Last updated:
Nov. 24, 2008

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Laura L. Runge
Office: CPR 360 D
Phone: 813-974-9496

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    ENG 6018
    Criticism and Theory I

    Course Description:

      This required course covers the first half of the survey of criticism and theory from the Ancients through the late eighteenth century. While the texts bring us backward in history, the orientation of the class will be toward understanding the contemporary purposes of English studies and literature, rhetoric, composition and culture. Toward that end, we will begin with an investigation of the recent debates collectively nominated “The Crisis in the Humanities” and seek to understand why our society has deemed the field of English, poetics, and the humanities alternately irrelevant and politically dangerous. With a focus on Classical, Medieval, Renaissance and Enlightenment theories, the class will rethink these issues through the early debates on mimesis, education, rhetoric, exegesis, literacy, humanism, didacticism, and aesthetics. Students will read about and report on theories of political and social values of literature, rhetoric and culture; arguments between ancients and moderns; questions of censorship; use of the vernacular; technologies of writing; the status of representation; and genius versus learning.

    This course has been designed to meet the following objectives:

  • For students to read and interpret the original texts of criticism and theory from Classical, Medieval, Renaissance and Enlightenment eras;

  • For students to draw comparisons between earlier critical models and contemporary thought;

  • For students to research and report on topics to debate and further understand the significance of these early texts;

  • For students to develop tools of critical inquiry and analysis through online discussion and weekly writings, peer-response and written examinations.

  • Required Texts

    Vincent B. Leitch, general editor, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001

    Selected readings available in Blackboard Course Documents

    Recommended Texts

    Charles Bressler, Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice, fourth edition, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, Prentice Hall, 2007.

    Sophocles, Oedipus the King

    The Bible

    Shakespeare, Othello

    Electronic Media

    For an general introduction to computing facilities and classes at USF, see USF Academic Computing Home Page.

    This class will be interacting with the Blackboard website for ENG6018.ALLF08, to be located on your MY USF website. To register and log in, visit .

    You will find the discussion board for your weekly informal postings on this Blackboard site, and I will also post assignments, messages and further information about the class on this site. We will maintain several discussion boards, WIKI sites and even some virtual classroom hours. Grades will be posted on the Blackboard site. PLEASE NOTE: I have joined two sections for this class, and so you will be participating in the Blackboard class labeled "ENG6018.ALLF08".

    My website: information on class, assignments and links to other important sites on literature, etc.

    Other important websites will be listed in the schedule of reading and following the assignments.


    We will meet in CPR 202 on August 28 and December 4. All other interactions will be online. Individual meetings with the instructor can be scheduled and are encouraged before student reports are written.

    Please note, individual class notes will be linked to the website at the date. These links will be updated weekly; in if doubt, please check the "Last updated" date to be sure you are reading this term's notes.

    Date Criticism Reports/Response Assignment
    8/28 Introductions: Values in Criticism In class writing
    9/4 Crisis in the Humanities / Intro to Graduate Studies in English Perloff from course documents; NATC Introduction (pp 1-28); "Introduction" and one chapter from McComiskey, English Studies Post #1
    9/11 Gorgias, Plato (NATC 29-85) Report:Augur, Taber Post #2
    9/18 Aristotle (NATC 87-121); also Oedipus the King Report: Stedman, Henrichon Post #3
    9/25 Horace, Longinus, Quintillian (NATC 121-171) Report: Fennell and Dowling Post #4
    10/2 Plotinus; Augustine; Macrobius (NATC 171-201); selections from the Bible; selections from course docs Report: Ellman, Traina, Adams Post #5
    10/9 Hugh St. Victor, Moses Maimonides (NATC 201-226) Report: Jordan and Upshaw Post #6
    10/16 Geoffrey of Vinsauf, Aquinas, Dante (NATC 226-252) Report: Wright and Ward Post #7
    10/23 Boccaccio, Christine de Pizan (NATC 253-270) Report: Eward-Mangione, Lane, King Post #8; MIDTERM DUE
    10/30 Giambattista Giraldi, du Bellay, Ronsard (NATC 270-299) Report: Pantelides, Anderson Post #9
    11/6 Sidney (NATC 323-362) Report: Angello, Gerts, Ramsey Post #10
    11/13 Corneille, Dryden, Behn (NATC 323-399); and Essay of Dramatic Poesie see course docs Report: Benson, Weber Post #11
    11/20 Addison, Young, Pope (NATC 416-455) Report: Veach, Cundiff Post #12
    11/27 Thanksgiving Enjoy good food and talk about the Enlightenment Optional post
    12/4 Johnson, Hume (NATC 455-499) Report: McIntyre, Mahoney Post #13

