ENGL 200 A: Reading Literary Forms

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 9:30am - 10:20am
SMI 407
JSC Headshot
Joe Concannon

Syllabus Description:


still from Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros. Pictures, 2017)

ENGL 200a Autumn 2019

Location: SMI 407

Time: MTWTh 9:30 AM – 10:20 AM

Course Website: https://canvas.uw.edu/courses/1320044

Instructor: Joe Concannon

Office: Padelford A-011a

Office Hours: Tuesdays 7:20-9:20 am

Email: jscon@uw.edu


English 200a: Reading Literary Forms—5 Credits

~ Almost Human ~ 


Who (and what) counts as human? The answer may seem at first obvious, but consider the present day: people regularly learn that they have ~4% Neanderthal DNA; our politicians dehumanize certain enemies and ethnicities; many rely on advanced technologies to thrive or survive; still others refuse to be seen as human (cyborg rights!). A precise biological, technological, or social definition is hard to pin down. More importantly, the uses of a human or nonhuman label are deeply important to understanding cultural history. ‘Inhuman’ has long been used as a weapon, but if this attack boils down to a simple opposition (human=good; nonhuman=bad), we need a solution. As our machines become capable of learning and intelligence, do we extend our ethics to them? As our climate changes, can we cultivate genuine empathy between humans and the ecological world for mutual survival?

This course suggests that the long history of humanity’s excluded (the inhuman, the non-human, the less than human, the superhuman, the animal, the alien, the monster, the stranger) have much to teach us.* In our ten weeks together, we will read and discuss poems, film, short stories, and two novels about sub-humans, humanoids, and superhumans spanning the first century AD through the summer of 2019. These texts ask us to step just outside our human skin, and their authors and creators give us opportunities to rethink human-centric conceptions of ethics, time, family, and beyond.

Required Materials

  1. Octavia Butler, Fledgling
  2. Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

All other texts will be made available on Canvas. Through Amazon these cost (combined) $28.58 pre-tax. Amazon links below (independent bookstores will have these books, too!!):

  1. https://www.amazon.com/Fledgling-Octavia-Butler/dp/0446696161/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=butler+fledgling&qid=1568989101&s=gateway&sr=8-1
  2. https://www.amazon.com/Earth-Were-Briefly-Gorgeous-Novel/dp/0525562028

NOTE: Non-humans tend to elicit strong reactions from human characters–love and hatred, attraction and repulsion—several course texts feature graphic sexual content.

Learning objectives:

-Have deep encounters with the following ideas: humanism, posthumanism, poetry, narrative, gender, and race.

-Be flexible and adaptable writers (i.e. write effectively for different contexts and purposes through a wide array of strategies).

-Pay close attention to texts, both on the micro level (syntax, structure, wordplay, connotation), and the macro level (patterns, meta-structure, historical context).

-Connect this course to your life outside UW.

[*Herbrechter and Callus, “What Is a Posthumanist Reading?”]

Course Assignments (70% of total grade)

Canvas Discussion Posts (cumulative 25% of grade)

In order to facilitate complex and rewarding class discussions, you will be required to respond to class readings in occasional Canvas Discussion Posts. Contributor posts will be due by 8 PM on the evening before class. Respondent posts will be due by 9 AM on the day we will be discussing the readings in class. This will allow enough time for you to be able to read or respond to your classmates’ posts on the reading prior to class discussion. These posts are not optional. Discussion posts need to efficiently formulate a thoughtful question grounded in the text, typically in 3-4 sentences. Guidelines forthcoming. Tips on good discussion board posts: http://educationcoffeehouse.com/writers/high_quality_discussion_posts.html#undergrad

Review a Course Text for a Broad (Non-Academic) Audience (10%)

2.5 pages, due Thursday, October 31 at 5pm. At the end this assignment include a long paragraph that will function as your writer’s memo. Here, reflect on the choices you made in the crafting of your composition related to your chosen audience and forum (was it written for Seattle Times, The Stranger, Seventeen Magazine, etc.?), context, form, and voice.


Public Engagement (15%)

You are invited to leave campus (woo!) and experience literature in other spaces. Fortunately, Seattle is chock full of literary events: poetry readings and slams, literature classes, and independent booksellers. This could be your moment to gain teaching experience or perform your creative writing to a public audience. For those unable to leave campus easily, there is an online option.

Your assignment is to carefully describe what you experience in 2 pages. Bonus points: write from a “posthuman” perspective. The core of this task is to carefully plot rich sensory data, create linkages, and finally offer a few wonderings. Posthuman description challenges you to avoid language and metaphors that rely on human ideas and practices. You could assume a nonhuman voice and perspective. Up to you (again, this part of the assignment is optional). Then, in a long paragraph, reflect on the choices you made in the body of your text. (The full prompt will be available in a week or two.) Examples of public engagement:


-November 2 and/or 9—volunteer as a poetry instructor with Joe (no poetry experience req’d)

-Visit a poetry reading, such as Sep 26: Kenji Liu & Ching-In Chen, Hugo House, free, all ages

-Every other Tuesday—Visit a Seattle poetry slam—i.e. LoveCityLove at ReBar, free, 21+ only

-Every Thursday: “Wide Open Mic” @ Stone Way Café, all ages (observe and/or perform!)

