ETS 181: Class and Literary Texts
Spring 2017 Course Credits: 3
Instructor: Ms. B. D’Amato Time/ Classroom: 8:05-8:53 in Room 111
Office Hours: by appointment Email: email@example.com
From Shakespeare’s portrayal of characters across a range of social strata, Dickens’ descriptions of living conditions in Victorian England, James Agee’s stories of tenant farmers during the Depression, to Barbara Ehrenreich’s more recent explorations of living on minimum wage, questions of social class have long been a focus of novelists’, poets’ and essayists’ work. Parallel to the ways that writers affect and engage social class, critical readers can engage with the concepts of social class as they read. Concerned with the social divisions of privilege, wealth, power and status, these concepts provide a set of lenses through which to read the world of work, home and community in a range of literary and other texts. This course provides an introduction to these concepts and exposes students to key texts in literature, film and other media as a way of fostering critical engagement and developing richer social responsibility through textual interpretation.
As with race and gender, class is a social construction that is imposed on, and performed by, all of us as a way of stratifying and defining who we are. Though the restraints of social class readily subject us to the power of others, these restraints may also, when well understood, provide a springboard for advocacy and direct social action. Concepts such as social stratification, inequality, and the relationship among wealth, privilege and power provide critical lenses though which to interpret texts and foster a richer understanding of students’ own implication within these systems of power. Invested in theoretical and historical frames of reading, the course takes as its starting point these concepts of social class and engages with literary texts ranging from the early modern period through the Industrial Revolution and into the present moment, when digital technology is dramatically shifting the way we work, live and communicate. Accordingly, as participants in a writing-intensive
course, students will respond and engage with texts by writing short and long-form papers as a way of critically and personally engaging with the texts from class. The concerns of social class in Renaissance England or during the Great Depression were not entirely those of today, but texts from those times and places still speak to our present moment. Students in this course will learn to read analytically and, through their writing, demonstrate a critical faculty for understanding how these texts can be vital markers of the ways that social class, and the struggles that come with it, stratify, divide and define us today.
ETS 181 Course Learning Outcomes:
*Recognize how meanings are created through acts of critical reading.
*Analyze the ways texts construct categories of difference, including differences of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class.
*Formulate sustained interpretive, analytical, or conceptual arguments based on evidence drawn from texts.
*Develop a basic understanding of core concepts of social class, including stratification,inequality, privilege, capitalism and labor.
General Skills Learning Outcomes:
Organize ideas in writing
Use clear and appropriate prose
Express ideas and information orally
Engage in analytical and critical dialogue orally
Identify and question assumptions
Beyond reading, students are required to do shorter, prompt-driven textual responses as well as four major writing assignments.
You will also write 6 responses during the semester. These are informal responses to some of the course readings. You might consider them as trial runs for the longer formal papers. Basically, they give you an opportunity to test your hand at using critical theory to read texts. Unless otherwise stated, each response paper will either directly engage the ideas of the article, or in the case of literature or film, the response papers will employ the theoretical concepts of the unit in a reading of the particular literary text. You must use the language of the theory and demonstrate a developing understanding of the concepts. Response papers must be one page in length, single-spaced, and typed in a 12 point Times New Roman font. They are graded on a 10-point scale and make up 20% of the final course grade.
There will be four major writing assignments in ETS 181. Each is tied loosely to a Course Unit.
#1 Close Reading( Unit 1): This writing assignment must be at least 1500+ words in length and must involve a close reading of a particular literary text through the lens of a concept introduced in class.
#2 Bibliography ( Analytical Journals Unit 2): The focus of this project is to gather, summarize, evaluate and synthesize materials that can be used for later projects. The texts will be chosen and organized around a guiding research question that is developed by the student and the student will write a list of at least five claims that can be made based on the evidence found in the texts explored. The materials gathered for this project may be any kind of text (images, film, video, music, etc), but at least one text must be theoretical in nature (though this text can come from in-class materials). In compiling and analyzing these texts, this assignment will take the form of an extensive annotated bibliography of at least 1500 words. Beyond the text of the bibliography, there must be a short reflection on how the student intends to proceed with developing the ideas into future work.
#3 Research Paper ( Unit 3): Taking concepts and texts from the bibliography that merit further attention, students will write an 8-10 page paper that extends those ideas to include material from the third unit (on the intersection of race, class and gender). This paper must include extensive close reading of a text through a critical/theoretical frame and must make a clear, thesis-focused argument. All sources discussed/cited in the final paper must follow MLA style citation.
#4 Public Presentation (Unit 4): For this assignment, students will interpret a text through the lens of a central concept and present that interpretation to the class. A variety of media can be used, but there must be a live, spoken component to the presentation.
