ENG 308: Practical Literary Criticism [Spring 2018]

Instructor: Jake Jakaitis
Meeting Time: 9:30 to 10:45 Tu Th
Office: Root Hall A-209
Classroom: Root Hall A-112

Office Hours: 2-3 Tu & Th and by appointment

Office Telephone: 812-237-3269


As the required advanced composition course for English majors, ENG 308: Practical Literary Criticism emphasizes both close reading and textual analysis and an engagement with literary theory while requiring a final research project through which students will demonstrate their ability to fully research and document a paper examining a single work of literature. This section of ENG 308 will emphasize textual analysis through an extended look at F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, address New Criticism through essays by Cleanth Brooks and a poetry explication assignment, and explore a variety of critical perspectives through reading and discussion of journal articles examining Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories.


Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby (1925). New York: Scribner, 2004. ISBN: 9780743273565

Hodgson, John A. Sherlock Holmes: The Major Stories with Contemporary Critical Essays. New York: Bedford St. Martin's, 1993. ISBN: 9780312089450

Strunk, William Jr. and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2000. ISBN: 978020530923


 It is your responsibility to check our web syllabus regularly, for I will often withhold posting of study questions for later assignments or revise previously posted study questions so that I can tailor the questions to address issues and concerns raised in class discussions of the previous works.  The study questions will prepare you to participate in meaningful discussion and interpretive analysis of the assigned literary works and journal articles.  Familiarity with the assigned readings will, of course, prepare you to participate in class discussions and for interpretive analysis in assigned papers, and for the final research project. 

1.  Attendance and Participation (10%)

Attendance:  Full attendance is expected and punctuality is important to your success.  If you arrive late, you will lose attendance and participation points. If you accumulate 6 unexcused absences, you will fail this course.  Of course, all absences, excused or unexcused, affect your grade because each absence reduces your attendance and participation score.  If you have an excused absence for medical or other University approved reasons, it is your responsibility to make up missed work by appointment with me before the next class meeting. 50 points will be allocated to participation.

Participation:  Much of our time will be spent discussing the assigned readings.  Exemplary performance in these activities will demonstrate that you are effectively preparing and thinking about the material and will significantly increase your attendance/participation score.  After each class meeting, I will assign participation points on a 5 point scale to students who actively comment on the readings and promote meaningful discussion related to the specified goals of the course. At semester's end, students will receive a letter grade for participation based on my estimation of their cumulative performance. Students who actively participate, demonstrating their commitment to reading and examining the assigned text[s] will earn a 5/5; those who attend but do not participate will receive a 3.5/5, or a C-. At semester's end, each student will receive a score out of 50 available points based on the percentage of available participation points earned. For example, if a student earns 85% of the available participation points during the semester, that student will earn a participation score of 43, or 85% of 50--a B+. It is in your best interest to take notes and come to class prepared to ask questions or provoke discussion.  These practices will also prepare you to perform well on the essays.  Conferences are not required but are encouraged. If you wish to meet with me but cannot attend my office hours, please arrange a conference with me at a more convenient time.  A semester goes by rather quickly; please see me immediately if you begin having difficulty with any of the course materials.

Professional Courtesy:  You will be expected to behave professionally in this college classroom.  Turn off or silence cell phones before entering the room.  From the moment that you enter the classroom, you should be focused on the materials and assignments in this course.  Reading of newspapers or other material not directly related to work in ENG 308 will not be tolerated in the classroom--neither before class has started, nor during our formal class session.   If you are interested in reading newspapers or other materials unrelated to this course as you wait for class to begin, do so outside the classroom. Students who behave rudely, or who have to be asked to put down newspapers or other reading materials will lose participation points.  Under extreme circumstances, such students will be removed from the classroom or dropped from this course.  Laptops may be used for note-taking and for review of course materials posted in our on-line syllabus, or for searches during class to support our discussions.  However, this privilege will be revoked for anyone using a laptop for any purpose not directly related to the ongoing class discussion.  Any student caught viewing material irrelevant to this course will be removed from the class. The ISU “Code of Conduct” can be found at http://www.indstate.edu/sci/link1-code/.

