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Cal State L.A.


English 501 Syllabus

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Prof. Jim Garrett
Office: E & T A608
Office Hours: Mon 4:30-6pm, Tue 10-11am, Noon-1pm, Thu 10-11am and by appt
Phone:  (323) 343-4163
Course web site:

Catalog Description: Prerequisite or corequisite: ENGL 441. Introduction to the basic concepts and methods of contemporary trends in literary and critical theories.

Course Description: English 501 is one of the two required introductory courses designed to prepare students for graduate level coursework and to introduce students to the scholarly and critical discourses of literary studies. This course is intended to serve as an intensive and focused introduction to the historical development of contemporary literary and critical theory. It surveys significant developments in several fields of English studies, with particular emphasis on major debates in contemporary literary theory.

Learning Outcomes:

Students in English 501 will learn to

        Consider the history of the discipline of English Studies;

        Identify major critical and theoretical questions and debates that have shaped 20th and 21st century criticism;

        Recognize and explain the relevance of historical and contemporary theories;

        Engage in critical discussions about the nature of English studies, literature, literary and narrative form, language, theory, ideology, subjectivity, culture, gender, sexuality, nationality, embodiment, and power;

        Conduct advanced analysis of theoretical arguments with emphasis on comprehension, synthesis, and comparison of critical theories;

        Develop cogent, incisive, and well-written arguments that analyze and compare the claims, assumptions, strengths, and weaknesses of critical and theoretical arguments;

        Become producers of critical, textual, and theoretical knowledge.

Textbooks: The following texts are required for this class:

Berry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Third Edition. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009. (ISBN 978-0719079276)

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness: A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism. Third Edition. Ed. Ross Murfin. New York : Bedford/St. Martin, 2011. (ISBN 978-0-312-45753-2)

Richter, David. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Third Edition. New York : Bedford/St. Martin, 2006. (ISBN 978-0312415204)

Other texts to be made available online.

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

         Seminar Presentation (10% of your grade): A seminar presentation is a 15-20 minute presentation to the rest of the class about an assigned reading. For the presentation, plan to go beyond regular class preparation, at the very least, providing background about your topic, a generous overview, and a discussion of its relation to other readings for that week (or read earlier). You should also be prepared to answer questions and help lead class discussion for that topic. You should prepare a handout for the class; however, do not simply read from your prepared handout or paper.

         Weekly Response Papers (30% of your grade): Each response paper is a 1-2 page response to the readings assigned for the week. Use the keyword associated with the week’s reading to focus your attention on one or more of the readings. You must complete five of the six weekly responses, with everyone required to submit a response on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Responses will be submitted online using a blog located at 

Responses must be posted by 6pm on the Sunday preceding the assigned readings.

         Critical Perspectives on Heart of Darkness Paper (25% of your grade): This assignment is a 5-7 (early draft) to 8-10 (later draft) paper that uses critical discussions of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to examine, compare, and contrast the foundational values and methods of selected critical perspectives.

         Final Exam (25% of your final grade): This will be an essay exam of one or two questions which will ask you to incorporate several of the readings in a theoretical examination of the ideas explored throughout the quarter.

         Participation (10%): I expect full participation from all members of the class. Absences or failure to prepare are unacceptable. You will be graded on the following scale

5 points for being fully prepared and offering frequent and insightful comments in class

4 points for being well prepared and participating in discussion several times/class

3 points for being somewhat or superficially prepared and participating in discussion occasionally (once or twice/class)

0-2 points for absences, failure to participate significantly in class discussion


Grading Policy: Course grades are based on standard percentages (i.e. 90% and greater is some version of an A, 80%-89% is some version of a B and so on). Plus and minus grades are used in the class.

Cell Phones and Other Electronic Devices: Please turn off all cell phones, pagers, portable radios, televisions, computers, MP3/CD/Disc/Mini-disc players, and any other electronic communication and/or entertainment devices before coming to class.

Contacting the Instructor: Email is the most effective way of contacting the instructor.

Attendance: Be there or miss out on the fun.

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 character or scene 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:

       Written assignments must be typed following standard formatting practices for college writing—use a readable type style (12 point type), indent paragraphs, double space between lines, and use one inch margins. Any style guide will contain information on formatting your written assignments for submission.

       Edit and proofread your work carefully before handing in written assignments

       Do not use plastic covers or report folders or title pages on your written assignments. Each assignment, though, should have your name, the course number, the date, and my name on separate lines (double-spaced) in the upper left corner of the first page. If the paper has a title, center it on the first page, after the above information.

       Use page numbers and place them in the upper right corner of the page. If you are uncertain how to have word processing software generate the correct page number in the header of your document, ask someone in one of the labs.

       MLA format and style conventions should be followed for all written assignments (essays and responses). For more information on MLA format and style conventions, see The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, the appropriate section of a recent (published after 2000) writer’s handbook, or one of the many reputable online sources.

       Late papers are not accepted. The assignment due dates are distributed on the first day of class, and the assignments are made available often weeks before they are due.

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.

       You must carefully observe the standard rules for acknowledging the sources of words and ideas. If you make use of a phrase or a quote or if you paraphrase another writer’s words or ideas, you must acknowledge the source of these words or ideas telling us the source of these materials. APA and MLA style differ on the exact format of this attribution, but the simple version is the name of the author and the page number (if appropriate) in parentheses at the end of the sentence containing the use of the source material. If you fail to acknowledge properly the source of your text, you will receive a zero on the assignment and be reported to the Student Disciplinary Officer.

       If you plagiarize or otherwise misrepresent the source of your work, you will receive a zero on the assignment and be reported to the Student Disciplinary Officer.

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Last Update: 01/12/2016