ENGLISH 9 / Fall 2003
Introduction to Literary Analysis 
Professor: Sandra Jamieson http://www.depts.drew.edu/engl/sjamieso/
Contact: (email): sjamieso@drew.edu (office): 973.408.3499 (home): 908.757.1051 
Class meetings: Mon. & Wed., 11:15-12:30 p.m. BC 203
Office:S.W. Bowne 118, (Office hours for this class): Mon. & Wed., 1:00-2:30 and by appointment 
 Texts & Performances
 Course Description
 Course Theme
 Work & Grades
 Virtual Classroom
 Paper Topics

The Texts

  • Helen Vendler, Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology, 2nd ed. Bedford, 2002
  • William Shakespeare, The Tempest(Case Study in Critical Controversy), ed. Gerald Graff & James Phelan. Bedford, 2000
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance (Bedford Cultural Edition), ed. William E. Cain. Bedford, 1996
  • Toni Morrison, Paradise. Plume, 1999
  •   NOTE: Please buy the editions specified so that we are all have the same page numbers, and so that you have the essays accompanying Blithedale Romanceand Tempest

    S.K.Toth’s "Festad" (weather permitting) see <www.skthoth.com/SKTHOTH/Home_Pagex.html>
    The Tempest (Drew T.V.) date and time t.b.a.

The Class: Objectives 

It can be said that everything worthwhile is an attempt to answer a question. The most fundamental question is probably "what does it mean to be human?" but this is closely followed by "how should I live my life?" and "how should I live my life with others?" For some the next question is "how can I make the world a better place?" This course engages two questions that seem pretty important to me (1) how can the language arts help us to understand our world and imagine better worlds? and (2) how do written texts manage to lift us into those other worlds so that we can explore their potential—how do they work. It is my hope that by engaging with both of these questions through works of poetry, fiction, and drama we will come closer to finding answers to them. Beyond that, it is my goal that students in this class will deepen their appreciation of literature and refine their ability to read analytically and apply theories and bodies of knowledge and information to texts in ways that deepen our understanding of their content and style.

The Class: Intellectual Goals  

ENGL 9 is NOTmore of AP English! ENGL 9 is designed to introduce you to literary analysis as college English majors are expected to do it. The goal is to increase your interpretive skills, making them more nuanced and more accurate. We would also like you to become more self-conscious of the "moves" you make when interpreting texts. If you do the work in this class, ENGL 9 will:

  1. Extend the nuance and accuracy of your writing about literature, and expand the interpretive strategies available to you as you study literature in its broadest sense; 
  2. Familiarize you with, and give you brief opportunities to practice, some of the different kinds of projects that literary critics undertake (using biography, defining the realm of the literary, thinking about the relationship between language and identity, thinking about reader response theory, using  cultural critique, using primary documents from the culture in relation to a literary text);
  3. Help you reflect on and evaluate the acts of interpretation literary critics perform;
  4. Help you reflect on and evaluate your own acts of interpretation;
  5. Increase the flexibility and precision of your thoughts about literature, and helping you to work out your own definition of the literary by introducing you to some literary theory.
The Class: Theme 

In addition to asking how literary texts work and how we might read them with sophistication, this class also asks why we might do that. Why do people read literature? Why do people develop and apply theory to works of literature? Why might you want to do that? A reason many people give for loving literature is that it allows them to escape from their everyday lives and enter other lives, see things through different eyes, and imagine new worlds. This latter issues—that literature allows us to see the world through other eyes and helps us to imagine other worlds—are the themes of this section of ENGL 9.  In addition to exploring how and why texts work and how we can appreciate them as both art and craft, we will also explore the worlds that created these texts, the worlds created by them, and the things we can learn from entering those worlds.  Coleridge’s magical "Kubla Khan"; Hawthorne’s utopian community, Blithedale; Morrison’s all black town of Ruby; Prospero’s enchanted island; and Thoth's land of Mir; are all invented worlds for us to inhabit and explore. They invite us to enter them, and then present us with what works and what may go wrong in such worlds.

