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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Amber Dean


Office: Chester New Hall 214

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23725

Office Hours: Tuesdays from 12pm-2pm unless otherwise announced, or by appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Description:

This course offers a grounding in reading literary and cultural texts from a range of contemporary critical approaches. Special attention will be paid to developing writing skills and sustained analytical arguments about literature and culture. Students will be introduced to literary and cultural theory and learn how to apply theoretical approaches and key concepts to the development of arguments about literary and cultural texts in their own essay writing.


Course Format:

This course reverses the usual configuration of lectures/tutorials by using ‘lecture’ time for required monthly writing workshops and optional one-on-one or small group consultations on essay writing. Tutorials focus on the discussion of assigned readings, literary/cultural theoretical approaches and key concepts. Each tutorial will work through the same textbook throughout the year, but additional assigned reading (novels, short stories, films, essays in theory and criticism) will vary from tutorial to tutorial. The quantity of assigned reading will remain consistent across tutorials, however. A separate schedule of assigned reading specific to your tutorial will be provided by your TA. The evaluation criteria, length, and due dates for essays are also consistent across tutorials, but essay questions may vary to reflect the particular readings assigned in each tutorial. There will be a standard Take-Home Exam at the end of the course assessing students’ comprehension of key concepts and theoretical approaches with a focus on assessing your ability to apply these concepts/approaches.

Course Objectives:

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify the central argument, or thesis, of works of literary or cultural theory or criticism.
  2. Discuss the relationship between critical or theoretical texts and literary/cultural texts
  3. Demonstrate familiarity with several contemporary approaches to literary and cultural theory, and be able to apply questions or ideas from these approaches in their own essays.
  4. Develop clear, strong, well-supported arguments about literary, cultural, and critical/theoretical texts.
  5. Write persuasive, engaging essays that draw upon relevant, compelling textual evidence from a range of sources.
  6. Demonstrate skills in revising and editing their own written work, including engaging thoroughly and thoughtfully with feedback/constructive criticism offered by peers and TAs.
  7. Provide thorough, thoughtful, constructive feedback on peers’ written work.
  8. Understand the difference between composing, editing, and revising written work, with a greater understanding of the intellectual labour involved in the revision process.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Course Assignments and Evaluation Scheme:


Essay #1

10%  (1000 words, due in tutorial Oct 16-22)


Revised Essay #1

15%  (1500 words, due Dec 5 by 4pm in CNH 214)


Essay #2

20% (2000 words, due in tutorial Mar 2-6)


Take Home Exam

25% (On applying key concepts and theoretical approaches, due Apr 10 by 4pm in Avenue Dropbox)


Tutorial Participation

10%  (Based primarily on quality of active participation in tutorials)


Reading Response Pages

10% (10 @ 1% each, due in tutorials starting Sept 18-24)


Writing Workshops:

Attendance and Participation


10% (2% per workshop, with a possible 2% bonus mark if you attend all 6 scheduled workshops. For dates see schedule below)


IMPORTANT: For each of the assignments above you must consult the detailed handout available in Avenue to Learn and/or distributed in tutorials for further instructions.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

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

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 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 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:

Please see Avenue to Learn for Tentative Schedule of Writing Workshop.