Sample Syllabus 1 - An Introduction to the Discipline of English

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English 130 (section 12): Writing about Literature in English

“Women in (and out of) Love”: Love and Female Knowledge

Instructor: Erin Spampinato

Fall 2017, M/W 9:15 AM-10:30 AM, Rathaus 106

Office: Queens Hall 330 (WAQ Program Headquarters)

Office Hours: M/W 1:30-2:30 PM

Course blog url: TBD

Password for protected readings: english130


4 hours, 4 credits. You must have completed College English 1 (English 110) to be enrolled in this class.

Course Description (in general)

A methods course in the discipline. Students learn how to engage in scholarly conversations about literature: by using close reading of primary and secondary sources; conducting original research; and developing analytical arguments about literary texts in different genres.

Description of this Section of English 130:

In texts spanning from the Greek and Roman period to contemporary America, love and sex have been represented as fundamental to female understanding, particularly of the self. Why? By reading a broad range of texts (from Genesis to The Handmaid’s Tale) we will examine and question the ways in which love is represented as the force which forms female knowledge. We will question the ways in which different cultural moments have adapted this story—what I’m calling the ‘revelatory love plot’—and how the story has been shaped by understandings of race, gender, and violence.

Course Goals

Students who elect to take College Writing 2 in the English Department will learn how to engage with other scholars in meaningful conversations about literature. Building methods that they will continue to practice throughout their coursework, they will become more able to:

 Create arguable theses about literary texts.

 Support their theses with close reading.

 Marshal primary and secondary sources for textual analysis.

 Find, cite, and evaluate sources using appropriate research tools.

 Deploy critical terms effectively.

 Converse with other scholars in the field, orally and in writing.


The subject of this section of English 130 is love as it has been represented in literature and the way that love is represented to have affected women in particular. We will be reading texts that include controversial ideas about race, religion, gender, and sexual violence. Please read the syllabus and reading list carefully to make sure you are comfortable with reading these texts and discussing these topics in an academic setting.

With regard to the particularly sensitive topic of sexual violence, I will bring all the resources of my own education and experience to bear on the teaching of this important subject. As an ethically engaged feminist critic, scholar, and educator I feel well prepared to do so. We will devote time in class to creating a language for talking academically, ethically, and responsibly about rape and sexual violence, both in history and in literature. Some of these discussions will prove challenging. I would love to have the most engaged, diverse, and thoughtful class possible, and I encourage you to take the class even if you have some trepidation about talking about these topics. I would much rather have a class with a diversity of opinion than not. (And of course, I will make myself available to speak to you privately about your concerns and to do what I can to ensure that you feel comfortable in the class.) That said, you must protect your self first, and if discussing rape and sexual violence in an academic setting or reading about rape and sexual violence will prove traumatic to you, I encourage you to change sections (or come to the first day and see how you feel before committing to the semester).

However you self-identify (cis or trans, queer, asexual, straight, survivor, victim, ally, democrat, republican, libertarian, etc), please know that I will do all in my power to make this class a safe space for you. I’d like to especially note that cis-gender men who identify as heterosexual should feel comfortable taking the class, and can count on my protecting their ability to express themselves. Obviously hate speech will not be tolerated under any circumstances. We will discuss the difference between acceptable and unacceptable academic speech and will come up with norms that suit us a group. This class is ideal for those who want to expand their thinking (I include myself in that group).

Texts: (text to purchase appear in bold)

Lucius Apuleius, excerpts from The Golden Ass (Sarah Rudin translation/available on course blog)

Excerpts from The Book of Genesis (available on course blog)

Mary Tighe, excerpts from Cupid and Psyche (available on course blog)

John Keats, Ode to Psyche (available on course blog)

Fanny Burney, Fantomina, Reflections on the Various Effects of Love, and Love-Letters on All Occasions (available on course blog)

John Stewart Mill, excerpt from On the Subjection of Women

Mary Wollstonecraft, excerpt from The Vindication of the Rights of Woman (available on course blog), Mary and the Wrongs of Woman (purchase, any edition is fine), Mary Shelley, Mathilda (purchase—any edition is fine)

