DRAFT Course Syllabus

English 10: Introduction to Literary Studies
Deception, Dishonesty, and Bullshit

Summer 2015 (session A)

Lecture time/location: M/Tu/W/Th 9:30–10:55 (location TBD)
Office hours: TBD, or by appointment, in South Hall 2432E

Teaching Associate: Patrick Mooney

Office Hours: Office hours: TBD, or by appointment, in South Hall 2432E.
Mailbox: English Department mail room, South Hall 3421.
Voicemail: (805) 272-0069

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Course Description

This course provides an introduction to the scholarly study of literary texts and to the study of literature as an academic discipline. That is to say, this course teaches you to read, think, and write like a student of literature. We will be discussing basic analytical and expository methodologies — close reading, multiple rhetorical techniques and strategies, relationships between form and content, terminology for discussing poetic (and other literary) form, theoretical and philosophical questions and concerns about literature; we will also be applying these strategies in class and in our writing throughout the quarter. The overarching aim of the course is to provide you with the basic intellectual tools that are required to engage in sophisticated analysis of literary texts (and texts of other types, for that matter).

All of this may seem abstract and perhaps a bit daunting, and though English 10 is primarily intended for those preparing to complete a major in the English department or other literature-oriented departments, students from other disciplines are welcome, and it is not necessary to come into the course with an extensive knowledge of what your high school English teacher might have referred to, with a stern look and a serious tone of voice, as the Immortal Canon of the Great Works of Our Cultural Heritage — nor will you come out of this class with a detailed knowledge of the traditional literary canon (although you'll know more than you did before, and you'll be better prepared to approach it — besides, we're going to be reading some really fun things this summer). Instead, we'll be focusing our attention on a group of texts this quarter that are thematically interested in a pervasive condition of modern life: intentional deception and misrepresentation. That is, to put it in a single piquant word, this summer we will be thinking about bullshit and related literary, social, psychological, ethical, and linguistic phenomena.

The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides […] is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor to conceal it, writes philosopher Harry Frankfurt. We will be paying attention to precisely this concern this quarter, as well as a series of related questions: what does it mean to intentionally misrepresent one's intentions? What ethical responsibilities do we have to be honest? How does dishonest language operate? How pervasive is the contemporary practice of bullshit? What are the practical obstacles to abandoning bullshit as a rhetorical and ideological maneuver? What positive consequences might bullshit have? Who benefits from producing dishonesty? What kinds of people produce, deploy, understand, resist, and critique bullshit? What kind of a world does bullshit create? We will be considering this topic from a number of theoretical angles (the essays on the reading list) and looking closely at its instantiations in poems, novels, and plays. Ultimately, our goal in this course is to understand how to apply techniques of literary reading and analysis to identify, understand, and respond to bullshit and other forms of intentional deception in all of their forms.

Required Texts

All of the books for the course are available in the UCen bookstore, and are also available on line through the normal retail channels. Personally, I frequently use alibris.com to comparison shop (they don't pay me to endorse them; I'm just a satisfied customer). You may also find isbn.nu to be a useful comparison-shopping site. I do require that you use the editions of books ordered through the UCen bookstore for the course (their ISBNs are listed above) in order to facilitate class discussion.

A few words about course content: You should be aware that texts that represent, analyze, critique, and respond to bullshit are also often rather abrasive and may be emotionally difficult, so you should consider this class as having a generalized trigger warning for many kinds of content that some of you may find offensive. Some of the situations and events depicted by the texts in in this course that may be seen as offensive include (but are not limited to) suicide; marital infidelity; explicit descriptions of sexual situations; profane language; representations of less-than-enlightened views on gender, sexuality, and race; and violations of many other ethical and religious norms. If you cannot deal with frank discussions of adult situations even when those situations are unpleasant, you may have a hard time with the course material, so please ensure that you thoughtfully and honestly assess early in the quarter whether this class is appropriate for you. To put it more briefly: This course may be very difficult for the faint of heart or the queasy of stomach, or those who have a particular sensitivity to emotionally challenging material.


