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English 302, Fall 2012

Assignments and Updates


See also: Blackboard

(For help with close-reading, try: Thumb-plunging, or the Art of Literary Noticing. You'll need some sign-in info to access this link--remind me to send you all a note with that info in it.)

This is the Assignments and Updates Page. All assignments, and all updates to earlier assignments, will be posted here, beginning with the most recent first.

This is the most up-to-date information available on this website. Please check this page frequently throughout the quarter!!

December 13: 8:30 am-10:20. On-line final.

English 302A FINAL 

Write an essay in which you explain as best you can the argument your chosen author makes in the paragraph you choose from the three listed in a Catalyst Dropbox (click here)—both what she/he says, and how what he/she says extends/ rejects/ opposes/ modifies critical conversations we’ve been talking about in other writers this quarter.  In composing your answer, be sure you: 

  • Summarize your author’s argument in this paragraph and explain how it relates to the larger argument of the entire piece. 
  • Focus on just TWO of the figures that either precede or follow this text, and explain how your author’s argument relates to those other writers.  Identify the issues that we've seen in each of these authors that are relevant to the argument here, summarize their positions and then explain how she/he deals with their issues.  Does he/she simply adopt earlier positions, or does she/he extend them? or modify them? or reject them?  Be sure you both compare and contrast your author’s position with each of your other voices. 
My criteria for your answers are: 

           Specific—appropriately invokes key terms and concepts. 

  On point—responsive to the question.

           Full—responsive to the whole of a point, and not simply a part of it. 

           Accurate—i.e., accurately reflecting the given author’s positions. 

 WORD LIMIT = 1000 words

Submit your work by writing it first in your word processing program, and ensuring that it is less than 1000 words.  Then copy and paste your essay into an email addressed to me with the header "Final Exam."

Please do not include it as an attachment.  I will not read files submitted as attachments.   Reading your finals will take several hours; working with attachments will seriously complicate the task.  So again:  DO NOT INCLUDE YOUR ESSAY AS AN ATTACHMENT!!!!  Copy the whole thing, and then paste it into an email. 

Make sure you send back the essay no later than 10:20 am on December 13.  (All emails are time stamped automatically so I will be able to see when it was posted—you don’t have to include anything of that sort.)

Passages are listed in a Catalyst Dropbox which will open at 8:15am on Thursday morning. To get to the passages on the final click here.

Again, when you have finished your essay, copy it, paste it in an email to me, and send it NO LATER than 10:20am. DO NOT POST IT TO THE DROPBOX.


Passages from which the Final will be drawn

The final will be drawn from the following seven paragraphs--you will be able to choose ONE of three paragraphs (I first said one of two, but I've actually given you a choice of three):


p. 261-2: "The reader, in other words, ..."

p. 263: "Two examples..."


p. 191: "I was being reminded..."

p. 196: "The point..."

p. 196: "It seems to me..."


p. 344: "I have been arguing..."

p. 347: "When versions of..."

The format of the final will be the same as that of the midterm; though the actual paragraphs you write on will be drawn from Rabinowitz, Said and/or Spivak, it will be comprehensive in the sense that you will be able to put the paragraph you write on in conversation with any or all of the authors we have read over the quarter.

December 10: Nominations for Final Exam paragraphs. Due by 12:30pm

We have read Rabinowitz, Said and Spivak since the second midterm; your job here is to locate a single paragraph from one of those three writers and propose it as a possible exam question, and to give me an explanation of why your paragraph would be a good choice. As with the midterm, I will ask you to explain what the paragraph says and how it relates to the general argument over the whole piece, and then connect it to at least two other writers we've read, one from the first half of the course, and one from the second.

You should submit your nomination via email; you can identify your nominated paragraph by page number and the first few words of the paragraph's first sentence.

Your advantages here will include:

  • First, this exercise will get you to be looking at these texts earlier than you ordinarily might for a Final that takes place on Thursday;
  • Second, you as a class will be choosing the paragraphs on which you will write;
  • Third, I will select several possible exam paragraphs from your nominations and then post them to the Blackboard no later than Monday evening. Once I have selected them from what you have given me, you can guide your studying for the exam by working on the posted paragraphs.
  • And fourth, if your paragraph is selected you'll have a built in bonus because you will already have given it thought and know it well.

