English 200 Seminar in Literary Studies

A Survey of Literary Form and Theory


Instructor: Dr. Bridget Marshall                    E-mail: bmarshal@english.umass.edu

Class Meetings: Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:30 to 3:45

Office: Bartlett 457                                             Office Hours:  Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:15 – 2:30

Office Phone: 545-5512                                   Mailbox: Bartlett Hall 1st floor


In our course we will consider a variety of approaches to a variety of kinds of texts.  Our goal will be to improve our appreciation of and intellectual engagement with the texts we read.  Active involvement with class discussion, regular writing (and peer review of that writing), and research-based presentations about the texts and literary studies will help us to improve our careful reading of texts.  There are no particular themes for the course, nor will we proceed chronologically; instead, we will move through the semester focused on different genres (novels, short stories, graphic novels, drama, and poetry).  Throughout the course we’ll discuss form and style, and question how different authors employ and develop traditional forms.  We will practice close reading of these texts, pressing our thinking on questions about the specific texts, as well as about literature in general.  Through our presentations and critical reading, we’ll gain a sense of what other thinkers have had to say about these texts.  Most importantly, I hope to give you a sense of what we “do” as scholars of literature.  To this end, we will have occasional guest presentations from faculty and graduate students about their research, and a session at the library with the Literature librarian.  Our goal is to make everyone in the class a better reader and writer, with the tools of literary study readily available for any text we encounter. 


Primary texts are available at Amherst Books (8 Main Street, 256-1547).  Feel free to use editions other than those listed (used, borrowed, from the library, etc.), so long as you can read the assignments for the days they are due.  The COURSE PACKET is available at Copy Cat Print Shop in Amherst (35 East Pleasant Street, 549-2854).

Class Requirements: 

Attendance is required.  You must be here to join class discussion, make presentations, and participate in group work.  You have two “Freebies,” no questions asked.  For every class beyond those two that you miss, your final grade for the class will be lowered half a grade.


If you miss class, you should send your assignment to class with a peer or leave it in my mailbox.  (DO NOT leave papers under my office door – use my mailbox!)  When you return to class, you are responsible for having the assignment due on that day, as well as any work you missed on previous days.  If you know in advance that you are going to miss class, I highly recommend that you let me know this so that you can keep up with the work.


Good classroom citizenship is required.  Good classroom citizenship goes beyond just “participation” in the sense of raising your hand a lot.  It includes sharing your thoughts and ACTIVELY LISTENING to the thoughts and comments of your peers.  Please be considerate of your classmates and make the classroom a space where everyone can speak their mind.  We will have both full-class discussions and small group work.  If you are not particularly comfortable speaking in the full-class discussion, be sure you are making up for it in the smaller group discussions.  Also, as a courtesy to everyone in the room, please turn off your cell phone before class begins.


You will be required to share your writing and respond to the writing of your peers.  We do this to stress the point that we are not just writing for a teacher or for a grade; we are writing for a community of writers.  Become comfortable with sharing your writing; this is a necessary step in improving your writing and becoming part of the academic community.


At some point during the first three weeks of class, everyone will schedule a brief conference with me, outside of class time.  This is a chance to meet with me personally, find my office, and ask any questions you have about the class.  We will sign up in class for times.

Writing Assignments

There will be frequent short in-class and take-home writing assignments.  I will read and respond to your comments, and you will receive a “check” in my grade book for your writing. Please keep all of these short writing assignments, as they may help you to develop longer writing assignments, and they will also include my responses to your writing.


There are two Response Papers due during the semester.  These are focused writings of about 3 to 4 pages, illustrating your knowledge of and interest in a particular text that we have read in the class so far.  You MUST have a paper in class on the day it is due in order to participate in the day’s classroom activities.  I will respond to the papers with detailed comments on both content and form, so that you will get an idea of what I am expecting for the final paper. 


There is one “book report” due at any time during the semester before Tuesday April 19th.  The book report is a two-page response to ANY book (in any genre) that you’re reading OUTSIDE of class.  The “report” should consist of a short review and suggestions on how you might fit it into a literature class. 


There is one required outside-of-class on-campus viewing of a play, Angels in America.  Depending on schedules, we might try to organize a group-viewing, but you can go to any performance: April 7, 8 14, 15 at 8 p.m., April 9, 16 at 2 p.m, or a student matinee April 13 at 10 a.m.  The play will be performed at the Rand Theater.  Admission is $5 for students and tickets are available at the Fine Arts Center Box Office.  I urge you to plan ahead in order to consider your schedule and purchase a ticket before they sell out for your desired date.


In pairs, students will prepare one 5 to 10-minute presentation on an assigned historical figure, period, literary term, or movement related to the readings.  You will need to create a handout about your topic for your presentation.  Topics will be assigned during the second week of class.  I am available to provide assistance as you develop your presentation.


There is a final paper, 6 to 8 pages in length on any text we’ve read in class.  I ask that you have a topic approved by me by the last week of the semester, when we will have an in-class writing workshop on the papers.  The paper is due during the exam period; there is no final exam.