Sara Baartman materials: “Letter from the Hottentot Venus to her Cousin” via Nineteenth Century Collections Online (available via QC Library Databases), Excerpts from Louis Figuier, The Human Race (1872) via Nineteenth Century Collections Online (available via QC Library Databases), Excerpts from Robert Brown, The Races of Mankind (19th cent) via Nineteenth Century Collections Online (available via QC Library Databases), “Love and Beauty—Sartjee the Hottentot Venus” via 19th Century Masterfile (available via QC Library Databases), Clifton Crais and Pamela Scully, excerpts from Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: A Ghost Story and a Biography (available on course blog)

Anne Sexton, selections from Transformations (available on course blog)

Olga Broumas, selections from Beginning with O (available on course blog)

Angela Carter, selections from The Bloody Chamber (available on course blog)

Selections from the poetry of Audre Lorde (available on course blog)

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (you should purchase—any edition is fine)

Octavia Butler, Wild Seed (you should purchase—any edition is fine)

Morgan Parker, “Hottentot Venus,” “The Book of Genesis” (available on course blog)

The Handmaid’s Tale excerpts from episodes 1-3 (to be watched in class)

They Say, I Say (purchase—any edition is fine)

All other secondary texts will be available on the blog or through the CUNY library system online.

Assignment Sequence

 Essay 1: Close reading of a text using selected literary terms.

 Essay 2: Close reading of a text in the context of a theoretical or historical source.

 Essay 3: Close reading of a text in the context of at least two secondary sources that the student finds through research.

 Research Assignment: An annotated bibliography with at least five relevant sources, produced en route to Essay 3.

 Portfolio: In a cover letter, students reflect on the writing practice they gained through their pre-drafts, drafts, and revisions over the course of the semester.


(adapted from Jason Tougaw):

• Participation (30%): I require that my students participate both verbally in class and in an online class discussion. I am happy to coach you through this experience if it is hard for you, and I grade participation holistically (based on your whole performance in the class, rather than day by day). I require that you show me evidence that you have read through your participation each day, and I encourage you to speak freely about your questions, surmises, or wild ideas that might not work but are exciting. You should feel free to experiment and question in this classroom. Reading assignments will generally be due on Mondays, while informal writing assignments will be due on Wednesdays.

• Blog Entries (30%): For each Wednesday class, all students will be assigned an informal writing prompt, to be posted on the blog by Tuesday at 12 noon.

• Blog Comments (10%): For each Monday, students will post a response to at least one of that week’s posts–for a total of ten responses over the course of the semester. Responses need not be lengthy or formal, but they should offer substance: questions about the material posted, links to related material, observations about or counter-arguments to points the author has made. I will evaluate comments based on engagement (assigning each a score between 1 and 10). These should be posted by Sunday before class at 12 noon.

• Essays (20%): Each essay will ask students to do something specific with a literary text. Grades on essays 1, 2, and 3 will be averaged to make up 20% of student’s final grade.

• Portfolio (10%): Students will create a final portfolio in which they revise all their work from the semester and reflect on their writing process.

Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty:

(adapted from Amrohini Sahay)

Whenever you draw upon another text in your papers, you need to acknowledge the source.

The absence of such acknowledgement is regarded as plagiarism. As Diana Hacker explains in

A Writer’s Reference,

To be fair and ethical, you must acknowledge your debt to the writers or those sources. If you don’t you are guilty of plagiarism, a serious academic offense.

Three different acts are considered plagiarism: (1) failing to cite quotations and borrowed ideas, (2) failing to enclose borrowed language in quotation marks, and (3) failing to put summaries and paraphrases in your own words. (331)

It is the student’s responsibility to learn the proper forms of citation, but we will discuss them in class. Students sometimes plagiarize when they are confused about what attribution means. If you feel any confusion about these issues, do not hesitate to speak with me. I’m happy to try to make this complicated issue more clear to you.

Grade Breakdown:

Participation – 30%

Blog Entries – 30%

Blog Comments – 10%

Essays – 20%

Final Portfolio – 10%

Behavioral Policy:

Intellectual and emotional safety and respect for diversity of thought, person, and action will be protected in this classroom at all times. Learning cannot happen unless people feel safe to succeed and also to fail. We all need to feel that we are part of a community of learners who will not judge us if we sometimes fail. If you cannot participate within those bounds, you will not be allowed to attend class.

