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Instructor Class Description

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Yifan Zhang
ENGL 242
Seattle Campus

Reading Prose Fiction

Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.

Class description

What all humans have in common is actually what distinguishes them. How we define ourselves is ultimately not up to us because the thing we use for our self-definition – “identity” – is beyond our control. Exploring a variety of literary genres and forms, we will use the conception of identity as the tool to frame our comprehension and interpretation of the selected readings. We can see the concept of identity and identification change over the course of English and American literary history. What does identity/identification mean in literature that reflects the pre-capitalist era, imperial period, or late-capitalist times? Beginning with this fundamental question of identity, we are going to explore the multiplicity of identities of social subjects or objectified subjects which are socially, nationally, racially, and sexually constructed.

Readings include a film and four novels— The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, Fixer Chao by Han Ong, A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, and Beloved by Toni Morrison. One film and several movie clips will be shown for the reading purpose. Additional readings consist of articles by Stuart Hall, Roland Barthes, Harold Kolb, and Franco Moretti. A brief introduction to realism and modernism will be provided in class.

Student learning goals

In this course, two learning outcomes have been set up for students: first, the ability to develop a reasonable interpretation of a literary text and to support that interpretation with evidence; second, the ability to develop more sophisticated discussion and composition skills in the interest of being better able to construct and defend their own arguments or interpretations.

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Have a certain knowledge of composition and argumentation. Having taken ENGL 100-level composition course is a plus.

Class assignments and grading

As a “W” or writing class, this course will require students to devote effort to writing about literature. Two 3-page double-spaced book reports and one 5-page major paper should be completed during the course. Students will get feedback from peer review sessions and the instructor. The writing assignments will additionally include frequent free writing in class.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Yifan Zhang
Date: 03/29/2011