Dr. Alex E. Blazer Course Site Assignments Description
Materials Assignments Policies Schedule


Existential Literature

English 310-75: Writing about Literature

Spring 2005, MW 5:30-6:45PM, Bingham Humanities Bldg LL 15


Professor: Alex E. Blazer Office: Bingham Humanities Bldg 335A
Mailbox: Bingham Humanities Bldg 315 Office Hours: MW 3:30-5:00PM
Email: alex.blazer@louisville.edu Office Phone: 852-2185
Web: www.louisville.edu/~a0blaz01/ Departmental Phone: 852-6801


Course Description


My thought is me: that’s why I can’t stop. I exist because I think . . . and I can’t stop myself from thinking. At this very moment—it’s frightful—if I exist, it is because I am horrified at existing. I am the one who pulls myself from the nothingness to which I aspire: the hatred, the disgust of existing, there are as many ways to make myself exist, to thrust myself into existence.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea


What is literature, what is existence, and how does literature help us to define the parameters of our being in the world? In this course, we will learn how to critically write about literature by analytically reading existentialist literature. We will engage the six major genres of literaturepoetry, short story, novel, drama, film, and television in order to see how the techniques of literaturesuch as characterization, setting, plot, and point of viewcan be interpreted to reveal the core conflicts and truth of the self. We will answer study questions to prepare us to write three formal papers, which will dig deeper into each work; and we'll do a group project in which we teach the rest of the class a new work of literature. Note that this course fulfills a General Education Writing (WR) requirement and is graded on a plus and minus letter grade scale.


Course Materials


required (UofL Bookstore)

Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 6th ed.

Roberts, Writing about Literature, 10th ed.

Sartre, Nausea

required (online)

course packet and articles


Assignments and Grade Distribution


informal writing, 20%

Informal writing is comprised of 1) responses to the reading and 2) responses to the first drafts of your peers' papers. 1) Approximately once per text, in class or out of class, you will write short, informal responses to a work of literature in order to practice writing about literature and work toward writing fully developed, interpretive papers. 2) Groups of 3-4 will respond to their peers' first drafts for revision.

paper 1, 10%

In the first paper of 500-750 words or 2-3 pages, you will rigorously analyze a key passage of a literary work, for example, how it highlights the core conflicts and themes of the text.

paper 2, 20%

In the second paper of 1000-1250 words or 4-5 pages, you will discuss a point of debate in interpretation of a work of literature and then argue your reading of the work.

paper 3, 30%

In the final research paper of 1500-2000 words or 6-8 pages, you will interpret a literary work of your choice, using 3-4 works of scholarly criticism to support your analysis.

group project, 20%

4 groups of 4-5 members will analyze, research, and then teach the class a work of literature of their choice via both audiovisual presentation and website. Among the 4 groups, each genre will be covered (poetry, drama, prose, film).


Course Policies


Class Participation

We're going to be working with challenging works of literature; therefore, we'll all benefit from sharing our questions and ideas. A bit of an internet addict myself, I recognize that the computers can be quite tempting; however, refrain from using them during class lecture and discussion. Finally, if I feel that the majority of the class isn't participating because they're not keeping up with the reading, I will give a pop quiz, which will factor into your informal writing grade.

Office Hours and Instructor Email

I encourage you to stop by my office hours to discuss any aspect of the course, literature, or life. I'm happy to answer small questions such as due dates over email, but I prefer face-to-face conversations for more substantive topics like papers and exams. I don't regularly check my university email on weekends, and I do not use Blackboard's messages feature.

Blackboard and University Email

We will be using Blackboard and Netmail for class communication and assignments. Have your university email forwarded to your private email or vice versa. You can review the Blackboard student manual and student login instructions for Blackboard and Netmail at Blackboard @ UofL as well as my Blackboard Basics.


There will be a one letter final grade deduction for every absence beyond four days. Therefore, missing five class periods will result in a one letter final grade deduction and missing eight classes will result in automatic failure of the course. Habitual tardies and leaving class early will be treated as absences.

Late Assignments

There will be a one letter assignment grade deduction per day, not class period, for any assignment that is turned in late. Failing to turn in an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade within five days, not class periods, of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course.


Don't do it. Using someone else's words, ideas, or work without proper citation and representing it as your own is the most serious of academic offenses. See the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, Sections 5 and 6 on page 17 of the 2004-2006 Undergraduate Catalog for further information. Proven plagiarism can result in a failing grade for the assignment or the course and will be reported to the College of Arts & Sciences for further action, which can include notice in the permanent record, dismissal, or expulsion.

