|English 6120 Seminar in American Literature
Robert Penn Warren and the Changing South
The seminar is designed to meet the general learning outcomes agreed upon by the department. These objectives are printed below.
Students will, depending upon the seminar topic, (a) demonstrate an enhanced familiarity with the characteristics that have traditionally distinguished literary periods, as well as a developed awareness of the social forces, historical events, and cultural interests that define such epochs; and/or (b) understand and appreciate the significance of an author's/school's unique contributions to post Civil War American literary history, as well as comprehend the continuities expressed by those contributions within the American literary tradition; and/or (c) be conversant with the specific cultural context that gave rise to a literary movement, theme, or trope, and comprehend the manner in which the literary productions both shaped and were shaped by those contexts. Students will demonstrate in both oral and written work a discipline specific critical facility through convincing and well supported analysis of course-related material. Students will be capable of conducting independent and meaningful course-related research and synthesizing it in the form of a correctly documented research paper prepared according to current professional standards.
Jan. 1 Introductions
24 Early Poems: Thirty Six Poems, Eleven Poems on the Same Theme*: Essays: "The Briar Patch," "Knowledge and the Image of Man"
31 Essay: "Pure and Impure Poetry"; Novel: Night Rider, chapters 1-8
Feb. 7 Novel: Night Rider, chapters 9-16; Poem: The Ballad of Billie Potts: Oral Report on Night Rider: Josh Todd
14 Novel: All the King's Men, chapters 1-4
21 Novel: All the King's Men, chapters 5-10 Oral Report: Larry Bolen
28 Short Stories: from The Circus in the Attic and Other Stories ("The Circus in the Attic," "Blackberry Winter," "When the Light Gets Green,"
"Goodwood Comes Back," "The Patented Gate and the Mean Hamburger," "Her Own People"; Essay: "A Poem of Pure Imagination" Oral Report:
Mar. 7 Novel: World Enough and Time, chapters 1-6
14 Novel: World Enough and Time, chapters 7-12 Oral Report: Ted Smith
21 Spring Break
28 Poem: Brother to Dragons: a Tale in Verse and Voices; Oral Report: Brother to Dragons, Phil Purser
Apr. 4 Essay: Segregation: The Inner Conflict in the South; Oral Report: Jesse Bishop; Middle Poems: Promises; You, Emperors and Others;
Tale of Time,; Essay: The Legacy of the Civil War
11 Novel: Flood: A Romance of Our Time; Middle/late poems: Incarnations
18 Poem: Audubon: A Vision; Late Poems: Or Else, Can I See Arcturus from Where I Stand; Research Paper drafts distributed for colloquia
April 21-24, Fifteenth Annual Joint Meeting of the Robert Penn Warren
Circle and the Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies,
Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky
25 Late Poems: Now and Then, Being Here, Rumor Verified,
Altitudes and Extensions Oral Report: Angela Hodges
May 2 Colloquia
9 Research Paper Due
*You are not required to read every poem in each of these sections from Selected Poems. For the required poems click here.
Expectations:Scrupulous preparation for class, faithful attendance (this includes the Tuesday before Thanksgiving break), enthusiastic participation (of which listening attentively to the views of others is a major part), professional courtesy to all other members of the seminar, meeting all deadlines for assignments, and consultation with the instructor on all major assignments and on any other matters that might require it. All of these behaviors are prerequisite to the instructor's acceptance of the assignments below for evaluation.
Discussion Points: Students will lead discussion by preparing brief informal responses to assignments to present to the class. The responses may take the form of questions or observations. You'll present them orally and turn in a written version, which might be a short paragraph and should not exceed a page in length, to the instructor. Each student will present a point for discussion at every other meeting. If we are reading only one novel that week, you may respond to any element of the novel you wish. When we have multiple texts, as with the poems, choose to comment on what interests you most. Those who are not presenting will have the primary responsibility for responding to presenters. No student will be expected to present a discussion point at a meeting during which he or she makes an oral report. 10% of grade See Discussion Prompt Assignments
Oral Report: Each
member of the seminar will prepare a15-20 minute teaching presentation
on on one of the works we study.. These assignments will be worked
out at the first meeting. Each report should include:
