ENGL 242 B: Reading Prose Fiction

Meeting Time: 
MW 9:30am - 11:20am
AND 008
Brad Gerhardt

Syllabus Description:


M/W 9:30-11:20, AND 008


Dr. Brad Gerhardt


B-435 Padelford Hall

Office Hours: T/Th 10:30-11:30



            This course will explore prose fictional texts from throughout the 20th and into the 21st century dealing with displacement and identity. As we examine modernist, postmodernist, and contemporary modes of narration in short stories, novellas, and novels, we will discuss the interaction between place and identity; in particular we will investigate how notions of gender, sexuality, race, and human-ness are troubled or reified through the literal and narrative locations in which they are inscribed. Because 242 specifically examines prose fiction, we will attend to questions of form, and our written assignments will focus primarily on developing the related skills of close reading and comparative analysis.



-Thomas Mann, Death in Venice, Trans. Michael Henry Heim (Ecco, ISBN: 978-0060576172)

-Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (Norton, ISBN: 978-0393352566)

-Toni Morrison, Beloved (Vintage, ISBN: 978-1400033416)

-Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (Vintage; ISBN: 978-1400078776)

-Course Packet, available at Rams Copy Center (4144 University Way NE)



  1. Students understand the investments, contexts, and effects of the kind of close/critical reading skills or approaches under study/use.
  1. Students are able to contextualize and analyze the materials or topics covered, historically, politically, culturally.
  1. Students improve their writing skills generally, and with regard to writing about literature.



            Graded assignments are intended to implement learning outcomes, and practice a variety of skills; however, both assignments and reading responses will require you to develop and maintain habits of close reading. They will be evaluated on the originality of thought, clarity of articulation, and depth of analysis. Please note that I expect printed copies of all written work.


Reading Journal (length will vary)

For our first texts of the quarter, you will make journal, with one entry for each text/day, discussing your reflections, questions, and observations. Your grade for each journal is more directly correlated to the consistency of your record than its length; this is intended to practice reading skills and not necessarily writing finesse. The format is up to you, but it should pay close attention to details from the text and be primarily analytical, not summary or evaluative, in its approach.


Close Reading (750-1100 words, generally 3-4 pages double-spaced)

            An effective argument gains its authority through careful consideration of its evidence. This assignment is all about your thinking, not about the form; you will not have an introductory paragraph culminating in a thesis; rather, you will begin with analysis—untying and unpacking through detailed observation—and your own argument will arise from your examination of the components of the passage you’ve selected, rather than simply reciting what you think it “should” be saying.


Thematic Analysis (1100-1600 words, generally 4-5 pages double-spaced)

            Although depth and clarity of thoughts should be our priority in all writing, an argument gains much of its credibility through a sound and intentional structure or form. In this assignment you will practice a thematic analysis of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, utilizing organizational skills we will discuss in class, in response to a specific prompt.


Comparative Analysis (1600-2400 words, generally 5-7 pages double-spaced)

            Our last written assignment will be a comparative analysis of Never Let Me Go and another text of your choice. An effective comparative analysis identifies a fundamental concern or tension that two texts share and expands on that through careful and close reading of both texts. A successful comparison will be a critical synthesis of your materials, placing them in a dialogue with each other rather than subordinating their differences, and expanding beyond a list of similarities and differences into a nuanced study of the relation between the two on the issue of your choice.



            To balance the more formal written assignments, we will also have lower-stakes, informal writing exercises to practice skills and build community. Do not expect any feedback from me on them.


Discussion Board

            In the fourth week of the quarter, I will start a weekly discussion question on Canvas. Here you can continue discussions from class, add your own insights, and see how others are interpreting the texts. Responses should be about a paragraph in length, with clear reference to or quotation from specific parts of that week’s reading. I’ll post them Wednesday; you have until Sunday night to respond.


In-Class Writing

            I will have freewriting activities from time to time to practice skills and gauge questions and struggles the class is having with the texts. They are intended to be informal practice opportunities, but I reserve the right to use them as more qualitative measures of engagement if the class takes too ‘informal’ an approach to reading and responding.



Attendance and Participation:

            As an English course, being prepared for each day’s discussion and participating in it is simply a given. This does not mean that I expect you to ‘master’ the daily readings; I view reading as a process of negotiation with texts, and I do not have much patience for the kind of pretentious and alienating jargon or simpering social hierarchies I too often encountered in graduate literature courses. I believe that all of us learn best when we speak from our own experiences, respond as embodied, particular readers, and acknowledge and discuss cultural norms that are ingrained in or critiqued by texts, rather than assuming there is a ready consensus on them. I think students are usually the best judges of their own effort at participation, so I will pass out a participation rubric which you will fill out and return, and which I will evaluate against my own observations as I assign this grade.