Failure of the Course

There are three ways to fail the course: 1) failing to regularly attend class, 2) plagiarizing, 3) failing an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade, be it from poor quality, lateness of submission, or a combination of poor quality and lateness.

Disabilities Resource Center

If you have any specific needs or concerns, please feel free to discuss the issue with me outside of class. Contact the Disabilities Resource Center (Robbins Hall, 852-6938) for information and auxiliary aid.

Writing Center

The Writing Center (Ekstrom Library, Room 312, 852-2173) provides drop-in assistance for planning, drafting, revising, and editing papers.


Course Schedule


This schedule is subject to change, so listen in class and check online for possible revisions.


Week 1
M, 1-10


Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (online)

Rilke, "The Archaic Torso of Apollo" (online)

W, 1-12

Kafka, "A Hunger Artist" (online)

Sartre, "What Is Literature?" (online)

Roberts, Ch1 (preliminary)

Informal Writing 1 Due

Week 2
M, 1-17

No Class: Martin Luther King Day

W, 1-19

Carter, "Flesh and the Mirror" (online)

Roberts, Ch4 (character)

Woolf, "A Method for Teaching Invention" (online, 401-13 only)

Guest Lecturer: Alanna Frost, "Special Topoi"

Informal Writing 2 Due

Week 3
M, 1-24

Sartre, Nausea

Roberts, Ch7 (setting)

In Class Activity: Antoine Roquentin: Character, Setting, Conflict

W, 1-26

Sartre, continued

Roberts, Ch8 (idea and theme)

Informal Writing 3 Due

Week 4
M, 1-31

Sartre, criticism (online)

Paper 1 Prompt

Informal Writing 4 Due

W, 2-2

Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Roberts, Ch5 (point of view)

Informal Writing 5 Due

Week 5
M, 2-7

Beckett, Act without Words (online)

Roberts, Ch6 (plot and structure)

In Class Activity: MLA Style

W, 2-9

Beckett, criticism (online)

In Class Activity: Annotating Scholarly Criticism

Week 6

M, 2-14

Rilke, Duino Elegies (online)

Roberts, Ch10 (symbolism and allusions)

Paper 1, Draft 1 Due

W, 2-16

Rilke, criticism (online)

Roberts, Ch9 (metaphors and similes)

Week 7
M, 2-21

group project signup

Paper 1 Peer Response Due

W, 2-23

Graham, Region of Unlikeness (online)

[focus on "Fission," "From the New World," "History," "Chaos," "The Marriage," "Holy Shroud," "Spring," "What Is Called Thinking"]

Roberts, Ch11 (tone)

group projects assigned

Informal Writing 6 Due

Week 8
M, 2-28

Graham, continued

Roberts, Ch13 (poetic form)

Paper 1, Draft 2 Due

W, 3-2

film screening: Being John Malkovich (Dir. by Spike Jonze)

Roberts, Ch16 (film)

Week 9
M, 3-7

film screening: Being John Malkovich

Paper 2 Prompt

W, 3-9

film discussion

Informal Writing 7 Due

In Class Activity: Composing Theses

Week 10
M, 3-14

No Class: Spring Break

W, 3-16

No Class: Spring Break

Week 11
M, 3-21

television screening: Six Feet Under, "Pilot"

Roberts, Ch18 (research essay)

Literary Research Methods

W, 3-23

Six Feet Under, discussion

Paper 2, Draft 1 Due

Week 12
M, 3-28

Paper 3 Prompt

Paper 2 Peer Response Due

W, 3-30

Microsoft Powerpoint Tutorial

Week 13
M, 4-4

Individual Conferences for Paper 3

Lab Time for Group Projects

Paper 2, Draft 2 Due

Paper 3 Thesis/Sources Due

W, 4-6

Individual Conferences for Paper 3

Lab Time for Group Projects

Week 14
M, 4-11
No Class: Work on Group Projects
W, 4-13
Lab Time for Group Projects
Week 15
M, 4-18

Group Presentations


Bergman, Through a Glass Darkly

***Room Change: Bingham Humanties Bldg 217

W, 4-20

Group Presentations

Wright, Native Son

Miller, Death of a Salesman

M, 4-25
No Class: Reading Day
W, 4-27

Paper 3 Due by 5:30PM