Eng 411G: Grand Challenges in Literature and Writing

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ENG 411G: Grand Challenges in Literature and Writing
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Course Meeting Times:

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Sample Course Description & Subtitle:
Literature & the Mind: the Neuroscience of Poetry

Course Description:
This course will consider how poetry uses embodied experience to expound various philosophies of the mind. Some of the poets we will study are interested in memory, some in the mental powers of association, some in the projecting and creative forces of the imagination. Others find consciousness in sexual experience or union, in bodily transport, in landscape and external environments, or even in the minds of others. Some poets treat minds as a part of nature’s design; others consider minds responsible for all of the animating, vital movements of nature. What links these poetic representations of the mind over the course of literary history? One overriding principle: that a poem is something felt.
Poetry is about somatic thinking; historically, it has been our literary guide to how the mind maps and relates to the world by way of sensation. Poems use sound and sense to guide us into an emotional experience of their language, triggering our imagination into realizing or reifying an embodied state. This unique art form, we will see, has a long-standing interest in the relationship between mind and body, between text and touch.

[Sample Course] Texts*:

Norton Anthology of Poetry

Sound and Sense
*NOTE: The above texts are available in the bookstore. Texts not included in the above list will either be distributed as handouts or electronically as PDFs.

The Theme of this Course & Reading Poetry Aloud:
Reading poetry aloud is a visceral experience. The aesthetic properties of a poem require that we feel as we read. Through the visual medium of imagery, we see with, or through, the poet’s perspective; through the o/aural medium of its meter and prosody, we listen to the sounds that we pronounce. The mind, transported by these two primary sensory experiences of sight and sound, might even in a Romantic sense, be supposed to smell, taste, or touch a poem as it brought home to the reader’s imagination. And so poetry brings to mind, as it were, a whole set of sensory experiences. Many of the assignments in this course will ask you to practice and perfect the art of reading poetry aloud, and most importantly, they will ask you to consider how this art form relates to neuroscientific philosophies of the embodied mind.

Course Schedule
NOTE: Assignments will be due and readings discussed on the day they appear in the schedule! The schedule may be subject to change, depending upon the pace of discussions and the progress of your written work. Students will be notified of any relevant changes.

Wednesday, January 27: Course Introduction & Syllabus. Marlowe “The Passionate Shepard to his Love”; Sir Phillip Sidney “The Nightingale”

Monday, February 1: Selected Shakespeare Sonnets
Wednesday, February 3: John Donne, Selected poems
Monday, February 8:John Milton, Lycidas DUE: OED Assignment
Wednesday, February 10: John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I
Monday, February 15: Paradise Lost, Book II
Wednesday, February 17: Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress”; Selections from Sound & Sense; John Dryden, “In Memory of Mr. Oldham” DUE: Meter Assignment*
Monday, February 22: Jonathan Swift, “The Lady’s Dressing Room,” “A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed,” “A Description of a City Shower” DUE: Passage Selection Assignment
Wednesday, February 24: Lord Rochester, “The Imperfect Enjoyment,” “A Ramble in St. James’s Park”; Aphra Behn, “The Disappointment”
Monday, February 29: Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Criticism,” “An Essay on Man,” “Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot” DUE: Essay #1: Poetic Diction (2-3 pp)*

Wednesday, March 2: Oliver Goldsmith, “The Deserted Village”; Thomas Gray, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”

Monday, March 7: Anna Laetitia Barbauld, “A Summer Evening’s Meditation”; William Wordsworth “A Night-Piece”

DUE: Listening Assignment & Response Paper: John Richetti, Penn Sound Poetry Series
Wednesday, March 9: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Frost at Midnight”; William Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey
Monday, March 14: John Keats, The Odes. DUE: Rhyme Assignment*
Wednesday, March 16: Keats, The Odes; “When I have Fears”; “Bright Star”
Monday, March 28: P.B. Shelley “Ode to the West Wind,” “Mont Blanc,” “Adonais”
Wednesday, March 30: John Clare, “The Badger”; “I am”; “First Love”

