Seminar: Current Issues in the
Discipline of English
The Capstone Seminar is a research-intensive culminating course that affords students in the last year of the English major the opportunity to examine a critical issue current in the discipline of English studies and to participate in a rigorous exchange about this issue with their peers and with published scholars. Over the course of the semester students will sustain work on an independent research project leading to a scholarly essay of significant length and original content.
This semester, the Capstone will explore a range of theoretical and historical models of reading and reception, in an effort to engage closely with the reading problematic that has taken shape in literary studies over the last thirty years or so. Students will engage a constellation of critical, theoretical, and historical works that raise questions about the history and nature of reading as interpretive, affective, and cognitive practices, about how different kinds of readers make, have made, and are encouraged to make use of texts, about the relationship between authors, readers, and textual meaning, and about the conditions and constraints under which readers have historically operated.
By the end of the semester, students in this course will be expected to have demonstrated:
*the ability to reflect critically on questions that have emerged during their previous semesters in the English major, questions including but not limited to the relationship of literary study to culture and politics, the interpretive dynamic between author, audience, and text, and the role of theoretical concepts and critical dialogue in literary analysis;
*the advanced research skills necessary to the pursuit and completion of an independent scholarly research project;
*the ability to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the major literary critical and theoretical scholarship in the area(s) of study pertinent to their major research project;
*a comprehensive understanding of the form and content of the primary text(s) at the center of their major projects, as well as a knowledge of those texts’ place within literary history, and their historical and cultural specificity;
*the communication skills (written and oral) necessary to the sharing of their research with highly informed, critical audiences, both peer and faculty;
*the ability to critically evaluate their own work and the work of others within the context of professional scholarship.
Nearly all of your reading materials will be emailed to you in pdf form. You will be expected to print each text and bring your annotated copies to class each week. You will also be expected to secure hard copies of research materials as your project unfolds. Initially, this may strike you as costly, but if you compare the expense of one printer toner cartridge to the total cost of books in a typical literature course, you’ll find that you won’t be spending any more for the readings in this course than in any other. If you anticipate difficulties with this arrangement, please see me to discuss an alternative as soon as possible.
1. READING and PARTICIPATION
As you engage closely with difficult materials each weak, while simultaneously moving through the stages of a research-intensive scholarly essay, you will be asked to do a great deal of reading and writing in this course. You are required to complete all of the reading assigned, to read texts closely, to read texts repeatedly, to annotate texts carefully, and to keep up with the demanding pace set by the syllabus. You are also, of course, required to prepare for and attend each class session and each scheduled conference during the semester.
2. WEEKLY ASSIGNMENTS, ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY, PROSPECTUS
Most weeks, you will be assigned an ungraded research or writing exercise designed to reinforce the skills you will need to complete the scholarly essay. In addition, you will be expected to submit two significant graded assignments – a substantial annotated bibliography and an essay prospectus – leading up to the completion of the scholarly essay.
All written assignments in this course call for formal writing. Please avoid casual, self-referential statements (e.g. “it seems to me,” “in my opinion,” “this character reminds me of a friend of mine” etc.) and statements of aesthetic or moral judgment (e.g. “this book is delightful,” “this author does a great job of…,” “the author is a hypocrite”), and always be sure to provide ample textual evidence in support of your claims.
3. SCHOLARLY ESSAY
In addition to completing the weekly or bi-weekly assignments described above, you are required to compose one major written assignment – an independently researched, well-documented literary critical essay on a topic informed by the problematic of the course. This project will take shape over the course of the semester and will require a great deal of outside of class research, reading, analysis, and writing. We will move through the stages of the process of generating this piece together, but you will perform much of it independently and in consultation with your instructor.
Your essay will draw upon current research in the area of your topic and synthesize that research in the service of a clear, unified, thoroughly developed, and well-organized analysis of at least one literary work selected from a list distributed today.
Finally, those of you whose final essay reflects scholarly work of the highest quality will be invited to defend the essay before a faculty committee of your choosing who will consider it for the distinction of departmental Honors.
1. EXTENSIONS: If you are unable to finish an assignment in the allotted time, you must request an extension before the deadline, rather than simply granting one to yourself or failing to show up with the work completed. Absence is no excuse for missing a deadline. When deadlines have not been extended, late assignments will not be read. Please always bring hard copies of assignments to class unless I specify otherwise.
