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ENGLISH 2RW6A Reading & Writing Criticism (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2018

Term: Multiterm

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Cathy Grisé


Office: Chester New Hall 325

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23510

Office Hours: Mondays 2:00-3:00pm and Thursdays 1:30-2:30pm

Course Objectives:


This course will offer a grounding in reading literary and cultural texts from a selection of contemporary critical approaches. Special attention will be paid to writing skills and developing 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. This course has a reading- and writing-intensive curriculum designed to prepare students for advanced studies in the English and Cultural Studies Program.

Active Learning Methodology

This is not a lecture-style course. This course—which takes place in an active learning classroom—emphasizes student engagement and participation as key to learning. Students will spend class time workshopping specific skills, practicing their writing, and engaging in active learning activities. If you are unable to come to class please contact a student from your table or tutorial to find out the work missed. If you have to miss more than one class please contact the Senior Tutor and your TA to discuss making up the work missed so you do not fall behind. 

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Materials

In order to connect to the classroom electronic pods in the active learning classroom (ALC), you will need an HDMI adapter for your computer. You can purchase this device at the Campus Store or most electronics stores.

The required texts are listed on the syllabus and our Avenue to Learn site. These texts include: uploaded documents to Avenue, McMaster Library online texts, and other online texts. 

Method of Assessment:

Method of Evaluation

Term 1 (marked out of 100, worth 50% of final grade)

Active Learning in-class work – weekly: 20% (includes Essay Challenge contributions and participation)

Online quizzes, 5, spread throughout the term: 10%

Tutorial work, weekly: 20% (Tutorial leaders will provide more details in their tutorial syllabi, available in tutorial)

Major assignments, 2, due in tutorial on Week 7 (500-750 words, Oct. 29-Nov. 2) and Week 11 (750-1000 words, Nov. 26-30): 30% (Assignment 1: 10%, Assignment 2: 20%)

Midterm Exam, during Exam period: 20%


Term 2 (marked out of 100, worth 50% of final grade) - tentative

Active Learning in-class work – weekly: 20%

Weekly online assignments (due before class): 10%

Tutorial work: 20%

Essay assignment: 25%

Exam: 25%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Assignments Policy 

Extensions must be approved before the due date. Late assignments will be deducted two percent per day (including Saturdays and Sundays). Students with SAS accommodations that include extra time on assignments are encouraged to contact their TA ahead of a deadline so that the instructional team can assist them as necessary. Homework assignments and in-class work may be accepted after the deadline for part marks (or under extenuating circumstances the late penalty may be waived) – please see your instructor/Senior TA or your TA accordingly.

Students who submit an MSAF for a major assignment may take a week’s extension – please contact your TA to discuss these arrangements.

Assignment Review and Grade Inquiries

Students must allow 24 hours after graded assignments  are  returned before  approaching  their TA with queries  about  their grade. Instructors and TAs  are  available  to discuss  grades  only  during office  hours  or by  appointment;  graded assignments  will  not  be  discussed via  email.  If  you are unsure  why  you received a  particular grade, read the  comments  over carefully  and review  the assignment  details. If  you are  still  unsure  or would like  clarification or  tips  for improving  on your next  assignment, please  meet  with your TA  to discuss  the  grade. If students  would like  to request  a  change  to their grade, they  must  provide  their TA  with a written explanation outlining  why  they  believe  a  higher grade  is  warranted, and be  prepared to leave  this  with their TA  for her/his consideration. If, after discussing  the  matter with  their TA, an agreement  cannot  be  reached, students  can  then make  an  appointment  with both the  TA  and instructor together  to discuss  the  circumstances. Please  note  that  requests  for a  reevaluation of assignment  grades  may  result  in a  lower grade  than was  originally  assigned if the  instructor deems  this  warranted. Disputes  regarding  grades  will  only  be  considered if students  are  able  to present  the  original marked copy  of the  class  work.  For this  reason, students  should retain all  pieces  of  work submitted  and graded during  the  term. They  should also retain a  copy  of any  outlines, drafts  and research notes  in case  of academic  integrity  concerns.

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:

Course Schedule               


Topics and Texts

Weekly Skills and Activities

Week 1   Sept. 10-14

Introduction to course

-Chapter 1, The Canadian Writer’s Handbook

Active Learning Classroom (ALC): Introduction, why study literature and culture?

Tutorial (TUT): Introduction, expectations[CG1] , and skills self-assessment

Week 2    Sept. 17-21

Asking good questions: Exploring Contextss

-Indigenous Texts and Contexts: McMaster’s Land Acknowledgement[CG2] ; Di Brandt, “This land that I love, this wide, wide prairie”


ALC: Close reading: terms, definitions, contexts

Diagramming sentences: SVO

TUT: Using terms, definitions, and contexts in your writing

Week 3    Sept. 24-28

Asking good questions: brainstorming and mindmapping effectively

-Indigenous Texts and Contexts continued

-Rosanna Deerchild, “My Poem is an Indian Woman”

ALC: Prewriting strategies: grouping and organizing ideas

Sentences: independent and dependent clauses

TUT: Essay challenge prep, sentences

Week 4    Oct. 1-5

Essay Challenge[CG3] #1

Asking good questions: narrowing the scope

-Marcel Petiquay, “My Little Residential School Suitcase”

ALC: Essay Challenge activity – more details in class and on Avenue

TUT: Land Acknowledgement in Action – McMaster’s spaces

Reading Week Oct. 8-12



Week 5    Oct. 15-19

Structuralism & Formalism: Overview

Forming an argument: developing a key point and topic sentence

-Blackwell Guide to Literary Criticism, pp. 181-190

-Supernatural short works: Edgar Allan Poe, "The Raven" and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"; Nnedi Okorafor, “The Key”

ALC: Criticism: field overview

Chapter outlining (macro-structure)

TUT: Active/passive voice; key points using Poe and Okorafor

Week 6    Oct. 22-26

Structuralism & Formalism: key theorists

Forming an argument: crafting a "so what?"

