Odyssey Project: Literature Syllabus

Fall Semester 2012 / Thursdays
instructor: Spencer Schaffner, Associate Professor of English, U of I
email: spencers@illinois.edu / phone: 217.273.7236
course homepage: http://metaspencer.com ... click on "courses" under "teaching"
Spencer's campus office: English Building 208
Odyssey Project wiki: http://theodysseyprojectcu.wikispaces.com


Course Description

The definition of literature has expanded in recent years to include many different kinds of graphic narratives. Some of these borrow from comics; others are illustrated manuscripts. In this course, we will work together to read and understand some well-known works of American literature along with a powerful graphic narrative. Your job as a student in the class will be to read and write carefully about the texts we cover.

Throughout the semester, students will write in class. Sharing written work and collaborating with others will be a key part of this class.

Books

Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. Published in 1937.

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird. Published in 1960.

Howard Cruse's Stuck Rubber Baby. Published in 1995.

Octavia Butler's Kindred. Published in 1979 (Note: students will also be reading this in the Philosophy class.)

Written Work

In this course, we will focus a lot on writing. Students are responsible for a series of written reflections, which are briefly outlined below. More detailed descriptions of the written reflections will be presented in class.

First Written Reflection

In relation to Zora Neale Hurston's book Their Eyes Were Watching God, your job is to reflect on the use of language in the book. Tie your reflections into something you know about language in your everyday life. We will discuss how Hurston uses language in class, and there will be a handout about this written reflection giving more specific guidelines. This reflection will need to be at least three pages, typed, double-spaced, 12pt Times New Roman with 1" margins.

Second Written Reflection

In this written reflection, you will work with both Stuck Rubber Baby and Kindred. Your written reflection will focus on learning and teaching with people who are not like you. There are many instances of this in both Stuck Rubber Baby and Kindred; your job will be to write about this idea in both books. There will be a handout about this written reflection giving more specific guidelines. The reflection will need to be at least four pages, typed, double-spaced, 12pt Times New Roman with 1" margins.

Course Policies and Expectations

Students are expected to attend each class period having done the readings. Please give your full attention to class and do your own work. In class, active participation in discussions in strongly encouraged. We can learn from each other if we come to class prepared and actively engage in the class.

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Literature Course Calendar

Thursday August 30, Introduction to Odyssey Project, 1st Meeting
Overview of the literature course, readings, and assignments

Thursday September 6, 2nd Meeting
have read for today: first 150+ pages of Their Eyes Were Watching God
come to class having written in your book; mark passages that interest you
in-class discussion: themes in the novel
introduction to the first written reflection
discussion of close reading
in-class writing: personal experiences about language

Thursday September 13, 3rd Meeting
have read for today: finish reading Their Eyes Were Watching God
in-class discussion: uses of language in the novel
in-class writing: close reading exercise

Thursday September 20, 4th Meeting
First Written Reflection Due
in-class discussion about the written reflection
in-class discussion: the writing process
writing activity: reflective writing exercise

Thursday September 27, 5th Meeting (Spencer in Milwaukee)
critical thinking and writing session

Thursday October 4, 6th Meeting
have read for today: first 150+ pages of To Kill a Mocking Bird
come to class having written in your book; mark passages that interest you
in-class discussion: themes in the novel
in-class discussion: essay structure
in-class writing: key themes in the novel

Thursday October 11, 7th Meeting
have read for today: finish reading To Kill a Mocking Bird
discussion: class and gender roles in the novel
in-class writing: analysis of a passage in the novel

Thursday October 18, 8th Meeting
have read for today: first 1/2 of Stuck Rubber Baby (finish chapter 13)
come to class having written in your book; mark passages that interest you
brief introduction to graphic novels and graphic narratives
in-class discussion: themes in the novel
in-class writing: autobiography and identity

Thursday October 25, 9th Meeting
have read for today: finish reading Stuck Rubber Baby
discussion: themes in the novel
in-class discussion: visual composition
writing activity: reflective writing exercise

Thursday November 1, 10th Meeting
in-class writing workshop (Oulipo Group exercises in style)

Thursday November 8, 11th Meeting
have read for today: first half of Kindred (to page 143)
introduction to science fiction literature
discussion of themes, symbols, and metaphors in the novel
writing activity: character analysis in the novel

Thursday November 15, 12th Meeting
have read for today: finish reading Kindred
in-class discussion: themes connecting Stuck Rubber Baby and Kindred
discussion of final written reflection (addressing Stuck Rubber Baby & Kindred)
in-class writing exercise: interpreting complex visual texts

Thursday November 22, No Class: Thanksgiving Break

Thursday November 29, 13th Meeting
critical thinking and writing workshop: concept maps for the final written reflection

Thursday December 6, 14th Meeting
critical thinking and writing workshop

Thursday December 13
Project 3 Final Written Reflection Due