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ENGLISH 4RS3 Readg,Spirit,Cultural Politic

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Daniel Coleman

Email: dcoleman@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 303

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23717

Website:

Office Hours: Mondays 1:30-3:00pm



Course Objectives:

Course Description:

This class addresses questions such as: When people want to pray, to worship, to marry or bury, why do they reach for a book?  What is it about reading that so readily feels like a spiritual posture? What kinds of reading go beyond being private entertainment to produce personal and social change? Through a course of readings from a variety of historical and contemporary sources, this class will investigate the relations between spirituality, reading, and living in the public, social world. We will ask if and why reading remains important in our culture’s current transition from print-based culture to “screen culture”—in which North American children spend more time in front of a TV or computer screen than playing, sleeping, or attending school. Examining the peculiar paradox of reading, which isolates the reader at the same time that it emphasizes the reader’s imaginative connection with an absent other, this class will consider reading as a unique and powerful spiritual exercise that is increasingly crucial in a culture of distraction and hurry. Neither a class in theology nor one in literary theory, this course is informed by both of these fields and would be of interest to students who wonder about the future of reading and who care about the disciplines that sustain spiritual life, as well as about the relevance of these disciplines to daily social and cultural life. 

 

Course Objectives:

Upon completion of the course, students will:

  • Have developed an understanding of the social, political, and spiritual impact of reading
  • Have read a range of thinkers and theorists on the power and dynamics of reading
  • Have reflected upon why they read and what its impact has been upon their own perceptions, social interactions, and engagement with society at large
  • Have developed a project that allows them to assess the value and impact of their degree program in literary and cultural studies

 


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Textbooks:

Manguel, Alberto. A History of Reading. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 1996.

Coleman, Daniel. Course Package for English & CS 4RS3, which includes weekly readings from a broad range of theologians, historians, literary theorists, and general readers.

Coleman, Daniel. In Bed with the Word: Reading, Spirituality, and Cultural Politics. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2009.


Method of Assessment:

Course Work, Grading, and Due Dates

           

Diagnostic Essay (10%)         

            Journal/Participation assignment (30%) 2 pages/week

            Response paper presentations (2 X 15 = 30%) based on sign-up schedule

            Final Project (30%) 

Assignments: Remember that all assignments must conform to MLA format.

 

1. Diagnostic essay (3 pages; 10%): this is a chance for me to read your work and to assess your level of preparation for the course.  This paper will give you the opportunity to anticipate the central theme of this course: “Why read? What are the spiritual and or cultural-political benefits of reading?” As you will see, the final project returns to the same question, so I am hoping that this paper will serve as an initial exploration of a set of meditations that will develop over the course of the term. You will be encouraged to reflect back on this first paper when you approach the final take-home exam paper.

 

2. Reading journal (2 pages minimum per week; 30%): Choose two books that you value highly. It is important to choose books that are rich enough to sustain your interest and attention for a long time, because you will be writing weekly journal entries about each of them for six weeks. The journal is meant to give you a way of keeping track of your reading experiences of these two texts over time.  Usually, the pace of university assignments makes us hurry our reading, so the purpose of this assignment is to encourage you to slow down and read and reread a text many times, to continue to think about it from week to week. You should write your entries on the first text for the first half of term (up to Week Six) and then on the second text for the second half (Week Seven and onwards). The books you choose may be texts you read for pleasure or texts you are reading for other courses. I would encourage you to pick books that are quite different from one another, so that you can compare different reading practices and demands required by different kinds of texts. You may write about texts on our own course list, but since you will be writing about several of these texts for your response papers, this is an opportunity to think about other texts in relation to the ones we are reading in class. The text may be any kind of written text—a novel, a collection of poems, a e-book, a book of scripture or spiritual writing, a popular paperback—but you should focus on why this text is powerful (or disappointing) as a reading experience that contributes to spiritual life and/or cultural politics. It is my hope that the readings we engage with in class will form conceptual stimuli for your assessment of these reading experiences. For this reason, the response statement assignment grows out of this reading journal (see below).  The actual process of reading often seems transparent to us, so one purpose of the journal is to encourage a new attentiveness to what happens when we read: how we make sense of what we’re reading, connections we make to other texts, literary competencies we have previously learned that enable us to read the text before us, the effects of reading on our perceptions or emotions, the way reading exercises certain kinds of attentiveness, and so on.  The reading journal is a participation assignment. Students will submit entries from it on a weekly basis, and these will not be graded but checked in for a participation mark.

 

3. Response papers (2 five-minute oral presentations; 30%): In the first weeks of class, students will sign up for two of the texts on our reading list and present a two-page response (no more than 5 minutes) on each of them to the rest of the class. There will be several such presentations on any given day. A short paper of this length cannot hope to “cover” or summarize the text it comments upon, so you will have to choose a particularly salient feature or idea of the text for comment. The response should draw out a single significant or important theme that is central to the reading and explain to the rest of the class why it is so. It is often a good idea to demonstrate this significance by showing how it would influence your approach to reading, the methods you use to make interpretations, how you understand certain kinds of texts to operate, the way a certain insight would recontextualize a reading experience, or on the social or political impact of an idea from the text.

