General Education Literature, Norms and Taboos 3:30-4:45 MW, 205 EBP Fall 2014, Department of English, University of Iowa
Instructor: Chelsea Burk Office Hours: MW 2-3:30 and by appointment in 74 EPB
Course Description and Goals: norm, n.: b. A standard or pattern of social behavi[o]r that is accepted in or expected of a group. (OED online)
taboo, n.: b. The putting of a person or thing under prohibition or interdict, perpetual or temporary . . . Also, the institution or practice by which such prohibitions are recognized and enforced. (OED online)
This course will be a semester-long conversation about what it means to read, about how we think of ourselves as readers, and about the interactions that take place between ourselves and texts. We will connect our conversations to the theme “Norms and Taboos,” exploring how literary texts invoke, support, and undermine various norms and their taboo counterparts. We will discuss why we consider certain practices and ideas normal, while others remain prohibited. Our discussions will trace how norms and taboos have altered over time and in various spaces. As a class centering around your experiences as readers and how you interpret literary texts, we will also interrogate literary norms and taboos as they relate to a text’s form and content, asking questions like: What should a poem look like? How should a narrator sound? Alternatively, how can a narrator sound? How might we, as readers, understand the implications of these norms and taboos and the impact they have on our lives? Our course should not be self-contained—no reading is. Our readings, assignments, and discussions will both call upon and hone skills you’ll need for future courses and other important tasks once you get your degree. I hope that our conversations will encourage you to enjoy (or continue enjoying) reading for its own sake; I also hope that the class will highlight the relevance of interpretative thinking for every area of life.
Students use and refine their skills of reading, speaking, and writing to respond critically and thoughtfully to literary texts.
Students learn to see themselves as readers, recognizing the influence of individual differences (such as gender, ethnicity, geography) and experiences on interpretation.
Students consider the connections between individual texts and broader cultural contexts.
Required Texts (available at the University Bookstore)
Norton Introduction to Literature Shorter 11th Edition, University of Iowa Edition[Norton, ISBN 9780393137538]
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood [Anchor / Doubleday, ISBN 9780385490818]
Mother Night – Kurt Vonnegut [Dial Press Trade Paperback, ISBN 978-0385334143]
Other Required Materials Readings will occasionally be available on ICON. You are responsible for printing them out and bringing them to class on the day we discuss them. Please bring paper and a writing utensil to each class for notes and writing exercises. I base midterm exams in part on the content of lectures and class discussions, so diligent note taking is encouraged.
Grading Your grade will depend substantially on the two major writing assignments and two non-cumulative midterm exams; you will also receive credit for online discussion posts, responses to reading, peer response workshops, and other opportunities for informal writing. Finally, your active, thoughtful and informed participation in class will count as a significant part of your final grade. Your final grade will be determined using the university’s A-F grade scale. You may access your grades on ICON at any time during the semester, and you are always welcome to schedule a meeting with me to discuss them in more detail.
Participation (including reading quizzes): 20% Informal Assignments (discussion posts, reading responses, etc.): 20% Midterm Exams (non-cumulative): 20% Major Essay One: 15% Major Essay Two: 20% Final Portfolio: 5%
You will receive a detailed criteria sheet for each major project, including the midterm exams, explicitly outlining my expectations. These, and all assignment sheets, will also be available on ICON. I will be as clear as possible, but please don’t hesitate to ask questions. I am ready to correspond and meet with you to help as you complete each project.
Students sometimes assume that they start with 100% for an assignment, or for the course, and lose points for doing things wrong. On the contrary, you must work toward your grade. Aligning with the College of Liberal Arts and Science’s expectations, I consider a grade of C to be competent work that meets all of the requirements of the assignment and the class. My grading policy is as follows:
A grade of C: You can earn a C by attending class regularly and punctually, completing with competence all of the work assigned and participating regularly in class activities. This requires 1) adequately meeting all criteria for assignments, and 2) completing reading assignments on time and being prepared to share your opinions on the texts in class and during discussions.