3.  Three Short Essays on The Great Gatsby (35%)

You will write three short essays on The Great Gatsby. For each essay, you will be given specific, focused topic choices before we read the relevant chapters. The first two essays will be worth 10% of the course grade, while the third will be worth 15%. Plagiarism—the intentional presentation of work that is not your own—will result in failure on any of our essay assignments. In more severe cases of plagiarism, the result will be failure in the course and notice of the offense being sent to Student Judicial. Due dates and more specific instructions for documentation procedures and essay submission will appear in each assignment. The initial two essays will each be worth 10% of the final grade, while the third essay will account for 15% of the final grade.

4.  Textual Analysis Assignment (20%)

You will write a textual analysis of a single passage of your choice from The Great Gatsby. I will introduce this assignment during the first week of classes so that you can focus on preparation for your textual analysis during your reading of Fitzgerald's novel. However, the textual analysis (Paper 4) will not be due until Tuesday, March 6. Timely reading of the Gatsby assignments, participation in class discussions of the novel and its criticism, and performing well on the three short essays should prepare you to succeed on the textual analysis assignment.

5. Poetry Explication (15%)

Following our introduction to the New Criticism in week seven, you will write a poetry analysis adhering to the principles outlined in Cleanth Brooks's articles and in our discussions. We will spend a few class periods discussing poetry distributed in handouts as you prepare your New Critical analysis of a poem selected frorm those that I will include in the assignment. Your poetry analysis will be due on Thursday, March 22.

6.  Final Research Paper (20%)

You will complete a carefully documented, thesis-based final research paper examining a Sherlock Holmes story [or a couple stories] of your choice and including a minimum of 6 credible, professional sources. Two of your sources may come from Sherlock Holmes: The Major Stories with Contemporary Critical Essays. The paper will be submitted during our final examination meeting on Tuesday, May 8, at 10:00 in Root Hall A-112.


Attendance/Participation (10%)
100 Points
Essay #1 (10%)
100 Points
Essay #2 (10%)
100 Points
Essay #3 (15%)
150 Points
Essay #4 (20%)
200 Points
Essay #5 (15%)
150 Points
Research Paper (20%)
200 Points
1,000 Points

Final Grade Scale:  A = 920 points; A- = 900; B+ = 850 ; B = 820; B- = 800; C+ = 750; C = 720; C- = 700; D+ = 650; D = 620;  D = 600; F = less than 600 points.  The same percentage scale applies to each assignment.  For example, if you earn a B on the first short essay, I will assign you somewhere between 82% and 84% of the available points depending on my evaluation of your paper.  The letter grade and specific point score will be noted in my final comments on the paper.
**** Retain all graded assignments until you receive your final grade.  You will have little chance for grade review unless you are able to re-submit your graded work.


This is a tentative syllabus. It is your responsibility to attend regularly and to adjust to changes in the reading or assignment schedule. Any changes will be posted in this syllabus. Please check the web site regularly, as additional supporting materials will be added to the site as the course proceeds.


WEEK ONE: Course Introduction

1-16 [Tu]       Course Introduction; Introduction to Form in Prose Fiction and Textual Event Assignment.

1-18 [Th]       Mathew Bruccoli: "Getting it Wrong: Resetting The Great Gatsby" [1-14]; Richard Lehan: "Historical Context" in The Great Gatsby: Limits of Wonder [1-10]


1-22 [M]       Last Day to Add/Drop With No Grade

1-23 [Tu]       Ronald Berman: "Cultural Drift: A Context for Fiction" [1-27]; Linda De Roche: "Prohibition in the Age of Jazz" [205-214 ]Assign Paper 1

1-25 [Th]       Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby [Chs. 1 & 2: 1-38] SQ 


1-30 [Tu]      Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby   [Ch. 3: 39-59] SQ;  Peer Editing for Paper 1 [Bring The Elements of Style]                  

