Teaching Theory/Theorizing Teaching

“Everything we do in life is rooted in theory” ~ bell hooks


ENGL 3000-01 (Practical Criticism: Research and Methods)
Fall Semester 2013
M/W 2-3:20p.m. / Hum 209


Mitzi McFarland

Office: PAFF 317

678-839-4859 (voicemail)

mmcfar@westga.edu (email)

http://www.westga.edu/~mmcfar (webpage)

Office hours: M, W 12:30-1:30p.m., Fri. 9:30a.m3p.m.,

and by appointment


Course Description:


Practical Criticism introduces students not only to the essential disciplinary skills of interpretation and critical writing, but also to some of the basic theoretical questions that help constitute English as a discipline: Why read? What should we read? How should we read? By prompting students to engage with these fundamental questions, English 3000 aims to create self-reflective majors who are skilled at critical analysis and have a deep understanding of the disciplinary issues and questions underpinning the various modes of critical analysis. In other words, students in this course learn both to practice criticism and to examine criticism as a practice.


As a section designated for Education majors, the course is tailor-made to examine the use of critical theory in middle and high school literature classrooms. Through discussions of research methods, critical frameworks, and the close examination and analysis of texts, we will explore why literary theory should be taught as well as pedagogical instruction for its implementation.


·          Appleman, Deborah. Critical Encounters in High School English: Teaching Literary Theory to Adolescents, Second Edition. Teachers College Press, 2009. ISBN-13: 978-0807748923

·         Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. MLA, 2003. ISBN: 0873529863.

·         Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street (Vintage P). 0-679734775.  

·         Yang, Gene. American Born Chinese (First Second). 978-1-59643-152-2.

·         Highly recommended: Baldick, Chris. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford UP, 2004. ISBN: 0198608837.


Learning Outcomes: 1) Students will cultivate skills in reading, writing, and critical analysis appropriate for the advanced English major; 2) Students will understand major critical approaches that are employed in the field of literary studies; 3) Students will be able to read, discuss, and analyze literary works using a variety of critical perspectives; 4) Students will articulate how these perspectives both inform and direct our understanding and appreciation of literature; 5) Students will develop competence in literary analysis from the following critical perspectives: formalism, reader-response, historicism, psychoanalytical theory, Marxism, feminism, cultural criticism, and poststructuralism/deconstruction; 6) Students will organize and complete a substantive research paper that demonstrates the ability to engage effectively in critical research and writing; 7) Students will demonstrate in both oral and written work a discipline-specific critical facility through convincing and well supported analysis of course-related material; and 8) Students will demonstrate their command of academic English and of the tenets of sound composition by means of thesis-driven analytical prose.


Relationship of Course to Program Goals: 1) Oral and written communication will be characterized by clarity, critical analysis, logic, coherence, persuasion, precision, and rhetorical awareness (Core Curriculum learning outcomes I); 2) Cultural and Social Perspectives: Cultural and social perspective will be characterized by cultural awareness and an understanding of the complexity and dynamic nature of social/political/economic systems; human and institutional behavior, values, and belief systems; historical and spatial relationship; and, flexibility, open-mindedness, and tolerance. (Core Curriculum learning outcomes III); 3) Aesthetic Perspective: Aesthetic perspective will be characterized by critical appreciation of and ability to make informed aesthetic judgments about the arts of various cultures as media for human expression (Core Curriculum learning outcomes V); 4) This course fulfills an Area F requirement for English majors (all tracks) in the core; 5) This course is required for the major in English as a prerequisite to upper-division study. It is designed to prepare students for their work in the major; 6) This course will contribute to the larger goal of equipping students with a  foundation in literary theory, research, and methods, with an emphasis on the issues surrounding literary study in contemporary culture; 7) Students will develop the analytical, oral and written skills to pursue graduate study or careers in teaching, writing, business and a variety of other fields; 8) Students will be able to define and pursue independent research agendas; 9) This course contributes to the program goal of equipping students with a foundation in literary history and the issues surrounding literary study in contemporary culture; 10) This course broadens students’ desire and ability to take pleasure in their encounter with literature.


Course Evaluation: Active participation in class discussions; in-class writing/editing assignments; in-class presentations; reading quizzes; 3 analytical essays, representing different theoretical approaches; midterm and final exams on theoretical terminology and methods, and a final 8 page research paper (with prospectus). Note: you must have a C average (70 minimum) on all graded essays (three critical essays and the research paper) in order to pass this class with a C or higher.


05%      Quizzes and Oral Reports

20%      Critical Essay I

20%      Critical Essay II

15%      Midterm Examination

10%      Final Examination

30%      Research Paper (8 type-written pages minimum).


Participation: Because this is a writing- and reading-intensive course, student participation is both essential and mandatory. As much of this class is discussion and workshop oriented, your presence, careful preparation, and active participation are crucial to your success. Students should come to class prepared ready to contribute to class discussion, listen attentively and critically to others’ comments and questions, respond collegially to others’ views, and generally conduct themselves in a professional manner. I expect you to take your work very seriously, preparing for each class by carefully reading each assignment, reflecting upon that reading, and thinking about the implications of the reading. Readings and other assignments posted in the daily syllabus should be completed in advance of each class.