    Graded Assignments

    Weekly posts (min. 200 words) -- 15%

    Report (approx. 5 pages or about 1300 words) -- 20%

    Response on WIKI (min. 100 words / week) -- 10%

    Weekly participation in mentoring group (min. 300 words) -- 15%

    Midterm -- 20%

    Final -- 20%

    This syllabus is subject to change.

    ** Students who anticipate the necessity of being absent from class due to the observation of a major religious observance must provide notice of the date(s) to the instructor, in writing, by the second class meeting.

    Description of Graded Assignments

    For information on how these assigments will be graded, please see Grading Scales.

    Weekly Posts:

    For general description and specific requirements of this assignment, see my webpage on weekly posts. For each class, I will post a series of discussion questions and related information about the day’s reading. From this list, you can choose a question to focus your writing. Also, try to incorporate the ideas and observations made in other posts by your classmates. It is your responsibility to read the posts before answering a question. Choose a question that has not been fully addressed previously. If the question you want has been answered well, move onto another question until all the questions have been answered. If you repeat a response -- even by accident -- you must write another post on another question or you will not receive credit.


    For the purposes of these reports and responses, the class will be divided into a PhD group and a Master's group. Each group will have its own WIKI site on which to register for a report and post the report at a specified time. These five-page documents will be the product of research and reflection on course texts and themes. The documents should present a concrete idea or message about the subject; subjects will be listed on the WIKI sites by the second week of class and students can begin their research based on the bibliographies and suggestions in the NATC. If students want to research a different subject that is related to the material for that week, they can do so with approval from the instructor. Independent projects need to be approved by the third week in the semester.

    The student should submit the report to the course WIKI by Monday at 6:00 pm before the Thursday on which it is due. This is necessary to give students in the class enough time to read and to write a response to the report and post it to the WIKI. All students are required to post a comment of a minimum of 100 words each week on the WIKI site for their group (PhD or MA).

    One of the purposes of the assignment is to generate information about the context and implications of the critical arguments from the past that we are reading. These reports may be contentious, but they should always be well reasoned and well written. Students should be aware of and engage in critical discussions of the subject through a variety of critical lenses available in the research.

    The reports should also be submitted to the instructor in standard formatting and bibliography through SAFE ASSIGNMENT. In an email to me, students should write a cover-letter for the report, explaining what they attempted in the paper and what they perceive to be the purpose and the main point of the paper; they can also take the opportunity to express any reservations, hesitations or questions they may yet have about the paper.

    Papers will be evaluated on the basis of competence in writing and reasoning, on the lucidity of argument, and on the completeness of research and presentation. Students are encouraged to speak with the instructor about the topic and research plan in advance of writing the paper. Also, students are encouraged to shape the paper so as to be able to answer the questions posted below under "Response."


    These informal posts should be critical reflections on the reports, designed for public posting and discussion. The subject should ALWAYS be the report itself, not the writer. The audience is our class. The tone should be professional: critical but reasonable and with minimal unselfconscious emotional reaction.

    Each response should be a minimum of 100 words and engage in the critical conversation around the report. Some ideas you might want to consider in forming your responses follow:

  • What is the main point of this report?

  • Does this report present enough contextual information to make sense of the point?

  • Does this report present more than one scholarly view of the subject?

