Reading, Writing, and Repression
English 261S (07975-5) Introduction to Fiction
Spring 2003, Saturday 8:30-12:18PM, Denney 250
When the soul of a man is born in this country there are
nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality,
language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.
—James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist
as a Young Man
Why do we write fiction? Why do we read fiction? What does fiction do for us, and what does it do to us? This introduction to fiction course
will look at fiction through the lens of repression—what repressed emotions writing affords us to express and what repressed emotions reading affords us to know. We'll examine how fiction takes its writer, its characters,
and its readers on a journey in search of often evaded and denied psychological
truths. From Barton Fink's writer's block to Textermination's readers'
block, from Ambroses becoming lost in the funhouse of his own making ("Lost
in the Funhouse") to Emma's descent into poetry ("Emma Enters a Sentence
of Elizabeth Bishop's"), from the portrait of the writer (A Portrait
of the Artist as a Young Man) to the portrait of the reader (If on a
Winter's Night, A Traveler), we'll analyze how reading and writing
fiction engages our core conflicts, sometimes repressing them, but sometimes
letting them return so we can traverse them. We'll investigate how the key elements
of fiction—character, plot, setting, and point of view—operate to bare the
underlying existential realities of the story and we, the story's readers.
We'll use the course listserv to prepare for class discussion; we'll take essay
exams to make connections between the texts; we'll prepare an annotated bibliography
that allows us to research a story and see how other scholars are reading it;
and we'll write a term paper to deepen our analysis of a particular work of
Brooke-Rose, Christine, Textermination (available
Calvino, Italo: If on a Winter's Night, a Traveler (available at SBX)
Joyce, James, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young
Man (available at SBX)
Sartre, Jean-Paul, Nausea (available at SBX)
course packet (available online)
handouts and resources linked from the course website
recommended (available at SBX and Main Library Reserves)
Roberts, Edgar V., Writing about Literature,
Assignments and Grade Distribution
listservice response, 5%
To prepare yourself and the rest of the class for
class discussion, at one point in the quarter you'll respond to a work of fiction
via the course listservice <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
More instructions here: Listserv Response Sign-Up.
midterm exam, 25%
In a take-home exam, we'll answer two or three essay
questions which compel us to analyze the works of fiction through the lens of
particular elements of fiction as well as make connections among the texts we've
final exam, 30%
Same format as midterm, but taken in-class and cumulative.
annotated bibliography, 10%
To broaden our ways of reading fiction beyond just
the methods taught in this class, we'll research and summarize scholarly criticism
on a work of literature. This assignment may be used in conjunction with the
final paper, 30%
Using some scholarly research to support our analysis,
the final paper should extend and develop a conversation regarding an assigned
text, compare and contrast two works based upon issues broached in class discussion,
or interpret a work of literature outside of our reading list (subject to my
Office Hours and 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 paper ideas.
We're going to be working with challenging stories.
We'll all benefit from sharing our questions and ideas. The listserv is the
first step but only a first step; let's continue those discussions in class.
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 be factored
into the journal grade.
As we only have a precious ten class meetings, there
will be a one-letter final grade deduction per class period for all unexcused
absences beyond one. Arriving to class late constitutes a tardy; two
tardies count as an absence. Arriving to class more than 15 minutes late
or leaving more than 15 minutes early constitutes an absence. Athletic
competition, jury duty, illness, and so forth will be excused provided that
you bring an official note within one week of your return to class.
There will be a one-letter grade deduction per day
(not class period) for any assignment that is turned in late.
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. All cases of suspected plagiarism will be
reported to the Committee on Academic Misconduct.
Office of Disability Services
If you have any specific needs or concerns, please
feel free to discuss the issue with me during office hours. Students with
disabilities who need accommodations should be registered at the Office for
Disability Services (292-3307).
The staff of the Writing Center serve as readers
and responders to writing for English 110, English 367 and other university
disciplines. Besides giving feedback, these English graduate students
can help with other writing issues such as topic development, organization,
coherence, clarity, and self-editing. To make an appointment, call 292-5607
or stop by 485 Mendenhall Labs.
On the Monday after finals week, I will have your
final papers ready for you to pick up. Make arrangements with me to retrieve
your work, or I will discard it after two quarters.
This schedule is subject to change, so listen in class and check online for possible revisions.
Before reading a story or novel, read the author's critical biography
Authors as well as the preliminary questions provided in the
For each focus on fiction, it is recommended that
you read the corresponding chapter in the Roberts text.
| Week 1
Kafka, "The Judgment" (course packet)
Film, Barton Fink (Directed by Joel Coen)
Focus on Fiction: Conflict
Recommended Reading: Kafka, Letter to His Father (course
| Week 2
Joyce, A Portrait of the
Artist as a Young Man
Focus on Fiction: Character and Setting
| Week 3
Barth, "Lost in the Funhouse" (course packet)
Gass, "In the Heart of
the Heart of the Country" (course
Focus on Fiction: Imagery and Symbolism
| Week 4
Focus on Fiction: Plot and Structure
Bishop and Moore poems (course
Gass, "Emma Enters a Sentence
of Elizabeth Bishop's" (course
Poe, "The Purloined Letter" (course packet)
Focus on Fiction: Point of View and Tone
||Take-Home Midterm Exam Due Monday
| Week 6
Calvino, If on a Winter's
Night, a Traveler (Reading
Focus on Fiction: Theme
Annotated Bibliography and Final Paper
Online Research Methods in the
| Week 7
Baudelaire, Graham, and Rilke poems (course
Borges, "The Library of
in Litteris" (course
Lab Time for Preliminary Bibliography
Preliminary Bibliography Due
| Week 8
Film, The Neverending
Lab Time for Annotated Bibliography
Final Paper Conferencing
| Week 9
Brooke-Rose, Textermination (Allusion Assignment)
Final Exam Review
Final Paper Conferencing
Annotated Bibliography Due
| Week 10
In-Class Final Exam
||Final Paper Due Wednesday