Grades will be based on the following:
- Participation 10%
- Reading Responses (6) 20%
- Major Assignments(4) 70%
- Close Reading 15%
- Bibliography (analytical journals) 15%
- Research Paper 25%
- Public Presentation 15%
Course Unit Overview
Unit One: Introduction to Social Class (~4 weeks)
In unit one, students will be exposed generally to the historical threads, major themes and concepts of the course. Paul Fussell’s Class: A Guide through the American Status System, which serves to connect concepts to current student experience, will provide an introduction to core concepts, and the work of Marx and Weber will provide theoretical anchors for this unit, though literary texts may be drawn from a range of historical periods. Concepts glossed in this unit: class, privilege, bourgeoisie, proletariat, labor, inequality, status, and stratification.
Anchor Texts for Unit One:
- Fussell, Paul. “A Touchy Subject” and “An Anatomy of the Classes.” Class: A Guide through the American Status System. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. 15-50. Print.
- Weber, Max. “Class, Status and Party.” The Inequality Reader: Contemporary and Foundational Readings in Race, Class, and Gender. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2011. 56-67. Print.
- Marx, Karl. “Preamble” and “Chapter One: Bourgeois and Proletarians” Marx/Engels Selected Works. Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress, 1969. 98-137. Manifesto of the Communist Party. 2000. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.
Literary Texts and Films for this Unit:
- William Blake, excerpts from Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience
- Kate Chopin, “A Pair of Silk Stockings”
- Peggy McIntosh, “ White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”
- Bruce Springsteen ( Song), “Death to my Hometown
- The Clash (song) “White Riot”
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads (including preface)
- Charles Dickens, “A Walk in the Workhouse”
- Jacob Riis, excerpts from How the Other Half Lives
- Gangs of New York, (2002, director: Martin Scorsese)
- Walt Whitman, “A Song for Occupations”
Unit Two: Stratification and Inequality (~5 weeks)
In unit two we get a more in-depth exploration of how the concepts of inequality and stratification are inscribed in and constructed through texts. Here students will explore the ways that certain literary texts position or interpellate readers into particular kinds of class subjects (i.e. “the good worker,” “the middle class father,” etc). Of particular concern are close reading techniques and interpretative practices that focus on textual evidence as a basis of literary analysis.
Anchor Texts for Unit Two:
- Davis, Kingsley, and Wilbert E. Moore. “Some Principles of Stratification.” The Inequality Reader: Contemporary and Foundational Readings in Race, Class, and Gender. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2011. 16- 19. Print.
- Mills, C. Wright. “The Power Elite.” The Inequality Reader: Contemporary and Foundational Readings in Race, Class, and Gender. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2011. 100-11. Print.
Literary Texts and Films for this Unit:
- James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
- Sholem Asch, “The Triangle Fire” (paired with Rose Schneiderman’s “Memorial Speech,” and Robert Pinsky’s “Shirt”)
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby or Eugene O’Neill, The Iceman Cometh
- Philip Roth, “Goodbye, Columbus”
- Tillie Olsen, “I Stand Here Ironing”
- John Steinbeck “Chrysanthemums”
Unit Three: Race, Class and Gender (~4 weeks)
Unit three emphasizes the intersections of race, class and gender as crucial for understanding inequality, labor divisions, and modes of resistance. These intersections provide ways for exploring and expanding students’ understanding of power and agency as performed and inscribed in and through texts. The focus is on how the act of interpretation itself risks tacitly reinscribing these power relationships, so an emphasis is placed on how interpretation can itself become a way of resisting and restructuring gender, race and class relationships.
Anchor texts include-
- Andersen, Margaret L., and Patricia Hill Collins. “Why Race, Class, and Gender Still Matter.”
- Hooks, Bell. “Feminism: A Movement to End Sexist Oppression.”
Literary Texts and Films for this Unit:
- Toni Cade Bambara, “The Lesson”
- Langston Hughes, “I, Too”
- Flannery O’Connor, “The Artificial Nigger”
- William Shakespeare, Othello
- Alice Walker, “Everyday Use”
- Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
- Film: Children of Men
Unit Four: Work Culture (~4 weeks)
In unit four, students are exposed to the questions surrounding the culture of work: how does culture work? How does our work-life imbue culture? How does culture work on and through us?
Drawing on a wide range of written, graphic, filmic and multimedia texts, this unit will engage students with interpreting the world of work, particularly the aesthetics of high vs. low culture on the job, and how work is represented and performed in a variety of media.
Anchor text for the unit
- Adorno, Theodor W., and Max Horkheimer. Trans. Andy Blunden. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.” Marxists.org. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.