  • Does the report ignore important information that would affect the conclusion?

  • Does the conclusion follow from the information presented?

  • What are the implications of the information presented?

  • Are there other conclusions one might draw from the information presented?
  • What intellectual values (or other) are at stake in the position taken?
  • How does this information relate to the texts we have read for class?

  • How does this information shape our understanding of the role of humanities in our culture?

  • What did you learn from this report?

  • What questions does this report inspire?

    Responses are due by 6:00 pm on Thursday. They will be evaluated on the basis of competence in writing and reasoning, on the lucidity of points and questions raised, on promptitude and effort to engage in critical conversation.

    Mentoring Group

    Each student will be assigned a mentoring partner and the dyad will form a mentoring group. In general I will assign a PhD student with an MA student. These groups will have space on Blackboard to create their own Discussion Group, WIKI site, file or email exchange. The students in each group are responsible for generating a written exchange about the material that stems from their own questions and facilitates their learning of the material. Each student will be responsible for a minimum of 300 words in this forum each week. These exchanges should take place BEFORE the students have written their individual posts for the week and should be an aid in forming their thoughts on the posts. I will check the groups on Wednesdays to record the mentoring activity. The suggested outline of the process for weekly mentoring is the following:
    Choosing the discussion board or the WIKI, the MA student or the more novice student, will initiate the exchange by identifying an issue in the text -- preferably a major issue along the lines of the weekly discussion questions -- on which he or she wants further clarification. The initiator needs to articulate the issue as clearly as possible, explaining in his or her own words what the concept is and where the confusion lies. While these discussions can include minor details, they should not revolve solely around minor details of the text. A good example of an initiator would be for the student to explain in his or her own words the meaning of Plato's allegory of the cave in The Republic, and to point out specific points where the meaning does not seem clear. The respondent is not expected to be the expert, but rather to use his or her experience as a guide to a deeper and more thorough engagement with the text. A response might include recognition of the aspects of the initiator's interpretation that seem accurate and an explanation of items that do not. Or, it might specifically address the points of confusion raised in the initiator's opening query.
    At this point the initiator could reply and the discussion could continue until a) the points are made clear and both are ready to write their class posts, or b) the questions remain and need to be brought to the attention of the large group in a general forum, such as the weekly discussion board.

    What will count? How will this be measured? Each student must write a substantial posting of a minimum 300 words each week. This can take place in a multiple-part exchange or a single volley. The instructor will monitor the discussions on a weekly basis. The records must indicate active weekly participation in this forum for credit. The discussions must reflect genuine engagement with the texts and pursuit of conceptual clarity related to course material. Like the posts, these will be graded on effort, but it will also be scored on content. For full credit (3 points), the student's writing should reflect a) substantial inquiry into assigned reading; b) engagement with mentoring unit's writing (that is, this should be a dialogue, not a monologue; c) effort to reach a deeper understanding or to seek additional discussion with members of the class in the online community

    A note on disfunctional mentoring units: in the event that the mentoring unit does not prosper -- and genuine effort must be made to communicate and understand the member(s) of your unit -- the groups may be reassigned or reconfigured. This is not a "best" alternative, and so reassignment will only be made after all methods of amelioration have been exhausted.

    What is the purpose of this assignment? The mentoring unit is designed to alleviate several potential problems, some specific to the online environment: 1) The lack of face-to-face discussion, where conceptual weaknesses can be identified by the instructor and misreadings clarified and where students can be given individual attention to the benefit of all; 2) the tendency for online environments to encourage a disengagment with the details of the text -- the mentoring group should contribute to student engagement by asking students to explain their ideas to another, focused audience; 3) to minimize the intimidation some MA students feel in class with PhD students and to put the additional experience of the PhD's to work by having them instruct the more novice students.


    This will be a take-home, formal writing that will be submitted through SAFE ASSIGNMENT. More information to follow.


    This will be a take-home, formal writing that will be submitted through SAFE ASSIGNMENT. It will be due at the beginning of finals week. More information to follow.

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