English 200

ENGL 200
Literary Texts and Contexts

Catalog Entry
ENGL 200
Literary Texts and Contexts
Three hours lecture (3).

Study of selected works of literature with an emphasis on developing 1) critical reading skills within historical, cultural, national, and ideological contexts and 2) an understanding of the various ways of reading and writing about human experience. This course has been approved for Core Curriculum credit in the following area: University Core B, Humanities.

Detailed Description of Content of Course
As part of the Core experience, this course introduces students to the process and strategies of critical close reading and persuasive writing about literature. Using a coherent body of literature in its historical and cultural contexts, the course teaches students to generate interpretations about literary and cultural texts that relate to the enduring questions—past and present—that concern human life, culture, and ethics. Attention is also paid to how an understanding of literature connects to other disciplines that make up the whole of human learning.
The course is intended to prepare students for more advanced work in the humanities by developing skills and techniques of textual analysis. While focusing on a coherent body of primary texts, students are introduced to a variety of interpretive frameworks and to one or more collateral areas of investigation including a study of the processes by which texts are produced and received, the historical and cultural contexts in which they are produced and received, and their relationships to other texts and to other fields of experience and analysis. 1  Special attention is paid to teaching students to generate interpretations of literary and cultural texts that relate to the enduring questions that concern human life, culture, and ethics. Though specific topics and units will vary according to the interests and expertise of the individual instructor, the course will address broad strands of context including the historical and cultural situatedness of the writer, the text, and the reader; the formal and generic aspects of literary texts, and appropriate critical perspectives and/or approaches. These contexts are not listed in a hierarchical or preferential order. Rather, they are intended as suggestive starting points for approaching the course’s overarching question, “What and how are texts made to mean and what can this tell us about the nature of human experience?” Texts might include:
a writing about literature text;
an introduction to literature text that feature examples of several genres and appropriate apparatus about reading these genres such as Adrian Beard’s Text and Context: Introducing Literature and Language Study (Routledge, 2001); and
a separate novel (they are often published with critical apparatus in the volume).

1 This section is loosely inspired by the University of Richmond 2007 course proposal for ENGL 297: Literature in Context: Genre and Mode posted at http://provost.richmond.edu/facresources/ENG_297.pdf

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

This course emphasizes inquiry-based learning and deemphasizes traditional lecture in favor of a seminar styled, multi-modal approach that engages students with the material in a variety of ways. In keeping with the seminar-like conduct of the course, a typical day in class might alternate between guided and/or student-directed instructional units and one or more of the following reinforcing or exploratory learning activities:
writing-to-learn activities such as dialectical journals, response logs, and/or short analytical papers tied to out-of-class readings/project and demonstrating students’ proficiency with close reading, applying course-specific vocabulary and concepts, and with posing and exploring humanistic questions appropriate for the text(s) under discussion;
cooperative/small group learning such as working in thematic groups with assigned primary texts to find pragmatic applications of the theories, concepts, and/or contexts discussed in class. In addition to being evaluated as a group, individual group members might be asked to turn in a short paper demonstrating their proficiency applying the course concepts to a specific text;
student-led discussion of assigned readings;
short, in-class writing assignments, including responses to a question or problem, minute papers, student profiles, and group quizzes;
guided and/or student-directed research projects;
in-class oral presentations tied to significant out-of-class projects;
short mini lessons and writing assignments focused on developing a particular skill such as summarizing a reading, defending a claim, or citing a source;
media-enhanced learning modules to include the use of film and/or music, as well as more recent innovations with class wikis or blogs, digital texts, and web-tools;
assignment of critical thinking problems that can only be solved by using specific electronic or print sources; and
guest lecturers on specific, specialized topics.
Goals and Objectives of the Course.
Students who successfully complete this course will be able to
read critically and write persuasively, employing material from the humanities;
communicate clearly about enduring questions—past and present—concerning human life, culture, and ethics;
generate increasingly sophisticated interpretations about literature and other cultural texts that reflect these questions;
produce an informed response to the form, content, and aesthetic qualities of a literary text;
use appropriate vocabulary and strategies to analyze literary and other cultural texts;
define ways that texts serve as persuasion and be able to construct an argument in defense of or in criticism of their viewpoints;
articulate how literature gives us access to modes of human experience and how an understanding of literature connects to other disciplines that make up the whole of human learning;
identify relevant historical, critical, and other contextual factors that influence the composition and reception of literary or other cultural texts.

This course satisfies the University Core B, Humanities requirement described as follows:
Goal 7: Radford University students will understand that human experience has given rise to significant questions and be aware of the nature and methods of inquiry in the humanities.

Radford University students will be able to:
a. Identify principles, concepts, or developments crucial to inquiry in a humanities discipline;
b. Recognize how a method of inquiry in the humanities can be applied to a disciplinary question

Assessment Measures

ENGL 200 uses a variety of assessment measures, which may include a number of the following:
writing-to-learn activities such as reader's logs, dialectical or double-entry reading journals, and student-designed discussion questions;
tests or quizzes on assigned readings or contextual information;
in-class or take-home essay exams on assigned readings;

researched or non-researched essays on literature and/or one of the context streams;
short, in-class writing assignments, including minute papers and group quizzes;
annotated or working bibliographies of research sources;
creative writing exercises based on what is studied;
critical review essays of articles written by English professionals;
student-led discussion of assigned readings;
guided and/or student-directed research projects;
in-class oral presentations tied to out-of-class projects;
critical thinking problems that can only be solved by using specific electronic or print sources

Other Course Information

Review and Approval
Date Action     Reviewed by
May, 2009