Description of Course Goals and CurriculumENG 206 is centered on this question: how are different worlds crafted and constructed, and what do they look like? The goal of this course is to give students a foundational understanding of a wide range of fiction in order to provide them with the knowledge and analytical skills needed to read all forms of fiction. In short, this class has one goal: to teach students to be strong readers. More specifically, although this course asks students to imagine alternative worlds found in fiction, ENG 206 aims for students to be able to use various forms of literature (including books, images, and films) to understand the real world. Thus, students can approach this class with two objectives: to read closely, and to always ask questions that follow from these course goals. The course is broken up into three units. The first unit is called Realism and its Discontents. In this unit, students explore classic texts, and are asked to question what makes a text a classic. The first unit ends with the first paper due. In the second unit, students explore Allegory in texts. In the third unit, students explore genre, and read texts that are representative of various genres, and others that seem to fit multiple genres or reside outside of any genre. The final paper is due after this unit, on Dean’s Date.
Learning From Classroom InstructionThere are two keys to being successful and learning in this class: the first is reading all of the texts, and the second is asking questions that a literary school would ask. The class is made up of two 50-minute lectures and one precept a week. In lecture, the professors cover topics, themes, events, and ideas that situate the books in the larger context of literary history. The goal of lectures is to help students connect the texts to the real world. The lectures are traditional in that students are expected to listen closely and take effective notes. The professors also teach two of the precepts, and so do not cover the same material they did in lecture. Instead, the focus of precepts is on deeper analysis and interpretation of the texts, and students are expected to come prepared to discuss these texts in depth, with relation to their plots and their forms. This is why reading all of the texts and generating (course-specific) questions is so important. Students are expected to be able to engage with the text and with other students in precept.
Learning For and From AssignmentsThe assignments are opportunities to engage more deeply with the texts. They include two 5-6 page papers (one due after the first unit, and one due on Dean’s Date) and one 10-15 minute presentation done during precept. Prompts for each of the papers are typically given 10 days in advance, which, for some students, is barely enough time to formulate an argument about a text, and not nearly enough time to closely read and analyze a text successfully. Thus, it is important to stay on top of the reading, and to also formulate questions and interpretations/analyses as you go. This helps you to read with purpose, so, by the time you begin a paper, you have already been brainstorming and can focus your writing efforts in that 10-day span. Active reading is also necessary for the weekly Blackboard posts students are required to do the night before each precept. This is probably one of the most important assignments of ENG 206. Students are asked to write a short passage about sections of the text that stick out to them, connections they made between that week’s texts and other texts, or questions about that week’s reading or topics (these are some of the questions you want to continually ask yourself while reading and thinking about the texts). Students must also come to precept having at least skimmed their classmates Blackboard posts. The weekly posts, although sometimes slightly annoying, are helpful tools for students. They generate discussion in precept, and they help students to become more comfortable with close reading and formulating arguments before the papers are due. Think about what you can learn from reading others’ posts, and read to do so. For instance, notice how fellow students make effective arguments, use evidence, and incorporate concepts and analytical tools introduced in class. Finally, the precept presentations are based on your own close reading of the text. Students are asked to analyze one passage from a text, present it to the class, ask questions. The student becomes the teacher. Each week, the precept generally starts off with discussion of the Blackboard posts, and then moves to that week’s presentation. So, together, the Blackboard posts and the presentations basically make up the foundation of precept.
External ResourcesOne of the greatest resources of this class is precept. Since precepts are so discussion-based, students have the power to shape them in any way that would be helpful for them. Try to generate questions while reading and during lecture--especially ones that will help you explore a topic you might want to write about-- and ask a couple of them in precept. Your classmates (and preceptor) will thank you, especially when there is a lull in the discussion. Additionally, students are expected to read the texts both closely and in full, which can sometimes feel impossible, since reading closely takes time. Students may consider using audiobooks (from online or from campus libraries) while reading to keep the pace up and get through the texts while driving, working out, etc.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionStudents probably should not take this course if they know for sure that they are not interested in the type of texts being read. Many of the texts and films are science fiction and dystopian novels, although not all of them are. It is very difficult to stay engaged in class, write successful papers, and perform an effective presentation when you do not enjoy the texts. If you do enjoy this type of literature, or are open to reading works in and around this genre, you will gain a lot from this class, as the workload does not prevent you from enjoying the texts.
Reading Literature: Fiction