 

4. Final project (7-8 pages; 30%): The Final Project or Paper in the course returns directly to the theme of this course: “Why read? What are the spiritual and or cultural political benefits of reading?”  The essay or creative writing project will serve as your final overview assessment of what you have learned in the course. We will discuss possibilities for final projects in the class.

 


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Important Note 1: In the event of class cancellations, students will be notified on Avenue and the English Department Website.  It is your responsibility to check these sites regularly for any such announcements.

Link: http://www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~english/  (Department)

Link: http://avenue.mcmaster.ca/  (avenue to learn)

Important Note 2: Email Policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from the student's own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student. Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

* Students will be requested to complete an online course evaluation at the end of the course.


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.


Topics and Readings:

Schedule:  

Students are expected to come to seminars prepared to discuss the assigned readings, including primary works and critical texts.  The following schedule is meant to give you a guide for your weekly readings. Should we need more or less time on a given text, we will be flexible in order to give discussion adequate time.

C = Course package

H = Alberto Manguel’s History of Reading

I = Daniel Coleman’s In Bed With the Word

 

Week 1, Sept 5: Introduction

            In Bed with the Word: Reading, Spirituality, and Cultural Politics

            Longing, Counter-Culture, Posture, Absence, and Eating the Book

 

Week 2, Sept 12: Diagnostic Essay due

  C, Rolheiser, “What is Spirituality?”

  C, Ermine, “Aboriginal Epistemology”

   I, Coleman, “Reading & Longing”

           

Week 3, Sept 19:  

H, “The Last Page” (1-23)

I, Coleman, “Reading as Counter-Culture”

 

Week 4, Sept 26:

H, “The Silent Readers” (41-53)

C, Rebecca Solnit, “Flight”

 

Week 5, Oct 3:

C, Newkirk, “The Speed Curriculum”

I, Coleman, “Posture”


Fall recess, Oct 9-13, no classes


 

Week 6, Oct 17

C, Book Two of St. Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine

I, Coleman, “The Structure of Absence”

 

Week 7, Oct 24:

H, “The Book of Memory” (55-65)

I, Coleman, “Eating the Book”

 

Week 8, Oct 31:

C, Poulet, Georges.  “Criticism and the Experience of Interiority”

C, Armstrong, Karen. “To Turn Again.”

 

Week 9, Nov 7:

C, Scarry, Elaine. “On Vivacity.”

H, “The Shape of the Book” (125-47)

 

Week 10, Nov 14:

H, “Forbidden Reading” (279-89):

C, David George, (excerpt) “An Account of the Life of David George” 

 

Week 11, Nov 21:

C, Gates, Henry Louis Jr. “Writing, ‘Race,’ and the Difference It Makes”

H, “Metaphors of Reading” (163-73)

 

Week 12, Nov 28: Final Project Due

H, “Beginnings” (177-85):

C, Coleman, Daniel. “Beyond the Book: Reading as Public Intellectual Activity”


Other Course Information:

Agreements:

  • Attend all classes.  Repeated absence will be deemed non-participation in the course.
  • Hand in assignments in class and on time. All assignments must be given to me in class.  Assignments will not be accepted at the English Department office or by fax or email. There are no penalties for late papers; however, essays handed in after the due date will be graded without comment. Term work will not be received or reconsidered after the final day of classes. To be on the safe side, please discuss any concerns about term-work grades with me before the last day of classes.
  • Observe the rules of academic honesty.  Academic dishonesty consists of misrepresentation by deception or by other fraudulent means and can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript, and/or suspension or expulsion from the university. It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty.

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.

  1. Improper collaboration in group work.
  2. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

In written assignments, all direct quotations from texts (primary or secondary), all paraphrases of others’ words, and all presentations of others’ ideas must be properly documented. For a detailed description of how to handle borrowed material, refer to The MLA Handbook, which is the standard style guide used in the Department of English.  Please refer to the Purdue University Owl Online Writing Lab for detailed instructions on following MLA style for citations, bibliographies, paper format on so on: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/.

  • Please keep copies of all assignments submitted during the term. This allows you to refer back to them when you are studying for exams or so you can verify the grades I have recorded for you.
  • Respect your colleagues.  Students are expected to conduct themselves in a collegial manner in all aspects of the class.  This means being well prepared for your own presentations and contributions to class discussions, as well as responding constructively to one another’s contributions.
  • Electronic “education.”  I am not a fan of the increasing amount of teaching conducted via the internet. It is very important that we as a culture learn to speak with one another in person, especially when the topics are complex or challenging. Email and other forms of electronic communication are wonderful aids, but they allow people to fire off comments and not have to stand physically behind what they say. They encourage “dialogue in absentia.” For these reasons, I do not post assignments or notes on the web. Along the same lines, I prefer that students do not send me email. I would much rather discuss questions or concerns before or after class, during breaks, or during my office hours than by email, so please help avoid “grumpy email” syndrome by contacting me in person.