English 271
Literary Analysis
Fall 2015, 3 credits, #3895
TTH 9:30-10:45

Instructor: Cindy Nichols  
Office:  SE #318F 
Office Hours: MWF 10-10:50 and T 12:30-1:30
Office Phone:  218-236-8233
Email is better!



About this Course

Welcome to Literary Analysis, an "introduction to traditional and contemporary approaches in the study of literature and the fundamental skills required for the analysis of literary texts." We will read and discuss poems, short stories, novels, and films, and you'll learn to recognize some very different ways of thinking about literature and culture. Coursework will involve traditional and well as possible creative-critical kinds of writing.


Required Texts

White Oleander, dir. Peter Kosminsky, Warner Brothers, 2003

Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, Routledge., 2015.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Scribner & Scribner.

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Owl Books, 1996.

(A wide selection of other required texts—poems, short stories, films—are available on Blackboard and in our class online library.)

Recommended Texts
(these are available at off-campus bookstores, Amazon.com, etc.)

A good dictionary of literary & critical terms, such as:

  • The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism (Columbia Univ. Press) Excellent. Challenging.
  • Critical Terms for Literary Study (Lentricchia and McLaughlin, University of Chicago Press, 1995).
  • Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (Cuddon & Preston, 1998) Comprehensive.
  • Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms (Murfin & Ray, 1998) Good cross-referencing; helps you see the relationships between different terms;
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (Oxford Univ.Press, 2001) Concise, witty.

Class Aims

In this class you will learn to:

  • explicate a literary work;
  • understand and recognize the formal elements of any work;
  • understand literature through a variety of distinct, sometimes competing critical lenses;
  • "think theoretically" (begin to grasp the premises of any viewpoint);
  • recognize your own critical stances and assumptions;
  • recognize specific critical orientations when you encounter them in actual practice;
  • begin applying those critical orientations yourself. I.e., you will actually do some literary criticism.

This class will also provide you with practice in some of the more general skills you need as a student of English or other Humanities courses. You will:

  • practice recognizing the ways in which any work of literature is culturally situated;
  • practice using textual evidence in support of claims from any theoretical vantage point;
  • continue fine-tuning research and problem-solving skills which you'll need in all of your academic studies;
  • develop professionalism exhibited in such qualities as self-direction, cooperation, civility, reliability, and care in editing and presenting the final product.

 In this class, critical awareness of literature is never far from enjoyment of literature and, along with learning use of new critical tools, you'll enrich your emotional, psychological, intuitive, and perhaps even physical responses to what you read. Additionally, inquisitiveness and imagination are keywords for the course. It's important that you come with an open, ACTIVE mind, a love of ideas, and a willingness to test your own views and the views of others. Interest in literary criticism and theory very easily bleeds into interest in just about all things—social, political, religious. A philosophical frame of mind, then, is highly desirable, along with big doses of good will and—probably more than anything—CURIOSITY. Feel free at any time to argue with me or with your classmates, and be ready for interesting, sometimes challenging group discussions and readings.


Materials You'll Need Access To

You'll need a good-sized notebook or folder for holding lots of readily removed paper. You will also need access to the internet, Microsoft Word, email (frequent), and contact information for several classmates.

Coursework, Late Policies, & Grades

Grading is based on a simple point system, in which your aim is to earn as close to 100 as possible. You’ll start the semester with 0, then earn credit for the course work described below. Note: specific evaluation criteria for each assignment will be elaborated in class or on its respective assignment page.


Weekly Work (50 pts. or 50 % of semester grade)

Throughout each week of the term you will complete worksheets, small-group collaborations, quizzes, and exercises. You will devise your own questions about a text using various critical frames, produce outlines of potential essays, write summaries of Tyson's critical essays in CTT, create "minute reports," and so on. This work will usually be handed in via Blackboard for comments and discussion.

Weekly Work produces a good record of your overall performance as a student: your level of engagement with course subjects, your attendance and participation, your willingness to learn from mistakes, your conscientious struggle with difficult therories, and so on.

Note: if you MISS an assignment or are LATE to turn one in, regardless of what it is (worksheet, quiz, minute essays, etc.) simply get full notes and instructions from a couple classmates and complete the work on your own using our LATE FORM (located at top of our Bb menu).

Exam 25 pts. or 25% of semester grade)

This take-home work will test your recognition and understanding of the theories we've studied, require that you apply some of the theories to specific literary works, and act as a learning aide. You'll have a full week to complete it.