Broadly speaking, this course moves through three stages: writers helping us to see and explore our own worlds; writers helping us to imagine new worlds that could not really exist, and thereby giving us a new perspective on what can and does exist; and writers enacting and exploring new worlds that could, did, or do exist.  As we confront terrorism, war, racism, the destruction of the environment, and the other problems facing our own world, temporarily inhabiting a different world and seeing it through the eyes of its inhabitants can help us see our own world in a new way and—perhaps—imagine ways to address some of our problems.

The Methodology (how will you be asked to read these works)

Each stage of this course will build on ideas discussed earlier and analytical skills already practiced. We will begin by exploring words, sounds, rhythms, and the power-base of language through a study of poetry and an application (and exploration of) the literary theory called "formalism."  We will read different kinds of poetry and think about the ways that form changes our experience.  Once we can articulate the ways that language works to help us explore our lives and see our world in new ways, we will move on to the ways that language constructs characters and places in action. Turning our attention to drama, we will experience the physical enactment of new worlds and the related performance theory that can help us to understand how theatre works.  A transition from poetry to theatre comes in the form of the work of performance artists such as Thoth. If possible, you will visit New York City’s Central Park to see his performance piece "The Festad" (check his website if you want to know more about this work  <www.skthoth.com/SKTHOTH/Home_Pagex.html>).  In this segment of the class we will think about different ways that literature can reveal things the author observes while at the same time obscuring others.  We will follow our discussion of Thoth and performance theory with Shakespeare’s The Tempest (which you will read and see performed in a BBC version to be shown on Drew television). 

We can apply formalist skills to help us gain an appreciation of The Tempest, and obviously we can also apply performance theory. But in addition to these, we will look outside the text to consider a reading of the play in its historical context through documents and ideas that were part of Shakespeare’s world. This allows us to think about how Shakespeare created this work and what his audiences might have known as they watched it performed. This leads us into a consideration of ourselves as audiences.  We will read postcolonial theory, feminist theory, postmodern theory, and various cultural studies debates about The Tempest, and you will formulate your own response to the question of how we should read literature and what we should pay attention to as we do so.  A brief exploration of theatre in contemporary South Africa invites us to see the impact of politics and social conditions on a world still being imagined and created as that country moves to recreate itself after apartheid. We will read several short plays by South African writers and use the theories we have studied along with a brief history of South Africa, to try to help us imagine a new world along with these playwrights.

As we move into fiction, you will find yourselves again paying attention to words, images, and the ways that form influences our experience of a text.  We will read two works of fiction, The Blithedale Romance, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Paradise, by Toni Morrison. As we read these works we will consider how the literary theories already discussed can be applied to help us more fully understand how the texts work. Then we will rethink those texts within their historical and cultural contexts, looking at primary documents produced at the same time as The Blithedale Romance to help us understand the content of the novel more deeply (these documents range from political tracts, religious texts, and philosophical explorations to paintings, posters, and cartoons) and recent political and social history of the United States to help us understand Paradise (this includes the migration of African Americans from the south to the north, the formation of segregated communities, and the civil rights and black power movements of the 1960s).

The Work & the Grade

You will write brief response papers on all of the readings in this class (due in class or in the relevant K:/drive folder the day they are discussed) and will be expected to participate in class and/or via the "virtual class" on the electronic discussion board set up for the class on Attic. (See the link from the online syllabus mainpage at <www.users.drew.edu/sjamieso/Engl9/>)  From these K:/drive responses you will select six to hand in as part of your final grade.  I will review and respond to 5 or 6 responses at random each week and provide feedback to anyone who asks for it on any given response. The main goal of these responses is to prepare you for class, so you should have an idea of whether you were sufficiently prepared by the end of class discussion for that day rather than needing me to tell you that based on reading a response after the fact. It is not possible to earn an ‘A’ in this class without completing a response by midnight the night before each class. The remainder of the "virtual response" grade will be based on quantity of responses in class and posted online.

In this class you will also write three 5-7 page papers, one on poetry, one on a work of fiction, and one on a play. In each paper you will be invited to explore the work through the lens of theory, and thus to make the moves of a literary analyst.  