December 5:

Reading: None

Writing: Final Course Project due. PLEASE bring TWO copies.

December 3:

Reading: NONE!!

Writing: The Critical Practice Course Portfolio. (Full assignment posted here.) You'll be at work expanding and rewriting the proposal to the full paper, due on Wednesday, December 5.

November 28:

Reading: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Imperialism and Sexual Difference." (On electronic reserve. You can access this essay going to the class e-reserve page here.)

Writing: This is the most difficult reading of the quarter—and you may just find yourself wondering what the heck she's on about at places. Spivak actually made her reputation by being the translator from French to English of Jacques Derrida's famous work On Grammatology.

Unsurprisingly, then, she is very taken by Derridean deconstruction—a down-and-dirty explanation of which might go as follows: every use of language, in spite of what may seem its ability to represent the world truly, actually is finally unstable. Indeed, the notion one can state truth is something of a self-deception. What one does is make an effort to say something true, but that very statement itself depends upon language structures that necessarily distort one's effort to represent truth. Some of these distortions are easier to see than others--she begins this essay by summarizing feminist arguments that destabilize traditional ways of talking about literature. Instead of declaring truths that apply to men and women alike, traditional modes of discourse privilege men's experience and minimize, falsify, or even ignore women's experience.

Spivak endorses that conclusion, but immediately goes on to caution that the succeeding feminist effort to speak truth, while to be admired for its breaking free of traditional bias, runs the danger of failing to understand that its own new truths are also, as all truths are, similarly subject to the claim that they minimize or falsify things.

Her essay then goes on to discuss feminist thought in the context of imperialist discourses, and, as you will see, warns that in some ways feminist discourse seems not to have escaped a kind of collusion with imperialist discourses.

So: To get a bead on Spivak's argument, pick two of the following questions to answer as you re-read Spivak's article:

1. Explain the significance of the following terms:

  • tropological deconstruction
  • translation-as-violation
  • freedom-in-troping

2. How does Spivak's theory of translation as violation connect with her critique of U.S. feminist academia?

3. What is a straight-forward way of distinguishing between politics of identity and politics of knowledge? Which would Spivak favor?

4. We understand the literary discourse surrounding Spivak's article, but what is the historical feminist discourse that she is responding to?

5. How does Spivak address truth and in what ways does it relate to feminism?

6. What is the connection between imperialism and feminism?

7. Is it even possible for lanuage to include/incorporate the "other's" (in this case non-white/non-female)'s point of view?

November 26:

Reading: Two short stories: Rudyard Kipling's "William the Conquerer" can be found at: and Rabindranath Tagore's "Bride and Bridegroom" can be found on the class e-reserve page here.

Writing: I ask you to read these two stories for two reasons. One is as a way to test out the "phenomenology of reading" you've read about in Bayard, and the other is to prepare for Gayatri Spivak's essay for Wednesday.

Spivak actually includes some analysis of "William the Conqueror" in her paper; for her Kipling is about as clear an example of an imperialist author as one could find. But that doesn't mean the story has no interest other than the ways in which it represents India and its people. The character of William is actually female, and one of the questions you might consider is how well the epithet "the Conqueror" actually fits her and the action of the story.

As for the writing, for this let's use Catalyst. Click on the Catalyst link here. When you get to that page's link you'll see that there are four different discussion groups set up by last name. Click on the appropriate link and then post a 5-10 line paragraph about your take on these stories. You can respond in a Bayardian way, or you can remark on the curious questions you might be left with after reading B&B, or you might address what you can imagine Spivak might be responding to when she writes about the Kipling story (do this before you read Spivak!). Once a couple of posts are up, you can write in response to questions others have raised. But ALL POSTS MUST BE UP NO LATER THAN 9:00AM on the morning of the 26th!

November 21:

Thanksgiving Break. Office Hour replaces class time!!! You are invited to drop by my office should you want to talk about your proposal or Said, or any other subject.

Meanwhile: No new Reading.

DUE: Full Proposal for your Final Project. For assignment, click here. If you plan to travel for Thanksgiving, make sure you submit your Full Proposal before you leave!!!!

November 19:

Reading: Edward Said, "The Politics of Knowledge." (On electronic reserve. You can access this essay by logging in to your MyUW page and then clicking on the "View Course Reserves" link in the "My Class Resources" dialogue box or by clicking here.)