DUE: Response Paper on M.H. Abrams Lecture
Monday, April 4: Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”; Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess”; Christina Rossetti, “Song” (When I am Dead My Dearest)
Wednesday, April 6: Charles A.C. Swinburne, “The Garden of Proserpine,” “Evening on the Broads”
Monday, April 11: Gerard Manley Hopkins “The Windhover”, “Pied Beauty”; “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”; “Carrion Comfort”; “No Worst There is None”
Wednesday, April 13: Walt Whitman, Selections from Song of Myself; R.W. Emerson, “The Rhodora”; Robert Frost “Design”
Monday, April 18: Wallace Stevens, “Of Mere Being,” “Anecdote of a Jar”; T.S. Eliot “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Wednesday, April 20: W.H. Auden, “As I Walked Out One Evening,” “Lullaby,” “Musée des Beaux Arts”

DUE: Recitations
Monday, April 25: Elizabeth Bishop, “Sestina, “In the Waiting Room,” “The Armadillo”; Robert Lowell, “Water”, “For the Union Dead”, “Skunk Hour”; Robert Creeley, “I know a Man”

DUE: Self-authored and autobiographical sonnet or sestina, expressive of the mind’s relationship to personal memory. This is an **optional extra credit assignment**.
Wednesday, April 27: A.R. Ammons, “Corsons Inlet”; Galway Kinnell, “After Making Love, We Hear Footsteps”; Seamus Heaney, “Digging,” “The Skunk”

DUE: Recitations
Monday, May 2: Paul Muldoon, “Gathering Mushrooms”; Li-Young Lee, “Persimmons”; Mary Oliver, “In Blackwater Woods”

Objectives and Outcomes:

  1. Identify and define the major components of literary genres and the psychological, philosophical, or neuroscientific terminologies used in historical and contemporary discourses of the mind and brain.

  2. Identify and deploy basic concepts of genre structure and consider the philosophical, scientific, and sociological discourses that undergird these diverse styles of writing.

  3. Use appropriate terminology for discourses of mind and brain and place these terms in a cultural-philosophical context in your analytical and critical writing as well as your response papers.

  4. Develop the skills of close reading. These include: diction analysis, analysis of literary tropes, sentence structure, narrative style, voice, and tone for plays and prose; for poetry, these extend to the work of prosody by understanding poetic structure, meter, and rhyme scheme.

  5. Understand and deploy major social and cultural constructs relevant to works read in this course: these include historical concepts of the mind and body, historical distinctions between mind and brain, historical beliefs about the imagination, perception, and thought, and how concepts of the self interface with issues of gender, sexuality, religion, nature, philosophical contexts, and national identity.

  6. Appreciate and deploy the different approaches that writers use to explore philosophies of the self and the relationship between minds to the worlds that they occupy. Appreciate poetic and literary engagements with sociological, scientific, philosophical, and cultural-historical discourses of the mind and body. Consider how literary techniques have the capacity to both inform and grow out of historical contexts, how they shape and are shaped by the progress of knowledge. Finally, appreciate and consider the relationship that literature has to systems of medical and sociological inquiry in our world today.

General Education. This course provides general education credit for the following outcomes:

  1. Humanities.

  2. Writing.

  3. Grand Challenge.

All essays must meet the length requirement, or they will not be accepted. All papers must be formatted as follows:
• word-processed and submitted in hard copy
• stapled or otherwise securely fastened
• double-spaced
• submitted in Times New Roman, 12-point, black font, with 1” margins on all sides
formatted with your name, course number, assignment number, date, and essay title
Should you require an extension for a paper, it is expected that you will submit your request via email at least four days prior to the date on which the paper is due.
Attendance and Participation:
Students are expected to attend every class. Attendance in class is crucial, and five or more unexcused absences from class will automatically result in a mark of failure for the term. More than three unexcused absences will negatively affect your grade. Excused absences require a note from a doctor, academic advisor, government official, or athletic coach. Religious absences are the only excused absences that do not require a note (see below); in this case only, an email notifying me of your religious observance will suffice.