Grade breakdown:
Paper 1:                                          15% of the final grade 
Paper 2:                                         20% of the final grade
Paper 3:                                         20% of the final grade
Virtual class/in-class discussion:    20% of the final grade (timely posting & quality—don’t
                                                                just speak/write a comment for the sake of it!)
Response papers:                            25% of the final grade (total number & quality of the
                                                               6 selected for grade)

The Virtual Class 

This class will also include a shared discussion board to which you should aim to post two comments each week (one for each class) once we begin this process toward the end of September.  Each week, five students will also be asked to post a question to the list for us to consider as part of the class discussion the next day.  Comments must be posted by midnight the night before class so that we can look at them before class. Please type the comment in a word document, save it, and then paste it into the discussion board so that your brilliance is not lost to the vagaries of the network!

The Rules 

Like any community, the classroom community requires work to create and maintain, and there are consequences for those who in any way undermine this community or fail to do their share of the work necessary to maintain it. These consequences will be felt by all because the classroom community will not work if students do not make it work. They will also be felt by the individual responsible. Students must attend class, be prepared for class, be willing to share their ideas, and be respectful of the ideas of others. Lack of respect for classmates will not be tolerated in this class.

The larger academic community depends of the generation of and willingness to share and discuss ideas in discussion and in written texts. For this reason plagiarism will not be tolerated in those seeking to remain in the academic community.  (Please see Drew’s "Academic Integrity Policy" if you are unsure what it means to use sources correctly, and The Writer’s Reference or the MLA Handbook to correctly create works cited lists.)

                                    Paper Topics
Paper #1
Paper #2
Paper #3
A note about citation and general writing issues:
As English majors/minors you will be expected to use MLA in-text citation, the method of text citation designed by the Modern Language Association. To learn correct MLA citation, you should buy the official Modern Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Sixth Edition, Ed. Joseph Gibaldi (2003); however, there is a very detailed online version of the Fifth Edition (1999)  at www/ccc.commnet.edu/MLA/ and because there are not huge differences between the Fifth and the Sixth Editions, the rules listed at this site are acceptable at the undergraduate level (see www.mla.org/shop/TOC/handbook6e_add.htm for a list of those differences).
* For guidelines on how to write an English literature paper and correctly cite poems, songs, plays,
   and novels, check out: www.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/composition/literature.htm
* For general writing guidelines, see: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/index.html
* For revision advice, consult www.users.drew.edu/sjamieso/12stepediting.htm
* And for excellent proofreading advice: cal.bemidji.msus.edu/WRC/Handouts/ProofandEdit.html

Paper #1

Select a popular song (any era) that speaks to the times in which it was written and speaks to you. Find the lyrics (a Google search will help, or ask one of your wise friends for the addresses of websites that list song lyrics). Now analyze those lyrics as poetry. Try not to sing the song in your head as you analyze it, but focus on the words. Pretend you have never heard it before. Look for all of the things we have discussed in class so far, especially unexpected words, powerful metaphors, moving images, the relationship between the rhythm of the lines and the content, the role of rhyme. Then look outside of the song/poem at the context in which it was produced. How does it speak to the times (words, images, references?) What does it say? (And, if this is not a contemporary song, does it say the same thing today?) How does it speak to you personally? What makes it relevant? Is it a political poem/song? Does it function as a ballad or is it more of a lyric poem? Only when you have carefully analyzed the whole poem should you listen to it again as the artist performed it. How does the music add to the meaning you found in the words and rhythms alone? How does the performance add to the meaning you found in the words and the additional component of the music? If the song has been recorded by more than one artist, listen to as many recordings as you can. How does the delivery alter the meaning the song had for you?

You need a thesis--an argument about what this song/poem is "about" and how attending to the words, music, and context can help us understand it. Quote specific lines in your paper (just as you would a poem--check a writer's handbook if you don't know how to cite poetry). Please also include a print-out of the lyrics with your paper.

Due in the box outside my office by 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 16 (or in class on Wednesday, October 15 if you prefer). Review "Writing About Poetry" (Vendler 311-328) before writing this paper please. I will be very happy to review and discuss drafts with you. Sign up for an appointment on the list on my office door or schedule an appointment if my office hours conflict withyour life.


