The Experience of Literature | Fall 2010

ENGL 2030-45 (TR 420-545 | PH 322)

Text | Norton Litweb | Course Policies & Procedures | Course Requirements | Agenda | Take Home Final Exam

Dr. David Lavery

Office: PH 372 | Office Hours:  M: 205-400; T, TH: 300-420; other times by arrangement | E-mail: | Office Phone/Voice-Mail: 615-898-5648 | Home Page:


Dr. David Lavery is Professor of English at MTSU (1993- ). The author of over one hundred twenty published essays, chapters, and reviews, he is author / co-author / editor / co-editor of twenty three books, including Joss: A Creative Portrait of the Maker of the Whedonverses and The Essential Cult Television Reader. The organizer of international conferences on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Sopranos, a founding co-editor of the journals Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies and Critical Studies in Television, he has lectured around the world on the subject of television (Australia, Turkey, the UK, Portugal, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany) and has been a guest/source for the BBC, NPR, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The New York Times, A Folha de Sao Paulo (Brazil), Publica (Portugal), Information (Netherlands), AP, The Toronto Star, USA Today. From 2006-2008, he taught at Brunel University in London.


TEXT: The Norton Introduction to Literature, 10th Edition by Allison Booth and Kelly J. Mays [hereafter Booth and Mays; all page numbers below are to this book].



Class format: We will follow a lecture / discussion format during most class meetings. Manuscript form: All written assignments must be word-processed and must be submitted in digital form, as a Microsoft Word or Rich Text attachment, as an e-mail asttachment sent to Please name the file with your own last name (for example: lavery.doc). Please be sure to carefully edit and proofread your own work. Do not simply rely on your computer's spell checker. (Go here to read a poem that demonstrates the untrustworthiness of spell checkers.) A list of "Things to be Aware of" as you write your essays can be found here. Essay Evaluation: I will evaluate your essays using a grading scale which can be found here (PDF file, Acrobat Reader required). Reading assignments: You are responsible for having read the entirety of each assignment, including the editor's introduction to each work/author we are studying. Participation & involvement: Please come prepared for each day’s class. I encourage you to become an active participant in class discussion and to ask constructive and meaningful questions at all times--even when I appear to be "lecturing." Please do not save your best questions / comments for after class, as students so often do. Attendance: Regular attendance is essential to the ongoing progress of the course. Two absences will be permitted. A third absence may result in the loss of a letter grade. A fourth absence may result in failure of the course. Inclement Weather Policy: Go here. Plagiarism / Cheating: The unacknowledged use of the words / ideas / insights / original research of another is, of course, prohibited. Do not assume that, like prominent historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose, you may plagiarize without fear of punishment. Should I catch you plagiarizing, or cheating in any way, you will receive a grade of "0" on the assignment in question, the violation may be reported to University authorities, and you may fail the course, as several students in past semesters have done. Students with Disabilities: Any student with a disability will be given all the rights and privileges guaranteed under the Americans with Disabilities Act if he/she is registered with Disabled Student Services (call/contact John Harris, KUC 120/2783). University Writing Center: The University Writing Center, sponsored by the English Department and staffed by full-time and adjunct faculty and graduate teaching assistants, is located in PH 326. At the UWC you can get constructive help with a variety of writing problems, from pre-writing to organization to grammatical errors. (Please be aware, however, that the UWC does not do proofreading.) Grading Scale: 90-99%=A | 80-89%=B | 70-79%=C | 60-69%=D | 0-59%=F



Critical / Interpretive Essays: You owe me two (2) critical essays of not less than 1,000 words in length on an individual poem, play, or story, or two or more considered together. Each essay must have a title that gives a general idea of what the essay will be about.  Irony in "Good Country People" or The Role of Memory in Death of a Salesman--good titles. Death of a Salesman (as title of your essay itself)--bad title. Think of your audience as your classmates; presume that the reader has read the work(s) in question. Don't even think about writing on a story or poem or play you have not read at least twice. Do not (NOT) write a plot summary. Since you are writing about a work your reader has already read, your purpose is, as an "expert" on it (or at least one who has paid careful attention to it), to enhance its meaning for your reader by analyzing/interpreting some aspect of it. Like any good essay you will need to have a thesis: a commitment/contract (usually at the end of the introduction, usually expressed in a sentence or two) in which you inform your reader what you will accomplish in the essay about to be read. The events in the story/poem/play itself should be talked about in present tense, as if they are still going on.  Thus "Manley Pointer leaves Hulga, missing a leg, in the hayloft" not "Manley Pointer left Hulga, missing a leg, in the hayloft."  Proofread/edit carefully. Peter Elbow once said that submitting an essay to a teacher full of errors is the equivalent of throwing dirty socks in your mother's face and commanding "Wash these!" If you make me wash your socks, I will not be happy and will respond appropriately. The title of a play or a novel should be in italics or underlined: Death of a Salesman or Death of a Salesman not "Death of a Salesman."


In Booth and Mays, you will find excellent discussion of how to write essays on literature and sample student essays on fiction, poetry, and drama throughout the book. The book also includes a comprehensive section (beginning on p. 2271) on "Writing About Literature." A sample student essay on Langston Hughes), written for this course at MTSU (it received an "A"), can be found here. A paper). See Agenda for due dates. Essay 1: 20% of your grade;  Essay 2: 25% of your grade.

