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ENGL 302 B: Critical Practice

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm
CMU 228
Professor Harkins in front of bookshelf
Gillian Harkins

Syllabus Description:


English 302: 

Cultural Studies of the Novel


‘For whom are we doing what we are doing when we do literary criticism?’ ... The answer to that question determines what orientation we take in our work, the language we use, the purposes for which it is intended. 

                                            -- Barbara Christian, "The Race for Theory" (1988)


COURSE OVERVIEW: This course provides a follow up to English 202, the Introduction to the English major.  It is a practicum of critical methods.  This particular 302 will provide in-depth practice in cultural studies approaches to the novel.  By the end of the course, students should have a grasp of various approaches to the study of culture and narrative forms.   Students will also have been exposed to a range of social and political questions related to cultural studies methodologies, including theories of race, gender, sexuality, class, and colonialism.  Our course will be anchored by two specific novels focused on themes of war, empire and displacement: Jeanette Winterson's The Passion (1987) and Mohsin Hamid's Exit West (2017). 

COURSE GOALS: The class is designed to support your own reading practice, to enhance it by putting it into dialogue with a range of different reading practices (some provided in readings, some provided in peer discussion), and to leave you with a profound sense of curiosity about how your own practices make sense of world around you.  The assignments are designed to move from low-stakes writing (credit/no credit) to formal essays (graded literary argument).  I provide detailed Literary Argument Essay expectations and assessment rubrics to help make this process transparent.   For people interested in a Deep Dive: Extra Credit option, I have provided a space to explore related literary texts, additional cultural contexts, and broader political and historical questions.  

COURSE SCHEDULE:  The Course Schedule provides week-by-week links to the readings to be completed before each class session; helpful handouts outlining key issues in the reading; questions to consider for class discussion activities; and required writing portfolios.  


Required Novels (purchase or borrow):

Jeanette Winterson, The Passion (1987)

Mohsin Hamid, Exit, West (2017)

Course Readings: 

All remaining course readings will be posted as reading links on the Course Schedule Page and can also be accessed through the Files Page.  If you have any trouble accessing the uploaded documents or links please contact me immediately.

Course Objectives: 

  • To be able to read a novel critically
  • To be able to write about a novel critically
  • To be able to differentiate between critical methods
  • To be able to discuss the relevance of different critical methods
  • To maybe like one or two particular methods
  • To be very excited about reading novels

Course Requirements:

  • Discussion: You will be expected to participate actively in group discussions each week; there will be a variety of options for participation.  We will center diversity, equity and inclusion practices throughout our discussions (see Sample Ground Rules for Discussion).  Discussion: 15%
  • PortfolioEach week portfolio entries will help you practice specific skills expected in your formal Literary Argument Essays.  These are low-stakes (credit/no credit) writing assignments, meaning you will receive full points for completing the assignment each week.  Portfolio: 35%
  • Essays: You will write two Literary Argument Essays of 5-7 pages each for this course.  The essays will make a claim about one novel and situate this claim in relation to at least one critical approach discussed in the course.  The claim and its reasons will be supported by close reading of literary and critical passages (details in the Literary Argument Essay Assignment).  Sample paper topics; literary argument tips; a grading rubric; and sample essays from prior classes are available in this Literary Argument Module.  Each essay is worth 25% of your final grade.  Total50%.
  • Extra Credit: Deep Dive!  Take a side track, read some of the associated readings gathered in the Deep Dive link.  This is your chance to delve into related literary texts, additional cultural contexts, and broader political and historical questions.  It is also designed to be an accessible way to make up for missed discussion activities.  You can enter or upload a Deep Dive in the Extra Credit: Deep Dive! AssignmentExtra Credit: maximum of 2 points each.


Course Policies

    • Academic Conduct:  We all share responsibility for creating a positive shared learning community.  Everyone is invited to raise questions and offer additional perspectives about any materials discussed in class. Everyone is also expected to contribute their ideas in a manner that is thoughtful and respectful of the ideas expressed by others.  
    • Academic Integrity: The University takes academic integrity very seriously. Behaving with integrity is part of our responsibility to our shared learning community.  Please review this University of Washington website for a definition and explanation of academic misconduct. If you are confused or have any questions about a specific instance, please feel free to see me in advance of the due date.
    • Academic Accommodations: It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please activate your accommodations via myDRS so we can discuss how they will be implemented 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), contact DRS directly to set up an Access Plan. DRS facilitates the interactive process that establishes reasonable accommodations. Contact DRS at
    • 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.


Additional Resources

Additional support for technology access, writing and research support, financial and health needs, food, parenting, and legal resources and have been gathered at this link: 

Additional writing support is available through the Odegaard Writing and Research Center: 

Peer-to-peer writing tutors are available at the Center for Learning and Undergraduate Enrichment (CLUE) at: 

Advising appointments with the new Humanities Advising Center can be scheduled here: 

Ask Betty! Grammar for College Writers: 


Catalog Description: 
Intensive study of, and exercise in, applying important or influential interpretive practices for studying language, literature, and culture, along with consideration of their powers/limits. Focuses on developing critical writing abilities. Topics vary and may include critical and interpretive practice from scripture and myth to more contemporary approaches, including newer interdisciplinary practices. Prerequisite: minimum 2.0 in ENGL 202.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
January 14, 2023 - 5:54am