Writing: Said was one of the founders of "postcolonialism," currently one of our profession's major modes of critical discourse. The "poco" (to give it its usual nickname) movement began as pushback against the allegedly Euro-centric tendencies of the then-dominant schools of criticism, both in terms of which books and authors dominated the world canon, and in terms of how the literature and discourses about literature could be seen as instrumental to colonialist and post-colonialist political and cultural domination. Over its relatively short lifespan postcolonialism has morphed into something more abstract: there are now postcolonial studies of pre-colonial literature (huh?!), for example. The Wikipedia entry for Said provides summaries of both his work and his own complicated and somewhat controversial personal history:

For your response to this reading, however, let's keep closer to home.

Said is not easy to read, and most of you are going to have a few questions by the time you've finished your reading of it. And since this piece will be part of the final exam, you might want to start getting clear answers to your questions now. So I want to organize Monday's conversation about the piece by having you submit questions you are left with after reading. Your assignment, then, is to come up with three questions you would ask about either What Said is arguing, Why he is arguing it, or What the Point of a given part of his argument is (i.e., asking either What, Why or So What). With each question, include a paragraph of explanation of what it is that you don't understand. And if you understand everything in the essay, then supply me with three questions about specific points in the essay that you think would make good short answer questions for the final.

November 14:

Reading: Pierre Bayard, How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read. I gave out a Map to Bayard's book; by November 12 you should have read around in the book and located one or two chapters you might use for the term project (click here for the full assignment).

Writing: A summary of Bayard's argument in the chapter you think you would like to work with. You not only don't have to imitate his jaunty tone, you also should avoid it. Imitate the places where he is smart (!). And remember the SOFA criteria: Specific, On point, Full, and Accurate.

On-line help: virtual office hours. You will write this assignment over the weekend, and so I won't be available on campus for office hours before Monday. You may, however, send me email questions, and I will answer them. And if an answer seems worth sharing with the class, I'll do that, too, after deleting your name (only so those of you who are shy won't hesitate to write to me).

November 12: Veterans Day Holiday--No Class.

Looking Ahead! Once we have finished the midterm exam sequence, we will be turning to Pierre Bayard's book "How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read" (HTTABYHR). You should get yourself a copy of this NOW. You can order it from either in hardcopy or as an e-text. I downloaded it in just a few minutes; I had to download a Kindle app at the same time in order to read it. It now costs about $10 for the download. The paperback edition of the book is quite inexpensive, too--also something like $10. There is also a copy on reserve in Suzallo; you can make copies from that, too. It runs 208 pages. (You may be able to find it at other stores or websites also.)

November 7:

We are now looking ahead to the last part of the quarter, and it’s time to get started on the course project.  So for Wednesday:

Reading: Pierre Bayard, How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read, Chapters 1 and 2 (these are short chapters), and, as Extra Credit, Jorge Luis Borges' short, short story, "The Tower of Babel" (click here). (See the note above explaining how to get the book if you haven't already....)

Both Bayard and Borges may seem a little bizarre, but both are addressing the issues we've been looking at over the past three weeks, especially those raised by Barthes and Rabinowitz.

Writing: In spite of its title, much of Bayard's book isn't really about NOT reading. Rather, it's about how complicated the process of reading really is, and how rarely readers actually think very hard about reading's complications.

In a sense, Bayard’s whole book follows from the conversation we saw beginning with Barthes’ notion of the birth of the reader, for Barthes’ notion of the birth of the reader invites us to begin a deeper conversation about what, exactly, a “reader” is.  Barthes has one idea, Rabinowitz another (or more properly “others”—since he has more than one!), Radway still another.  (Said and Spivak, too, coming up next, will have things to tell us about readers—though not as directly as the other folks.)  Bayard joins the conversation by changing it a bit, focusing less on “readers” than on “reading”—but the issues he wants to raise are connected.

That said, the project for Wednesday is to get clear on what his first two chapters (which are short, by the way) are arguing.  What I’d like you to do is locate in each chapter your candidate for the title of “Key Passage”—the paragraph that, once someone has fully understood it, provides the interpretive key to understanding the whole point Bayard seems to be making  So—locate a paragraph in each chapter that seems like the key, and then do your best to explain why. 

