Reading About Literature ~ ENGL 3201—(TEC 200, fall 2011)
Dr. Jonathan Alexander
609-894-9311 or 856-222-9311 (x1123)
E-mail: (please use my BCC account)
Online syllabus:

A. TEXTS: All materials for this course have been made available online. Students will benefit from the economic savings; however, students are expected to acquire and complete all readings as scheduled. Students might wish to purchase inexpensive paperback editions of the two plays (Taming of the Shrew and Hedda Gabler).

B. COURSE OVERVIEW: The purpose of this course is to enhance the student’s skills in reading comprehension and critical thinking. The course combines several teaching techniques: lecture, seminar, verbal communication, student teaching, and testing. It will incorporate the reading and discussion of poetry, fiction and drama with written journal responses. Upon completion of this course, the student should be capable of reading thoughtfully and expressing thoughts and interpretations logically. Successful students will effectively evaluate literature using various critical theories and methods. Critical literary interpretation—both oral and written—will be expected.

For additional information on literary analysis, visit Critical Reading: A Guide (


Attendance: If the student is to profit from any course, he or she must attend class on a consistent basis.

Students must attend all classes for the full duration of each session. Should you need to miss a class for observance of religious holidays, jury duty, military duty, bereavement, or significant illness, you must notify the instructor by telephone or e-mail prior to (if possible) or within 24 hours after the class. Without such communication, students forfeit the right to make up missed work. If such communication is made, students will be permitted to make up missed work at the beginning of the following class meeting. It is, therefore, the student’s responsibility to read the syllabus and be prepared for current as well as missed assignments.

Entering class late or leaving class early (without prior authorization) is considered disrespectful and will not be tolerated. If you become ill or you learn of an emergency before the end of the meeting, notify the instructor and accommodations will be made if possible.

Academic Etiquette: Students will respect themselves, their peers and their instructors by considering the following:

Cell phones must be kept on silent. No calls are to be made or received during class. If you are expecting an important call during the class meeting time, notify me prior to class and quietly excuse yourself if the call is received. No text-messaging or game-playing will be tolerated.

Students who wish to use the restrooms may do so by quietly leaving and re-entering the room. If a student believes he or she will require an absence of more than a few minutes, it is his responsibility to notify me accordingly.

Communication: Many means of communication are available to the student including telephone, e-mail and mailbox.

If you leave a message on my office voice-mail, please remember to speak clearly and provide your name, course information, and phone number if you request a return call.

If you contact me via e-mail, always include your FULL NAME AND CLASS SECTION in the subject line. Too often students forget to sign e-mail or have e-mail addresses without obvious identifiers. If you do not include your name and class in the subject line, I will not open the message.

Students who send me e-mail and do not receive a reply of any kind within 48 hours should assume it was never received. Such e-mails should be resent. I do not mind receiving redundant messages if you are unsure whether your message was transmitted (though I may only reply to one). If your message doesn’t present itself as urgent, I may reply quickly and briefly and ask to get back to you before long.

Students who send e-mails containing attachments must save these documents with one of the following extensions: DOC, DOCX, WPS, TXT, or RTF. Please do not attach any Mac PGS files.

Class Assignments:

All work written and submitted should utilize standard rules of grammar, sentence organization, paragraph organization, and diction.

All formal papers are to be typed, titled, double spaced, stapled, and carefully proofread.

All assignments are due on the date specified on the syllabus without exception. Assignments which are not submitted during the class session they are due will be penalized 15% for each subsequent day they are late.

If a student presents reasonable justification for an absence, such an absence does not allow for more time to complete assignments. When a student is absent the day an assignment is due, he or she must submit the assignment as an attachment via e-mail on or before the date it is due.

Since students are provided with all assignments and deadlines on the first day of the semester, excuses such as “crashed computers,” “misplaced data,” “misplaced disks,” or “empty printer ink cartridges” will not be accepted. All computer work should be saved twice (hard drive and floppy/flash).