A grade of B: You can earn a B by fulfilling all of the C requirements while demonstrating a significantly higher level of effort and competence on all work assigned for the class. To earn a B you must show an interest in energetically, creatively, and critically engaging with the material and assignments. B work typically reflects independent thinking. The B student is self-reflexive and often asks questions such as “How can I make my work better? How can I revise this? How can I make my work unique and interesting? How can I help the class have productive and energetic discussions?”
A grade of A: To receive an A in the course, you must surpass the requirements for B work as well as demonstrate high-level critical thinking and original analysis. A students interrogate all sides of issues enthusiastically in order to clarify their own opinions. A students don’t skip class, fail to honor deadlines for any reason, or show up unprepared to discuss the reading. A students will instead be willing to make intellectual discoveries and demonstrate an effort to inquire further into commonly understood issues.
A grade of D: You can earn a D by not fulfilling your responsibilities outlined under “Grade of C” criteria, and/or failing to show respect for or interest in your fellow students’ presentations of ideas. A D student is a student who has many excuses but few completed assignments. For example, D students often fail to post discussion posts and then claim later that they were ill or had a family emergency. D students are generally disinterested students who refuse to take an active role in making the class energetic and productive.
A grade of F: You will receive an F by not completing assignments, not coming to class, and not contributing to class discussions when you are present.
Think of your grade on each project as accumulating from many different factors—composition, organization, content, research, innovation, unique observations, critical thinking skills, etc. Strive to produce the most excellent work you can—and don’t forget to appreciate and applaud the work of your peers.
With regard to any assignment at any point in the semester, I am happy to speak with you about what you did well, how you could improve, and what you can work on for future assignments. In order to keep conversations relevant, constructive, and useful to you, please discuss graded assignments with me no sooner than 24 hours after the assignment is returned and no later than 7 days after return. I will gladly email with you to set aside office hour time or set up an appointment to talk in person.
Attendance Because this is a discussion-based course, attendance is crucial. I will take attendance at the beginning of each class. If possible, please let me know in advance and provide official documentation if you need to miss class due to illness, religious obligations, or university activities. You can also find an “Explanatory Statement for Absence from Class” form on the Registrar’s website under “Forms for Students.” You will still be expected to turn in written assignments by the designated time, and I will provide an alternate assignment for participation credit.
If you have more than three unexcused absences, your final participation grade will be docked 1/3 of a letter grade for each absence over three. In other words, after three unexcused absences, a participation grade of B becomes a B-, then B, then C+, etc. Excused absences will not count towards these three, but you must provide documentation for such absences.
If you miss fewer than three classes, no automatic penalty will be applied—but do keep in mind that you will not be able to make up reading quizzes, daily assignments, activities, and opportunities to participate, and you may miss out on important discussions or information about upcoming assignments. Any time you are absent, you will want to look for ICON updates and check with a peer to find out what you missed. You are responsible for getting any notes from a classmate if you miss class. I recommend exchanging phone numbers or email addresses with a classmate early in the semester in case of such an event. Please note that missing class is not an excuse for failing to submit an assignment on time.
Participation As noted above, your active, thoughtful, and informed participation is worth 20% of your final grade. Successful participation in the course will require considerable time and energy both during class and in outside preparation. Presence does not equal participation. See “Participation Guide” for specific details and strategies for success.
Show respect and courtesy at all times towards both classmates and the instructor. The ideas and situations we will encounter in our readings this semester will at times be uncomfortable and difficult to discuss—the course theme is “Norms and Taboos,” after all. I want to emphasize that this classroom is a safe space for dangerous ideas and a dangerous space for safe ideas. During our discussions, I expect us to see one another not as adversaries attempting to take down opponents, but as collaborators pushing the entire group towards more nuanced understanding and critical thinking. Be brave. Take risks. But also be kind. We will all misstep—me included. The most challenging ideas can ultimately be the most rewarding.