Attendance: Your regular participation in this class is a vital part of its success. Each student is allotted up to four absences—no more. Upon the student’s fifth absence, he or she will have two options: 1) withdraw from the class, which will generate a W if done before October 18—or a WF if after that deadline; or 2) remain on the role (still attending classes, if so desired) and receive an F for the course/semester. Therefore, if you suspect that outside responsibilities might cause you to miss more than four classes, then you should consider taking the course at another time. Note: The English Department draws no distinction between excused and unexcused absences. Friday, October 18 is the last day to withdraw from class with a W (without incurring a WF).

Other Important Attendance Points:

  1. Tardies will also be counted as part of the attendance requirements. A student is considered tardy if he/she arrives to class after I do. Note: three tardies will equal one absence.
  2. Sleeping or disruptive behavior at any time during the class period will be treated as an absence.
  3. If you are going to be absent from class, understand that I do not allow students to make up unannounced quizzes under any circumstances. You are responsible for keeping up with all assignments, readings, and in-class work. I do not make lecture notes etc. available to students who missed class (so please get in touch with a fellow student)
  4. Bring ALL required materials to class every day. It is the Instructor’s prerogative to dismiss students who come to class without the required materials. The attendance policy also applies with these kinds of dismissals.

Critical Essays/Evaluation: Each essay will focus on a thesis-based analysis of a literary work covered in this course. I will post specific guidelines for each essay on the course website prior to the due date. All essays must be typed. Essays will be assessed on the basis of an argumentative thesis, organizational structure, interpretive content, use of supporting evidence from the literary work, grammar, MLA paper format, and writing style. Faculty who teach major-level English courses evaluate all written work in accordance with specific guidelines that we have developed and agreed upon as a department: Click here.


NOTE: Please make a xerox copy of all written work you turn in to me, in case it is misplaced or lost. Save your work on a flashdrive! I will not give you credit for work you claim to turn in but that I do not have in my possession.


Final Research Essay (30%): The final research paper (a minimum of 8 pages of research-based literary analysis with a strong, argumentative thesis) will represent the culmination of your study in this course. Along with the final research paper, you will be expected to submit a proposal and an annotated bibliography. I will provide you with more specific details about these requirements in the weeks ahead. The final draft of the research paper is due on the date listed in the syllabus. Papers turned in late will be marked down one letter grade for each day they are late. I will be glad to meet with you outside of class to discuss specific research topics. The project is a formal academic assignment and will be assessed on the basis of structure, content, grammar, writing style, proper paper format, and documentation of sources.


Late Essay Policy: All late essays will be penalized one letter grade per day late and are no longer accepted for a grade past one week of the deadline. Essays are late when they are not submitted to me at the beginning of class. I do not accept assignments sent to me via email unless approved by me in advance.


Conferences / Essay Consultations: I will be available to meet with you prior to the essay deadlines to discuss paper topics, possible ideas for a thesis, and other questions you may have about the writing process. While I will not proof-read drafts of your essays, I will answer specific questions that you might have about drafts of any of your essays, if you arrange to meet with me in advance. Please note that I will not be able to offer any substantial assistance if you wait until the last minute to write your draft/essay or request to meet with me the day the essay is due. Advance planning on your part is essential. My office hours are listed above, but I will be glad to meet with you at other times, if we arrange a mutually convenient time in advance.


Special Needs: If you have a registered disability that requires accommodation, see me at the beginning of the semester. If you have a disability that is not registered through the Disabled Student Services Office, contact Dr. Ann Phillips in 137 Parker Hall at 678)839-6428.


Plagiarism & Academic Dishonesty: Plagiarism and Academic Honesty: All work you turn in for this class (from quizzes, writing prompts, to out-of-class essays) must be your own original work, with all outside reference sources properly cited and acknowledged. The English Department, in adherence with the University’s code for academic honesty, defines plagiarism as “using the words and/or ideas of another without properly giving credit to the source(s)” (http://www.westga.edu/~engdept/Plagiarism/pladef.html) and offers the following descriptive list: submission of material that is wholly or substantially identical to that created or published by another person or persons, without adequate credit notations indicating authorship; “false” attempts at paraphrasing and/or documentation (as in making up sources); substitution for, or unauthorized collaboration with, another individual (excessive collaboration is considered plagiarism). It should be noted that unintentional plagiarism is plagiarism nonetheless.


This is a no-tolerance policy, not open to negotiation. If caught and substantiated, plagiarism results in an F for the course and will be reported to the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs for possible probation or suspension from the University. Click here for the University’s policies for handling Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty: http://www.westga.edu/~vpaa/handrev/ and http://www.westga.edu/handbook/. See also Preventing Plagiarism link in my website’s “A Writer’s Archive.”