And finally, I offer you the Borges short story because he says pretty much the same thing Bayard does, but does so in a literarily interesting way. Both selections focus attention on what we can see as an extreme version of Rabinowitz's "authorial audience." One of the implications of being a member of an interpretive community is not only that you share certain experiences and educations and attitudes towards reading, but that you have also come to depend for reading on the things you as a group share--much of which results from the books you and others have already read.

This leads to your internal creation of what Bayard calls your "inner library," which he sees as not only determined by what you have read, but also (in ways he will go on to explain) something that takes a role in determining your understanding of what you read in the future.

If your time is short, read Bayard first; if you do indeed have the half hour it will take to read Borges, however, I think you'll find it interesting as well as helpful. And if you'd like a thought to help you unscramble your mind once you have finished Borges' (very famous) story, try this:

That the universe is a library is not a bookish proposition. We are always one step removed from our feelings and our actions. Translating these into signs is our only way to see them again, trying to make sense of them our only way of comparing our experiences, of giving our lives direction — or of escaping the directions imposed by others. And only our words, the texts, will survive us. In Borges’ Library, however, we have to entertain the possibility that direction itself is some kind of misleading sign and we really have nowhere to go.

From a reflection posted by Gary:

(The Bayard reading is the first step in the process of the term project. Click here for the full assignment.)

Mid Term Passages from Radway:

Here are the four paragraphs from which I will select two for tomorrow's exam.  We will repeat the process of the first exam, with 30 minutes of questions followed by the exam.  As with last week's question on Barthes, you'll just have one essay to write. 

Page 200-201:  "I tried hard...."
Page 203:  "The original impulse...."
Page 205:  "Of course, ...."
Page 209:  "But to write ...." 

The prompt for the exam will be effectively the same as for the Barthes paragraph last week: 

Write an essay in which you explain as best you can the argument Radford makes in ONE of the two paragraphs below--both what she says, and how what she says extends critical conversations we've been talking about in other writers this quarter.  In composing your answer, be sure you:

1. Summarize Radford's argument in this paragraph and explain how it relates to the larger argument of her entire piece.

2. Identify the issues here that we've seen in at least two of the other writers we have read.

3. Focusing on just TWO of the figures that precede her, explain how Radford's argument relates to those of her predecessors.  Does she simply adopt earlier positions, or does she extend them? or modify them? or reject them?  Be sure you both compare Radford's position and contrast it with each of those predecessors. 

November 5:

Reading: Rabinowitz, "Actual Reader and Authorial Reader." (On electronic reserve. You can access this essay by logging in to your MyUW page and then clicking on the "View Course Reserves" link in the "My Class Resources" dialogue box or by clicking here.)

Writing: Two of the most obvious "key terms" in literary theory are "author" and "reader." We've seen in the pieces we've read how the center of literary analysis has moved from the author and what s/he thought or planned or whatever to the reader and what s/he thinks or ought to think. In "Actual Reader and Authorial Reader" Rabinowitz engages the reader-author issue again, and tries to create a way to have both one's reader and one's author, too.

For your response paper, the project here will be to get clearer on what Rabinowitz argues, and how his argument carries on the conversation we've been following in Arnold, Barthes and Radway.

So. Having read the Rabinowitz piece, write for your response paper a dialogue between either R and Arnold, Barthes, or Radway. The dialogue would begin with A, B, or R having read the essay just as you have, and responding to R. Knowing what you know about what each of these writers has suggested about readers and writers/authors, what would they say in response to R? What would R say back?

October 31:

Midterm exam (part 2). Bring a blue/green book and something with which you can write clearly and legibly. I will plan the exam as something that can be answered successfully within 60-70 minutes, but you will have the entire 110 minutes of the scheduled class time to finish the exam.

Writing: No response paper for today. Bring a blue/green book for the midterm. You may also bring your study sheet from last time, with an added sheet to include the two readings we've done since the Mini-Midterm.

October 29:

Reading: "So What’s all this Stuff About Structuralism and its Effects on Literary Theory?" (click here). That will be for hour 1. A Make-up/Catch-up review session will be held in hour 2.

Writing: What, Why and So What exercise for Radway--modeling a third way (in addition to the Machine and Key Words) to keep all of this new material organized and in mind. See Reading Difficult Texts on the Blackboard.