2-1 [Th]        Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby [Ch. 4: 61-80] SQ;  Paper 1 Due Friday, February 2 by e-mail attachment;  Assign Paper 2


2-6 [Tu]       Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby  [Chs. 5-6: 81-111] SQ

2-8 [Th]       Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby  [Ch. 7: 113-145] SQ;


2-13 [Tu]      Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby  [Chs. 8 & 9: 180]SQ;  Assign Paper 3  Peer Editing for Paper 2 [Bring The Elements of Style]

2-15 [Th]      "Race and Desire in The Great Gatsby"

2-16 [F]        PAPER 2 DUE NO LATER THAN 11:59 P.M.


2-20 [Tu]       "Anti-Semitism in The Great Gatsby"; Peer Editing for Paper 3 [Bring The Elements of Style]

2-22 [Th]       "Queer Relations in The Great Gatsby"; Review Passage Analysis Assignment [Paper 4]

2-25 [SUN]   PAPER 3 DUE NO LATER THAN 11:59 P.M.


2-27 [Tu]        Introduce The New Criticism; Cleanth Brooks: Irony as a Principle of Structure" [799-806]: Tyson: "New Criticism" [135-164]

3-1  [Th]         Reading Poetry: Theodore Roethke: "My Papa's Waltz," "I Knew a Woman," "The Waking." Roethke Reads "Elegy for Jane"



3-6 [Tu]       Reading Poetry: Lenore KandelJoanne Kyger: "September" and "The Pigs for Circe in May"; and

                    Amiri Baraka: Follow the Baraka link and read "Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note" & "In Memory of Radio."

                    We will listen to these two poems in class: "The Way of Things (in Town)" and "Dope"

3-8 [Th]        Reading Poetry: Elizabeth Bishop: The Fish and Sestina; Heffernan Sestina  Assign Paper 5


SPRING BREAK: 3-12 THROUGH 3-16                 


3-20 [Tu]       Reading Poetry--Charles Bukowski: "About My Very Tortured Friend, Peter" & "I can't stay in the same room with that woman for five minutes."

                      Adrienne Rich: "Planetarium" & "Diving into the Wreck"

                     Rupi Kaur & Jasmine Mans

                     Introduction to Sherlock Holmes and Criticism; Last Day to Submit Passage Analysis Assignment [Paper 4]

3-22 [Th]       In Sherlock Holmes: "The Musgrave Ritual" [197-213];


3-27 [Tu]       In Sherlock Holmes: "Reading for the Plot" [321-327]; Assign Paper 6


4-1  [Sun]      Paper 5 [Poetry Explication] Due No Later than 11:59 p.m. by e-mail attachment


4-3 [Tu]        In Sherlock Holmes: "The Speckled Band" [152-174] Annotated Bibliography

4-5 [Th]       In Sherlock Holmes:  "The Recoil of 'The Speckled Band': Detective Story and Detective Discourse" [335-349]



4-10 [Tu]      In Sherlock Holmes:  "'The Speckled Band': The Construction of Woman in a Popular Text of Empire" [389-401]

4-12 [Th]     In Sherlock Holmes:  "Charles August Milverton" [272- 287]



4-17 [Tu]     In Sherlock Holmes:  "The Dancing Men" [249-271] & "The Second Stain" [287-310]

4-19 [Th]     In Sherlock Holmes:  "Deconstructing the Text: Sherlock Holmes" [381-388]


4-24 [Tu]     D.H.Lawrence: "The Blind Man" [80-104]

4-26 [Th]     "Practicing Deconstruction Again: Blindness, Insight, and the Lovely Treachery of Words in D.H. Lawrence's'The Blind Man'" [106-126]  


5-1 [Tu]        In Sherlock Holmes: "The Man with the Twisted Lip" [112-133]

5-3 [Th]        In Sherlock Holmes: "Detecting the Beggar..." by Audrey Jaffe



Paper 6 will be submitted at our examination meeting on Tuesday, May 8, @ 10:00 in Root Hall A-112