Occasionally I will give a reading quiz that counts towards that day’s participation grade. You can expect a reading quiz approximately every 2 weeks—however, I will add quizzes as necessary based on the class’s overall participation. A less participatory class will likely have more reading quizzes. Your grade for the day will be your grade on the quiz. We will go through the answers in class after the quiz. However, if you are unhappy with your quiz grade, you can earn a higher grade for the day if you go above and beyond in the discussion portion of class following the quiz. Likewise, even if you receive an A on the quiz, you can lower your grade for the day by not participating in the rest of class. These reading quizzes are content-based—if you did the reading, you will get the points. I will test your analytical and interpretive skills, as well as your engagement with course terms, in the two midterms.
Your participation will suffer if you do not contribute to the classroom community. For instance, disrespecting classmates or the instructor, sleeping in class, forgetting your book or the readings, being tardy, leaving early, and using electronic devices will erode your grade.
As useful as electronic technology can be for our activities and discussions, it can also be distracting. During class sessions, I expect all electronic devices, including cell phones, to be silenced and put away, unless specifically warranted by a class activity. Laptops should not be out or in use, except with permission for specific assignments. Using electronic devices outside of specific class activities demonstrates a lack of engagement, and therefore participation. Note that even though I do not have x-ray vision, I can see when you’re texting under the desk or clicking through Reddit on your computer. I may not always interrupt class to request that you put devices away—however, you will receive a zero for that day’s participation credit. I keep a record of each time a student’s cell phone is out/in use.
Late or Missing Work You are responsible for submitting assignments on time and in the correct format. Missing class is not an excuse for failing to turn in work. If you experience a documented medical or family emergency that affects your work, please notify me as soon as possible.
All outside written work—major papers, reading responses—must be uploaded to the designated ICON dropbox before the start of class (3:30) on the day they are due. Online discussion posts must be posted by 12 p.m. (noon) on the day they are due. Technical difficulties are not an excuse for late work. It is your responsibility to make sure you see a confirmation screen—ICON has this feature built-in, so you will know if something doesn’t upload. For work that is submitted electronically, make sure you use a Word document and that it uploads successfully. Late major essays will be docked 1/3 of a letter grade for every day late up to three days. Late major essays submitted after three days will not be accepted. Late minor writing assignments and discussion posts will not be accepted. If you are having trouble with an assignment, please talk to me well before the due date. I do not accept assignments via email.
Electronic Communication You are responsible for knowing about any and all official correspondence sent to your @uiowa.edu address. Please also check the course’s ICON homepage regularly in order to catch any updates or changes. I will use ICON to post reminders of assignments, deadlines, updates, and readings.
I encourage you to email me your questions and concerns, using your university email address. I will not answer emails that are sent from email addresses outside the university (gmail, Hotmail, etc.). I will do my best to respond in a timely manner, and will let you know in advance any time I expect to be inaccessible by email. Although I will likely reply sooner, please allow at least 48 hours for me to respond.
In your emails, please practice good email etiquette: open by addressing me (Dear Ms./Prof. Burk), write in complete sentences with correct capitalization and punctuation, and close with your signature. When you write me, consider if the question requires more than just a few sentences in email. If so, I would rather you come talk to me in office hours or schedule an appointment with me.
Workload Expectations For each semester hour credit in this course, students should expect to spend two hours per week preparing for class sessions. This is a three credit hour course, so your average out-of-class preparation per week is six hours.
Additional Course Policies: Academic Honesty All CLAS students have, in essence, agreed to the College’s Code of Academic Honesty: “I pledge to do my own academic work and to excel to the best of my abilities, upholding the IOWA Challenge. I promise not to lie about my academic work, to cheat, or to steal the words or ideas of others, nor will I help fellow students to violate the Code of Academic Honesty.” Any student committing academic misconduct is reported to the College and placed on disciplinary probation or may be suspended or expelled. To find the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Code of Academic Honesty go to the website: http://clas.uiowa.edu/students/handbook/academic-fraud-honor-code
Be aware that plagiarism does not just include trying to pass off another person’s work as your own, but also includes submitting your own work from a previous course without prior approval from your instructor and not properly citing another person’s words or idea. I run all writing assignments will through turnitin.com software. Any assignment that I deem plagiarized will receive a zero.