Paper #2

Each of the plays/performances we have studied highlights problems with "the world," suggests the need for a "new world," or tries to imagine such a world—some critically, and some idealistically. Your task in this paper is to select one of the theatrical pieces we have read/seen and practice your skills as a literary critic. The paper needs to have a thesis (which may focus on the reflection and/or creation of "worlds" but does not have to do so), and must pay close attention to the text and details of the play/performance. This paper is due in the box outside my office by 6 p.m. on Friday, November 14.  I will be very happy to review and discuss ideas and/or drafts with you prior to that date (preferably before Nov. 13!). Sign up for an appointment on the list on my office door or schedule an appointment if my office hours conflict with your life. Here are your options (if you have other ideas, feel free to suggest them to me):

  1. Select one of the works below and discuss it as a performance.  Using the guidelines for close reading of a play/performance and a printed copy of the text where available, discuss features that went into the performance and the decisions the director and/or performer made. Your task is to study the performance and develop an argument about it. Your thesis should not be evaluative, although you may discuss whether you found the performance successful in your conclusion (as long as you define "success"). Instead, consider the effect the director/performer seems to have been hoping to achieve and the ways he or she tried to achieve that effect. You should consider the director and actor's interpretation of the play/piece and discuss one or more places where this interpretation was visible. You should quote from the written text (where available, or the website and/or the CD-ROM in the case of Thoth) and describe aspects of the performance of that section. The performances you may discuss are:
a) S.K.Thoth's Festad (you must have actually seen at least some of it in Central Park, not only viewed the video or the website),
b) the version of The Tempest shown on Drew t.v. (available from the Library reserve desk),
c) the Drew Theatre Department's production of Waiting for Godot,
d) the New Jersey Shakespeare Company's production of Othello.
  1. Consider how you would stage a performance of Sophiatown or The Tempest if you had access to whatever technologies and finances you needed. For this you will first need to study the play carefully and develop interpretations of the events and characters (use the guidelines for close reading of a play). As you discuss the ways you might direct such a play, begin with a statement about the main message you would want theatre-goers to take from the performance, and follow that with a discussion of how the characters, action, setting (set, costume, props), delivery, and overall presentation would achieve that effect in your production of this play. (A few resources on recent South African history, apartheid, anti-apartheid and Sophiatown can be found at: www.users.drew.edu/sjamieso/engl9/sophiatown_resources.html)
  1. The Tempest was written four centuries ago and yet it still has relevance for many people today. Use the source material we have read to discuss one way in which this play has relevance to contemporary audiences. You may approach it from any theoretical perspective you like (from formalist to feminist or Marxist) but you need to cite sources carefully and not conduct additional research beyond the material I have given you (see the warning below). You may consider retellings and adaptations of the basic plot as part of this discussion of relevance.
  1. The play Sophiatown is concerned with timeless themes of how we interact with those who are different from us (by race, class, ethnicity, gender, intelligence, etc.), how we create change, how we resist oppression, and what responsibility we have toward others. It also reflects themes that are very specific to the new South Africa. As a retelling of an historical event that had been largely misrepresented or ignored, it had to be historically accurate, but it also presents dilemmas for a country in the process of reinventing itself. What is "truth?" What is "criminal"? How should people of different races learn to live together? The play is set at a crucial moment for apartheid and also asks the question "what is history" and "how should it be told?"
a) Consider these dilemmas in their historical context (using material from the resources website and other research you would like to conduct. The introduction to the collection of plays will also be helpful in providing contextual material). Why were these important questions?  Your thesis should address the importance of all or several of these questions or simply focus on one of them, but you should do so with reference to the history of Sophiatown itself (the actual place) and/or South Africa.

b) Consider the readings of the features of colonialism discussed in The Tempest Casebook and think about Sophiatown as a play that is about the effects of colonialism. Your thesis should be a statement about the ways we see the effects of colonialism in Sophiatown or the ways an understanding of colonialism helps us to understand aspects of the play.  Obviously you should use material from the Casebook to support your reading. (Note: There is no point arguing that we do not see the effects of colonialism in this play because that does not help us to understand it!)
A WORD OF CAUTION: As you write about familiar works like The Tempest, do not be tempted to "just go on line for a minute and see what other people have said..." That almost always leads to accidental plagiarism and I will catch you (this is not a challenge or a dare; it is a fact). Aside from being a stupid risk, it is also a waste of your intelligence! You have a lot to say about these works, and in the papers for this class I want you to say what YOU think—it is much more interesting.

