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


Staging the Family Drama

English 367.02 (07871-6): The U.S. Experience as Reflected in Literature

Spring 2001, M/W: 11:30 - 1:18 PM, Aviation Building 206


Instructor: Alex E. Blazer

Departmental Phone: 292-6065

Mailbox: 421 Denney Hall Office: 525 Denney Hall

Office Phone: 292-1790


Office Hours: M: 10-11:30;

     W: 1:30-3:00


Course Description

We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house!

—Biff in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman


This course will explore the conflicts and crises that constitute the drama of the American family.  What constitutes a family's dreams and desires? a family's delusions and disorders?  We'll examine the gender wars, the frictive parent-child relationship, sibling rivalries, and the compressed tension of the family unit entire.  As we read these plays, we'll develop critical thinking skills that will allow us to not only appreciate but also interrogate this literature and its various perspectives on the dynamic of the American family.  The goal is not merely to understand these writings' themes and theses, but rather to question them in order to know and define (and redefine?) ourselves.  To accomplish these important tasks, we must practice argumentation; we must learn to articulate ourselves in open class discussion, and—perhaps more importantly—in writing.  Groups of three or four will research and present critical debate on one of the plays.  Besides constant class participation, individuals will submit a short response paper to the course listserv discussion, keep a reading journal, and delve deeply into one work in a four-page paper.  In order to further one's studies and support one's own arguments' credibility, individuals will read and work with one piece of literature outside of the assigned plays.  In so doing, she will analyze and incorporate what others have written about that literary work—cursively in an annotated bibliography and fully in a research paper.


Course Materials


required (available at SBX)

Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

Miller, Death of a Salesman

O'Neill, Long Day's Journey into Night

Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

recommended (available at SBX and Main Library Reserves)

Roberts, Writing about Literature

reserved (at Main Library Reserves)

various books of criticism


Assignments and Grade Distribution


a reading journal, 15%

The first step in thinking about literature is getting your ideas down on paper.  Keep a journal for the class.  Ask questions.  Pose tentative interpretations.  Make comparisons and contrasts among plays, with other things you've read, or with personal experience.  By the end of the class, you should have 10 entries of 250 word minimum written on each of the 5 assigned plays, 1 reinvestigation into a play after class discussion, 2 critical articles from Main Library reserves, and 2 outside works (plays, movies, television shows—but they must be dramas).  Journals will be collected periodically, so bring them to class everyday.  More instructions to come.

a listserve response (email, 250 words), 5%

The first step in writing formally about literature is to think critically about what you've just read. To that end, sign up to write one paper which responds to a particular play.  Instead of summarizing the plot, these semi-formal papers should 1) report theses, issues, and contexts of the work, 2) respond critically to the work, and 3) ask two questions or identify two issues for class discussion.  Those for Monday's discussion must be submitted to the course listserv <> by noon Saturday, those for Wednesday's by noon Monday.  You must submit your response from the email address that you receive listserv messages as the listserv prohibits posts from off-list addresses.  If you want to post and receive the list at additional or alternate addresses, please inform me as soon as possible.

a four-page paper (typed, double-spaced, 1000 words), 20%

The next step in writing about literature is developing a sustained and supportable interpretation.  Drawing from class discussions and your initial response to the text as well as quoting the text itself to support your argument, in this paper you should develop a critical understanding of either Long Day's Journey into Night or Death of a Salesman by either 1) interpreting a character, image, setting, symbol, or theme within one of the plays work or 2) comparing/contrasting one such element between the two plays.  More instructions to come.

a group presentation, 10%

The next step in thinking and writing about literature is looking at what critics have said.  Groups of four or five students will compile a bibliography of available books (at least 10), journal articles (at least 5), and websites (at least 2) on one of our assigned plays as well as present to the class the critical debate regarding that play (for instance, how one camp of critics reads a certain character versus how another camp reads her).  Groups must meet briefly with me at least two weeks prior to their presentation to discuss specifics of the assignment and organize a plan.

a preliminary bibliography (20 sources), ungraded

You've read five assigned plays; you've read and heard about what the critics have said about those plays.  Now, find a play you've not read for this class that you wish to analyze and research.  It could be another play by one of the author's we've read.  It could be a play about a family, or it could be a drama, it could be both; however, it must be one or the other, broadly defined and approved by me.  You'll use the analytical and research skills learned in class to interpret this outside text.  However, you must first determine if there are sufficient secondary sources to warrant a research paper.  Thus, the preliminary bibliography is a list of approximately 20 critical sources (sorry, no web sources) that might be helpful in your research paper. If your search strategy can't find 20 secondary sources on your play and topic, we should work together to find more or determine an appropriate play and topic for your research paper.

an annotated bibliography (10 sources plus other information), 10%

The next step in the research process is reading of the secondary sources.  From the preliminary bibliography (and the bibliographies of the secondary sources you've found), compile and evaluate the 10 most valuable sources for your research (sorry, no web sources).  Annotations should summarize theses or controlling ideas and evaluate the validity of the text's argument.  See Annotated Bibliography Assignment and Format for more instructions.

an eight-page final research paper (typed, double-spaced, 2000 words), 30%

The final step is, of course, the research paper itself.  The paper should either Your paper's first and foremost priority is constructing your argumentative interpretation of the text or issue, and in order to do that you need to not only use the play itself, but also incorporate and quote at least 4-5 secondary sources.  More instructions to come.

peer response, 10%

This grade is determined by the peer responses for first drafts of the explanatory annotation paper and the research paper.  Peer responses of approximately 200 words should be critical yet sensitive in their evaluation of the form (thesis, support, style, voice, organization) and content (thesis, argument, use of evidence) of their peers' first drafts.  See Peer Response Papers for particular questions to address.