Collaboration In this class, students may collaborate on written assignments in the form of peer reviews and classroom discussion. If a classmate has played an important role in helping you formulate a paper, identity and thank that student in an acknowledgements section of your paper. We will discuss incorporating acknowledgements in essays in more detail as the course proceeds.
Suggestions and Complaints: If you have concerns, complaints, or suggestions about the course, the first step is to bring them directly to your instructor. Please arrange to discuss any issues with me, preferably by scheduling a meeting. If the problem is not resolved by our discussion, you should contact the General Education Literature Director, Kathy Lavezzo. Send an email to email@example.com specifying your section and instructor, briefly describing the nature of your issue, and requesting an appointment to discuss it.
Writing Center If you are having difficulty with the writing in this course, I encourage you to visit the Writing Center in addition to visiting my office hours. The Writing Center is located in 110 EPB and offers full-semester tutoring sessions, one-time appointments, and digital edits to papers within a 48-hour time frame. Visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~writingc/ for more information and to schedule appointments. The Tutor Iowa site is also very valuable for students seeking extra help: http://tutor.uiowa.edu/
Students with Special Needs I would like to hear from anyone who has a disability, which may require seating modifications of testing accommodations or accommodations of other class requirements, so that appropriate arrangements may be made. Please contact me during my office hours. It is your responsibility to register your disability with the Office of Student Disability Services (3015 Burge Hall, 225-1462) and to present a Student Academic Accommodation Request (SAAR Form) to the instructor when discussing specific requirements for accommodation.
Adds/Drops/Section Changes I have no authority to add, drop, or change your section of Interpretation of Literature. You may make such changes through ISIS (with some exceptions) through the first week. After that point, you may make such changes using add/drop slips, which should be taken to the English office (308EPB) for signature. The last day to add a regular, semester-length course during the Fall 2014 semester, or to drop one without receiving a “W” on your transcript, is September 8. The last day to drop an individual semester-length course is November 3.
Transfer Students You were placed in this course based on your transcript. If you have questions, contact the English Department Office.
CLAS Policy Statement This course is given by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This means that class policies on matters such as requirements, grading, and sanctions for academic dishonesty are governed by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Students wishing to add or drop this course after the official deadline must receive the approval of the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Details of the University policy of cross-enrollments may be found at http://www.uiowa.edu/~provost/deos/crossenroll.doc
Sexual Harassment Sexual harassment is reprehensible and will not be tolerated by the University. It subverts the mission of the University and threatens the well-being of students, faculty, and staff. Visit the sexual harassment awareness site at http://www.sexualharassment.uiowa.edu/ for definitions, assistance, and the full University policy.
Severe Weather The University of Iowa Operations Manual, Part V Chapter 16, outlines appropriate responses to a tornado or to a similar crisis. If a tornado or other severe weather is indicated by the UI outdoor warning system, members of the class should seek shelter in rooms and corridors in the innermost part of a building at the lowest level, staying clear of windows, corridors with windows, or large free-standing expanses such as auditoriums and cafeterias. The class will resume, if possible, after the UI outdoor warning system announces that the severe weather threat has ended.
COURSE CALENDAR This is a tentative calendar and is subject to change based on the needs of the class. Updates will be posted to ICON and shared in class. Reading is due on the date listed (e.g. read “Cinderella” for Wednesday and be prepared to discuss it that day) You are responsible for tracking course activities, readings, and assignments as the semester progresses.
Week 1: August 25-29: Norms and Taboos of Reading: What do We Read? When? Why? M: Introductions, Syllabus and Course Information
W: Shel Silverstein, “Invitation” (ICON), Anne Sexton, “Cinderella” (ICON)
Week 2: September 1-5: Self as Reader M: Labor Day—No Class
W: Karen Russell, “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” (anthology 229) “Autobiography of a Reader” due to ICON dropbox before 3:30 p.m. (when class begins)
Week 3: September 8-12: Forms of “Reading”: The Handmaid’s Tale M: Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, Ch. 1-13 Discussion post #1 due on ICON by 12 p.m.
