you may get a bit of extra credit for doing more than one event, should you like, before the end of term. Details to follow.


Grade Distribution:

Midterm Exam: 20%

Writings for Sections: 20%

Literary Activity Write-Up: 10%

In-Class Response Papers [ca.10%]

& Class Participation [ca. 15%]: 25%

Cumulative Final Exam: 25%


Plagiarism: Plagiarism is the act of presenting another’s work as your own. The University of Washington does not condone plagiarism – please consult the Faculty Resource on Grading Website if you have any questions about this: <http://depts.washington.edu/grading/ issue1/honesty.htm>.


On Electronic Readers & Laptops:

Please be advised that I do not permit the use of electronic screens during class discussion or lecture. I realize that some students prefer to take notes on laptops, but this convenience is counterbalanced by the fact that they distract others. They also tempt users to multi-task (further distracting others). Before class, then, please put away your laptop (likewise your smartphone, ipad, etc.). There is lots of research demonstrating that students learn better by taking notes the old fashioned way, with paper and ink. I would be glad to go over some of this research with you, should you like.



Part I: Why Study Poetry?

Week 1:

Mar 27: Course intro; Alice Walker, "We Alone" [handout]

Mar 29: William Wordsworth, "We Are Seven" [handout], "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey," "Resolution and Independence," "It is a Beauteous Evening," "Nuns Fret Not" [Norton Anthology (hereafter NA)]; Elizabeth Bishop, "Filling Station," "In the Waiting Room" [NA]

Mar 31: Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself (all from NA), "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" "A Noiseless Patient Spider" [NA]; Emily Dickinson #39, 112, 202, 340, 372, 620, 1263, 1489, 1793, 1788[NA]; Gwendolyn Brooks, "kitchenette building," "We Real Cool"[NA];; Terrance Hayes, "The Golden Shovel"[coursepack (hereafter CP)]


Week 2:

April 3: Arnold, "Dover Beach," (NA); Anthony Hecht "The Dover Bitch," (NA); Daljit Nagra, from "Look We Have Coming to Dover!," from Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy-Machine!!!" (CP)

April 5: Thomas De Quincey: from Letters to a Young Man Whose Education Has Been Neglected (CP)

April 7: De Quincey: Letters to a Young Man Whose Education Has Been Neglected [CP]


Part II: Why Study Drama?

Week 3:

April 10: Shakespeare, Hamlet Act I

April 12: Shakespeare, Hamlet Act II

April 14: Shakespeare, Hamlet Act III


Week 4:

April 17: Shakespeare, Hamlet Act IV

April 19: Shakespeare, Hamlet Act V

April 21: Shakespeare, contd.


Week 5:

April 24: Shakespeare, contd.(?) Shakespeare, Sonnets #18, 55, 138; T. S. Eliot, from The Sacred Wood [CP]

April 26: Roland Barthes, The Death of the Author [CP]; Eliot, "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" [NA] Guest Lecture: Nancy Sisko, English Advising Office

April 28: *Midterm Examination*


Part III: Why Study the Novel?

Week 6:

May 1: Brontë Jane Eyre I-VIII

May 3: Brontë Jane Eyre IX-XIV

May 5: Brontë Jane Eyre XV-XX


Week 7:

May 8: Brontë Jane Eyre XXI-XXVII

May 10: Brontë Jane Eyre XXVIII-XXXIII

May 12: Brontë Jane Eyre XXXIV-end


Part IV: Why Study English?

Week 8:

May 15: Guest Lecture: Faye Christenberry, English Studies Librarian, Reference and Research Services Division

May 17: from Bacon, The Nineteenth-Century History of English Studies, 236-276 [CP] May 19: The Nineteenth-Century History of English Studies, contd.; Theodore Roethke, all from NA; Anne Carson, "Sumptuous Destitution" (NA)


Week 9:

May 22: Hannah Sanghee Park, from the same-different (CP)

May 24: Curtis Sittenfeld, The Prairie Wife (CP)

May 26: Sherman Alexie, The Search Engine (CP)
, from One Stick Song (CP), from Face (CP)


Week 10:

May 29: Memorial Day -- No class

May 31: Alexie, Whatever Happened to Frank Snake Church? [CP]

June 2: Alexie, contd. Walker, "How Poems Are Made/A Discredited View," "I Said to

Poetry" (CP)



Monday, June 5: Cumulative Final Exam: 8:30-10:20 GWN 201[required]




[1] I would like this to be a literary experience that you would not normally have: a live performance, a visit to a gallery or exhibit. Watching netflix in your PJs is also a literary experience, but pursue something more ambitious. Shoot for more than a mainstream movie. Arthouse films seen in the cinema would maybe be acceptable, or a documentary. Challenge yourself (and your friends) to have a literary date. You'll like it.

[2] This schedule is my best approximation of how the class ought to move along. I have attempted to negotiate between assigning too much reading and giving you insufficient exposure to the field. I reserve the right to change the order of works as seems best to suit our needs as a learning community. --CPL



Catalog Description: 
Gateway course designed for English pre-majors and majors. Introduces critical, historical, and theoretical frameworks important to studying the literature, language, and cultures of English. Cannot be taken for credit if student has taken ENGL 301.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 10:10pm