-Anytime—visit the graves of poets Bruce Lee and Denise Levertov at Lake View Cemetery

-Anytime—Explore online: participate in/analyze online literary community (i.e. fan fiction)

-Something along these lines that receives Joe’s prior approval

+ + + Then write about it. ~2.5 pp due by Thanksgiving Dinner (November 28, 3pm)


Final Paper (20%)

5-page critical essay due Friday December 13.


Participation (30% of Final Grade)

Seeing as the nature of the course theme demands introspection and collective brainstorming, please be prepared to be awake and involved in class. Your participation grade is dependent on attendance and participation in class discussions and activities (15%), peer review and conference participation (10%) and a group presentation (5%). These are essential components of the course.

A note on technology: I am not interested in banning technology from the classroom. I find it to be both a valuable and unavoidable tool for learning but I will ask this: when in the classroom, you are in a professional space, please use technology in a professional manner. This is not the time to make dinner plans with friends, do other homework, or involve yourself in any non-class related activities. I do not want to micro-manage and you are capable of being the judge of this for yourself.


Everyone is required to visit with me at least once over the course of the term. If you meet with me in office hours, you do not need to schedule a conference (these take place mid-quarter).

Group Presentations

Sign up to present on one of the below texts. Basic guidelines: present for 10-20 minutes, split labor as evenly as possible, engage the class in some way (signup and full prompt forthcoming):

*Planet of the Apes   *”The Sandman” (story)   *Sun Ra (jazz)   *Youn/Girmay (poems)   *Her

Public Engagement

Things to keep in mind: Please be safe and smart. Never put yourself in a bad situation. You will not be assessed on the basis of how far and wide you travelled, but rather the depth of your description and your metacognition (or, “thinking about your thinking”). I fit this assignment under writing rather than participation because it asks you to practice observation and description above all, key and difficult to obtain skills that are necessary for any writing task.

Writing Cohorts

You will be asked to join a writing cohort. I created your groups using Excel’s random number generator (truly randomized, promise!). This group of 10 will be your community for small group discussions, discussion posts, and peer review. Midway through the quarter we will assess as a class whether and how the groups need to be reshuffled.

Attendance Policy

Your regular attendance is required and your participation grade will suffer for the lack of attendance. This involves both physical as well as intellectual presence in the classroom. Please come to class regularly, and be present in class while you are there. Please communicate with me about your absences as much as possible. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to get the assignments, class notes, and course changes from a classmate. If you miss class on a day that written work is due, you are still expected to turn your work in on time. In-class work cannot be made up. Please do not schedule any appointments during class time, unless an absolute emergency comes up.



If you need accommodation of any sort, please let me know so that I can work with the UW Disability Resources for Students Office (DRS) to provide what you require. This syllabus is available in large print, as are other class materials. More information about accommodation may be found at http://www.washington.edu/students/drs/.

Writing Resources

I encourage you to take advantage of the following writing resources available to you at no charge!

  • The CLUE Writing Center in Mary Gates Hall (141 suite, CUADSS lobby) is open Sunday to Thursday from 7pm to 11pm. Graduate tutors can help you with your claims, organization, and grammar. You do not need to make an appointment, but arrive early and be prepared to wait.
  • The Odegaard Writing and Research Center is open in Odegaard Library Monday - Thursday 9am to 9pm, Friday 9am to 4:30pm, and Sunday 12pm to 9pm. This writing center provides a research-integrated approach to writing instruction. Find more information and/or make an appointment on the website: depts.washington.edu/owrc.

Counseling Center

UW Counseling Center workshops include a wide range of issues including study skills, thinking about coming out, international students and culture shock, and much more. Check out available resources and workshops at: https://www.washington.edu/counseling/

Q Center

The University of Washington Q Center builds and facilitates queer (gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirit, trans, intersex, questioning, same-gender-loving, allies) academic and social community through education, advocacy, and support services to achieve a socially-just campus in which all people are valued. For more information, visit http://depts.washington.edu/qcenter/.


Foundation for International Understanding through Students: FIUTS is an example of a campus organization that can bring together your social and academic learning. FIUTS also offers a free international lunch on the last Wednesday of every month in the Kane Hall Walker-Ames room. Consult FIUTS' web site for a detailed calendar of events and links to many resources http://www.fiuts.washington.edu.

Campus Safety (www.washington.edu/safecampus)

❖  Always call 911 if you or others may be in danger.

❖  Call 206-685-SAFE (7233) to report non-urgent threats of violence and for referrals to UW counseling and/or safety resources. TTY or VP callers, please call through your preferred relay service.

❖  Don't walk alone. Campus safety guards can walk with you on campus after dark. Call Husky NightWalk 206-685-WALK (9255).

❖  Stay connected in an emergency with UW Alert. Register your mobile number to receive instant notification of campus emergencies via text and voice messaging. Sign up online at www.washington.edu/alert.