-Rivkin and Ryan, selections from “Structuralism, Linguistics, and Neonatalogies,” pp. 53-124: Culler, Saussure, and Barthes.

-Supernatural short works, continued

ALC: Criticism: identifying key terms and main arguments

Summary and paraphrase

TUT: Poe and Okorafor, crafting a “so what?”

Week 7    Oct. 29-Nov. 2

Structuralism & Formalism: application

Forming an argument: refining the thesis

-Criticism, continued, Culler

-Short works, continued

ALC: Criticism: application, quotation

Sentence fragments and comma splices

TUT: Essay Challenge prep

Poe and Okorafor, using a preview statement

Week 8    Nov. 5-9

Essay Challenge #2

ALC: Essay Challenge activity – more details in class and on Avenue

TUT: Rivkin and Ryan continued – applying theory to texts

Week 9    Nov. 12-16

Poststructuralism: overview

Creating the outline: developing a critical framework

-Bressler, “From Structuralism to Poststructuralism,” pp. 105-122

-Lyric poems: e.e. cumming, "anyone lived in a pretty how town"; William Blake, "Cradle Song"; Ella Higginson, “Dream-Time”

ALC: Criticism: field overview

Chapter outlining (micro-structure)

Colon and semicolon

TUT: Working with poems: critical framework


Week 10    Nov. 19-23

Poststructuralism: key theorists

Creating the outline: refining the focus and workshopping

*Essay outline draft due in tutorial

-Rivkin and Ryan, Derrida, Kristeva

-Lyric poems continued: cumming, Blake, Higginson

ALC: Criticism: identifying key terms and main arguments

Summary and paraphrase continued

TUT: poems: refining the focus, workshopping essay outline assignment

Week 11    Nov. 26-30

Poststructuralism: application

*Essay outline due

-Poststructuralism readings continued, Johnson article

-Lyrics poems continued: cumming, Blake, Higginson

ALC: Criticism: application, quotation continued

Colon and semicolon continued – varying sentence structures

TUT: Essay Challenge prep


Week 12    Dec. 3-5

Essay Challenge #3


ALC: Essay Challenge activity – more details in class and on Avenue

TUT: Writing Portfolio due

Midterm Exam is in the December exam period.




[CG1]I’d like to add some writing handbook sections or chapters but I haven’t set this up yet. Sorry!

[CG2]Make Amber’s article about white reactions available to TAs and give them a brief summary

[CG3]I’ll tell you more about this when we meet. We will give them a poem in advance and they can do some initial preparation but then they have to come in to class and work on a pre-writing activity. For example,  in groups give them a term or theme (one word) and the group work is taking that word to brainstorm and then narrow their scope to a specific question. Then leave time at the end to share – ask students to get up and go around to other tables (maybe 2 or 3) and then write about which one you liked.

Other Course Information:

Expectations and Goals

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

•    Explain, both orally and in writing, key terms and concepts introduced in the course

•    Identify critical frameworks or lenses and evaluate their usefulness as well as their limits

•    Analyze course materials by demonstrating the relationship between the theory and the literary or cultural texts

•    Create clear, persuasive, well-supported arguments about literary, cultural, and critical/theoretical texts

•    Edit and revise their own work

•    Work collaboratively in small groups

  • Understand and produce successfully the selected writing and reading skills in their academic work – see more information below

Term I Reading and Writing Skills


Skills/ Subject

Writing the Essay

  • Pre-writing strategies
  • Thesis and outline
  • Textual analysis – basics
  • Summary, paragraph, and quotation

Writing the Sentence

  • Sentences structures
  • Punctuation

Reading and Writing Criticism

  • Chapter/article outlining
  • Identifying key terms and arguments
  • Applying theoretical concepts to literary and cultural texts

Term II Reading and Writing Skills


Skills/ Subject

Writing the Essay

  • Introduction and Conclusionn paragraphs
  • Revision and post-writing
  • Textual analysis – developing and extending
  • Academic honesty

Writing the Paragraph

  • Linking ideas in sentences and paragraphs
  • Concision and word choice
  • Introductory and concluding sentences in paragraphs

Reading and Writing Criticism

  • Taking effective reading notes
  • Chapter and article summaries and critiques
  • Developing theoretical applications


Additional Information and Resources 

Attendance and Participation

Success in the course depends on consistent attendance at lectures and tutorials. Active Learning classrooms are different from traditional classrooms and require different teaching and learning practices. You will find that you will fall behind quickly if you are not attending class. Please alert your TA if you have some absences: while they cannot teach you the material again, they can help you strategize ways to catch up. In the larger group setting, it is particularly important that everyone observe rules of common courtesy. Contributions to discussion must be based on course material. Comments should always be collegial and respectful of others in the class.

Electronic Devices

Laptops and phone may be used only for the purposes of note-taking and class-work—the use of electronic devices in class and tutorials for non-course related purposes may result in lower participation grades.