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


"Everything's Blue in This World"

Liberal Studies 314: Life Journey, Fall 2007

Section 02: MWF 10:00-10:50AM, 1125 Mackinac Hall

Section 05: MWF 2:00-2:50PM, 1116 AuSable Hall


Professor: Alex E. Blazer Phone: 331-3373
Office and Mailbox: 123 Lake Huron Hall Email: blazera@gvsu.edu

Office Hours: M 11:00-11:50AM and

F 11:00-12:50

Web: http://faculty.gvsu.edu/blazera/


Course Description


Warhol, Suicide, 1964 and Woodman, Boulder, Colorado, 1972-1975


How happy I am to have come away!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther


The broad goal of this course is to engage the perspectives of the humanities on life development from childhood to old age as found in literature, philosophy, art, film, and music. Be prepared, for this class does not engage in any affirmations of new spirituality. Instead, this section will specifically explore short-circuited journeys, lives that mature to negation—suicide. We will look at not only one's anguished inwardness and the conflicts of being in the world but also the psychology of the culture that affects suicide. We will analyze what suicide means to the person who commits it and what it says to her culture, to us. We will commence and conclude our study with the most enigmatic of suicides, the brick wall reveries of Herman Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener and the fatally infatuated gaze of Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides. In between we will study the literary conceptions of suicide in A. Alvarez's The Savage God, the violent, absurd, and existential philosophy of suicide in Antonin Artaud, Albert Camus, and Maurice Blanchot; the Romantic passion of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther and Kate Chopin's The Awakening, and the tragic schizophrenic self-sacrifice of Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko, among other things. Because our subject is so serious, I expect you to read and study the material with rigor, attend and participate in class regularly, turn assignments in on time, and approach assignments with intellectual curiosity, educational investment, and academic honesty. Assignments include weekly quizzes, a discussion board response, a short paper, a comparison/contrast paper with research, and a take-home exam. This course fulfills a Supplemental Writing Skills (SWS) requirement and is part of the Human Journey theme.


Course Materials


required (GVSU Bookstore or Amazon.com )

Alvarez, The Savage God: A Study of Suicide

Chopin, The Awakening

Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther

Norman, 'night Mother

Salinger, Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenter and Seymour: An Introduction

required (online)

course packet and articles

recommended (GVSU Bookstore or Amazon.com)

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


Assignments and Grade Distribution


discussion board response and informal presentation, 5%

In 2-3 pages, you will respond to one of the texts by discussing idea and theme on Blackboard, and on the day the work will be discussed you will informally present your response and raise issues for class discussion.

quizzes, 15%

In order to make sure that you are keeping up with the course reading and that you are prepared for class discussion, quizzes will be given approximately one quiz per week. Although you will not be able to make up a missed quiz, your lowest quiz grade will be dropped.

short paper, 20%

In the first paper of 4-5 pages, you will affirm and interrogate the worldview of a single text.

comparison/contrast paper, 30%

In the second paper of 6-8 pages, you will compare and contrast two works while using outside research sources to support your analysis.

take-home exam, 30%

You will put the class into perspective by writing two essays that analyze a new text and contemplate what you have learned.


Course Policies


Class Preparation and Participation

I expect you to come to class having read, annotated, and reviewed the assigned reading. Moreover, you should prepare at least two comments and two questions. We're going to be working with challenging works of literature; therefore, we'll all benefit from sharing our ideas and questions. If I feel that you're not participating because you're not keeping up with the reading, I will give a pop quiz.

Office Hours and Professor 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 minor questions such as due dates over email, but I prefer face-to-face conversations for more substantive topics like papers and exams. Please use email etiquette.

Blackboard and Student Email

We will be using Blackboard for assignments and Netmail for class communication. It is your responsibility to update your passwords so you can use Blackboard and check your email for possible course related messages. I suggest that you forward your university email to your private email account (or vice versa) and review both my Blackboard Basics and IT's Blackboard Help.


There will be a one letter final grade deduction for every absence beyond six days. Therefore, missing seven class periods will result in a one letter final grade deduction and missing ten classes will result in automatic failure of the course. I do not excuse any class missed beyond the six days, even if you are ill or participating in extracurricular activities. Therefore, I suggest you use your six days both cautiously and wisely; and make sure you sign the attendance sheets. Habitual tardies or consistently leaving class early will be treated as absences. You can check your attendance online by looking for your course number and the last four digits of your student identification number.

MLA Style

Formal assignments should adhere to the Modern Language Association (MLA) style. Formal papers and take-home exams require MLA style while in-class exams, discussion board responses, informal writing, and peer review may be informally formatted. One-third of a letter grade will be deducted from a formal paper or take-home exam for problems in each of the following four categories: 1) header, heading, and title, 2) margins, font, and line-spacing, and 3) quotation and citation format. Before you turn in a formal paper, make sure your work follows MLA style by using the checklist on the MLA style handout.

Late Assignments

There will be a one letter assignment grade deduction per day (not class period) for any assignment that is turned in late. I sparingly give short extensions if you request one for a valid need; however you must make the request at least one day before the assignment is due. I will inform you via email if I cannot open an electronically submitted assignment; however, your assignment will be considered late until you submit it in a file I can open. I neither read nor grade assignments that are turned in more than five days late for whatever reason, be it extension or computer error. Failing to submit (or resubmit) 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. Failing to submit (or resubmit) a final exam or final paper within two days of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course.