1. A brief discussion of the work in relation to Warren's career
2. A summary of significant criticism on the work: including assessments by three critics from the list of critics.
3. The student's original observations/interpretations of the primary text. The report should be a teaching presentation, aimed at delivering information, but
also prompting discussion and questions. 10% of grade. See Report Assignments
Brief Analytical Paper. Explication or analysis of some element of a work or works studied early in the semester. Though the paper topic may be prompted by secondary reading, no secondary sources are required for this exercise in close reading of text(s). Due. March 7. 20% of grade
Directions: The paper should be 4-5 pages, typed and double spaced; controlled by a central idea--which might range from an interpretation to simply pointing out a problem Warren presents for readers trying to interpret his work; and should be distinguished by ample close analysis of the literary text(s). This last requirement may be met by an extended discussion of a single poem or passage or briefer, connected discussions of multiple poems/passages.
Here are some possible approaches:
1. Expand a discussion
point/question you have brought to the class.
2. Interpret an early Warren poem.
3. Identify, define, and discuss the treatment of a concept or theme that Warren raises repeatedly in his early work--knowledge, irony, the West, history, race, etc.
4. Respond to a specific point you've encountered in Warren criticism. Note: This is only an option. References to secondary sources are not required for this paper.
Seminar Paper: Each member of the seminar will prepare a 12-15 page paper on a topic arrived at in consultation with the instructor. The paper must argue an original thesis and be thoroughly grounded in appropriate Warren criticism. 50 % of grade. Annotated Bibliography: An annotated bibliography is required along with the research paper--see below. Note that this assignment is not a substitute for the Works Cited section of your paper. You may well annotate a source you consult but do not cite in your final paper.
Annotated Bibliography: provide a list
of five secondary sources (journal articles or book chapters, not entire
books) you consult as part of your research for the paper.
Provide a standard MLA Works Cited entry for each, and provide after each
entry a brief descriptive note. Do not evaluate or analyze
the article/chapter. For example:
Mathison, John K. "Nelly Dean and the Power of Wuthering Heights."
Nineteenth-Century Fiction 11. 106-29. Rpt. in
Wuthering Heights: An Anthology of Criticism. Ed. Alastair Everitt. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1967. 84-110.
Mathison argues that the power of the novel derives from the fact
that the narrator, Nelly Dean, is too "normal" and
"healthy" to comprehend the exorbitant passions and actions of characters such as Heathcliff and Catherine. The powerful
effect on readers occur as they realize the inadequacy of the "normal" to interpret the deeper and truer feelings of the main
characters and are forced to become active advocates for Heathcliff and Catherine in ways that could not occur with an
omniscient narrator or a less admirable first-person narrator. It is in this power that Brontë has created a genuine work of
Colloquia: (10% of
grade) Each member
of the seminar will distribute three copies of a complete draft of his/her
seminar paper on April 18--one copy for the instructor and one copy each
for the primary and secondary reviewers. Note: the required annotated
bibliography need not be distributed at this time.
Primary Reviewer--prepare a one page, typed, double-spaced response to the draft commenting on each of the following four areas: (1) focus and significance, (2) depth and quality of development, (3) quality and appropriateness of research revealed in the draft, and (4) additional areas as dictated by the individual paper. It is also assumed that comments will be made on the typescript of the draft itself.
Three copies of this primary review will be distributed on April 25--to the instructor, to the author, and to the secondary reviewer.
Secondary Reviewer--prepare a half page, typed, doubled-spaced response to the draft in light of the primary review--seconding important observations made by primary reviewer, adding comment on areas not covered by primary reviewer, and/or offering alternative points for consideration. Bring three copies to class on May 2.
Note: The written version of both reviews may be longer than the assigned length if the reviewer deems more space is necessary to do the job. Both primary and secondary reviews will be presented in an informal oral format on May 2, followed by equally informal responses from the author and instructor.
Primary and secondary reviewers for each paper assigned below:
Josh Larry Angela
Larry Jesse Shannon
Shannon Ted Josh
Ted Phil Larry
Phil Josh Jesse
Jesse Angela Ted
Angela Shannon Phil