Assignments and In-Class Participation:
This class will require your active participation and a close attention to textual detail. Although there will be a lecturing component to this course, most of our class time will involve a seminar-style approach to close reading and analysis. In other words, you should expect to participate in all classroom discussions. You may be asked to read poetry aloud in class. (Please see the above section on “The Theme of this Course and Reading Poetry Aloud”.) You are expected to keep up with all of the assigned readings and to arrive to class ON TIME and prepared to participate in discussion. This also means that you must come to class with your text in hand!
You can expect frequent homework assignments designed to facilitate in-class discussion and to familiarize you with the techniques of close reading literary genres. Such assignments are designed to prepare you for your essay projects (i.e. essay #1 on poetic diction and your final paper) and may include: the OED assignment (a brief research assignment for analyzing historical etymology and diction), drafts of thesis paragraphs (followed by a 15-minute in-class workshop), and several “passage selection” assignments. Passage selection assignments ask you to type out a selected passage from the text we are reading and pose three questions (for in-class discussion) related to the form, diction, and structure of the passage.
In addition to these core writing assignments, this course includes an assignment series designed to familiarize you with the facets of poetic analysis. There are three components to this series: the rhyme assignment, the prosody/meter assignment, and your final poetic recitation. The first of these have both essay and exercise components to them. The last is essentially an oral performance and requires work in memorization.
Finally, you will be asked to write two response papers for this class. The first of these response papers will require you to view a lecture on “Reading Poetry Aloud”; the second is tied to a listening assignment on the same topic, using the Penn Sound Poetry Series. These response papers will ask you to consider the properties of literary performance and how reading poetry aloud is tied to neuroscientific philosophies of the embodied mind. I will prepare you for these response papers over the course of several preceding lectures and will distribute prompts for these response essays that ask you to address related course concepts.
All assignments will be explained in detail prior to their due date. Although this class will not require you to use sources outside of the primary texts assigned, you should familiarize yourself with the Oxford English Dictionary and use this as a constant resource when reading. The OED is available online to all students through the URI library interface. Please note that no technological devices are allowed in the classroom once class begins. Please turn off all laptops, cell phones, and other personal devices at the start of class.
Course Grades:
Class Participation 15% (includes attendance, discussion, and two response papers)

Essays & Assignment Sequence 85%

Grading, by the numbers:

87-89 B+ 77-79 C+ 67-69 D+

94-100 A 83-86 B 73-76 C 60-66 D 59 & below F

90-93 A- 80-82 B- 70-72 C-

Note: You are required to write a total of two analytical papers for this course. The first is a close reading paper and is significantly shorter in length than your final paper. Papers which are not handed in or which are handed in more than one week late without my permission for an extension will automatically receive a grade of F. In addition to these two major written assignments, there are a number of short graded assignments on: rhyme, prosody, and poetic recitation. This is a three-part assignment series that, collectively, amounts to the equivalent of one full paper grade. The average of the three assignments with constitute your grade for this assignment sequence. At the end of the term, I will calculate your final grade by averaging your two paper grades and your assignment sequence grade. You are responsible for completing and handing in all assignments in a timely fashion.