Literary Texts and Films for this Unit
- Allen Ginsburg’s “America”
- Rothenberg’s “Poem for the Cruel Majority”
- Frontline’s Generation Like
- Raymond Carver, “Neighbors”
- Junot Diaz, “Edison, New Jersey”
- David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross
- Junebug (2005, Phil Morrison, director)
- George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London
- Henry David Thoreau, “Life Without Principle”
Participation and Preparation
Attendance and preparation are very important. Students should not miss more than 6 classes. Completing the readings is essential for success in this course. You must complete all assigned readings before they appear on the course calendar. The expectation is that all students will arrive in class having completed carefully and thoughtfully annotated readings of each assigned text. Students who have not completed the reading will be excluded from participation in classroom discussion. Typically, you will have a written assignment related to the reading due each class meeting.
Participation includes active engagement in each course activity, both in and out of the classroom. This is a very demanding course, but it is also a very rewarding course for students who challenge themselves and work with intellectual curiosity, interest, and energy. Students who do not accept the challenges of this course will be frustrated often and likely disappointed in their work and the grades they receive on their work. This is particularly relevant to class discussion. You must participate actively and thoughtfully in the daily discussion of texts. This means that you not only offer your own views, but that you also listen closely to your classmates and add to the conversation in a valuable way. Participation and preparation constitute 10% of the final course grade.
Because of the detailed daily course calendar you have no excuse for being unprepared for class, even if you have been absent. In the event of an absence, it is your responsibility to contact a classmate as soon as possible to discover what was missed. Missing Monday's class does not excuse you from completing the homework due on Tuesday. It is best to contact the instructor prior to an absence so assignments can either be given early or rescheduled at a later date.
All assignments must be submitted on or before the specified due date (unless previous arrangements have been made through consultation with and permission by the instructor). Late work will lose one grade (one full letter for formal papers and one point on 10-point scale for written responses) per weekday. If you are unable to give the late work to the instructor directly, you must arrange for another student to turn it to the instructor directly or leave it in my mailbox in the front office clearly labeled and bound in an envelope or folder.
Punctuality is important. It shows respect for others and confidence in oneself; moreover, it is essential for establishing one's credibility. Lateness is simply unacceptable and will reflect in your final grade.
Because this is a demanding course, your on-time attendance every day is crucial to you success.
Consistent attendance will contribute to the participation portion of your final grade for the course. If missing a class is unavoidable, it is your responsibility to get the notes for the missed class, to make up missed work, and to submit, or have someone else submit for you, the assignments for the day. Excuses will not be accepted (printers malfunctioning, ink cartridges running out, etc.) If you are having technical problems with your printer, you may e-mail me your assignment. Late work will be dropped a full letter grade.
Syracuse University’s academic integrity policy reflects the high value that we, as a university community, place on honesty in academic work. The policy defines our expectations for academic honesty and holds students accountable for the integrity of all work they submit. Students should understand that it is their responsibility to learn about course-specific expectations, as well as about university-wide academic integrity expectations. The university policy governs appropriate citation and use of sources, the integrity of work submitted in exams and assignments, and the veracity of signatures on attendance sheets and other verification of participation in class activities.
The presumptive penalty for a first instance of academic dishonesty by an undergraduate student is course failure. When you provide your signature to register for a Syracuse University course, you are also indicating that you have read the online summary of the University’s academic integrity expectations and agree to abide by those policies.
For the full statement of Syracuse University’s Academic Integrity Expectations, excerpted from the SU Academic Integrity Policies and Procedures handbook, see http://academicintegrity.syr.edu/full-statement-of-sus-ai-expectations/.
Summary of SU’s AI Expectations—Know the Code: http://academicintegrity.syr.edu/know-the-code-sus-ai-expectations/
Ten Questions—and Answers—Every SU Undergraduate Needs to Know about Academic Integrity: http://academicintegrity.syr.edu/10-qas-for-undergraduate-students/
Tools for Understanding the Use of Sources: http://academicintegrity.syr.edu/resources-for-understanding-use-of-sources/
This class will be using Turnitin, a plagiarism prevention system that identifies “matched text.” Since the Internet has made it easy for students to cut and paste materials into papers, I will submit all papers you write to Turnitin. You will also have an opportunity to submit your papers to Turnitin to check that all sources you have used are properly acknowledged and cited.
The dialogic journal is a written reaction to (not a mere summary of) readings, discussions and various material covered in and out of class. You are expected to engage creatively with the material, raise educated questions, write your associations, interests, objections, and make connections to other material, as well as to personal experience. Please use the left side of the paper to write quotes or ideas from the text, and respond to each on the opposite side of the page. Helpful Tip: You should have more to say on the right side of the paper, as your thoughts and insights will be the most important aspect of the piece.