ENGL 242 C: Reading Prose Fiction

Meeting Time: 
MW 2:30pm - 4:20pm
ECE 037
Frances McCue

Syllabus Description:

Reading Fiction of the Pacific Northwest

Winter Term, 2019
Frances McCue

MW 2:30-4:20

EEB 037

Office Hours: Wednesdays from 4:30-5:30 p.m. and by appointment. PLEASE contact me through Canvas, not through email. 
Office: Padelford B434

Set in mythic landscapes of deep forests, twisting waterways, steep mountain ranges as well as in the city of Seattle, the fiction we'll be reading depicts the Pacific Northwest, by turns, as stark and lush, urban and wild. Two novels are set in Seattle, two in small towns in Idaho and one has extensive descriptions of the Hoh Rainforest and the Olympic Peninsula. Cultural forces affect the sense of place in each book and we'll consider how the different narratives position characters and settings to create textured worlds.

We’ll approach reading as writers do, asking “How might this have been made?” Our time in class will simulate a lively artists’ studio where we will test out writing strategies to illuminate our reading and we’ll work in groups to convene theories of reading and we'll engage in vigorous discussions about how and if these works of fiction display a particular "Northwest" sensibility. What role do ideas of "place" play in each novel? 

The course demands a lot of reading: four novels in ten weeks. You'll need to keep up with the reading and my suggestion is that you set aside a few hours a day to do this--without your phone, without social media and a computer--and allow yourself to sink into a deep reading experience. It's a good idea to jot notes as you go. Consider what you are surprised by; underline names and descriptions of characters and places; point out references to ideas and events outside the stories and literary devices that you see at work. Pay attention to how places are described and what roles they play in the texts.

In addition, the course offers W, writing, credit. You will be writing 11-15 pages of your own work about what you are reading.

Our texts will include: No No Boy by John Okada; The Other by David Guterson, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson and All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki. 

Learning Objectives:

  1. Students are able to contextualize and analyze the materials or topics covered, historically, politically, culturally. (Analytical; Writing; Disciplinary)
  2. Students gain and/or build on basic research traditions and skills. Students develop more familiarity with library resources and electronic or on-line media may be critical to their improvement. (Analytical; Disciplinary; Writing)
  3. Students develop both an appreciation of literature and a lifelong habit of reading. (General Analytical; Disciplinary)
  4. Students are able to perform competent close readings of course texts and similar texts. (Analytical; Disciplinary; Writing)
  5. Students improve their writing skills generally, and with regard to writing about literature and culture. (Analytical; Disciplinary; Writing)

 Expectations of Students: 

1. Participation. Participation matters to everyone. Because we’re involved in intense small and large group discussions and writing labs, active participation is crucial. Read your assignments BEFORE the due date, take substantial notes in class, jot ideas outside of class, talk to your classmates, work well in a group. Do the assignments that aren't graded; these will count towards your participation mark.  If you miss class, do not email me. Please do not ask what you "missed." Consult your classmates instead.

2. Three One-Page Response Papers. These papers are single-spaced, no more than one page, 12 point Times New Roman, delivered on Canvas. The point of these papers is for you to drive your own responses to the reading. I will use the papers to steer class discussion. The papers also give you practice in fashioning short essays that display critical thinking about the literature we are reading. Think of these as the "middles" of longer essays. You won't need formal introductions or conclusions. Rather, you will create a question that you will attempt to answer. A good response paper chooses a question that is not answered with Yes/No, and that provokes thinking rather than delivering a complete answer.  Here's an example: How does the theme of damage vs. repair play out in physical structures in HOUSEKEEPING? instead of: Do the characters become more feral as the house falls apart? (Yes/No). A rubric will include how well you: 1) focus on the particular work assigned; 2) create a substantive question that your paper begins to answer but may not resolve (think of it as a mini paper without a thesis, introduction or conclusion); 3) avoid answering yes or no questions or assuming things like "The author is trying to..." or "The author is showing that..." or "The author intends..", or uncovering some sort of secret "deeper meaning;" 4) write in third person, not first person and do not use "The Reader"; 5) avoid mechanical errors. Papers may not be turned in late, early or via email. Submit on Canvas only.

3. Eight Reading Quizzes. Two quizzes on each novel will be given in class. You will need to bring your laptop and access CANVAS during the class period when each quiz is assigned. If you miss class on a quiz day, you won't get credit for the quiz. Each quiz will ask 5 simple multiple choice questions about the plot, characters and/or observations raised in class. If you read all of the novels with attention, you will be well prepared for the quizzes.

4. One Five to Seven Page Paper. This paper is a wide-ranging analysis of the novels. You will choose whether you will write an inquiry paper, a description/comparison or a thesis-driven essay. Specifics to be determined. It will be double-spaced 12 point Times New Roman, delivered on Canvas. Papers may not be turned in late, early or via email. Submit on Canvas only. The rubric will include how well you: 1) create a strong thesis/inquiry/description; 2) contextualize and summarize plots as needed; 3) explore close reading in support of your work; 4) use at least three embedded quotes and two block quotes and 5) avoid mechanical errors.

Grading: Participation 10% Response papers: 30%; Reading Quizzes: 40% Final Paper 20%.


If you require accommodation owing to a disability immediately contact the Disabilities Resources for Students Office (DRS) in Schmitz Hall 448 (206-548-8924; uwdss@u.washington.edu) or the Disabilities Services Office (DSO) at dso@u.washington.eduIt is your responsibility to notify me in writing and in advance of any accommodations to be arranged by either the DSO or DRS office and—should forms be involved—to deliver those to me in person during office hours, with time enough to allow for us to arrive at a mutual understanding of the means by which those accommodations are best met.


Do not plagiarize. Plagiarism includes lifting material from the web, collusion, and the use of sources without citation. If you have any questions regarding what constitutes plagiarism, consult me. All sources must be documented, and papers are to be the result of your own labor.

This syllabus is subject to change. You are responsible for keeping up with any modifications to schedule or assignments.


96+ = 4.0

91-95 = 3.8

85- 90 = 3.2

80-84 = 3.0

75-79 = 2.0

less than 75 = 0


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: 
August 2, 2019 - 10:10pm