Course Readings and Lecture

You should always prepare for lecture by reading the assigned texts carefully and critically. Simply moving your eyes over the words is not enough: you need to make sure that you think carefully and critically about the texts and ideas that you encounter, because simply encountering these ideas and texts and then quickly moving on does not give you a deep enough familiarity and understanding to engage with them fully in the manner required by the detailed study of textual materials. Writing in the margins of your texts, underlining passages, and having something to throw across the room when you are frustrated or in violent disagreement all promote comprehension and retention of the material. It is also a good way to be ready for quizzes (which will not announced in advance) and to be look for a topic for your research paper.

Trying to provide a fair introduction to the scholarly study of literature in a compressed summer session means that we will be moving quickly this term. (Every week has at least part of a novel or a play, some poetry, and an essay. That's a lot of reading.) I assume that you will come into this course expecting to engage critically with the readings, that you will be familiar and engaged with the material, that you have a solid grasp of the mechanics of writing, and that you will be doing the reading on time (you should always have completed the assigned readings by the date indicated on this syllabus). You should ensure at the beginning of the session that you will be able to perform all assigned readings carefully and critically. Reading quizzes — which I am giving in lieu of a midterm exam — will be moderately easy for those who have done a thorough, engaged job of critically reading all of the required materials, and difficult for those who have not. Quizzes cannot be made up if missed (although I will drop your two lowest quiz scores), so be sure that you arrive in class on time and prepared.

You should always bring the day's readings with you to class. I may require that you hold up the day's readings in order to be considered present when I call roll. Simply having read the texts before class, even if you have done so carefully and thoughtfully, is not enough: you need to have the texts with you so that you can engage with them, in detail, with the rest of the class during discussions. If you do not have the texts with you, you are not prepared to do the intellectual work that the course requires, and you may be marked absent.

All of this is to say: Despite being a lower-division course taught during the summer, this is a real class with a significant workload. You need to be sure at the beginning of the term that you are prepared to keep up with the workload represented on the calendar below.

Attendance and Participation

Attendance in class is required, and I will take attendance each and every time class meets. Our class meetings are rich and compact and important; any absence will put you significantly behind the rest of the class. (Do not email me to ask if you missed anything: the answer is always yes. You should also take a look at the Contact and Communications Policy below.) But attending is not enough on its own: you are expected to do more in class than fill a seat. You are expected to work collaboratively with other people in the class by contributing your questions, knowledge, experience, viewpoint, and insights. For this reason, simple attendance does not earn points; participation is an integral part of how this part of your grade is calculated. I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences: every absence hurts your grade by a little bit, regardless of why you were not in class. (Even if you have a doctor's note. Even if it's because your boss called you in to work at the last minute. Even if you are doing a worthwhile thing for a charity or political cause or club or fraternity/sorority. Even if you are competing in an athletic contest for an official UCSB team. Even if you're assisting in a production of a school play. Even if you're going to some sort of required event for another class. Even if your alarm clock didn't go off. Even if the bus came late. Even if you're on a date that's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go out with a wonderful stranger you met on the way to class. Even if you're busy writing the great American novel and can't stop because you're in the zone. Even if you have a job interview. It doesn't matter what the reason is: you're either in class or you're not. If you're not, make sure that whatever you're doing instead of attending is important enough to you that you're willing to sacrifice points in order to do it.)

Despite this, if you have a genuinely extraordinary or catastrophic situation that will result in you missing more than one class, please come talk to me: I may be willing to soften these requirements under very unusual circumstances.

To summarize: Attendance and participation are an ongoing assignment that you can only fulfill by being in class and participating; there is no way to make up for absences in order to regain points that you have lost by missing class or by not participating. I do not hold absences against you, because you do not start the quarter with a full bucket of attendance/participation points from which I penalize you by scooping out points. You start the quarter with zero attendance/participation points, and earn points throughout the term by both attending and participating. This course is a small lecture, but you are expected to participate extensively by contributing substantially to the class's discourse. That is to say, you should come to class having done the reading well, ready to ask questions and provide readings of the texts in question. You are also welcome to participate by dissenting, disagreeing, (appropriately) redirecting the class's focus, and expressing alternative viewpoints. I have only three basic expectations related to course participation: that you arrive promptly, having read the assigned texts in a nuanced and engaged manner; that everyone contribute meaningfully to the group's discourse at some point during the session; and that everyone in class treat each other respectfully during discussions, even (especially!) when disagreements arise.


Week 1: Who's Speaking, and What Do They Say?

Week 2

Week 3: Who Can You Trust?

Week 4: What Are you Owed?

Week 5: Cui Bonum?