Some of this is simply synthesizing your reading of Radway, your understanding of our conversation in class on the 24th, and your reading about Structuralism for today. It is, as I say, another good way to keep all this new material organized and in mind. In my view is is the best way, actually, since a way to connect a given piece to other conversations is built into the Why and So What steps.

October 24:

Reading: Radway, "Introduction" to A Feeling for Books. (On electronic reserve. You can access this essay by logging in to your MyUW page and then clicking on the "View Course Reserves" link in the "My Class Resources" dialogue box. (You can also access the essays by clicking here.)

Writing: Pay special attention in your reading of Radway to the first whole paragraph on page 204 (beginning "It is essential.....") and the second whole paragraph on page 209 (beginning "The tension...."). Write for ONE of these paragraphs a paragraph of your own in which you describe as specifically as you can how Radford's argument is a turn-taking in a conversation you have already been following in Arnold, Brooks, and Barthes. What issues that we've seen in one or all of those three writers are taken up here? What positions do you see Radford alluding to from her predecessors? does she adopt earlier positions, or extend them? or modify them? or reject them?

October 22:

Reading: Reread to prepare for exam.

Writing: Your summary grid, featuring key terms. With respect to the four different ways of theorizing a text we've focused on, create a page (no bigger than 8 1/2 by 11) with brief quotations from each writer that can be your study sheet for the exam. (You may bring this sheet to the exam with you.)

October 17:

Reading: Review of the five pieces we've read: Plato, Aristotle, Arnold, Brooks, Barthes

Writing: Put Barthes in conversation with two of the figures you have already read. Pick any two, and have them take part in a Socratic dialogue on whatever issue you think they would be likely to address had they lived long enough. (You can imitate Plato's method in privileging one over the others, or you can work against Plato by making your speakers equally astute.)

October 15:

Reading: Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author." (Available on E-reserve here) As you read Barthes, but after reading the paragraph below under Writing (just below this paragraph), you might also want to read, or re-read, "Five Principles for Reading Difficult Texts" on the Blackboard.

Writing: This piece is quite short, but most people find it challenging (or worse!) on their first reading. It truly is a classic of "theory," both in terms of the argument it makes about the nature of literary discourse and literary commentary, and in terms of its rhetorical stance of ironic transgression. Part of its effect follows from Barthes' use of aphoristic passages. These are sentences that seem a little paradoxical, or even contradictory. An early example: "[W]riting is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin." 253 Normal people don't talk that way--and even to people who have read a lot of literature, it's not at all obvious what it would mean to say "writing is the destruction of every voice." Many of Barthes' first readers simply dismissed his way of talking as gobble-de-gook, but in fact, once you've sorted out some of his beliefs about language and reading, they do in fact make sense. The problem is that Barthes writes as if sentences like this are perfectly sensible, yet like most readers anywhere, most of you will find many of these more than a little mystifying.

So I'd like you to show me how far you can get with a couple of them. I've posted on the Blackboard a set of twelve aphoristic passages from Barthes' essay--some just one sentence long, some two or three sentences long. Once you have read the essay, pick TWO of these passages from the whole (one from the first six, and one from the second six) that you think might be particularly "key" moments in B's argument. Explain first what you think each means, and second, what you can imagine someone would find difficult to understand about the claim the sentence(s) make. Finally, explain as best you can for each why you think it could be thought important. (Don't worry about being highly successful at this--the point is to have you become at least preliminary experts on at least two ideas you encounter in the text.)

October 10:

Reading: Cleanth Brooks, "Irony as a Principle of Structure" (on E-reserve) 1041-1046 (ending with "or any other poem" in column b) (For the E-reserve link, click here). Wordsworth, "A Slumber did My Spirit Seal," and "She Dwelt Among Untrodden Ways." (click here)

Writing: Brooks' first sentence sets out a general "WHAT" for the piece:

"One can sum up modern poetic technique by calling it the rediscovery of metaphor and the full commitment to metaphor."

He then goes on to explain how this means that poetry's meaning depends upon particulars--i.e., specific details. He then says that this means that poetry works by "indirection"--it doesn't tell you exactly what it means, but rather only suggests it, or implies it. Poetry gives its readers metaphors, not meanings. It is we, the readers, who put those metaphors together.