2. ATTENDANCE: More than three absences and/or chronic lateness will result in a lowered final grade.
3. OFFICE HOURS and E-MAIL EXCHANGES: Please feel free to drop by my office hours, to call me, to see me after class or to set up an appointment outside of regular office hours to discuss academic questions, assignments, plans etc. Since much of the work you will be required to take on in this class is individual and independent, you will do well to avail yourself of regular visits to my office hours. I am also available and happy to reply at length and in detail to questions or proposals you might send via e-mail, especially if your schedule prohibits you from taking advantage of one-on-one conferences. Though I am frequently able to reply to your email right away, please allow me 24 hours as a rule.
30% -- Participation/Effort/Engagement (including ungraded weekly research and/or writing assignments, in-class workshops, class discussion, evidence of thoughtful reading and research, written responses to peers’ work, research group collaboration, and preparation for individual and group conferences)
20% -- Annotated Bibliography
20% -- Essay Prospectus
30% -- Scholarly Essay (First and Final Drafts)
5. PLAGIARISM: The NJCU student handbook defines plagiarism as the attempt: “to pass off ideas or words of another as one’s own,” “to use material without crediting the source” and/or “to present as new and original an idea, phrase or statement derived from an existing source.” In other words, if you submit an essay that you did not write, or an essay containing a passage – even one sentence – or a substantial idea that you have copied from an internet or print source without using quotation marks, footnotes, parenthetical citations, a bibliography or a works cited page to document that source, you have plagiarized. Because the English department considers plagiarism a flagrant violation of academic integrity, plagiarism in this or any English course will result in an automatic dismissal from the course, a grade of F for the course, and a report of the incident to the Dean of Students and the Dean of Arts and Sciences.
Weeks One through Four – Building a Theoretical Framework
Week 1 (January 19th) -- Introductions
**The list of literary works from which students will select their major research projects is distributed.
Week 2 (January 26th) -- Foundational Texts and Concepts
Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author”
Supplementary Reading (Optional, but Useful!)
Susan Suleiman, “Introduction: Varieties of Audience-Oriented Criticism”
**Directed Response to Barthes, Foucault, and Nehamas is due.
Week 3 (February 2nd) -- Foundational Texts and Concepts II
Michel de Certeau, “Reading
as Poaching” from
The Practice of Everyday Life
**Directed Response to de Certeau, Todorov, Fish, and Ong is due.
Week 4 (February 9th) – Individual Conferences
**Primary literary work(s) for the scholarly essay should be read.
Weeks Five through Nine – Case Study:
Week 5 (February 16th) – Affective and Directed Reading
Adam Smith, from
A Theory of
Moral Sentiments History
**Directed Response to Adam Smith and/or Ioan Williams is due.
Week 6 (February 23rd) – The Emergence of a Middle-Class Readership
Ian Watt, “Realism and the Novel Form” and “The Reading Public and the Rise of the Novel” from
The Rise of the Novel
**Complete annotated bibliography is due (10 productive sources minimum).
Week 7 (March 2nd) – Research Group Conferences
Week 8 (March 9th) – Spring Break
Week 9 – (March 16th) – Visual Representations of Novel Reading
James Grantham Turner, “Novel Panic: Picture and Performance in the
Reception of Richardson’s
**Workshop: Literary Critical Evidence
Weeks Ten through Fifteen – Foregrounding the Scholarly Essay
Week 10 – (March 23rd) – No Class (Complete First Draft)
**By March 23rd, email each member of your research group a one-page response to his/her prospectus. Follow the guidelines distributed on March 16th.
Week 11 (March 30th) – Historical Conceptions of Reading and Regulation: Censorship, Copyright and the Public Domain
From Martha Woodmansee, “Aesthetics and the Policing of Reading” from
The Author, Art, and the Market: Rereading the History of
**First draft of scholarly essay is due (bring 5 copies to be circulated within your research group).
Week 12 (April 6th) -- Reading and Class: the Emergence of a Mass Market for Literature
Mary Shelley, from
**One-page response to the first draft of each member of your research group is due. Follow the guidelines distributed on March 30th.
Week 13 (April 13th) – Optional Individual Conferences
Week 14 (April 20th) – Final Draft of Scholarly Essay Due
**In-class mini-presentations of scholarly essays
Week 15 (April 27th) – Final Conferences with Instructor
**Honors defenses (for those eligible) will take place during the week of May 3rdList of Primary Texts (on which individual final projects will be based)