Accommodations for Special Needs (URI Statement)

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 require the University of Rhode Island to provide academic adjustments or the accommodations for students with documented disabilities. The student with a disability shall be responsible for self-identification to the Disability Services for Students in the Office of Student Life, providing appropriate documentation of disability, requesting accommodation in a timely manner, and follow-through regarding accommodations requested. It is the student’s responsibility to make arrangements for any special needs and the instructor’s responsibility to accommodate them with the assistance of the Office of Disability Services for Students.
Any student with a documented disability is welcome to contact me as early in the semester as possible so that we may arrange reasonable accommodations.  As part of this process, please be in touch with Disability Services for Students Office at 330 Memorial Union, 401-874-2098 (http://www.uri.edu/disability/dss/) or 239 Shepard Building, Feinstein Providence Campus, 401-277-5221.
Academic Honesty (URI Statement)

Students are expected to be honest in all academic work. A student’s name on any written work, quiz or exam shall be regarded as assurance that the work is the result of the student’s own independent thought and study. Work should be stated in the student’s own words, properly attributed to its source. Students have an obligation to know how to quote, paraphrase, summarize, cite and reference the work of others with integrity. The following are examples of academic dishonesty.

  • Using material, directly or paraphrasing, from published sources (print or electronic) without appropriate citation

  • Claiming disproportionate credit for work not done independently

  • Unauthorized possession or access to exams

  • Unauthorized communication during exams

  • Unauthorized use of another’s work or preparing work for another student

  • Taking an exam for another student

  • Altering or attempting to alter grades

  • The use of notes or electronic devices to gain an unauthorized advantage during exams

  • Fabricating or falsifying facts, data or references

  • Facilitating or aiding another’s academic dishonesty

  • Submitting the same paper or homework assignment for more than one course without prior approval from the instructors.

Please note that the charge of academic dishonesty will go on your record in the Office of Student Life. If you have any doubt about what constitutes plagiarism, visit the following website: http://gervaseprograms.georgetown.edu/hc/plagiarism.html, the URI Student Handbook, and UNIVERSITY MANUAL sections on Plagiarism and Cheating at http://www.uri.edu/facsen/8.20-8.27.html - cheating. Any good writer’s handbook as well as reputable online resources will offer help on matters of plagiarism and instruct you on how to acknowledge source material. If you need more help understanding when to cite something or how to indicate your references, PLEASE ASK.
Academic Enhancement Center (URI Statement)

This is a challenging course.  Success requires that you keep pace with the work, understand course concepts, and study effectively.  The Academic Enhancement Center (http://www.uri.edu/aec/) is a great place to do this.  At the AEC you can work alone or in groups, and tutors and professional learning specialists are available to help you to learn, manage your time and work, and study well.  All services are free (the coffee is free as well!), and no appointment is needed. You can call for complete information at 874-2367, check their website at http://www.uri.edu/aec, or just stop by the center on the fourth floor of Roosevelt Hall.  In Providence, the Academic Skills Center (ASC) is at 239 Shepard Building, (401) 277-5221.  Hours are posted each semester at http://www.uri.edu/prov/studentresources/help/academicskills.html. In addition, the Saturday Skills for Success program offers workshops and tutoring from 10 am -1 pm during fall and spring semesters.
The Writing Center (URI Statement)

The Writing Center is for all writers, all disciplines, at all levels, and all stages of writing. If an instructor suggests that you go to the Writing Center, it is not a punishment and does not mean that you are a terrible writer. It means the instructor wants you to receive more individualized attention to your writing than s/he is able to provide, given the constraints of the class. It will only improve your grade. If possible, call ahead for an appointment (874-4690). Drop-in tutorials are often available. You may make repeat appointments, requesting the same tutor each time if you wish. See their Web Page: http://www.uri.edu/artsci/writing/center/index.shtml for tips on how to make the best of your Writing Center visit.
Standards of Behavior (URI Statement)

Students are responsible for being familiar with and adhering to the published “Community Standards of Behavior: University Policies and Regulations,” which can be accessed in the University Student Handbook. If you must come in late, please do not disrupt the class. Please turn off all cell phones, pagers, or any electronic devices.
Religious Holidays

It is the policy of the University of Rhode Island to accord students, on an individual basis, the opportunity to observe their traditional religious holidays. Students desiring to observe a holiday of special importance must provide written notification to each instructor prior to a planned absence and make arrangements to make up missed work.

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