Plagiarism will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Be aware that plagiarism includes (but is not limited to) copying someone else’s words without crediting the source; paraphrasing someone else’s words without crediting the source; using someone else’s ideas without crediting the source (even if rephrased in your own words); using facts not universally known which are obtained from a source without crediting the source; asking someone else to write your paper, either in whole or in part; or obtaining a paper or portion thereof by any means and submitting it as an original document. The penalty for plagiarism is failure of the assignment and potentially failure of the course (at the instructor’s discretion), and it may result in suspension or expulsion from the College (at the discretion of the Student Affairs Committee). Please refer to the Student Handbook for additional information regarding University regulations and the handling of plagiarism.



Due Date

Point Value

Journal Responses



E-mailed Responses



Terms Quizzes



Literature Quizzes



Poetic Recitation

October 11


Matching Poetry Exam

October 11


Final Examination

October 13




























D. Schedule of Meetings and Assignments: All readings and journal responses must be completed before the date scheduled.


Session 1—Tues, Aug 30, 2011
Course Introduction / Discussion of Assignments

Session 2—Thurs, Sept 1, 2011
Introduction to Literary Analysis and Discussion of Literary Terms (included in syllabus)

Session 3—Tues, Sept 6, 2011
Quiz on Walt Whitman, [I celebrate myself, and sing myself] Journal Questions: What is the effect of the speaker’s making such direct reference to the reader? What is the significance of the single “spear of summer grass” (5)? What is the speaker saying about himself by way of the reference to “parents” (7)? What is the meaning of the word “begin” (8)? What does it mean that, for the speaker, “schools” are “in abeyance” (10)? What is “Nature without check” (13)?
Quiz on Walt Whitman, I Hear America Singing Journal Questions: What types of individuals are the focus of this poem? Who can you infer from this list has been left out? What are the types of activities being described? Why does the speaker focus on certain details of their daily activities? Why are the songs being sung called “varied carols” (1)? Why do these songs belong to each person “and to none else” (12)? What is the significance of the final reference to “the party” (13)?
Quiz on Sharon Olds, “Sex Without Love” Journal Questions: How do you interpret making “love / without love”? What is the purpose of the reference to “children . . . whose mothers are going to / give them away”? How do you interpret the writing style and intention of line 9? What is meant by associating a certain kind of lover with “great runners [who] know they are alone / with the road surface”? What is Olds’ conclusion about the certain type of love expressed in this poem?
Quiz on Denise Levertov, “Wedding-Ring” Journal Questions: What is meant by the “bottom of a well” reference in line 2? How do you connect the significance of the speaker’s wedding-ring with the other objects listed: “keys,” “nails,” “numbers,” and “paperclips”?  Why can the ring not be “given away” or “sold”? How do you interpret the meaning of the last two questions (lines 16-20 and 20-21)? What does it mean “to make promises / living will not let them keep”? Why do these two questions remain unanswered by the speaker? How would you answer them?

Session 4—Thurs, Sept 8, 2011 (EMAIL ONLY)
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 121 [‘Tis better to be vile than vile esteem’d]Journal Questions: How does this poem illustrate the burden we face by being judged by others? What tact does the speaker seem to propose considering how others’ perceptions of us may not always be accurate?
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 29 [When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes]Journal Questions: What is the difference between what the speaker once thought important and what ultimately proved to be so?  What did the speaker envy? What conclusion does he draw about these feelings?
Sharon Olds, “Looking At Them Asleep” (See Hughes below)
Langston Hughes, “Mother to Son”Journal Questions: What similarities exist between Olds’ poem and Hughes’ poem regarding how parents see their children? What key differences distinguish them?