Take Home Final Exam: A take-home exam, consisting of a menu of topics, from which you will select two, responding with essay answers. These topics will all be "leading questions," intended to inspire your own comprehensive synthesis of course ideas, questions, problems. 25% of your grade.

Tests: You will take three in-class matching tests (drama, fiction, and poetry)--on authors, works, literary terms [see the glossary in Booth and Mays]). See the Agenda for test dates. Each worth 10% of your grade.





Date | Readings | Course Requirements

Week 1

8/31: Intro to the Course Housman, "Terence, This is Stupid Stuff" (Power Point)


9/2: Introduction to Drama: Oedipus, 1559 | Oedipus Power Point | Dramatic Terms

Week 2

9/7/10: The Importance of Being Earnest (1597) | Medieval to Renaissance Power Point | Comedy and Wilde Power Point

9/9/10: Earnest (continued)

Week 3

9/14/10: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? [in-class screening]

9/16/10: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? [screening; discussion] | Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf Starter Kit | WAVW Power Point

Week 4

9/21/10: Death of a Salesman, 2128 | "Biff" in Seinfeld (search the page for "Biff") | Arthur Miller & Marilyn Monroe | Hoffman as Loman | Death of a Salesman Power Point

9/23/10: Film and Television Drama and Comedy: Seinfeld Website | Seinfeld Handout | Watch a Seinfeld Episode ("The Betrayal") at Hulu | Seinfeld Power Point

Week 5

9/28/10: Film and Television Drama and Comedy (continued): Screening of Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog | Read Rhonda Wilcox, Stacey Abbott, and David Lavery on Dr. Horrible on CST | Watch Clips from Dr. Horrible online at Hulu (follow the link and search for Dr. Horrible | Dr. Horrible Official Site | Dr. Horrible Fansite | Dr. Horrible Starter Kit | Dr. Horrible  Power Point | Dr. Horrible Script | Buffy vs. Edward

9/30/10: How I Learned to Drive (2225) | How I Learned  Power Point

Week 6

10/5/10: Samuel Beckett; Act without Words (1800); Wit (2193) | Beckett Power Point

10/7/10Wit (cont.)


Week 7

10/12/10: Introduction to Fiction: Chopin, "The Story of an Hour" (607) | Faulkner, "A Rose for Emily" (681) | Joyce, "Araby" (547) | Fiction Power Point | Fiction Terms Power Point | Chopin Power Point | Faulkner Power Point | Drama Test in Class 

10/14/10: Updike, "A & P" (149); Alexie, "Flight Patterns" (52); Williams, "The Use of Force" (800)

10/19/10: Fall Break--No Class

Week 8

10/21/10: Kafka, "Metamorphosis" (457) | Kafka Power Point

Week 9

10/26/10: Bierce, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (730); Marquez, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" (371), Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper" (608) | Bierce/Marquez/Gilman Power Point

10/28/10: Focus on Flannery O'Connor--O'Connor, "Everything That Rises Must Converge" (519); "A Good Man is Hard to Find" (495); "Good Country People" (506) | O'Connor Power Point

Week 10 

11/2/10: Cheever, "The Country Husband" (271); Borges, "The Garden of Forking Paths" (736); Lawrence, "The Rocking-Horse Winner" (750) | Cheever/Borges/Lawrence Power Point


11/4/10: Introduction to Poetry: Il Postino | Frost, "Stopping by Woods" (1325); Collins, "Introduction to Poetry" (ppt.) Pastan, "Marks" (973) | Intro to Poetry Power Point | Poetry Terms

Week 11

11/9/10: Introduction to Poetry (continued): Browning, "My Last Duchess" (1318); Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress" (930); Housman, "Athlete" (ppt); e. e. cummings, "she being Brand" (ppt) | Intro to Poetry 2 Power Point | Stephen Colbert Interviews Elizabeth Alexander  | Fiction Test in Class | Essay One Due by This Date

11/11/10: Introduction to Poetry (continued): Owen, "Dulce Et Decorum Est" (679); Piercy, "Barbie Doll" (855) and "Beauty I would Suffer For"; Kennedy, "In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus One Day" (880); poems about animals | Intro to Poetry 3 Power Point

Week 12

11/16/10: Poems by Emily Dickinson | Dickinson Power Point

11/18/10: Poems by Wallace Stevens | Stevens Power Point

Week 13

11/23: Poems by Langston Hughes | Without Sanctuary | Harlem Renaissance | Hughes ( | Model Hughes Essay | Hughes Power Point

11/25/10: Thanksgiving--No Class

Week 14

11/30/10: Dylan Thomas, "Fern Hill" [1357] | "Fern Hill" Power Point | Thomas Reads "Fern Hill" | Poems by Mary Oliver | Oliver Power Point

12/2/10: Poems by Gary Snyder | A Poetry Reading, University of Florida, 1975 | Gary Snyder on Poetry and Ecology (YouTube) | "About Gary Snyder" (Modern American Poetry) | Snyder Power Point

Week 15

12/7/10: The Singer-Songwriter as Poet: Leonard Cohen | Cohen Power Point | Essay Two Due by This Date

Final Exam Week [12/10-16]: Take Home Final Due by December 17th at 6:00 AM | Poetry Test in regularly scheduled exam period, Thursday, December 16th, 330-530 pm.