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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Ronald Thomas Foster
ENGL 301
Seattle Campus

Introduction to the Study of English Language and Literature

Gateway course designed for English pre-majors and majors. Introduces critical, historical, and theoretical frameworks important to studying the literature, language, and cultures of English. Concurrent registration with ENGL 297 required. Cannot be taken for credit if student has taken ENGL 202.

Class description

This course will provide an introduction to a range of historical contexts that have defined literature as an object of analysis and organized literary study as an approach to that object. The first section of the course, "What is Literature? National Vernaculars, the Printed Book, and Modern Culture,� will consider what distinguishes literature from other forms of writing, and explore how our present understanding of literature and authorship are linked to the rise of capitalism and of nationalism, to the development of new print technologies, and to concepts of "civilization" and "humanity" forged in the contexts of modern imperial expansion and colonial rule. We will be especially concerned with the historical roles of literature and print culture more generally in defining the concepts of the modern individual, private or expressive subjectivity, and public life or citizenship. We will also be concerned with the relation of literature to the large social, political, and cultural changes referred to as “modernity,� while on the level of literary history we will focus on the transition to romanticism and historical alternatives to that definition of literature. In the second section of the course, "What is Literary Study? Theories of Reading, Writing, and Meaning," we will chart how the establishment of literary study within the modern university, especially the creation of English departments and curricula, has shaped the understanding and reception of literature. In this regard, we will consider some of the main approaches that have organized academic literary study, including New Criticism, reader response, deconstruction, and ideology critique. One of the key issues that will emerge in the course of these readings is the relation of literary studies to linguistic theory as well as the relation of the aesthetic functions of language to the social functions. In the third and final section of the course, "'Writable’ Texts and the Cultural Politics of Reading," we will build on the first two units of the class in order to develop a vantage on literature as a practice, rather than a product.

Along with additional readings available online or on electronic reserve, required texts will include: Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (2nd edition) Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice (2nd edition) Octavia Butler, Dawn William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (Norton Critical Edition) Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Penguin Classics Edition)

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Work for the course will include a midterm exam (30%) and a final exam (40%), both involving both take-home and in-class components. Participation and additional short writing assignments in the discussion sections will comprise the remaining (30%) portion of your grade.


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 Ronald Thomas Foster
Date: 12/06/2010