Session 5—Tues, Sept 13, 2011
LITERARY TERMS QUIZ 3—Style and Character; LITERARY TERMS QUIZ 4—Plot Elements
Quiz on John Donne, “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” Journal Questions: What does the speaker mean by making “no noise” (5)? What do you think it means to be a “sublunary lover” (13) and why can this type of person not “admit / Absence” (14-15)? What does the speaker say about his type of love in lines 17-20 that seems to be different from the previous types?
Quiz on A.E. Housman, “To An Athlete Dying Young”Journal Questions: Why does the speaker think the “lad” is “smart” to have died at a young age? What are the advantages and disadvantages of such an early death? Is the narrator being cynical? sincere? What does it mean when the “name [dies] before the man”? What does the “laurel” signify in the poem? In life?
Quiz on Wilfred Owen, “Dulce et Decorum Est Journal Questions: Why does the speaker say “we turned our backs” (3)? Paraphrase lines 15-16 to identify what the speaker means to say. What is the effect of the speaker’s referring directly to the reader/listener (17)? To whom do you think the speaker is speaking? What point is he trying to make about the actual experience of war versus the telling of stories of war?

Session 6—Thurs, Sept 15, 2011 (EMAIL ONLY)
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 12 [WHEN I do count the clock that tells the time]—Journal Questions: What is the speaker’s attitude toward his inevitable mortality? What does he suggest is the only way to combat total destruction at the hands of time?
Wilfred Owen, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”Journal Questions: Does the speaker seem to evoke a positive or negative feeling about the deceased in this poem? What images lead you to your conclusion? What makes the youth “doomed”?
Louis MacNeice, “The Suicide”Journal Questions: How is your understanding of the character impacted because he is eulogized by the poem’s speaker, rather than through his own voice? What has the dead man “left behind” that remains “intact”? What feelings does the speaker seem to have about the man in his life? In his death

Session 7—Tues, Sept 20, 2011
LITERARY TERMS QUIZ 5—Forms of Irony; LITERARY TERMS QUIZ 6—Intro. Elements of Poetry
Quiz on Edgar Allen Poe, “Cask of Amontillado”Journal Questions: According to the definition of revenge provided by Montresor at the beginning of the story [“A wrong is unredressed when….”], explain whether or not you think he achieves his goal. What is he really searching for? What does he ultimately get? Should he be satisfied? Would you be? What do we know of Fortunato’s actions toward Montresor? What do we not know? What do you think Fortunato is guilty of? Was his murder a fitting punishment?
Quiz on James Joyce,”ArabyJournal Questions: What seems to attract the narrator to the girl? Why is getting her a gift so important? Why does the narrator feel he has been “driven and derided by vanity”? What, if anything, do you think he has learned about himself and the people around him? Who or what finally makes the narrator feel “anguish and anger”? What is the purpose of the heavily-negative religious symbolism? In what references is it most evident?

Session 8—Thurs, Sept 22, 2011 (EMAIL ONLY)
Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown”Journal Questions: If we are to believe that Brown’s entire journey into the woods was a dream [“Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest, and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting? . . .”], and only a product of his own imagination, what was he supposed to gain or learn from his experience? What are we supposed to learn from his experience? What role does religion play in Brown’s life? Is Brown as much a hypocrite as he believes the Deacon to be at the story’s end?
Albert Camus, “The Guest”Journal Questions: How does the author use descriptions of the landscape to confirm Daru’s isolation? How do each of the characters deal with their respective “responsibility”? Why do you think the Arab chose the road to prison? What does this story illustrate about the choices we think we have in the world?

Session 9—Tues, Sept 27, 2011
LITERARY TERMS QUIZ 7—Metrical Structures; LITERARY TERMS QUIZ 8—Poetic Forms
Quiz on William Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew Journal Questions: What do you believe Shakespeare is saying about the use of disguises to accomplish one’s goals? If we never see the conclusion of the trick played on Christopher Sly, what is the purpose of the Induction? What techniques does Petruccio employ to “tame” Katherine? Do they work? Why or why not? Is Petruccio’s manipulation of Kate plausible? How do the various women react to the way men’s preconceptions of them? Are the women systematically oppressed, or do they subtly balance the men’s power?