You are asked to share with the class your preferred name and pronoun, and you are required to learn the preferred names/pronouns of others in the class. When you respond to someone, you are challenged to speak academically. That means be specific about your claims and the claims of others (ie: “When Catherine claimed that technology is evil, I thought she might be generalizing,” rather than, “I disagree with what she said”). You are asked to be generous with your fellow students and with me.

Use your technology responsibly in the classroom.


In keeping with the college’s policy of equal access for students with disabilities, any student with a disability who needs academic accommodations should go to the Office of Special Services, Kiely Hall Ill. The office will supply you, if appropriate, with a Letter outlining your accommodation needs. You can reach the office by calling (718) 997-5870. All information regarding special accommodations for disabilities will be kept confidential. If you feel comfortable, you may share your situation with me (it may help me help you), but you are in no way obligated to share information with me. I happily will comply with any requests from OSS, no questions asked.

Writing Center:

Located in Kiely Hall room 229, the Writing Center is a place where you can seek help with your papers or with your writing in general. In my experience, students who use the Writing Center are much more successful than students who do not. You can set up an appointment by calling (718) 997- 5676. Their website, with more information about their services, can be found at:

Office Hours:

My office hours exist for you and I would be delighted to speak to you during them! As an adjunct professor who is also a student, I sometimes do not have as much time to respond to student emails or read student writing as I would like during the week. My office hours, however, are two hours that I set aside weekly to focus on ONLY such issues. Please come see me! If you have a class during my office hours, email me for another appointment time.

Detailed Assignment Descriptions:

Assignment 1: due by W Oct 4 in class and electronically to [email subject: “Last Name, First Name, Assignment One.” Papers should be attached as word docs or shared via Google Docs.]

A SHORT (2-3 page) essay in which you use close reading to defend a thesis of your own creation about one of the following texts:

Keats, “Ode to Psyche”

Morgan Parker, “The Book of Genesis”

Your thesis will be generated from an interpretive problem that you have identified. Theses will be workshopped in class before the first draft is due. Your close reading should pay attention to the author's rhetorical choices and poetic devices, such as imagery, symbolism, metaphor, simile, personification, tone, voice, character, repetition. (There are many more you might talk about!)

REMEMBER to stick to your thesis. You may have many interesting things to say about the poem, but the best essays will rigorously defend JUST ONE reading of the poem. Don't worry about including all your insights--I've deliberately made the essay short so that you are challenged to focus on your thesis and choose carefully from all the things you might say about the poem.

Use MLA style for citations in your essay. See me during my office hours if you have questions about MLA.

***Remember that all formal writing assignments in this class are in some sense works in progress. We will be revising them for our final portfolio assignment at the end of the semester.***

Assignment 2: due by W Oct 25 in class and electronically to [email subject: “Last Name, First Name, Assignment One.” Papers should be attached as word docs or shared via Google Docs.]

A 3-4 page essay in which you use close reading of Fantomina OR Mary, or the Wrongs of Woman [potentially Mathilda?] and Wollstonecraft’s “The Vindication” to defend a thesis of your own creation.

In order to complete this essay, you will do the following: identify an interpretive problem in Fantomina OR Mary, or the Wrongs of Woman which you think either Wollstoncraft’s “The Vindication” relates to/ reflects/ or speaks to. You will gather evidence from the text of your choice that deals with the question you've chosen to investigate. Then, you will formulate a thesis based on that evidence. You will use "The Vindication" to contextualize/support that argument.

Possible interpretive problems/questions (but you may also identify another interpretive problem):


Whichever question you pick, you will want to think about how Wollstonecraft's essay either disputes/supports/complicates the text’s presentation of the issue with which you are dealing. Remember, pick only one literary text, EITHER Fantomina or Mary.

Annotated Bibliography: due Wed Nov 29 in class and electronically to [email subject: “Last Name, First Name, Annotated Bibliography.” Attach file as either word doc or google doc.]

We will work on this assignment in class together and discuss the requirements as we do so. This annotated bibliography will allow you to amass sources to use in Assignment 3.

