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


Identity Crises

English 261C (07749-8): Introduction to Fiction

Spring 2000, T/R: 3:30 - 5:18 P.M., Denney Hall 312


Instructor: Alex E. Blazer Office: 525 Denney Hall
Mailbox: 421 Denney Hall Office Hours: T/R: 2:00-3:18
Email: Office Phone: 292-1790
Web: Departmental Phone: 292-6065


Course Description


But now I am full of doubt.  Nothing is left to me but doubt.  I am doubt itself.  Who is speaking me?  Am I a phantom too?  To what order do I belong?  And you: who are you?

—J. M. Coetzee, Foe


This introduction to fiction course will focus on the prime motivator of all fiction—if not all literature—conflict.  More specifically, we'll look at internal conflicts, or the crises of identity, that are brought about through confrontations with oneself, other individuals, society, or the world itself.  From gender conflicts in Virginia Woolf's Orlando, racial issues in Richard Wright's Native Son, and cultural disparities in Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior to metaphsyical anxiety in Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," psychological questions in Charlotte Gilman Perkins' "The Yellow Wall-Paper," and all of the above in J. M. Coetzee's Foe, we'll examine the range of issues that force us to question our very being.  For our final reading, we as a class will vote on a novel relevant to a computer section—the cyperspace angst of William Gibson's Neuromancer, the ontological questions of Philip K. Dick's cyborg thriller Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep?,or the spiritual anti-trust polemic of Douglas Coupland's ode to Bill Gates, Microserfs.  As we explore these existential themes, we'll investigate other elements of fiction—character, plot, setting, point of view—as they relate to conflict.  Finally, we'll use the computers, or more specifically the world wide web, to help us in our studies.  Aside from constructing a rudimentary web page resource of our own in an annotated bibliography, we'll learn to use search engines and literary databases, compare on-line primary texts and secondary works of criticism with printed editions and sources.


Course Materials



Coetzee, J. M.: Foe (SBX)

Hawthorne, Nathaniel: "Young Goodman Brown" (Main Library Reserves or Eldritch Press)

Kafka, Franz: "The Metamorphosis" (Main Library Reserves or The Kafka Project)

Kingston, Maxine Hong: The Woman Warrior (SBX)

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins: "The Yellow Wall-Paper" (Project Gutenberg)

Salinger, J. D.: "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" (Main Library Reserves)

Sartre, Jean-Paul: "The Wall" (Main Library Reserves)

Woolf, Virginia: Orlando (SBX)

Wright, Richard: Native Son (SBX)

class will vote on final reading from these novels: Coupland, Douglas: Microserfs

Dick, Philip K.: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Gibson, William: Neuromancer (class choice)


Assignments and Grade Distribution


2 web-based discussion responses, 10%

Sign up for two semi-formal papers of 250 words each. One will be on literature (primary text) and should be more focused, developed, and reader friendly than a journal entry. It should analyze and discuss characters, setting, symbols or other significant components and passages in order to come to an interpretation of the work. It should respond critically to the work and ask two questions or identify two issues for class discussion. The other will be on criticism (secondary text). You should find and evaluate a web site (fan or scholarly) and a print source (scholarly journal article or book chapter). Analyze and discuss theses, issues, key terms, and lines of argument of the critical piece. Respond critically to the work and ask two questions or identify two issues for class discussion. Because your peers and I need time to check the web, papers/abstracts for Tuesday's class must be submitted to the course web-based discussion page by noon Sunday, those for Thursday's by noon Tuesday. For further information, see Guidelines for Reading and Writing.

a journal, 30%

Though not formal, these typed, single-spaced entries should at once explore and analyze thetext as well as develop your feelings toward and thoughts of the work of literature. At least 10 journal entries on 5 different works; of these 2 entries per work, 1 entry on your intitial response and interpretation of the text and 1 entry after class discussion that revisits first impressions and discusses new thoughts and feelings and interpretations. At least 5 guided journal entries that focus on a particular literary element in a particular text and how that element informs the identity crisis. Those writing a final paper on an outside work may substitute 2 of the 15 journal entries to develop thoughts in preparation of their paper

an annotated bibliography and group presentation, 10%

Three-person groups will 1) use the web to find 30 sources (15 web and 15 print) that discuss a particular author, literary work, or literary movement of their choosing (i.e., not necessarily on the class reading list), 2) evaluate the best or most significant 20 sources (10 web and 10 print) in a web page that will be posted to this web site for your peers to reference, 3) summarize their overall findings in an oral presentation in terms of a) how the critics interpret the work and what the critics debate about the work and b) a comparison/contrast between web sources and print sources

a final paper, 30%

typed, doulble-spaced; 7-10 pages or 1750-2500 words should extend and develop a conversation regarding an assigned reading, compare and contrast two works based upon issues broach in class discussion, or interpret a work of literature outside of our reading list (subject to my approval). It may develop ideas from journal entries and/or utilize research from annotated bibliography, but does not necessarily have to.

a final exam, 15%

Cumulative, 2 or 3 essay questions.

class participation, 5%

Come to class ready with questions; engage yourself in class discussions.


Course Policies



Come to class on time.  Any unexcused absence beyond two will reduce your final grade by two-thirds of a letter for each day.  Two tardies count as an absence; arriving 15 minutes or more late counts as an absence.

Late Assignments

Turn in assignments on time.  There will be a one letter grade deduction per day for all assignments that are turned in late.  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.

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.

Student Work

On the Monday after finals week, I will have your final research papers ready for you to pick up.  Make an appointment 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 and Syllabus Concerns

Guidelines for Reading and Writing


Kafka, "The Metamorphosis," Main Library Reserves or The Kafka Project

Finding Primary Texts on the Web

Week 2

Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown," Main Library Reserves or Eldritch Press

Salinger, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," Main Library Reserves

Finding Secondary Sources in the Print and on the Web

On-line Research (CCL)

Literary Database Treasure Hunt (CCL)

Citing Sources

Woolf, Orlando, 13-118
Week 3

Woolf, Orlando, 119-226

Evaluation of Secondary Sources in Print

Print Source and Web Page Evaluation


Woolf, Orlando, 227-329

Evaluation of Secondary Sources on the Web

Week 4

Sartre, "The Wall," Main Library Reserves

Wright, Native Son, vii-92

Comparing Print and Web Sources


Wright, Native Son, 93-253

Comparing Print and Web Sources — continued

Journals due

Week 5
Wright, Native Son, 254-397

catch up day

Composing an Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography Assignment and Format

Week 6

Perkins, "The Yellow Wall-Paper," Project Gutenberg

Composing a Web Page

Composing a Web Page with Netscape Composer (CCL)


Kingston, The Woman Warrior, 1-110

Composing a Web Page —continued

Week 7
Kingston, The Woman Warrior, 111-209

Coetzee, Foe, 1-46

Laboratory time for Annotated Bibliographies

Journals due

Week 8

Coetzee, Foe, 47-157

Laboratory time for Annotated Bibliographies


catch up day

Laboratory time for Annotated Bibliographies

Week 9
Annotated Bibliographies due by noon
Annotated Bibliography Presentations
Gibson, Neuromancer, 1-135
Week 10
Gibson, Neuromancer, 136-271


Final Exam Review

Guidelines for Reading and Writing

Final Paper due

Journals due

Final Exam, 3:30-5:18