He then finishes his setting up of his argument by introducing the importance of "context" in interpreting the metaphors a poem (or novel, for that matter) gives us. For any metaphor, or set of details, exists in a particular situation--a context. He gives the example of a line from Shakespeare's King Lear that OUT of context would be terrible poetry:

Never, never, never, never, never.


In context, however, this line is, Brooks says, one of Shakespeare's most poignant lines. For Lear says it as the play is near its end, and as he carries in the corpse of his daughter Cordelia. The line, with its context, reads:

No, no, no life! [i.e., Cordelia is dead]
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!

What makes it for Brooks so poignant a line then? Because in this context you see that all those nevers are ways of measuring how desperate and terrifyingly sad this death is. It is as if Lear has finally run out of words, and in mental and physical exhaustion just repeats that same sad word over and over and over again.

I won't go on about this line, but Brooks' point is that for interpretation you need both particulars, on one hand, and the context in which they occur on the other. As he puts it: "The context endows the particular word or image or statment with significance."

What's more, you can see context and word/image/statement as in some degree in conflict, or tension, and that conflict or tension creates a kind of irony, and that, he goes on to say, is a "principle of structure" in literary texts.

The rest of the essay is made up of a series of examples. We'll look in class most carefully at what he does with the second of the Wordsworth poems--"A slumber did my spirit seal." He gives you there a pretty much perfect example of a New Critical "close reading"--showing how you can see much more in this poem than the mere simple words alone would allow.

And--the Big Point now--what Brooks has done is to explain what Matthew Arnold only pointed at. This poem, like one of Arnold's Classics, has a high seriousness and truth to it, Arnold might say, but he wouldn't show you how. Instead he just gives you a list of exemplary touchstones.

Brooks, by contrast, shows you exactly how this poem becomes an interesting and powerful piece of art, and he does so at length, paying attention to what Arnold would have called truth and substance, and manner and style, and pointing out exactly where the poetic use of language in a specific context generates meaning.

One way to explain the So What of Brooks' work is to see it as working out a concrete method by which one could explain what makes a poem "great"--or, if not great, at least interesting. If Arnold sets out a project for the study of poetry, and envisions it as something that any and all should be taught, Brooks (and other new critics like him) develop a language and a method for interpreting and judging texts. Arnold points at poems and says, "Classic!" Brooks points at poems, and says, "Here is how to explain what the art and value of this poem is." And then he shows you exactly that.

So, for your response paper, once you've figured out as best you can how Brooks' "method" works, go to the first paragraph of "Boys and Girls" and "interpret" the lines/paragraph as best you can by using Brooks' "principle of irony." Think in terms of particulars, or metaphors, and context, and the contrasts and tensions they create.

October 8:

Reading: Arnold, The Study of Poetry (Click on link for text).

Writing: This is a very famous piece of theoretical criticism, one of a number Arnold wrote which established him as something like the founder of modern literary criticism. Many trace back to Arnold much of what 20th century readers thought the practice of criticism was. I've given you twelve paragraphs of an essay that's about twice that size. Here's what Hazard Adams, in Critical Theory Since Plato, says in introducing readers to the piece:

"Arnold is fond of terms like poetic truth and high seriousness.... His method in 'The Study of Poetry' is not to define these terms but instead to offer poetic examples of them--'touchstones.' These touchstones can be as short as a single line. Like several of his Romantic predecessors, Arnold thinks not so much of the quality of a poem as a whole as he does of the presence of an undefinable poetry quality somewhere in a poem. There is no discursively expressible standard for these touchstones, and the catch-all evaluative term high seriousness is not explained. An educated reader [that would be YOU!] is supposed to sense the presence of high seriousness. The critical power grows as the result of a liberal education. Sound critical judgments are made by educated people, not by those who make a mindless application of principle or method."

Adams goes on: "Arnold's point [is] that one must finally depend on the developed taste and erudition of the critic. [In an earlier essay] Arnold speaks of 'judging' as the critic's business," where that judging (in Arnold's own words) must be 'judgment which almost insensibly forms itself in a fair and clear mind, along with fresh knowldge.'" (pp. 585-6)

I don't know if that will make a lot of immediate sense for you, but that's ok because we will take as our challenge for our next meeting the figuring out of what we CAN make sense of in this piece!

