Contact a Humanities Office or Academic unit.
Find your course outlines.

ENGLISH 1A03 Lit. in English:Shorter Genres (C01)

Academic Year: Winter 2019

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. David Clark


Office: Chester New Hall 321

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23737


Office Hours: Tuesdays 2:30-3:30PM

Course Objectives:


Welcome to English and Cultural Studies 1A03. It is my distinct pleasure to teach this course and to share some quite remarkable examples of English literature with you. It is only fair to say that this is a very demanding course and that we have a great deal of work to do together. But your knowledgeable Teaching Assistants will be there to help you each step of the way . . . as will I. Note that this course is as much of a challenge to humanities students as it is to science students. In other words, both sorts of students can and do thrive in the course. Indeed, historically, well more than half of the top 10% of students in this course identify as science majors. So, ESC 1A03 is designed to be inclusive: I welcome students with different abilities, background preparation, and interests. The course is purpose-built to give every student, regardless of their major, ample opportunity to thrive. All that the TA’s and I ask of you is that you bring an unusual degree of focus and determination to the course, and that you become an active listener in lecture and an active participant in tutorials. That means bringing materials to class, putting your phones away, and zeroing in on the difficult thinking and focussed studying ahead. If you commit yourself to this work, I’m confident that you will find that the material we take up will change your perspective on the world. So, let’s get started!

First step, read this course outline in its entirety. There is a wealth of information here about what this course is about, how it works, and how to thrive in it.

Please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to me at the end of lecture. We are a large class, but that doesn’t mean for a moment that I am not interested in shaking your hand and personally welcoming you to the course.

Course Objectives

This course introduces students to some of the fundamental skills in literary criticism, i.e., the rigorous, capacious, and intellectually courageous interpretation of literary texts. We focus on a selection of shorter texts, including poems, short stories, and an experimental novella.

Literary texts – for example, the shorter poems we take up in the first half of this course – are the strangest things. They are unusually compact, dense and lively creatures into which a very great deal is folded. How to release some of that potential? Poems, like all literary texts, beckon to you, compelling you to wrestle in close quarters with their questions and innovative thoughts, but they do not yield easy answers or pat solutions. Poems are not inert objects trapped on a page but dynamic and changeful events that demand engagement with what is puzzling, daring, and unexpected. The sound of words and the shape of language are fused with provocations and problems to form an unstable, composite whole. Poems, like all literary texts, test you by turning everyday language inside out, making it feel momentarily alien and disruptive. These texts are also beautiful—i.e., they are exquisitely designed, paced, and shaped, their sound and sense woven together in an appealing whole. In this course, “beauty” is not a four-letter word; it is that quality that pulls us into the orbit of literature. It is also what makes the interpretation of literature inexhaustible. Take the example of “Ode to a Nightingale,” a famous poem by John Keats that we take up in this course. Keats wrote this poem as a young man in 1819, but there is no sign two hundred years later that we have learned everything that we need to learn from its gorgeous and troublesome stanzas. Far from it. Literary texts are meant to be challenges to you, frankly asking you if you have the courage to think in startling new ways. They draw upon and in turn release the deep powers that thrum through language—powers about which we are hardly aware in everyday life but to which poets seem uniquely sensitive. Well made literary texts call attention to themselves as things crafted out of the considerable resources of the language. They commit themselves to short-circuiting any attempt to get quickly to a single and settled meaning. One of my objectives then is to model in class what it takes to meet the challenge of literature and to involve yourself in its unique practices of knowledge. It’s important to grasp from the first class that literature is, like, say, economics or psychology or biology, a particular kind of knowledge and a particular way of apprehending the contours of the world. Listen closely to what I say in class and then return to the assigned materials with the intellectual curiosity and respect for thinking and openness to experimentation that literature honours and shelters on your behalf. In lecture I can only touch on the very surface of the texts that we take up. Now it is up to you to unfurl more of the bounty that remains coiled up in them. Remember: if your head doesn’t hurt while you grapple with a poem or a short story you aren’t doing it right.

Literary texts call for sophisticated reading strategies and it is some of those strategies that we take up in this course. Reading carefully also means analysing those texts, unfurling their complexities and engaging their problems. That’s why this course also strongly emphasizes the development of critical skills in reading literature and writing effectively about literature.

Lecture and tutorial schedule:  see pages 14-16 of this outline.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts:

  1. Lisa Chalykoff, Neta Gordon, and Paul Lumsden, The Broadview Introduction to Literature: Short Fiction (Broadview Press, 2015). Available in the campus bookstore.
  2. Coetzee, J.M. Lives of Animals. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016. Available in the campus bookstore.
  3. Leslie E. Casson. A Writer’s Handbook: Developing Writing Skills for University Students

(Broadview Press, 2011).  Available in the campus bookstore.

