Jan 21 2010

Course Syllabus

Published by

ENGL 177-01
Herman Melville’s Moby Dick
Spring 2009
Professor Natalie Friedman
Email: nafriedman@vassar.edu


Welcome. You have just embarked upon a voyage of adventure and quietude, terror and pity, action and perception, fiction and fact. Your reading of the great novel by Herman Melville – which came under attack by critics in his own time, but was rediscovered in the early twentieth century as a work of genius or madness or both – will feel, at times, like the ship voyage it depicts: both easy and difficult, joyful and taxing. But I promise it will be fulfilling to read one of the American greats in the context of this course, where you will learn about the man who wrote this book, the sources and historical background of it, and the critical theory that surrounds it.

This is a six-week course, which means that it has a semester’s worth of work packed into a short span. Each session will consist of a mix of lecture and discussion. The course goal is to help you read this novel, and get to know Melville through this novel, and to acquaint you with the ways that readers and literary critics think as we tackle this work of imaginative art.

This course is a pass/fail course. In order to pass this course – and to get as much out of this course as you deserve – you need to put in some work. Here are the expectations:

1) Attendance. Absences will not be excused. If you miss three classes, you fail automatically. In the event that you are ill, I would like to be contacted as early as possible, and I would like a note either from Baldwin or the Dean of Studies office, excusing you from class due to illness. If another form of emergency arises, such as a family emergency, you should contact the Dean of Studies as well as me.

2) Blogging. This is a required assignment. For each class (once per meeting), you will be required to post a response to our class blog. This mini-paper will allow you to record questions you have about the text; but it will also require that as you read, you jot down quotations from the text and respond to them in an analytical way. Each of you will be assigned a category; whatever pages are due for that week’s discussion, you are to look for themes to discuss that are relevant to your category. For example, suppose you are assigned to the topics category “gender and masculinity.” That means that for each required posting, you are to look for something to write about in that week’s reading that poses a question, prompts a thought, or offers an idea about gender or masculinity in the novel. More information on how to do this thoughtfully can be found on the blog itself, which we will go over in class. You can find it here: http://pages.vassar.edu/engl177/

You will also be required to post a comment at least three times in the course of this half-semester. That means you will have to comment on at least three postings (you can do more if you wish). Comments should be thoughtful, original, and respectful, and respond to specific points in the posting.

Missing two posts to the blog can result in failure. Post regularly, follow the guidelines for posting that I have included on the blog itself, and you should be able to pass the course.

A note about writing:

Vassar has an intense writing culture, and the English department has high expectations from its writers. This course does not focus on the writing process the way a Freshman Writing Seminar might, but writing good papers is central to your experience of this course. Therefore, I strongly encourage you to visit the Writing Center, even before you post to the blog. You do not have to have a draft to visit the Writing Center; you can have a consultation at any stage of the writing process. The Writing Center is open from 3-5 and from 7-11pm from Sunday through Thursday. Visit the Writing Center website for more information: http://ltrc.vassar.edu/writingcenter/

Disability Accommodations:

If you have a disabling condition that may interfere with your ability to participate in the activities, coursework, or assessment of the objectives of this course, you may be entitled to accommodations. Please schedule an appointment to speak with me, AND contact the Director of Disability Services, Belinda Guthrie (Guthrie@vassar.edu).

Schedule of Classes

1) Monday, 1/25: Ways to read this novel

2) Wednesday, 1/27: Melville’s Autobiography, Moby’s Sources, and the opening chapters: By now, you should have read up through Chapter 21

3) Monday, 2/1: The Allure of Ahab’s Ship – By now, you should have read up through Chapter 83

4) Wed, 2/3: The Whaling Chapters: Labor and Melancholy

5) Mon, 2/8: Biblical Significances: Religion and Moby – By now, you should have read up through Chapter 109

6) Wed, 2/10: Cetology and Science

7) Mon, 2/15: Gender and Madness: By now, you should have read up through Chapter 127

8) Wed, 2/17 Race and Moby Dick

10) Mon, 2/22 Realism and environmental criticism

11) Wed, 2/24 The Beginning of the Ending: “The Pequod Meets the Rachel and The Symphony”

12) Mon, 3/1 The Chases and the Epilogue

13) Wed, 3/3 Melville’s Short Stories and Poems – focus on “Benito Cereno”

14) Wed, 1/3 Last Day of Class – “Bartleby the Scrivener”

No responses yet

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Social Widgets powered by AB-WebLog.com.