Due in the box outside my office by 6 p.m. on Friday, November 14 (or in class on Wednesday, November 12 if you prefer).  I will be very happy to review and discuss drafts with you. Sign up for an appointment on the list on my office door or schedule an appointment if my office hours conflict with your life.

Paper #3

Select one of the topics below and develop a thesis in response to it. Think like a critic, using specific words, phrases, images, scenes, characters, events, and conflicts to help support the interpretive point you want to make.  You need to have a thesis, and you need to quote, paraphrase, and refer to specific moments in the text to support your claims --you must also cite those sources you use even though they come from the class text (use MLA format with in-text citations with a works cited list at the end—consult your writer’s handbook for guidelines, or visit the link on the "English Majors and Minors Page" www.depts.drew.edu/engl/English.html).
Please do not do additional research unless the question specifically says that it permits you to do so (and pu-leeze don't even think about plagiarizing!!) I want to know what you have to say now that you are all bona fide literary critics.  I have divided the topics into different categories to help you think about the kind of analysis I am hoping for:

History and context

  1. The contextual material we read following The Blithedale Romance can be used to help us understand many aspects of the novel. Select one of the topics below and use that material to help you offer an interpretation of the conflict or contradiction that seems to be at its heart:
    1. the rights of women and the character of Zenobia;
    2. the development of Blithedale itself as an alternative community; or
    3. the role of the larger desire for social change and its influence on Hollingsworth in particular.
  1. In the novel Paradise we are carefully informed of the date of events. Select one event that can be more fully understood in the context of the time period in which Morrison placed it, and explain how that context helps us understand that event. (Yes, you may conduct outside research for this topic, but select the event you want to understand first—and feel free to discuss it with me.)
Useful websites for timelines and history of Oklahoma settlement: 

Oklahoma migration:     


Story, story tellers, and narratives.

  1. The narrator of The Blithedale Romance is also a character within the story, and we therefore see the world of the novel through his eyes. Discuss his character and the way it determines our point-of-view about the other characters in the novel and the events he describes. To what extent is he simply a bystander and to what extent does he play a role in the action? How might another character tell the story? To what extent does Coverdale’s telling of this story seem to help him deal with it and to what extent does the telling seem to prevent him from moving on? (Your thesis should be the answer to one of these questions or another of your own posing.)
  1. The characters in Paradise are all in some way determined by their personal and communal histories (and their stories about those histories). As the novel progresses, we realize that each character must confront these histories and decide how (and whether) to move beyond them. Select an individual or a group and discuss the role of personal and/or communal history in his/her/their development and the consequences of confronting or not confronting that history. Your thesis may also be a comment on what Morrison seems to be saying about history (and story) in this novel if you like.


  1. Both Paradise and The Blithedale Romance take as their theme the development of alternative communities. Compare the communities of Ruby and Blithedale and use your comparison to formulate a thesis about the nature of alternative communities and the dangers those trying to create them must avoid. (As you work on this, think about why people join these communities, to what extent they need to be committed to the community, to what extent they need to be willing to change and compromise, what they need to bring with them to the community—and what they need to leave behind. You might also think about the conflict between individual needs and communal needs in both texts.)
  1. Paradise can be read from a feminist perspective as we look at the lives of the women both within and outside of patriarchal structures. It can also be read as a demonstration of the way gender expectations shape both women and men. The men of Ruby try to live up to the image of masculinity passed to them from their fathers, and we see that it is very destructive. Develop a thesis that draws on either:
    1. a feminist analysis of the work, or
    2. an analysis of the way gender shapes identity.
  1. The title Paradise is more than a little ambiguous. What is paradise? Where is it? Or is this novel saying something about where paradise is not—and why? Morrison originally planned to call this novel War. Is Paradise a more appropriate title? (You may use this topic to offer a reading of Paradise tracing the Biblical connections and implications if you have the knowledge and desire to do this. Your thesis should argue that your reading helps us to understand the novel in a specific way.)

Final draft due in the box outside my office by 6 p.m. on Monday, December 15 (or earlier if you prefer!).  I will be very happy to review and discuss drafts with you but there will be NO REWRITES of this paper. Sign up for an appointment on the list on my office door or schedule an appointment if my office hours conflict with your life.

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Sandra Jamieson
Last updated:  November 29, 2003