Do not do it. Section 223.01 of the Student Code states: "Any ideas or material taken from another source for either written or oral presentation must be fully acknowledged. Offering the work of someone else as one's own is plagiarism. The language or ideas taken from another may range from isolated formulas, sentences, or paragraphs to entire articles copied from books, periodicals, speeches or the writings of other students. The offering of materials assembled or collected by others in the form of projects or collections without acknowledgment also is considered plagiarism. Any student who fails to give credit in written or oral work for the ideas or materials that have been taken from another is guilty of plagiarism." As a general rule, I fail plagiarized assignments, and so plagiarists usually fail the course as well.

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.


The deadline withdrawing from a class is Friday, October 19 at 5:00PM.

Disabilities Support Center

If there is any student in this class who has special needs because of a learning, physical, or other ability, please contact me and Disabilities Support Services (DSS) at 616-331-2490. Furthermore, if you have a disability and think you will need assistance evacuating this classroom and/or building in an emergency situation, please make me aware so I can develop a plan to assist you.

Center for Writing

The Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors provides appointment, walk-in, and instant messenger assistance for planning, drafting, revising, and editing papers.

Supplemental Writing Skills

This course is designated SWS. Completion of WRT 150 with a grade of C or better (not C-) is a prerequisite. SWS credit will not be given to a student who completes this course before completing the prerequisite. SWS courses adhere to certain guidelines. Students turn in a total of at least 3000 words of writing. Part of that total may be essay exams, but a substantial amount of it is made up of essays, reports, or research papers. The instructor works with the students on revising drafts of papers, rather than simply grading the finished piece of writing. At least four hours of class time will be devoted to writing instruction. At least one third of the final grade in the course is based on the writing assignments.


Course Schedule


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


Week 1
M, 8-27


Szymborska, "The Suicide's Room" (online)

W, 8-29

Melville, "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (online)

F, 8-31

Suicide (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) (online)

In Class Activity: The Philosophy of Suicide and Melville's Bartleby

Week 2
M, 9-3

No Class: Labor Day Recess

W, 9-5

Alvarez, The Savage God (11-94)

F, 9-7

Alvarez, The Savage God (95-162)

In Class Activity: Background, Fallacies, Theories, Feelings

Week 3
M, 9-10

Alvarez, The Savage God (163-308; note: although you should read the entire selection, we will only focus on 223-286)

Short Paper Prompt

W, 9-12

Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther

F, 9-14
Goethe, continued
Week 4
M, 9-17

Goethe, continued

MLA Style

Developing a Thesis Statement (Dartmouth Writing Program)

W, 9-19

Chopin, The Awakening

F, 9-21
Chopin, continued
Week 5
M, 9-24

Chopin, continued

Artaud, "Van Gogh, Man Suicided by Society" (online)

"Is Suicide a Solution?" (online)

from "Art and Death" (online)

W, 9-26

Camus, "An Absurd Reasoning" (online)

Camus Assignment Due

F, 9-28

Camus, continued

Mandatory Short Paper Draft 1 Due

Week 6

M, 10-1

Plath, selected poems (online)

W, 10-3

Plath, continued

F, 10-5

Plath, continued

Blanchot, "The Work and Death's Space" (online)

"Literature and the Right to Death" (online)

Blanchot Assignment Due

Week 7
M, 10-8

Screening: Donnie Darko (113 minutes or 133 director's cut)

Roundtable Song Due

W, 10-10

Screening: Donnie Darko

F, 10-12

Screening: Donnie Darko

Short Paper Draft 2 Due (Optional)

Week 8
M, 10-15

Donnie Darko discussion

W, 10-17

Donnie Darko, continued

F, 10-19

Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral (lyrics) (ARES)

Nine Inch Nails, criticism (online)

Week 9
M, 10-22

Roundtable on Songs about Suicide (lyrics) (ARES)

W, 10-24

Salinger, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" (online)

F, 10-26

Salinger, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters

Comparison/Contrast Paper Prompt

Week 10
M, 10-29

Salinger, Seymour: An Introduction

W, 10-31

Salinger, "Hapworth 16, 1924" (online)

F, 11-2
No Class: Professor at Conference
Week 11
M, 11-5
No Class: Professor at Conference
W, 11-7

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

Yeats, "The Circus Animals' Desertion," "When You Are Old," and "Sailing to Byzantium" (online)

Research Methods

F, 11-9

poetry, continued

Week 12
M, 11-12

Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (online)

Comparison/Contrast Paper Thesis and Sources Due

Working Thesis Activity

W, 11-14

Hemingway, continued

MLA Style: The Works Cited Page

F, 11-16

Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf (online)

Week 13
M, 11-19

Shange, concluded

Comparison/Contrast Paper Draft 1 Due

W, 11-21

No Class: Thanksgiving Recess

F, 11-23

No Class: Thanksgiving Recess

Week 14
M, 11-26

Film Screening: Groundhog Day

Exam Prompt

W, 11-28
Film Screening, continued
F, 11-30
Groundhog Day, discussion
Week 15
M, 12-3

Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

Comparison/Contrast Paper Draft 2 Due (Optional)

W, 12-5
Eugenides, continued
F, 12-7

M, 12-10

Take-Home Exam Due at 3:50PM for Section 5 (MWF 2:00PM)

T, 12-11

Take-Home Exam Due at 1:50PM for Section 2 (MWF 10:00AM)