Course Policies


Class Participation

The best way to learn how to argue and how to analyze is by learning from others and practicing yourself.  You'll be practicing in writing, of course; however, to learn from others, you must hear their voices.  To that end, we all must raise questions and respond to issues.  There are no stupid questions; no voice is invalid. This is your class and for you to get the most from it, we all must participate.

Drafting and Revision

We'll be completing at least two drafts of the two major papers.  The first will be responded to by your peers and I; the second will receive a grade.  You may do a third draft of Paper 1 for a chance to improve your grade if and only if you meet with me to discuss revision strategies.  Each draft of Paper 1 and the Research Paper must be turned in on time and meet the word limit, otherwise the final grade on the paper will be reduced one-letter grade for each day any and all of the drafts are turned in late as well as one-letter grade for any and all drafts that do not meet the word limit.  Also, if you fail to give your peers their response on the day they're due, your final draft of that paper will be penalized one letter grade.


Come to class on time.  Any unexcused absence beyond two will reduce your final grade by one letter for each day.  Five unexcused absences mandates your failure of the course.  Bring valid written excuses in writing within one week of your return or the excuse will be considered invalid. Two tardies count as an absence; arriving more than 15 minutes late or leaving more than 15 minutes early counts as an absence.


After you receive your grade on the second draft of the first paper, we will have an individual conference to talk about your work.  Attendance will be mandatory and the attendance policy will be in effect.  Though no more individual conferences are required, I encourage you to see me during my office hours or by appointment to talk about your progress in the course.

Late Assignments

Turn in all assignments on time.  There will be a one letter grade deduction per day (24 hours, not class period) for all assignments (journal collection, listserv response, peer responses, drafts of the 4-page paper, the annotated bibliography, drafts of the research paper) that are turned in late. If your peers don't receive their responses from you on the day they're due and you don't provide a valid excuse, your final draft of that paper will be penalized one letter grade. An extension may be given if absolutely necessary and warranted.


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.


The Ombud is a resource for students and teachers of English 110 and 367.  If you have any concerns about the course but feel you cannot speak with me, please feel free to consult with the Ombud.  All conversations are confidential.

Ombud: Keith Manecke Office: Denney Hall 363
Office Hours: M 12-4, T 8-1,  Office Phone: 292-5778
      W 8-11, F 9-1, and by appt. Email:

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).

Writing Center

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 M/W 8:30-5:30, T/R 8:30-7:30, and F 8:30-1:30.

Online Resources

The following websites have information and handouts valuable for students of first-year writing in a computer section: Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing, Computers in Composition and Literature, and Modern Language Association

Student Work

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.


Course Schedule


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


Week 1

Introductions; Syllabus Concerns

Writing Topic: Effective Reading Strategies

Strategies for Reading and Writing


O'Neill, Long Day's Journey into Night (read Act One only)

Writing Topic: Reading and Responding to Literature

Roberts, Chs1-2 (9th ed.: "Preliminary", "Responding")

Week 2

O'Neill, Long Day's Journey into Night

Writing Topic: Writing about Character, Setting, and Plot

Roberts, Chs 3-5 (9th ed.: "Character," "Setting," "Plot")


O'Neil criticism (see Criticism for your required reading)

Writing Topic: Evaluating Secondary Sources

Writing Topic: Writing about Imagery and Symbolism

Roberts, Chs 8 and 10 (9th ed.: "Imagery," "Symbolism")

Week 3

Miller, Death of a Salesman

Writing Topic: Writing an Interpretive Analysis

Writing Topic: Writing about Theme

Roberts, Chs 7 and 13 (9th ed.: "Theme," "Comparison")


Miller group presentation

Writing Topic: Using Quotations

Roberts, Appendix B (9th ed.: "Quotations")

Formal Paper Format

Week 4

Miller, concluded

Writing Topic: Writing a Peer Response Paper

Peer Response Questions

Paper 1, Draft 1 Due


Writing Topic: Peer Response Discussions

Peer Response Papers Due

Week 5

Film: Long Day's Journey into Night

Paper 1, Draft 2 Due


Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

Writing Topic: Writing about Acting and Film

Roberts, Ch 16 (9th ed.: "Film")

Week 6

Hansberry group presentation

Writing Topic: Writing a Close Reading

Roberts, Ch15 (9th ed.: "Close Reading")

Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Week 7

Writing Topic: Online Research

CCL On-Line Resources

meet in Denney Hall 312


Williams group presentation

Writing Topic: Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography

Preliminary Bibliography Due
Week 8

Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Writing Topic: Writing a Research Paper

Works Cited


Albee group presentation

Writing Topic: Using Secondary Sources

CSTW MLA Documentation Style: References

CSTW MLA Documentation Style: In-Text Citations

CSTW MLA Style Quoting

CSTW Mechanics of Quoting

Annotated Bibliography Due

Week 9

Albee concluded

Writing Topic: Writing a Research Paper, continued


Film: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

meet in Lord Hall 19

Research Paper, Draft 1 Due

No Class (Memorial Day)

Conclusions, Evaluations

Peer Response Due

Reseach Paper, Draft 2 Due by 5 PM