Session 10—Thurs, Sept 29, 2011 (EMAIL ONLY)
►William Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew
Questions will be distributed in class.

Session 11—Tues, Oct 4, 2011
LITERARY TERMS QUIZ 9—Rhyme and Stanza; LITERARY TERMS QUIZ 10—Figurative Language
Quiz on Henrik Ibsen, Hedda GablerJournal Questions: How has Hedda ultimately lost control of everything and everyone around her? Considering what was once a strong desire to maintain control of her life, do you perceive her suicide as an act of self-control or weakness and desperation? What lessons are we to draw from Hedda’s choices in life?

Session 12—Thurs, Oct 6, 2011 (EMAIL ONLY)
Henrik Ibsen, Hedda Gabler
Questions will be distributed in class.

Session 13—Tues, Oct 11, 2011
Poetic Recitations
Matching Poetry Exam
Distribute take-home final exam

Session 14—Thurs, Oct 13, 2011 (EMAIL ONLY)
Final Examination E-mailed before 5:00pm



Edwin Arlington Robinson
Mr. Flood’s Party

Old Eben Flood, climbing alone one night
Over the hill between the town below
And the forsaken upland hermitage
That held as much as he should ever know
On earth again of home, paused warily.
The road was his with not a native near;
And Eben, having leisure, said aloud,
For no man else in Tilbury Town to hear:

 “Well, Mr. Flood, we have the harvest moon
Again, and we may not have many more;
The bird is on the wing, the poet says,
And you and I have said it here before.
Drink to the bird.” He raised up to the light
The jug that he had gone so far to fill,
And answered huskily: “Well, Mr. Flood,
Since you propose it, I believe I will.”

 Alone, as if enduring to the end
A valiant armor of scarred hopes outworn,
He stood there in the middle of the road
Like Roland’s ghost winding a silent horn.
Below him, in the town among the trees,
Where friends of other days had honored him,
A phantom salutation of the dead
Rang thinly till old Eben’s eyes were dim.

 Then, as a mother lays her sleeping child
Down tenderly, fearing it may awake,
He set the jug down slowly at his feet
With trembling care, knowing that most things break;
And only when assured that on firm earth
It stood, as the uncertain lives of men
Assuredly did not, he paced away,
And with his hand extended paused again:

 “Well, Mr. Flood, we have not met like this
In a long time; and many a change has come
To both of us, I fear, since last it was
We had a drop together. Welcome home!”
Convivially returning with himself,
Again he raised the jug up to the light;
And with an acquiescent quaver said:
“Well, Mr. Flood, if you insist, I might.

 “Only a very little, Mr. Flood --
For auld lang syne. No more, sir; that will do.”
So, for the time, apparently it did,
And Eben evidently thought so too;
For soon amid the silver loneliness
Of night he lifted up his voice and sang,
Secure, with only two moons listening,
Until the whole harmonious landscape rang --

 “For auld lang syne.” The weary throat gave out,
The last word wavered; and the song being done,
He raised again the jug regretfully
And shook his head, and was again alone.
There was not much that was ahead of him,
And there was nothing in the town below --
Where strangers would have shut the many doors
That many friends had opened long ago.


Sylvia Plath


I am silver and exact.  I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful--
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles.  I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart.  But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake.  A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her.  She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.


Robert Frost
The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

 And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

 I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.