Code of Conduct

Because of our pedagogical philosophy and our field of discipline, we at the English department have a zero tolerance rule for hate speech. According to the American Bar Association, hate speech is “any speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.” While this could and does apply to many groups, hate speech is a violence, and these violences do not impact everyone equally. Rather, the force of their impacts is dependent on systems of power. Marginalized communities and people are vulnerable to and impacted by such speech in ways that groups or individuals in power are not. With this in mind, we will interpret “hate speech” to be any forms of speech that targets already vulnerable people/communities. Racism and xenophobia will not be tolerated in this course, nor will transphobia, homophobia, ableism, classism, or other statements or practices that uphold white supremacy.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism, or academic dishonesty, is presenting someone else's ideas or writing as your own. In your writing for this class, you are encouraged to refer to other people's thoughts and writing--as long as you cite them. As a matter of policy, any student found to have plagiarized any piece of writing in this class will be immediately reported to the College of Arts and Sciences for review.

Reading schedule sketch


Week 0-1—Frankenstein graphic novel, Cohen, Monster Culture; readings on humanism: Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Man;” Lyotard, “Can Thought…”; Watch The Planet of the Apes

Week 2—Twilight Zone; Ovid, “Pygmalion”; Freud, “The Uncanny”; Hoffman, “The Sandman”

Week 3—Begin Butler, Fledgling

Week 4—Finish Fledgling (*first essay due); (Afrofuturism) Sun Ra, Space is the Place, Traci K Smith, “Mars.”

Week 5—(Gender and Performance) Piercy, “The Secretary Chant”; Watch Her; Haraway, “Cyborg Manifesto”; Judith Butler.

Week 6—(AI: love and ethics) Carr, “Google”; watch Her; readings on AI ethics

Week 7— Begin Vuong, On Earth

Week 8— Finish Vuong, On Earth; Vuong, “Almost Human;” Youn, “Study,” Aracelis Girmay, “Sister was the Wolf” (*second essay due)

Week 9—(writing for a public audience)

Week 10—Revision workshop





in-class activities


Wed 9/25


First Day of Instruction: hello!, syllabus, and introduction to course

*Review Syllabus*

-Read Frankenstein vol 1-2

Thu 9/26


Introduce Cohorts; discuss 7 monster theses

-Finish Frankenstein

-Homework: discussion post


First discussion post due


Mon 9/30

(Discussion posts due before class).


(no reading)

-Homework: find/read article on a “monster.”

Tue 10/1



-Read Lyotard

Wed 10/2


Planet of the Apes screening

-Read Pope

Thu 10/3


Finish and discuss Planet of the Apes

-Homework: discussion post


Disc. posts due Sun night/Mon morning


Mon 10/7


Student group presentation

on Planet of the Apes

Read Ovid

Tue 10/8


Read Freud

Wed 10/9


Read Hoffman

Thu 10/10

Student group presentation

on “The Sandman”





Mon 10/14


-Read Fledgling ch. 1-5

Tue 10/15


-Read Fledgling ch. 6-9

Wed 10/16


-Read Fledgling ch. 10-14

-Homework: discussion post

Thu 10/17


-Read Fledgling ch. 15-18





Mon 10/21



-Read Fledgling to end

Tue 10/22



-Read Fledgling to end

Wed 10/23

Discuss Fledgling


-Read Sun Ra and Smith

Thu 10/24

Student group presentation

on Sun Ra and Smith

-Homework: discussion post




Mon 10/28



-Read “Cyborg Manifesto”

Tue 10/29


-Read: Marge Piercy


Wed 10/30


-Read Judith Butler

Thu 10/31

‘Review’ PAPER DUE

No Reading




Mon 11/4



-Homework: redraft paper using peer comments

Tue 11/5

Begin film: Her


-Read: Carr, “Is Google Making us Stupid?”

Wed 11/6

Finish film: Her



Thu 11/7

Student group presentation

on Her

No Reading




Mon 11/11

NO CLASS: Veteran’s Day


-Read Vuong pp 1-44

Tue 11/12


-Read Vuong pp 44-71

Wed 11/13


-Read Vuong pp 75-129

Thu 11/14



-Read Vuong pp 129-44



-Read Vuong pp 153-160

Mon 11/18


Discuss Vuong (finally)

-Read Vuong pp 165-193

Tue 11/19


Discuss Vuong

-Read Vuong to end

Wed 11/20

Discuss Vuong

-Read 3 poems: Vuong, Youn, and Girmay

Thu 11/21


Student group presentation

on Vuong, Youn, and Girmay





Mon 11/25


Writing for a public audience

-Homework: discussion post

Tue 11/26


Public writing workshop day 2


Wed 11/27




Thu 11/28








Mon 12/2


Revision Revision Workshop


Tue 12/3


Revision Revision Workshop


Wed 12/4


Revision Revision Workshop


Thu 12/5


Revision Workshop




Final paper due: Friday 12/13 at 5pm

Catalog Description: 
Covers techniques and practice in reading and enjoying literature in its various forms: poetry, drama, prose fiction, and film. Examines such features of literary meanings as imagery, characterization, narration, and patterning in sound and sense. Offered: AWSp.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 10:50pm