ENGL 301 (Section 004, Schedule #12391)
Virginia Commonwealth University
Fall 2014
TR 12:30-1:45pm :: 440 Hibbs
Prof. David Golumbia
Office: 324D Hibbs Hall
Fall 2014 Office Hours: TR 2-3:30pm

Introduction to the English Major

This class provides an overview of literary interpretation and cultural studies, primarily through the reading of fiction and poetry. We'll read a few short classics ("The Turn of the Screw," Heart of Darkness) that lend themselves to a variety of interpretive techniques, and two more recent narratives to which some of those techniques can be applied productively. We'll also read in a wide range of 20th century American poetry, and view two films to discuss how techniques of literary interpretation can be applied to texts other than written literature. The class is taught primarily via discussion; students will write four short papers and do some in-class work as part of their participation grade, and we will also spend some time workshopping each others' papers in class.

Required Text to Purchase (available at bookstore and online booksellers; one copy is also on reserve)

  1. Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007); amazon.com page;
    any paperback, hardback, or electronic edition of this text is acceptable
  2. Rita Dove, ed., The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry (2013); amazon.com page;
    any paperback, hardback, or electronic edition of this text is acceptable
  3. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (4th Norton Critical Edition) (2005); amazon.com page;
    you must get this 4th Norton Critical edition of this text
  4. Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (2nd Norton Critical Edition) (1999); amazon.com page;
    you must get this 2nd Norton Critical edition of this text
  5. Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (1991); amazon.com page;
    any paperback, hardback, or electronic edition of this text is acceptable

Films (on reserve at Cabell Media Center)

  1. Francis Ford Coppola, dir., Apocalypse Now (1979)
  2. Jack Clayton, dir., The Innocents (1961)

Assignments and Evaluation

Evaluation will be based on written exercises and course participation as follows:

Course-Specific Policies


VCU Email Policy

Email is considered an official method for communication at VCU because it delivers information in a convenient, timely, cost-effective, and environmentally aware manner. Students are expected to check their official VCU email on a frequent and consistent basis in order to remain informed of university-related communications. The university recommends checking email daily. Students are responsible for the consequences of not reading, in a timely fashion, university-related communications sent to their official VCU student email account. This policy ensures that all students have access to this important form of communication. It ensures students can be reached through a standardized channel by faculty and other staff of the university as needed. Mail sent to the VCU email address may include notification of university-related actions, including disciplinary action. Please read the policy in its entirety.

VCU Honor System: Upholding Academic Integrity

The VCU Honor System policy describes the responsibilities of students, faculty and administration in upholding academic integrity, while at the same time respecting the rights of individuals to the due process offered by administrative hearings and appeals. According to this policy, "Members of the academic community are required to conduct themselves in accordance with the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity." In addition, "All members of the VCU community are presumed to have an understanding of the VCU Honor System and are required to: 

More information can be found at in the VCU policy library.

Student Conduct in the Classroom

According to the Faculty Guide to Student Conduct in Instructional Settings, "The university is a community of learners. Students, as well as faculty, have a responsibility for creating and maintaining an environment that supports effective instruction. In order for faculty members (including graduate teaching assistants) to provide and students to receive effective instruction in classrooms, laboratories, studios, online courses, and other learning areas, the university expects students to conduct themselves in an orderly and cooperative manner." Among other things, cell phones and beepers should be turned off while in the classroom. The Student Code of Conduct also prohibits the possession of or carrying of any weapon. For more information see http://register.dls.virginia.gov/details.aspx?id=3436.

Students with Disabilities

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, require that VCU provide "academic adjustments" or "reasonable accommodations" to any student who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. To receive accommodations, students must request them by contacting the Disability Support Services Office on the Monroe Park Campus (828-2253) or the Division for Academic Success on the MCV campus (828-9782). Please also visit the Disability Support Services website and/or the Division for Academic Success website for additional information.

Any student who has a disability that requires an accommodation should schedule a meeting with the instructor at the student's earliest convenience. Additionally, if coursework requires the student to work in a lab environment, the student should advise the instructor or a department chairperson of any concerns that the student may have regarding safety issues related to a disability. Students should follow this procedure for all courses in the academic semester.

Statement on Military Short-Term Training or Deployment

If military students receive orders for short-term training or for deployment/mobilization, they should inform and present their orders to Military Student Services and to their professor(s). For further information on policies and procedures contact Military Services at 828-5993 or access the corresponding policies.

Excused Absences for Students Representing the University

Students who represent the university (athletes and others) do not choose their schedules. Student athletes are required to attend games and/or meets. All student athletes should provide their schedules to their instructors at the beginning of the semester. The Intercollegiate Athletic Council strongly encourages faculty to treat missed classes or exams (because of a scheduling conflict) as excused absences and urges faculty to work with the students to make up the work or exam.

Campus Emergency Information

What to Know and Do to Be Prepared for Emergencies at VCU:

Important Dates

You can view important dates for the Fall 2014 semester in the university calendar.

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Class Registration Required for Attendance

Students may attend only those classes for which they have registered. Faculty may not add students to class rosters or Blackboard. Therefore, if students are attending a class for which they have not registered, they must stop attending.

Withdrawal from Classes

Before withdrawing from classes, students should consult their instructor as well as other appropriate university offices. Withdrawing from classes may negatively impact a student’s financial aid award and his or her semester charges. To discuss financial aid and the student bill, visit the Student Services Center at 1015 Floyd Avenue (Harris Hall) and/or contact your financial aid counselor regarding the impact on your financial aid. Contact information for the University Financial Aid Office is available online.

Student Financial Responsibility

Students assume the responsibility of full payment of tuition and fees generated from their registration and all charges for housing and dining services, and other applicable miscellaneous charges. Students are ultimately responsible for any unpaid balance on their account as a result of the University Financial Aid Office or their third party sponsor canceling or reducing their award(s).

Week-by-Week Syllabus

Week One. Introduction.

Week Two. Literary Criticism

Week Three. Literary Criticism

Week Four. Poetry

Week Five. "The Turn of the Screw"

Week Six. Poetry

Week Seven. Heart of Darkness

Week Eight. The Innocents

Week Nine. Paper workshopping

Week Ten. Paper workshopping

Week Eleven. Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Week Twelve. Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Week Thirteen. Paper workshopping

Week Fourteen. House on Mango Street

Week Fifteen. Poetry

Week Sixteen. Apocalypse Now

Fourth paper is due by the end of the final exam date, 1:45pm, Thursday, Dec 11, 2014, per the registrar's exam schedule. The paper or project should be emailed to me at dgolumbia-at-vcu.edu. There is no other final exam for the course.

Last updated December 2, 2014.