Assignment 3: Intertextual Conversations (due Dec 18 with Final Portfolio; see below for submission information)

Two options:

Write a 6-7 page paper in which you argue that there is a deep, intertextual connection between (at least) two of the texts we have read this semester (but please do not choose one you have already written about without checking with me first). You may, if you choose, bring in another text that we have worked on in class. This essay asks you think deeply about the major thematic connections between two texts, make a claim about it, and then provide evidence from both texts to prove that claim. You should be looking for LARGE connections—not simply that two characters share the same name—but big, thematic issues that both texts deal with. This does not mean, necessarily, that the two texts treat that theme in the same way. The work of your paper will be elaborating the different ways that the two texts deal with one theme, or the ways in which one text responds to the questions posed by the other. In essence, you are putting the two texts into conversation and making conclusions about that conversation. You will also be supporting your claims with outside academic sources, thus inserting yourself into a larger academic conversation about the texts.

-MLA style

-includes works cited

-includes at least 2 outside sources

Write a 6-7 paper in which you contextualize either The Handmaid’s Tale or Wild Seed within the history of women’s rights movements in America. There are two parts to this paper: analyze the way the novel of your choice is drawing on that history (and you will need to bring in outside research to describe that history) and then make an argument about the way the text is contributing to, revising, debating with, or critiquing that history. Further instructions TBD.

-MLA style

-includes works cited

-includes at least 2 outside sources

Final Portfolio—due by Monday Dec 18 at noon electronically to [email subject: “Last Name, First Name, Final Portfolio.”. Papers should be attached as word docs or shared via Google Docs.]

Required Portfolio Contents:

1. Revision of Assignment 1

2. Revision of Assignment 2

3. Annotated Bibliography

4. Final Draft of Assignment 3

5. Reflection Assignment (handed out M Dec 4, at the second to last class)

Guidelines for revision:

Revisions will be graded based on my regular grading criteria (see “Formal Assignment Grading Criteria” page on the blog). Even if your paper had a “C” on the first draft, you may well get an “A” on the final if it meets the criteria of an “A”. In other words, I will (for the most part) be judging your revision on its own merit rather than on how improved or not improved it is.

That said, I will surely also take into account the extraordinary effort that many of you will have put into this assignment (I can’t not take it into account—I’m not a robot!). If you have visited my office many times and shown me many drafts of your essays, you are sure to get a higher grade than you would have, because our conversations will have improved the work. So be assured that your hard work does pay off. People who revise many times and work with me and with their peers almost always get high grades, and always get higher grades than they might have if they did not engage with me and their peers.

Statement of Contractual Obligation

This syllabus is your contract with me and by choosing to remain in this course, you agree to abide by the above policies and procedures. If you feel you are unable to fulfill any of the terms of this syllabus, please contact me immediately so we can discuss arrangements to accommodate you if possible.

Reading Schedule

(and important administrative dates)

(Subject to change! Please make sure you regularly check in on the class blog for updates.)

**writing prompts/assignments due appear in bold**

W Aug 30 Introduction to Course Questions and informal writing evaluations. Skills: reading a syllabus.

T Aug 31- last day to drop course with 75% refund & last day to add courses for Financial Aid Certification

M Sept 4 – Labor Day, No class

W Sept 6 Ode to Psyche. Skills: reading and writing about poetry, establishing an interpretive problem.

M Sept 11 Various versions of the Revelatory Love Plot: excerpts from The Golden Ass, excerpts from The Book of Genesis, excerpts from Cupid and Psyche (Tighe), Morgan Parker, “The Book of Genesis”. Skills: establishing an interpretive problem, making inter-texual connections, making a claim.

W Sept 13 Continued discussion of Revelatory Love Plot & discuss Assignment One. First informal writing assignment due on blog by Tuesday Sept 12 at noon. Writing prompt: Make a claim about an inter-textual connection you see between two texts we’ve read so far and defend it in one to two paragraphs.

T Sept 14—Last day to drop with a grade of WD and 25% tuition refund

M Sept 18 Bring interpretive problems for Assignment One to class. Skill: turning interpretative problems into central claims.

W Sept 20 – No classes

M Sept 25 Bring first drafts of assignment one to class, peer review & workshopping.

