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Cal State L.A.


English 250 Syllabus

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Prof. Jim Garrett
Office: E & T A608
Office Hours: M 4:30-6pm, T/TH 10-11:30am and by appt
Phone:  (323) 343-4163
Course web site:

Course Information

Catalog Description: Forms and techniques of fiction and/or drama, and poetry; analysis of representative works of various periods and cultures; critical compositions and reports. Not open to English majors. GE C1

Prerequisites: ENGL 102 or its equivalent. Please note that this course is not open to English majors.

Description: Immanuel Kant defined the sublime as “the abyss in which the imagination is afraid of losing itself.” If on reading that last sentence, you involuntarily gasped, thought to yourself “cool,” or screwed up your eyes and said, “huh?” then welcome to the club of the aesthetically brave and curious. In this course, we will use the sublime as a focal point as we explore literary texts ranging from ancient Greek tragedies to modern novels with plenty of poetry along the way. And since this course is an introduction to literature, be prepared for plenty of hands-on work—reading poetry, performing scenes, and writing, both critical and creative, in response to your reading. We will begin the process of locating these texts in their specific historical and cultural contexts as well as in the broader and more contentious context of literary and aesthetic history.


Upon completion of ENGL 250, students will be able to

  1. Be able to define significant literary genres, identify common literary devices, and analyze the relationship between expression and content.
  2. Make effective comparisons and connections between relevant aspects of different texts.
  3. Recognize and analyze some of the possible relationships between a text and its historical and cultural context.
  4. Relate the content and practices of the course to their own disciplinary knowledge and ways of knowing.
  5. Demonstrate general skills in reading comprehension, critical thinking, literary analysis, and academic writing in the humanities.

By actively participating in this course, students will

  1. Develop their skills as critical readers—particularly close reading, making connections within a literary work, and generating thought-provoking questions—through active reading and guided class preparation.
  2. Develop their skills at presenting questions and ideas verbally, and at responding to those of others, through seminar-style class discussions.
  3. Develop their skills as critical writers about language and literature through analytical writing assignments and essay exams.

The ultimate objective, though, is that each of us will consider the acts of reading and writing as ways of making the world, of making it cohere or come apart, of inscribing it with purpose and meaning.

Course Requirements: Listed below are the requirements for this course. Please note that students must complete all assignments to pass this class.

  1. In-class Responses (30% of your grade): Virtually every class meetings will include short writing tasks at the beginning and at the end of class that you will hand in at the end of class. These writing tasks will be scored CR/NC.
  2. In-class Reading Quizzes (10% of your grade): Seven randomly chosen class meetings will begin with a short reading quiz based on the reading assigned for that day. Quizzes will be administered promptly at the beginning of class and collected after ten minutes. Six of these quizzes will account cumulatively for 10% of the course grade (No make-up or alternative assignments are available, so be on time and keep up with the reading.)
  3. Writing Assignments (30% of your grade): Two short essays (approx. 3-4 pages each) will be completed during the quarter. Essays will be scored using a standard essay scoring guide with the opportunity for feedback and revision. Topics will be posted on the course web site.
  4. A midterm exam (15% of course grade): short answer questions and identifications, and one essay question
  5. A final exam (15% of course grade): short answer questions and identifications, and one essay question

In order to pass this course all assignments (papers and exams) must be legitimately attempted.  Plagiarism (see description below) does not constitute a legitimate attempt of the assignment.


ADA Accommodation: Reasonable accommodation will be provided to any student who is registered with the Office of Students with Disabilities and requests needed accommodation.

Grading Policy: The distribution of points for the individual assignments in this course is listed in “Requirements” above. Course grades are based on standard percentages (i.e. A = 90%-100%, B = 80%-89% and so on). Plus and minus grades are used in the class.

Electronic Devices: Please be respectful of the classroom experience of others. Every quarter I receive earnest complaints from students about the distracting behavior of other students using electronic devices. Unless the use of such devices is approved by the Office of Students with Disabilities, please do not use electronic devices during class.

Contacting Me: I am available in my office during my posted office hours and, schedule allowing, by appointment. Email is also an effective way of contacting me.

Attendance: Attendance is mandatory. I will take attendance at the start of every class. If you are not present I will mark you absent. Arriving late will count as half of an absence. You are allowed one absence without penalty. Each absence beyond the first one will reduce your course grade. If you miss more than four classes you will be disqualified from taking the final and therefore will fail the class.

Preparing for Class: Please read the assigned texts before class. Often I will offer some guidelines about future reading assignments in class. For example, I might tell you to focus on a particular text for the next class meeting. If you are absent, you are responsible for getting the assignment from a classmate.

Written Assignments: Please note the following carefully when preparing your written assignments for this class:

Academic Dishonesty/Cheating: Collaborating with others is encouraged when you are planning your papers, reviewing each other’s work, preparing for presentations or for exams. Study or reading groups can be effective ways to study and learn. However, when you write your papers, the text needs to be your own.

Textbooks: The following texts are required for this class:

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Other Poems. Dover Publications, 1992. (ISBN 978-0486272665)

Euripides. Medea. Dover Publications, 1993. (ISBN 978-0486275482)

Miller, Frank. The Dark Knight Returns. DC Comics, 1997. (ISBN 978-1563893421)

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus. Oxford UP, 2009. (ISBN 978-0199537150)

All other required readings are available as PDF downloads from the course web site. Access to online course readings requires a password. Contact the instructor to learn how to access these readings.

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Last Update: 06/23/2013