** Last Taught: Spring 1991 **

Index: Orientation :: Objectives :: Texts :: Mechanics :: Assignments :: Grades

The primary emphasis of the course will be focused on reading a broadly interdisciplinary collection of classic texts--works of enduring significance that have shaped the development of Western culture. In this, an age of anthologies, abridgments, and multiple-choice testing, our appetites for pre-digested learning are voracious--we are less inclined to read the great works of our tradition than we are to read about them. This seminar, however, proceeds contrawise. In many respects, both the warrant for, and the intent of, the course were adumbrated by T.S. Eliot in 1919:

Some one said: "The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did." Precisely, and they are that which we know.
Course Objectives
Roughly, the objectives of the course are three:
  1. to provide you with a functional understanding of how to read masterworks;
  2. to foster and develop your sense of intellectual history; and
  3. to assist you in the development of you own interdisciplinary criteria for assessing the enduring value of classic texts.
Course Materials
The following books (copies of which will be supplied by the Honors Program) are required:
Course Outline and Mechanics
After an introductory overview (following the main arguments advanced in Pound's ABC of Reading), the texts and our attendant discussions will follow a (roughly) chronological sequence, beginning with Homer and ending with Joyce; Huxley's Brave New World will serve, finally, as the context for a sort of conceptual debriefing. A calendar indicating the sequence of readings is supplied with this syllabus.

For the most part, each week of the semester will be devoted to a specific work. On Tuesdays we shall follow a lecture format; on Thursdays, a seminar-discussion format. To prepare for the lectures, you should have completed your reading of the relevant text for that period. To prepare for the discussions, you should have completed the relevant entries in your Interrogative Notebook (see "Written Assignments, below).

Reading Assignments
In some instances we shall devote our primary attentions to selected portions of a text. Such selections will be made by your instructor during the course of the semester with a view toward satisfying student interests. However, unless otherwise stipulated, each text should be read in its entirely before the respective lecture date specified on the course calendar.
Written Assignments
There will be three written assignments, as follows:
  1. An Interrogative Notebook

    Inasmuch as class discussion periods will follow the contours of your specific interests, each student is asked to prepare for each Thursday session by formulating no less than five (5) questions, the consideration of which s/he regards as suitable for initiating insight into the text at hand. In order to facilitate this process in a reliable manner, you are further asked to record your questions in a notebook which will be reviewed and graded by your instructor. Roughly twenty-three percent of the final grade will reflect the quality of this notebook. Cosmetics are unimportant; notebooks will be assessed solely with regard to evidence of your ability to open avenues of insight into the course materials.

  2. An Analytical Essay

    Roughly thirty-one percent of the final grade will be based on your submission of a formal essay devoted to close semantic analysis of terms or passages drawn from a single work. Not to exceed fifteen (15) double-spaced typed pages, this assignment may be completed using either of the following formats:

    (a) Lab Reports:
    after indicating the particular sentence, paragraph, or extended passage on which you will focus, examine the selection from as many angles (style, import, function, etc.) as possible within the confines of a three- page report. Repeat this process five (5) times, each time adding new layers of refined observation.
  3. (b) Interpretive Lexicon: first select thirty (30) key terms or phrases used by the author of the text on which you have chosen to focus; next, define each term or phrase in a manner which directs insight toward the work as a whole. The idea here is to identify the pivotal, foundational, or vital notions which (respectively) orient, structure, or animate the work. The paper should be divided into two parts: a preface indicating the general drift of your interpretation, and the lexicon proper.
  4. A Critical Essay

    Roughly thirty-six percent of the final grade will be based on your submission of a formal essay devoted to a creative synthesis of your insights into a single work. Not to exceed fifteen (15) double-spaced typed pages, this assignment may be completed using one of the following formats:

    1. Type One: assessing the author's achievement: this format divides into two parts: (1) a theoretical apparatus or account of the criteria by means of which the greatness of a written text should be measured; and (2) the synthesis proper, i.e., an examination of the work you've selected in light of your theoretical apparatus.

    2. Type Two: assessing the author's influence: this format addresses the question, How has the work contributed (or is now contributing) to the fabric of our contemporary culture?

    3. Type Three: assessing the meaning of the work: to complete the critical essay using this format, you should present the views of three critical works on the text of your choice and either defend one of these views or, if none proves defensible, advance the outlines of your own view.
Ten percent of the final grade will reflect class participation.

The remaining ninety percent of the final grade will be based on the following division (total possible points = 200):

(a) The Interrogative Notebook: 50 pts.

(b) The Analytical Essay: 70 pts.

(c) The Critical Essay: 80 pts.