Week 6: What Is to Be Done?

Paper Guidelines:

Papers are due at the beginning of class on the dates found on the calendar above. Failure to turn in your paper on time will result in a reduction of ⅓ letter grade per day (e.g., an A- paper receives a B+ if turned in up to one day late) unless you have either made arrangements with me (at least 24 hours in advance) or have a genuinely serious and unavoidable emergency (family death, serious injury, natural disaster, etc.). If you turn in a late paper, you must both put it in my box in the English Department's mail room (South Hall 3421) and email me before the time the paper is due to be sure that I notice it and give you credit for turning it in on the proper day. If you must be absent from class on the day that your paper is due, you may leave your paper in my box before class starts (and, again, must send me an email saying that you have done so).

Papers must be formatted according to the MLA standard. Among other things, this means that you should have a standard list of works cited and use standard MLA-based citation methodology for phrases and ideas originating elsewhere, that you should use one-inch margins, that your paper should be double-spaced, that there should be no extra spacing between paragraphs or other layout elements, that you should use a standard 12-point font, etc. If your word processor does not conform to the MLA standard by default, it is your job to figure out how to override the defaults and produce an acceptably formatted paper. Any non-trivial deviations from will negatively impact your paper grade. Moreover, you are expected to be familiar with (and to employ) the standard conventions of formal writing (including appropriate grammar, punctuation, and mechanics), and any substantial problems with these matters will also negatively impact your grade. If you have questions, please consult a writing handbook, or see me during my office hours. We will discuss expectations regarding papers at greater length before your first paper is due. You may also take a look at my grading rubric, if you like.

Your paper grade is not based on whether or not you agree with me. You are welcome to disagree in whole or part with the opinions I express and positions I take in lecture, in my office hours, or in other places, and this will not hurt your grade — what I expect from all students is that they will have a well thought-out argument that is closely tied to the text(s) with which they engage. Expressing a different opinion will not hurt you, provided that you can instantiate a logical reasoning process for that opinion, and provided that you can tie it closely to your textual materials. Contrapositively, agreeing with me will not necessarily benefit you: I will still expect you to instantiate a logical argument that is closely tied to the text. I do not grade you on your politics, religion, or other opinions: I grade you on the construction of your argument, its connection with a strong reading of the text(s) with which you are engaging, and on your writing.

If you wish to dispute a grade you have received on a paper, you should provide a written statement indicating specific reasons why your grade should be different, based on my grading rubric, and should take my comments on your paper into account. This statement may be delivered to me in person, dropped off in my box in the English department mail room, or sent to me by email. You must also provide me with a copy of your paper that has my comments on it. I do not re-evaluate papers based on general claims such as I just think I did better.

Contact and Communications Policy:

I am available during lecture, after lecture (most days), during my office hours, and by email. If you need to see me but cannot come to my office during office hours, let me know and we will arrange another time to meet. I take my pedagogical responsibilities seriously, and want to help each and every one of you to be successful. Although I am willing to answer questions by email, substantial and/or complex discussions about course material are more likely to benefit both of us if they occur in person instead of electronically.

I try to respond to email in a timely fashion, although you should understand that it may take me a day or two during busy parts of the quarter to answer messages. Emailing me with an urgent question the night before a paper is due or a test is scheduled, therefore, is a bad idea, both because I may be busy with other tasks at those times and because many other people are likely to be sending me email then. Please schedule your writing and studying so that any questions arise sufficiently far in advance of the due date and you are not left without feedback at the last minute. Please also note that my daytime responsibilities on campus may mean that I do not check my email the last few hours before a paper is due.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you can receive email at your U-Mail address, and that you check your U-Mail address regularly. Although I do not often contact students by email (except to respond to emails that they send to me), I may occasionally make general announcements in this way, or contact you personally about important issues. Emails that I send out are considered to be course material for which you are responsible, and failure to notice an email, or having a full email box, does not exempt you from your responsibility to be aware of these announcements.

Please turn off your cell phone and any other electronic communications device(s) during lecture and exams. If you have a compelling reason for needing to be available in these ways during class (for instance, if you are a paramedic or other emergency responder, or you need to be available to your childcare provider during class in case of emergency), please set your device to vibrate instead of making an audible tone. If a legitimate need arises for you to take an emergency phone call during the class, please leave the room to do so in order to minimize disruption to other students. You may not under any circumstances engage in any form of communication, electronic or otherwise, with anyone other than me during quizzes; please ensure that you inform people who see you as an emergency contact that you are entirely unavailable for any reason for these short periods of time.