  1. First-Year English & Cultural Studies Handbook. See: onehandbook.pdf

  1. All poems and other writings available through live links listed on pages 16 to 18 of this course outline.
  2. All course-related materials and other materials assigned for tutorials and posted on Avenue. These materials include the Study Notes posted on Avenue.

Method of Assessment:

Course Assignments (Weighting):


1.  Essay #1:         15%

2.  Essay #2:         30%

    1. Quizzes:          10%
    2. Tutorial part.: 10%
    3. Final Exam      35%



Course Assignments (Description)

  1. Essay #1 (500 words): Due in person in your tutorial during the week of 11 February 2019 (worth 15%).
  2. Essay #2 (1,000 words): Due in person in your tutorial during the week of 18 March (worth 30%)

See the First Year English & Cultural Studies Handbook [web address above] for invaluable tips on how to write an effective essay.

Tutorial Quizzes (worth 10%):

There are 3 tutorial quizzes in total, given at the start of tutorial during the week of: 28 January, 25 February, and 1 April. The best grades in two of the three quizzes will count towards your total tutorial quiz grade (representing 10% of your final grade). In other words, the lowest grade of the three quizzes will not count. Absence (including an MSAF absence) from one of the three quizzes will count as a zero grade, meaning that the grades for the other two quizzes will be what counts towards your total tutorial quiz grade. No make-up quizzes will be scheduled.

Quizzes are fifteen minutes in length and are composed of a small number of questions. Quizzes test your comprehension of the details of the course material and are cumulative, i.e., for each quiz you are responsible for all of the course material from the beginning of the term up to and including the material covered in the lecture and tutorial prior to the quiz. An example of a quiz will be posted on Avenue to help you prepare for these short tests.

Note: You may not attend a tutorial or write a quiz in a tutorial other than the specific one to which you are assigned.

  1. Tutorial Participation (worth 10%):

NOTE:  Tutorials begin week of 14 January 2019

Your experienced TA’s bring a wealth of knowledge to the course. They are there to help you think and write more effectively about literature. In tutorials, their objective is to meet you half- way, with the expectation that you will also meet them, contributing to the class discussion in ways that help yourself and your classmates explore and understand the course material. The great thing about tutorials in this course is that they remind all of us that education in literary studies is also a collective endeavour, calling upon everyone involved to participate and to pitch in. Your sustained and active involvement in tutorials is the key to their success and to your success.

Tutorials for this course serve several important functions. In tutorials you will:

--discuss the lecture materials and readings associated with the lectures.

--learn about how to write an effective essay in literary analysis.

--discuss literary texts not taken up in lecture but assigned for tutorials.

--take brief quizzes to help you consolidate your knowledge of the course material (see above for more information on these quizzes).

--review the course material in preparation for the final examination.

Note that a significant portion of your final grade (10%) is tied to your participation in tutorials. Regularly attending tutorials is therefore very important, as is speaking up in those tutorials in helpful and informed ways. But most important is the quality of the participatory work that you do in tutorials, i.e., the thoughtfulness and focus of your contributions to class discussions, your preparedness, and your ability to apply the interpretive skills modelled in the lectures to the materials before you. Your tutorial participation grade is based on the quality of your contribution to class—for example, have you asked questions or raised points that reflect your close and careful reading of the assigned materials? Are you able to respond meaningfully to contributions that your classmates have made? Questions that help you better understand the course material, and that help your classmates better understand the course material, are always welcome. The literature assigned on this course thrums with wonderful difficulties, so it makes perfect sense that you would have questions. But don’t forget to ask those questions from an informed place, i.e., having taken the time and effort before tutorial to wrestle with the material and to have given it your best effort.

Some of you will struggle with speaking up in tutorial—that’s a perfectly understandable challenge. What matters here is how you address that challenge. Rather than assuming from the start that you have nothing to contribute to class discussion, actively seek ways to become part of your education in class. That process can begin with a simple but important question about a particular passage in a poem or short story that is proving difficult or puzzling to you. For example, point your classmates to this passage and then venture your understanding of it so far. Ask your classmates what they think is going on. Or say you heard me say something in lecture but were not able to get it all down. Ask your classmates to help you get that lecture detail sorted out. Chances are if you need some clarification here many of your classmates do as well. In other words, put your tutorials to use. Avoid at all costs being a passive spectator of your education.

Try your very best not to let your participation grade slip through your fingers by not contributing to the discussion in tutorial.

  1. Final Examination (2 hours) (worth 35%). The final examination will be in two parts. Part A is made up of 50 multiple choice questions and Part B is an essay question. You will be examined on your comprehension of all of the assigned materials on the course, including all materials assigned in lecture and in tutorials. The course’s Senior TA, Taif Zuhair, and I will be responsible for marking Part B.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late penalties: All assignments are due at the start of tutorial on the due dates indicated. All written assignments will be docked one grade per day late up to 7 days, i.e., a B+ paper turned in two days late would be lowered to B-. Saturday and Sunday are included in the calculation of

days late. After 7 days the grade is zero. TA’s are not authorized to grant deadline extensions. Students must contact their Faculty Office to make arrangements before any revised deadline can be considered.