Critical Essay
(25 pts. or 25% of final grade)

During the latter weeks of the course, you will complete a 4-6 page literary analysis, applying your choice of critical framework to your choice of text from an assigned list. Everyone will hand in drafts for teacher-student and student-student critiques.

Late drafts or final versions of your essay are accepted only with documented evidence of serious hardship or illness. Missed conferences on your drafts likewise can ony be made up with documented evidence of serious hardship or illness.


Final Grading Scale

90-100 pts.=A    79-89=B     68-78=C     57-67=D    Below 57=F

Performance and Participation


Coming Late to Class

...is A BAD IDEA. It's disruptive and rude, you will miss important announcements and instructions which are covered in the first 10 minutes of every session, and it will be noted in the record. You are responsible for knowing announcements and instructions whether you are present or not.

Missing Class

If you miss a class meeting, the first thing you must do is check our schedule as well as any new or updated Power Point presentations in Bb Power Point presentations. When you've informed yourself by reading those documents, next CONTACT SEVERAL CLASSMATES for full notes. THEN, if you have INFORMED questions or need handouts, you may see or email me. DO NOT first come to me asking: what did we do? You are responsible for finding out what transpired in any class session ON YOUR OWN. Once you've taken the time to inform yourself as best you can, you can visit, call, or email me with questions as much as you like.

Late exams, essays, or essay drafts are only accepted with documentation of serious illness or hardship.

Digging Class

A key word in this class is CURIOSITY. One of the WORST things you can do is tell me that SOMETHING BORED YOU. All coursework will require active thinking and engagement. If you are energetically reflecting, imagining, questioning, and struggling when you read course materials or complete course work, YOU WILL NEVER BE BORED. Admissions of boredom are embarassing, because they reveal that you yourself are a boring person.

If you do not UNDERSTAND something, do not become frustrated, angry, or defeated. REJOICE! :) You are in exactly the right place to begin LEARNING. When confused or otherwise stumped, ASK QUESTIONS. Be willing to be dumb. Dig. Explore. LOOK THINGS UP. Engage others. Contact your instructor. And, yes, even RE-READ assignments!

Class participation does not simply mean perfect attendance. Becoming a better writer requires critical thinking, dialogue, and practice. This is a workshop course, which requires your active input and involvement.

Late or Missed Work

Missed conferences or presentations, late essay drafts, and late exams: these can only be made up with documented evidence of serious hardship or illness. The degree of "seriousness" is higher for missed exams.

Late Weekly Work can be completed up to a week late without point penalty. However, you must complete the LATE FORM located in Bb, and the late material will go into a special pile to-be-scored  at my convenience. Do NOT contact me first about this material; always contact classmates and check the schedule as well as Blackboard Power Points for information first.



A Note to English Majors

During their senior year, English majors generally enroll in the English Capstone course (Engl 467), during which they assemble a portfolio containing representative written work from NDSU English courses. The English Department evaluates these portfolios to assess its undergraduate programs, analyzing how student work meets departmental outcomes. In order to facilitate the preparation of senior portfolios, English majors are encouraged to save copies of their written work (in electronic and hard copy) each semester.


Disclaimer! I believe in the creative as well as practical value of spontaneity. I also believe that disorder is always there, lurking in any plan or scheme no matter how carefully devised— especially my own! I therefore reserve the right, if the occasion warrants it, and with ample notice to you, of course, to alter some of the details on this page as the semester progresses. Fundamental requirements for the course will remain unchanged.


University and Department Policies

Americans with Disabilities Act: "Any students with disabilities or other special needs, who need specific accomodations in this course, are invited to share these concerns or requests with the instructor as soon as possible."

English Department Attendance Policy: "In compliance with NDSU University Senate Policy, Section 333: Class Attendance and Policy and Procedure, located at <http://www.ndsu.nodak.edu/policy/333.htm>, the English Department has established the following attendance policy. All English Department courses require active learning. Students are expected to speak, listen, and contribute. Therefore, prompt, regular attendance is required. Students who miss more than four weeks of class during the standard academic semester (e.g. twelve 50 minute classes, eight 75 minute classes, or their equivalent) will not pass the course. Moreover, each student is accountable for all work missed because of absence, and instructors have no obligation to make special arrangements for missed work."