Evaluation and Grading

Grading is my least favorite aspect of the course; however, grades are necessary, not only to the University, but also in many cases in order to motivate students.  I will give a grade or a number for the two short papers and the group presentations, and “checks” for each day’s attendance and for your short writing assignments.  Particularly active class participation or strong short writing assignments will earn a “check plus.”  Following is a breakdown of final grades:


If you have a concern about a grade or a question about your standing in the class, I am happy to talk with you.  This type of conversation is best suited to an individual conference.  You can see me during my office hours, or schedule an appointment at another time.


If you are determined to do only the minimal amount of work and get the minimum passing grade, you might want to know what the bottom line is.  This much is nonnegotiable: you are not eligible for a passing grade of D unless you have attended at least 11 of 14 weeks worth of classes, and completed 90% of the assignments. 

Semester Schedule

Below you will find a preliminary outline for the semester.  If you miss a class, you are still responsible for what was due on the day(s) you missed and on the day you return, so ALWAYS consult the syllabus (or a classmate, or me) if you have missed or will miss a class.  I will often give related articles as additional readings during class, so you should be sure to get these as well. 


Thursday 27 January


“The Story of an Hour” Kate Chopin (handout)

Tuesday 1 February

Shelley: Frankenstein Author’s Introduction and Preface (NOT Johnson or other editor Introduction) AND Letters 1- 4, Chapter 1 - 3

Thursday 3 February

Shelley: Chapter 4 - 15

Tuesday 8 February

Shelley: Frankenstein Chapter 16 - end

Thursday 10 February

Read introductory and handout material for Frankenstein

Bring a draft of at least 2 pages for in-class workshop on writing;

Tuesday 15 February

Faulkner: “A Rose for Emily”

Thursday 17 February

Gilman: “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Tuesday 22 February

Chesnutt “The Sheriff’s Children”

Thursday 24 February

First paper Due

Tuesday 1 March

Comic readings in packet: Glass: “Preface,” Ware: “Introduction,” McCloud: Understanding Comics. 

Thursday3 March

Spiegelman: Maus pages 1 - 40

Tuesday 8 March

Library Research Workshop: meet in Calipari Room on the Main Floor (basement) of the DuBois Library

Thursday 10 March

Spiegelman: Maus I pages 41 - 94

March 12 – March 20


Tuesday 22 March

Spiegelman: Maus I pages 95 - end


Thursday 24 March

Spiegelman: Maus II

Tuesday 29 March

Spiegelman: Maus II

Thursday 31 March

Second paper due

Tuesday 5 April

Angels in America

Thursday 7 April

Angels in America

Tuesday 12 April

Angels in America

Thursday 14 April

Angels in America critical articles (class handouts)

Tuesday 19 April

“Book Report” due by this day (or any time before)

Bernstein: “The Difficult Poem.”  Bring a poem to class; write one page about it and be prepared to read a few lines of the poem

Thursday 21 April

No Class: University Monday

Tuesday 26 April

Spoon River Anthology pages 1 - 30

Thursday 28 April

Spoon River Anthology pages 31 - 68

Tuesday 3  May

Spoon River Anthology pages 69 – 100

Thursday 5 May

Spoon River Anthology pages 101 - 133

Tuesday 10 May

In-class writing workshop for final papers

Thursday 12 May

Last Day of Class

Monday 16 May

Final Paper due by NOON


Please note that in order to become an English major, you will need to earn a grade of B- (minus) or better in this course.  Prior to pre-registration, I will let you know your current grade for the course.  I will submit these mid-semester grades to the Undergraduate Studies Office.  If you are planning to continue with the English major, you are required to attend one of two mandatory advisory sessions, which the department will announce.  All students must now -- at the beginning of the semester -- make arrangements to insure that they can attend ONE of these "Mandatory Advising Meetings."

About Academic Honesty

All University policies on plagiarism apply to all writing assignments in this course.  This means that if you plagiarize an assignment, you will receive an “F” for the course, and you are subject to other discipline (including expulsion from the University) at the discretion of the instructor and the University.

Unintentional plagiarism is still plagiarism.  You must cite all sources that you use, including online sources.  Also, remember that “using” a source includes DIRECTLY QUOTING, PARAPHRASING, AND USING IDEAS from any source.  There is nothing wrong with “getting help” from other writers, just be sure to acknowledge it by using quotation marks or author/page citation appropriately.  Please take the time to give proper credit to the work of other authors.  It is a matter of respect – for yourself, for other authors, for your classmates, and for me.

I know that it is easy to find information and indeed whole papers on the internet.  You should know that it is also easy for me to find these sources.  If I suspect you’ve done this, I will take the time to find the source, and there is every likelihood you will be caught.  Please don’t waste your time or mine by plagiarizing a paper.

If you’re having difficulty with a writing assignment, please talk to me.  I can usually offer an extension IF you talk to me (or e-mail me) before the day the assignment is due.  If you wait until the day it is due, the assignment is LATE.