So: for your writing, here, first is a list of "Key Terms" one could make for Arnold. Having read Arnold's essay, pick three terms from that list and 1) define them, and 2) Explain as best you can what it is that you think makes them "key."

Some Arnoldian Key Terms/Phrases:

"truth and seriousness"; "diction and movement"; classic; charlatanism; "forming, sustaining, delighting"; touchstones.

October 3:

Reading: Aristotle's Poetics (selection). (The required reading is posted to the Blackboard page.)

Writing: Aristotle was a philosopher just as much as Plato, but he seems to have been less threatened by the existence of other arts (perhaps because he actually had a pretty good day job as the tutor to Alexander the Great!). He also takes a very different tack in the way he engages poetry. Where Plato combatively argues, through Socrates, that poetry is hopelessly compromised both by its distance from truth and (particularly in The Republic, where he pretty much entirely bans poetry as a dangerous and destructive art) by its dependence upon emotion over reason, Aristotle sees poety as a phenomenon to investigate and, insofar has he can, explain.

In these sections from the Poetics Aristotle defines "tragedy," and in doing so provides both a mimetic and a pragmatic theory for it. For your response paper, first, pick what you take to be three KEY TERMS in Aristotle's explication of tragedy, define as clearly as you can what exactly each of them means, and explain what you think makes the terms you have chosen particularly worth paying attention to. Then, second, point to one way in which Aristotle's position differs from Plato's, and is thus a kind of response to Plato's argument.

October 1:

Reading: Plato, the Ion. You can find a link to the Ion on the Blackboard page. And either before or after you read the Ion, go to the Blackboard page and read #1: A Conceptual Frame for English 302 and Critical Practice. What I ask you to do below for your response paper is to define Plato's position in the conversation. Next time I'll be asking you to think of Aristotle's text as a kind of (indirect) reply to Plato.

Writing: Plato uses the dialogue form for his philosophy, which on the one hand tends to make his work more readable, but on the other hand also makes some of his points a little less obvious. (Darn!) The major issue in this dialogue concerns truth and who, between poetry and philosophy, has the best bead on it. I will have talked in class about the Ion on Monday and Wednesday; I explained that Ion was a "rhapsode"--not a poet himself, but a man who made his living by the expert reciting and explaining of the great poets (in Ion's case, his "Great Poet" is Homer). So in taking shots at Ion, Socrates is technically taking shots at the performing of poetry--not poetry itself. But still, as Socrates critiques Ion, he also manages to indict poetry as a whole.

Your task for Monday: Locate the stretch in the Ion in which you think Socrates makes his most effective case again the poet. Explain what his argument is and how it extends beyond the mere performance of poetry to the art of poetic creation as well. Finally, imagine how you might refute Socrates' claims. Ion turns out not to be the brightest bulb in the room, but if he had been brighter by a few watts, what might he have said back?

September 26:

Reading: Munro, "Boys and Girls" (click here for text), AND: Syllabus Quiz. Prepare for this by reading thoroughly the material on the Course Description page.

Writing: Once you have read Munro's story, make some notes to yourself about what you think it's about. Then write a response paper for Wednesday on the following topic:

Suppose one of your friends has signed up for her first literature class ever at the UW. She's been asked to read this story, and her professor has asked the whole class to write a short paper in which she comments on the story. She is petrified since she really has no idea what it is people do when they do English! But she knows that you have taken a class or two, and she knows, too, that you have also read this story. So she calls you up and says, "Help! I'm already lost. What am I supposed to do with this story? How do I come up with something to say?"

How would you answer her question? First give her two or three examples of something you yourself might say about this story, and then go on to suggest some ways through which she might be better able to come up with ideas of her own.

As you sit down to write this response paper, remember not to be afraid of a response paper! I'm not looking for brilliance here, though I'm happy if I find it.

Rather, the sole criterion for these papers is "ECI"--Engaged Critical Intelligence. So if you aren't sure what you are doing, don't worry. Say that, and then try to explain what is puzzling you. I want to see how far you can get on this on your own, but I also want to know where you feel unsure of yourself or what you would like to do here that you can't. Answers to those questions will make it easier for me to work out effective ways of helping you with this quarter's reading material.