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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Mark R Patterson
ENGL 440
Seattle Campus

Special Studies in Literature

Themes and topics offering special approaches to literature.

Class description

Narrative as Time Machine. This is a course about different ways to tell time. Stories engage us in issues of time in two ways. First, narrative happens in time, and we are always experiencing the different ways that stories shape this experience (“How long will it take me to read this novel before class?? or “I had to read the same sentence three times before I understood it?). Second, narrative is always about time, or at least about different ways to represent time (historically, experientially, deep time, etc.) We will read a series of novels and study several films that engage these different ways of experiencing time. These works will help us think about and discuss issues like the representation of history, the deep time of evolution, the expansion and contraction of time (and space) in our contemporary global society and narrative techniques like stream of consciousness. Readings will include H.G. Wells, The Time Machine, Virginia Woolf, Orlando, Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine, William Golding, The Inheritors, Toni Morrison, A Mercy, and Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces. Films will include Ground Hog Day and Twelve Monkeys, among others. There will also be a course reader with theoretical essays.

Student learning goals

• Engaging theory. To me this doesn’t mean working with abstractions or speaking in the jargon of a particular theorist. Rather, it means reflecting on the assumptions that drive our understanding, judgments, and arguments. It also means being intellectually generous enough to read and discuss difficult texts with openness and curiosity.

• Engaging the world. A corollary to the first objective, this one asks that you be open to the world in the same way you engage theoretical and literary texts. Intellectual inquiry begins, literally, at home.

• Community of Inquiry. It is one of my strongest pedagogical beliefs that students teach each other at least as effectively as they learn from a professor. Sharing ideas and working in teams are necessary to push ideas and arguments further.

• Writing with Focus and Intensity. Learning to write as an engaged and curious writer is harder than it looks. Writing is one of the most difficult processes I know and it’s difficult precisely because it’s unnatural. Learning how to possess it and use it as effectively as possible is a key to this course’s success.

• Serious Fun. Engaging in complex, sometimes abstract, work is serious business. That’s why it’s especially important that it be fun. I don’t mean fun in the “I don’t care what happens” kind of way, although I hope we have a lot of laughs this quarter, but fun in the “I’m finally getting this!” kind of way.

General method of instruction

The Capstone Course. The English Department has created a series of courses called capstones in order to give graduating seniors (or hardworking juniors) a way to integrate some of the things they’ve done and learned as English majors. A capstone is intended to be a kind of special topics course carried out in an intense, intimate conversational setting. I stress conversational here because a great deal of work will happen through the students' conversations, hence the importance of class participation. It is through class discussion that we all learn to ask questions and to listen attentively. Don't hesitate to ask questions, because if you are perplexed by some opaque phrase or concept, then you're probably not alone. This is especially important because some of the theoretical pieces can seem difficult to grasp. Learning to think theoretically simply means learning to ask questions in new ways--and that takes practice and faith in the intellectual generosity of the group. There are no right or wrong answers, only different forms of analysis, self-reflection, and self-presentation

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


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 Mark R Patterson
Date: 05/29/2013