W Sept 27—Class cancelled, individual meetings with professor

M Oct 1—Class cancelled, individual meetings with professor

W Oct 4 Assignment One due, sent as an attachment to

Excerpt from Wollstonecraft, The Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Skills: reading a theoretical text and recapitulating its argument.

M Oct 9 – No Classes, Columbus Day

W Oct 11 Fantomina, and Mary, or the Wrongs of Woman. Discuss Assignment Two. Skills: applying a theoretical paradigm to a literary text. Writing Prompt: How does Wollstonecraft’s argument connect to either Fantomina or Mary, or the Wrongs of Woman? (1 page posted to the blog by Oct 10 at noon)

M Oct 16 Continued discussion of Fantomina and Mary. Skills: applying a theoretical paradigm to a literary text.

W Oct 18 Bring first draft of assignment two to class. Workshop day.

M Oct 23 Research in the discipline of English. Read Sara Baartman materials packet. Skills: primary versus secondary sources.

W Oct 25 Research in the discipline of English. Continue working with Sara Baartman materials packet. Read pages x-y They Say, I Say and Morgan Parker, “Hottentot Venus.” Skills: entering a critical conversation.

Assignment Two due, sent as an attachment to

M Oct 30 Anne Sexton selections, Olga Broumas selections, Angela Carter “The Bloody Chamber”

W Nov 1 Audre Lorde selections. Writing prompt: How do the authors we’ve read this week present love as ‘revelatory’? Do they represent it as differently revelatory than the earlier works we’ve read? How so? (2 pages posted on blog by Tuesday Oct 31 noon)

M Nov 6 Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (chapters x-y)

Tuesday Nov 7 – Midterm Election Day – GET OUT AND VOTE! THIS MIDTERM IS IMPORTANT. The fate of your student loans may depend on it. (Extra credit for those who bring in an “I voted” sticker tomorrow and can tell me who they voted for and why—no judgements, I just want you to be informed voters).

W Nov 8 Discuss Assignment Three and Annotated Bibliography. Writing Prompt: How does Gilead resemble a real existing or historical society? Answer question in a paragraph and post on blog links to two appropriate outside sources that support your argument (posted to the blog Tues Nov 7 by noon)

F Nov 10 – Last day of Unevaluated Withdrawal Period

M Nov 13 The Handmaid’s Tale (chapters x-y. Watch clips from the television adaptation. Skills: Identifying references in a text (both in the novel and the show).

W Nov 15 Skills: finding and evaluating sources. Writing Prompt: Does love exist in Gilead? How is it represented to affect women? (1 page due to blog by Tues Nov 14 at noon)

M Nov 20 Finish The Handmaid’s Tale. Writing Prompt: In the final moments of the novel, Professor James Darcy Pieixoto tells his audience: “in my opinion we must be cautious about passing moral judgement upon the Gilleadeans. Surely we have learned by now that such judgements are of necessity culture-specific. Also, Gileadan society was under a good deal of pressure, demographic and otherwise, and was subject to factors from which we ourselves are happily more free. Our job is not to censure but to understand.” His audience applauds, suggesting they concur with his argument that one shouldn’t judge another culture, but understand it. Do you agree in the case of Gilead? Why or why not? (1 page due to the blog by Sunday Nov 19 at noon)

W Nov 22- Writing Prompt: Bring ten sources you have considered for your annotated bibliography to class, and we will evaluate them together. You may bring them in paper or electronic form, as long as you have them in pdf so that you can easily share them with your peers who will be helping you evaluate them.

M Nov 27 Discuss Wild Seed (chapters x-y)

W Nov 29 Annotated Bibliographies due electronically to

M Dec 4 Discuss Wild Seed (chapters x-y )

W Dec 6 Finish Wild Seed. No writing assignment due. Last whole group meeting. Party time!

M Dec 11 – Individual Meetings with Professor. Bring first draft of Assignment 3 and any questions about revisions of Assignments 1 and 2.

W Dec 13 – Individual Meetings with Professor. Bring first draft of Assignment 3 and any questions about revisions of Assignments 1 and 2.

M Dec 18 – Assignment Three & Portfolios due electronically to

W Dec 20 – Last Day of Term.

Image description: Section of Francois Gerard’s “Cupid and Psyche.” Public domain. Collection of the Louvre Museum.