ENG 204: Introduction to Contemporary Literature

Course Description

This course explores currently important works in American literature. We will be reading fiction generally agreed upon as “best” from the last few years. Students can expect to leave class with a better understanding of the breadth of what counts as “literature” in America in 2013.


Responses (9) & Comments (18) (40%)

For each response, choose a quotation that you think is important to the larger themes of the novel we are reading or that is interesting stylistically. On the course discussion forum, type up the full text of the quote, include the page number where the quote can be found, and explain, in two to three detailed and well-developed paragraphs, why you chose the quote. In order to provide this information, you will need to mark interesting quotes as you read.

These responses need to be substantial (around one page double spaced, 12pt font or 300 words), thoughtful, and get at not only why you liked or disliked the quote, but why you think this particular quote is the most important from the assigned reading.

Responses are generally due on Fridays, and by the following Monday, you will compose two thoughtful, interesting, and constructive comments to add to responses from your classmates. If a response is due on Tuesday, your comments will be due by the end of the day on Wednesday. These comments can intensify the claims made by the original post’s author or they can disagree with the claims made.

Midterm Exam (30%)

This exam will consist entirely in quote identification. You will be given a list of six quotations sourced from the responses we have produced to the texts we have read immediately preceding the test. You will choose four of these quotes and identify:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Context (what’s happening when this happens)
  • Significance to larger themes

Your identification of the context should be around two to three sentences. You need to provide some information about characters who are speaking, plot events, or something else to suggest you have an idea what is happening in the action of the book at the moment in which the quote occurs.

For the significance to larger themes, write two well-developed paragraphs about why the quote is important to the larger issues raised in the book. Where the context identifies what is happening, this is more about explaining why this quote is important or interesting within the larger context of the work and the way we have been discussing it online.

You will have 90 minutes to complete this exam.

Cumulative Analytical Paper (30%)

In this paper, you need to find and discuss an interesting aspect of one of the texts we have read during this course. You could focus on a repeated image within the text, a theme that runs throughout the text, or some other aspect that suggests a larger meaning of the work. Your argument about what the text means or does must be supported by at least three pieces of textual evidence that you will quote in the body of the paper and discuss in your own words.

In analyzing these three moments in the text, you will both explain briefly what happens in the scene you are looking (provide a limited amount of context) and explain, in your own words, why you find it to be an interesting or important moment in the text. These three discussions will provide evidence supporting the thesis you state at the beginning of the paper. In the conclusion paragraph, you will explain what these three quotes suggest about the larger meaning of the novel.

This paper will be 6 to 8 double spaced, 12 point, Times New Roman pages. Any attempt to adjust the margins or increase the font size is considered cheating in this class and will result in a 0.