Essays must be handed in to your TA in tutorial, not dropped off at the Department of English & Cultural Studies and not dropped off by a friend. Essays and quizzes will be returned only to the student who has written them, i.e., not returned via a friend.

Remember to ensure that your essay work fully complies with McMaster University’s “Policy on Academic Integrity” (see statement below). Academic dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated.

Copies of Essays:  Keep a copy of the essays that you submit for 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

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:

English and Cultural Studies 1A03 (Winter Term 2019) Shorter Genres

Where to find the assigned materials for this course

  1. The poems that we take up in this course are available through the links provided below. Print off these poems and bring your copies to lecture and tutorial.
  2. 2.Donald Justice’s “The Wall” and Henri Cole’s “Torso” are posted on Avenue.
  3. The assigned short stories are all available in your Broadview Anthology, available in the campus bookstore.
  4. The link to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s autobiographical text, “Letter to my son,” is provided below.
  5. .J.M. Coetzee’s Lives of Animals is available in the bookstore.

Lecture Schedule



Prefatory Remarks + Donald Justice, “The Wall” (posted on Avenue)



Henri Cole, “Torso” (posted on Avenue)



William Blake, “The Chimney Sweeper”



William Blake, “London”



Suheir Hammad, “What I Will” + “Break Clustered”



Yusef Komunyakaa, “Facing It”



John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”



John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”



Adrienne Rich, “Diving into the Wreck”



Sylvia Plath, “Daddy”



William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 130” + Claude McKay, “Harlem Dancer”

14        Edna St. Vincent Millay, “I Being Born a Woman Distressed” + Harryette Mullen, “Dim Lady”

Reading Week


Feb      26        Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (in Broadview Anthology)

28        Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” Mar    5            James Joyce, “Araby” + “The Dead”

7          James Joyce, “The Dead”

12        Alice Munro, “Friend of My Youth”

14        Alice Munro, “Friend of My Youth”

19        Margaret Atwood, “Happy Endings”

21        Ali Smith, “True Short Story”

26        Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Letter to my son”

28        J.M. Coetzee, Lives of Animals

Apr      2          J.M. Coetzee, Lives of Animals

4          J.M. Coetzee, Lives of Animals

9          Landing Place

Tutorial schedule*

*Tutorials begin week of 14 January 2019 Week of                        Assigned Work

Jan       14        Tips on writing an effective short analysis Essay # 1 topics circulated

21        Discuss Robert Penn Warren’s “Evening Hawk”

28        Quiz #1

Discuss bp Nichol, “Two Words: A Wedding”

Feb      4          Discuss John Keats’s “Ode to a Grecian Urn” and “Ode to a Nightingale”

11        Discuss poem selected by your TA Essay #1 due in tutorial



Reading Week (no lectures or tutorials)


Quiz #2

Discuss essay #1

Essay #1 returned at end of tutorial Essay #2 topics circulated



Discuss Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”



Discuss James Joyce’s “Eveline”



Discuss Lydia Millett, “Love in Infant Monkeys” Essay # 2 due in tutorial



Discuss Margaret Atwood, “Happy Endings” + Ali Smith, “True Short Story”



Quiz #3

Final examination discussion Essay #2 returned at end of tutorial



No tutorials (Last day of classes for this term is 9 April)

Web addresses for poems and readings of poems assigned in lectures and tutorials:

  1. William Blake, “The Chimney Sweeper”

  1. William Blake, “London”

      2. Suheir Hammad, “What I Will” and “Break Clustered”

    3.Yusef Komunyakaa: “Facing It”

 4.John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”

5.John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”

6.Robert Penn Warren, “Evening Hawk”

7.bp Nichol, “Two Words:  A Wedding” ource=bl&ots=GT1WwtIdzk&sig=OmgJ3ZqRqGFWd0hsvIEkrRLJgRs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiLi9enpZDKAhWDcD4 KHdhVC5QQ6AEIJDAB#v=onepage&q=bp%20nichol%20%2B%20two%20words%3A%20a%20wedding&f=false

8.Adrienne Rich, “Diving into the Wreck”

9.Sylvia Plath, “Daddy”

Slam reading by Alyssa Paul,

10.William Shakespeare, Sonnet 130

11.Claude McKay, “Harlem Dancer”

12.Edna St. Vincent Millay, “I, Being a Woman Born Distressed”

13.Harryette Mullen, “Dim Lady” G2liZ_l2p6SKXvAzOQd8GvUfP6c&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiR7q2Nn7bJAhVFdh4KHeGTCCw4ChDoAQhCMAc#v=o nepage&q=Dim%20lady&f=false          [See page 20]

Web address for Ta-Nehisi Coate’s “Letter to my son”