Plagiarism and Cheating:

Anything and everything you turn in for class must represent your own original work. Although it is possible that your papers may build on existing research — excellent papers often do — it must always be clear which words and ideas in your paper are yours and which originate elsewhere. Your ultimate guide to all questions about plagiarism should be the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Seventh Edition, which has a fairly comprehensive discussion of the subject in section two.

If you have questions about plagiarism or how to properly attribute the language and ideas of others, please see me after class or during my office hours.

Exams (including reading quizzes) must be completed based entirely on knowledge that you carry in your own head. You are not allowed to consult notes or texts during exams, and must not look at anyone else's work during the course of the exam. It is your responsibility to avoid even the appearance of cheating. Glancing at someone else's test during an exam — or at your cell phone — is cause for disciplinary action even if you do not use what you see in order to construct your answer.

Any instance of cheating or plagiarism will result in (at a bare minimum) removal from the course and referral to the University's student conduct committee. It is the University's policy (and mine, as well) that cheating in any form is antithetical to the basic goals of education, and I take all incidents, no matter how small, seriously. The maximum penalty possible for cheating or plagiarism is expulsion from the University.

Disability Accommodations:

If you are a student with a disability and require special accommodations, please let me know as soon as possible, and apply for services with the Disabled Students Program (http://dsp.sa.ucsb.edu/). I am not qualified to evaluate disability status and cannot provide any accommodations unless I hear from DSP.

Equal Access Statement:

University policy and Federal and state law require that all students be provided fair and equal access to educational services, regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or economic background. All students in this class are expected to treat each other with respect, and prejudicial or hate speech will not be tolerated. Professional speech and demeanor is expected from everyone in class at all times. Behavior and/or language that intimidate or negatively impact the attendance or performance of another student constitutes harassment and is unacceptable. This includes unwelcome sexual advances.

More broadly, we should be discussing texts and ideas, not attacking each other personally. Focusing on discussions of course material and related topics not only keeps us on task, but will ensure that everyone is able to participate effectively and gain as much as possible from the course.

If you have questions or concerns about university policies on equal access, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you do not feel comfortable speaking with me for any reason, you may contact UCSB's Title IX Compliance Office (http://www.oeosh.ucsb.edu/SexualHarssment/SexualHarassment.html), the Multicultural Center (http://mcc.sa.ucsb.edu/), the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (http://www.sa.ucsb.edu/sgd/), or the Women's Center (http://www.sa.ucsb.edu/women/).

Other Resources

A collection of course materials can be found online at http://is.gd/iwuvut (or, if you're fond of additional typing, at http://patrickbrianmooney.nfshost.com/~patrick/ta/m15/). At a bare minimum, that site will have electronic copies of all handouts that I distribute during class. There is also a Twitter stream for the course, accessible from the same location, that provides reminders about upcoming events and additional course-related information.

In Conclusion…

I expect that you will put in the necessary work to be prepared for lecture, that you will engage with the course material, that you will turn in your work on time, and that you will treat everyone else in class with respect. I want everyone to benefit from and to succeed in this course, and would be happy to hear input from you about how I can help you to do so. If you have questions or concerns, please let me know in my office hours, after lecture, or by email.

I try very hard to be available to, supportive of, and understanding toward my students. If you are having difficulties with the course material, please come talk to me. If you have unusual, stressful, or bizarre things happen during the term that make it difficult for you to perform up to your potential in the course, please come talk to me. If you just can't seem to get started writing your paper, please come talk to me. If I can help you to be successful in any reasonable way, please let me know. If I'm not aware of what's going on in your life, however, it's difficult for me to assist you.

Policies and reading schedule are subject to change as the quarter progresses, and the most up-to-date copy of this syllabus is always available on the Web at http://is.gd/putudo (or, equivalently, at http://patrickbrianmooney.nfshost.com/~patrick/ta/m15/eng10/syllabus.html). However, please bring your hard copy of these guidelines with you to each lecture so you can keep notes on any changes that I may find it necessary to make.

This page copyright © 2013–15 by Patrick Mooney. This XHTML file was last updated 10 June 2015.