(Quiz 1) Point of view (direction from which story is told)

(Quiz 2) Symbolism (presence of things, people, events, or actions which have representative value beyond the literal)

(Quiz 3) Style (method or manner in which writers distinguish themselves)

(Quiz 3) Character (individual in a story who assists in moving along the plot)

(Quiz 4) Plot Elements (what happens in a story)

(Quiz 5) Forms of Irony (contrast between what happens and what was expected or intended)

(Quiz 6) Introduction to the Elements of Poetry

(Quiz 7) Metrical Structures of Poetry

(Quiz 8) Poetic Forms

(Quiz 9) Rhyme and Stanza in Poetry

(Quiz 10) Figurative Language in Poetry

Suggestions and Tips for Poetic Recitation

 1. Read the poem to yourself at least five times to try to get a feeling for the rhythm. Since no two people will read a poem alike, take the time to recite it slowly and find out the most comfortable places to breathe. Remember, you don’t have to pause at the end of every line; instead, pause where it feels natural. Good reciters use pauses, emphases, and other nuances to show their understanding of a poem. Make sure you look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary.

 TIP: It’s helpful to read through the poem right before you go to sleep. Our brains tend to remember whatever the last thing is that we read or hear at night, so make sure your poem is the last thought you have as you drift into sleep.

 2. Now that you have a feel for the poem and have practice saying it out loud, take a break. Put it away for a little while. Go for a walk and see how much of the poem’s imagery you can remember. Don’t be surprised if only a few words or phrases float into your mind instead of entire lines, and don’t worry if you can’t remember anything.

 TIP: Avoid setting expectations or deadlines for memorizing. These tend to frustrate the learner and impede the process.

 3. Approach the poem as a challenge to be mastered, not as work. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be to remember. Break the poem into parts. Consider that the poem is made up of complete thoughts (sometimes actual punctuated sentences, and sometimes sentence fragments). Don’t be concerned with where a line ends; instead, focus on where a thought ends. If there aren’t stanza breaks, break the poem up yourself every five or six lines. It will be much easier to memorize small pieces instead of the whole poem at once.

 TIP: Studies show that you remember 30% more when you’re standing up. When trying to memorize a poem, recite it standing up.

 4. Read the first stanza (or complete thought). Close your eyes and see how much you remember. Open your eyes and see how well you did. Try imagining pictures in your mind to go along with the poem. Visuals are very good reminders as you recite a poem. Let each complete thought have an image, which connects to the following thought and image. If you can’t remember the words, seeing the picture in your head may spark the words.

 TIP: Your brain will recall better if you use all your senses. Try recopying the lines of poetry using different color ink.

 5. Repeat this process until you can recite aloud the entire first stanza (or first complete thought). Don’t move on to the second until you are confident with the first.

 TIP: If you must be prompted constantly, if you recite so quickly that the words blur into each other, or if you add, delete, move or change words, you will not receive much credit. Be precise.

 6. Repeat the process for the second thought or stanza, just concentrating on it alone. Try covering the remaining parts of the poem with an index card so your eyes don’t range down the page and become distracted. Once you can say the second stanza aloud, recite the first and second together. No matter how far into the poem you get, always go back to the beginning when practicing.

 TIP: Take small bites and don’t push yourself. If you’re tired or frustrated, rest your mind and body for a few moments. Of all tasks we have, memorization is not something that succeeds when we feel stress.

 7. Repeat until you have the poem completely memorized.

 TIP: Don’t limit yourself with declarations of inability. Don’t chastise or threaten yourself. Telling yourself that you’re incapable of the task will undermine the process. Negativity is counterproductive.

 8. Recite the poem out loud.  Imagine standing in front of your class smiling and reciting and getting all the words correct. Recite the poem for family and friends. Although reciting the poem in the car or in the shower will be effective, live practice will feel different from when it’s just you. It may be helpful to concentrate on a spot on the wall behind your audience. Choose a clock or a window or a crack in the wall and recite your poem to it; if you look people in the eye you may get nervous or giggly and lose your concentration.

 TIP: The best defense against anxiety or nervousness is preparation.

 9. On the day of the recitation, before it’s your turn, take a last glimpse over the poem and cement it in your mind. If you know it, you know it.

 TIP: Make sure you are well rested for your day’s recitation.

 10. Have fun, and don’t forget to smile.