Academic Dishonesty/Plagiarism: “The academic community is operated on the basis of honesty, integrity, and fair play. NDSU Policy 335: Code of Academic Responsibility and Conduct applies to cases in which cheating, plagiarism, or other academic misconduct have occurred in an instructional context. Students found guilty of academic misconduct are subject to penalties, up to and possibly including suspension and/or expulsion. Student academic misconduct records are maintained by the Office of Registration and Records. Informational resources about academic honesty for students and instructional staff members can be found at www.ndsu.edu/academichonesty.”

English Department Policy on Plagiarism: " Instructors in the English department try to distinguish between inadvertent and deliberate plagiarism. Initial instances of inadvertent plagiarism will be pointed out and revision will be expected; deliberate plagiarism may result in zero for an assignment, possible F for the course. Plagiarism isn’t worth it. You all have your own great ideas; why not share them?"

Any instances of deliberate plagiarism in this section of English 271 will result in an F for the course.

Academic Honesty Defined: All written and oral presentations must “respect the intellectual rights of others. Statements lifted verbatim from publications must be cited as quotations. Ideas, summaries or paraphrased material, and other information taken from the literature must be properly referenced” (Guidelines for the Presentation of Disquisitions, NDSU Graduate School , 4). In other words, if it is not your work or words, give proper credit to the author.

Code of Student Behavior: "all interactions in this course will be civil and show respect for others.  Student conduct at NDSU is governed by the Code of Student Behavior: http://www.ndsu.edu/fileadmin/studentlife/StudentCode.pdf ."

University's Emergency Action Guide: http://www.ndsu.edu/police_safety/safety/Forms/EmergencyActionGuidePosterNew09.pdf . We are told that it's always good to review this info.



This course meets as least 2 English Liberal Arts Major outcomes:

  • Outcome 5: English majors will be familiar with a variety of theoretical lenses, learning to recognize them at the 200-level and learning to use them by the 400-level.
    • How this outcome will be met: English 271 introduces students to these critical lenses and helps prepare students for their use in later courses. All coursework is directly geared to this outcome.
  • Outcome 7: English majors will develop professionalism exhibited in such qualities as self-direction, cooperation, civility, reliability, and care in editing and presenting the final product.
    • How this outcome will be met: as a foundational course, 271 places special emphasis on preparing students for later academic work. Professionalism is an important component of that preparation. Completion of a major essay, a comprehensive exam, multiple small-group collaborations, multiple brief essays, and other work in the course place explicit emphasis in their instructions and criteria on Outcome 7 goals.

Study Resources (see class Library and Bb "Course Documents" for other helpful items)   
NOTE: links need to be updated.

Owl at Purdue (for review of basic writing mechanics)

Bedford-St.Martin's Elements of Fiction

Bedford-St.Martin's Elements of Poetry

Bedford-St.Martin's Glossary of Literary Terms

Glossary of Literary Terms (free, through GaleNet) (NOTE: lists of literary terms are readily available on the web; I've included a sampling here)

University of Toronto's List of Lit Terms

A Very-Well-Maintained Index of Web Sites on Crit. Theory


Spenser's Sonnets through Various Critical Lenses: Some Sample Short-Short Essays

A Summary of Precepts for the Various Critical Theories

Voice of the Shuttle: Website for Humanities Research: Literary Theory Links (Outstanding; scroll down to "Contemporary")

Illuminations: The Critical Theory Website

Literature Resource Center (A Gale resource site through the NDSU library; excellent. Includes:

Contemporary Authors Online
Biographies on more than 110,000 authors since 1900

Contemporary Literary Criticism Select Online
Nearly 600 biographies and more than 5,600 critical articles on 600 authors 

Dictionary of Literary Biography Online
Nearly 10,000 biocritical essays on 7,000 authors

Additional Data

  • Focus on more than  2,500 most-studied authors
  • 285,000 full-text articles from  more than 260 literary journals 
  • Full text of Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature
  • 4,000 synopses for the most-studied titles
  • More than 5,000 author-related Web sites
  • Literary research guide

Timeline of Major Critical Theories in U.S.

The Internet Public Library: Literary Criticism (Possible links for researching critical essays about our readings)

WSU Popular Culture Site
(many outstanding links for pop culture and culturalist web materials)

Jack Lynch's List of Lit. Crit. Links, Rutgars


Radu Surdulescu (very good site on formalism)