W: Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, Ch. 14-19
Week 4: September 15-19: Reading Subjectivity: Gender and The Handmaid’s Tale M: Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, Ch. 20-29 Discussion post #2 due on ICON by 12 p.m.
W: Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, Ch. 30-34 Essay #1 Assigned
Week 5: September 22-26: Textual Norms and Taboos M: Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, Ch. 35-end (Includes “Historical Notes”) Power Paragraph due on ICON by 3:30 p.m. (when class begins)
W: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (anthology 478); Jamaica Kincaid “Girl” (anthology 171)
Week 6: September 29-October 3: Poetic Norms and Taboos: Content and Form M: Marianne Moore, “Poetry” (anthology 703); Julia Alvarez, “Poetry Makes Nothing Happen” (anthology 704); Czeslaw Miloz, “Ars Poetica?” (701)
W: e.e. cummings “l(a” (anthology 883); “Concrete Poetry” (anthology 884); May Swenson, “Women” (886) Essay 1 Draft due in ICON Dropbox by 3:30 p.m. (before class begins)
Week 7: October 6-10: The Documentary Poem as Taboo M: Tillie Olsen, “I Want You Women Up North to Know” (ICON Midterm Review
W: Midterm Exam 1
Week 8: October 13-17 : Norms and Taboos in Literary Traditions: Shakespeare M: “Literary Tradition as Context” (979-988) William Shakespeare, Hamlet Act I (1363-1385) Discussion post #3 due on ICON by 12 p.m.
W: William Shakespeare, Hamlet Act II (1385-1402) Essay 1 In-Class Workshop
Week 9: October 20-24: Norms and Taboos in Literary Traditions: Variations and Interpretations M: William Shakespeare, Hamlet Act III & IV (1402-1442) Essay 1 Final Draft due to ICON Dropbox before 3:30 p.m. (when class begins)
W: Shakespeare, Hamlet Act V (1442-end)
Week 10: October 27-31: World Contexts M: Toni Morrison, “Recititaf” (anthology 200); Audre Lorde, “Hanging Fire” (anthology 719) Discussion Post #4 due on ICON by 12 p.m.
W: Sherman Alexie, “Flight Patterns” (anthology 54) & Critical text (on ICON) Essay #2 Assigned
Week 11: November 3-7: International Trauma as Context: Mother Night and WWII M: Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night, Introduction-83
W: Vonnegut, Mother Night, 85-140 Essay 2 Proposal due to ICON Dropbox by 3:30 p.m. (when class begins)
Week 12: November 10-14 The Patriotic Subject: Taboos and Norms of “The American” M: Vonnegut, Mother Night, 141-226 Discussion post #5 due on ICON by 12 p.m.
W: Vonnegut, Mother Night, 227-end; Critical text (on ICON)
Week 13: November 17-21: Literary Criticism as Context M: Charles Reznikoff, selections from Holocaust (ICON); Sylvia Plath, “Daddy” (anthology 991); Criticism of “Daddy” (anthology)
W: Essay 2 Draft due in Dropbox by 3:30 p.m.; Bring hard copy for In-Class Workshop
Week 14: November 24-28: THANKSGIVING BREAK
Week 15: December 1-5: Geography as Context M: Lara Vapnyar, “Puffed Rice and Meatballs” (anthology 72) Midterm Exam Review
W: Midterm Exam 2
Week 16: December 8-12: Taboo Endings: (How) Do We Speak of Death? M: Margaret Atwood, “Lusus Naturae” (anthology 224); Simon Ortiz “My Father’s Song” (786)
W: Emily Dickinson, “Because I could not stop for death” (anthology 878)
F: Essay 2 Final Draft due in Dropbox by 5 p.m. on Friday, December 12
Monday, Dec. 15-Friday, Dec. 19: FINAL EXAM WEEK Portfolio and Final Reflection due on or before Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 5 p.m. NO FINAL EXAM