Zero Tolerance Policy

            Literature, by its nature, should invite a wide range of reactions, opinions, and interpretations; I hope to encourage this by providing an intellectually challenging but respectful environment; I ask you to do the same. There will be no tolerance for words, speech, behavior, actions, or clothing/possessions that insult, diminish, demean, or belittle any individual or group of persons based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference, ability, economic class, national origin, language, or age. Academic freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of discourse DO NOT protect racism or other acts of harassment and hate. Violations of this Zero Tolerance Policy may result in removal from the classroom and actions governed by the student code of conduct will be taken.


Technology Policy

            Unless you have a very specific reason for needing them, I request that you not use computers or electronics in class. I ask that you purchase physical copies of our texts, and our discussions will refer extensively to those physical objects, so bring to class with you the text you were assigned to read and be ready to engage with it. Please mark up your readings and take notes with pencil/pen and paper.


Late Work:

            I will accept any of the written assignments late with a penalty of one grade level for each day (24 hour period) after the due date (for a paper that would receive a 4.0 had it been on time on Monday, any time after class up through Tuesday, it will receive a 3.0, Wednesday a 2.0, etc.). I will not accept reading responses late.



            In an ideal world, you would receive feedback from me on each assignment, then revise and resubmit. This is logistically unmanageable in a ten-week quarter, so I instead give you the OPTION to revise and resubmit one and only one assignment. This does not include the last assignment. It is due during finals week and should include: 1. the original, with my comments; 2. a substantially revised final copy; 3. a one-page discussion of what you revised and how you feel it strengthened the paper.



            Plagiarism or any other form of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated in any way in my class; your work should be entirely your own, and cite any outside sources you have used (though none of the assignments ask you to do this). Definitions of what constitutes plagiarism and the consequences at the UW can be found at:  http://depts.washington.edu/pswrite/plag.html



Writing Centers

            The Odegaard Writing and Research Center (OWRC) offers free, one-on-one help with all aspects of writing at any stage in the writing process. It is best to make an appointment in advance.

            The CLUE Writing Center in Mary Gates Hall is open Sunday to Thursday from 7pm to midnight. The graduate tutors can help you with your claims, organization, and grammar.


Religious Accommodations

            Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.


Access and Accommodations:

Your experience in this course is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course. If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or uwdrs@uw.edu or disability.uw.edu. DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions.



            I will return assignments as quickly as possible with my written comments and grade, which is my primary form of communication, though I’ll also post grades to Canvas.

Total: 600 pts                                                                          Grading Scale:

            Assignments (55%)                                                                 4.0 – 98% +

                        Reading Journal – 50 pts                                            3.8 – 94-95%

                        Close Reading – 75 pts                                               3.5 – 90%

                        Thematic Analysis – 100 pts                                      3.0 – 85%

                        Comparative Analysis – 125 pts                                 2.5 – 80%

                                                                                                            2.0 – 75%

            Reading Responses (25%)                                                      1.5 – 70%       

                        Discussion Board – 70 pts                                          1.0 – 65%

                        In-Class Writing – 80 pts                                            0.7 – 60%


            Participation (20%) – 100 pts                                                




NOTE: Readings/viewings should be completed BEFORE class on the date indicated.

Unit One: Displacement and Identity: Place, Desire, Perception

            6 January - Course Introduction, Katherine Mansfield, “The Canary” (in class)

            8 January - James Joyce, “An Encounter”, Marcel Proust, “Mme de Breyves’ Melancholy

                        Summer Vacation,” both in Course Packet (CP)


            13 January - Robert Musil, “Grigia” (CP)

            15 January - Thomas Mann, Death in Venice, to pg. 42


            20 January - NO CLASS; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

            22 January - Death in Venice, to end

                        Reading Journal due


Unit Two: Displacement and Narrative

            27 January - Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea, Part One

            29 January - Wide Sargasso Sea Part Two (to pg. 118)


            3 February - Wide Sargasso Sea, finish Part Two and Part Three

Unit Three: Displacement and Time

            5 February - Patrick Modiano, Suspended Sentences (CP)

                        Close Reading paper due


            10 February - Toni Morrison, Beloved, to pg. 56

            12 February - Beloved, cont’d, to pg. 105


            17 February - NO CLASS; President’s Day 

            19 February - Beloved, cont’d, to pg. 199


            24 February - Beloved, cont’d, to end

Unit Four: Displacement and the Body

            26 February - Christa Wolf, “Self-Experiment” (CP)

                        Thematic Analysis due


            2 March - Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go, Ch. 1-6

            4 March - NLMG, cont’d, Ch. 7-11


            9 March - NLMG, cont’d, Ch. 12-18

            11 March - NLMG, cont’d, Ch. 19-23


            16 March - Comparative Analysis due in my office by 5 PM

            18 March – any (optional) REVISED papers due in my office by 5 PM

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: 
November 12, 2019 - 11:00pm