Episode 96: Syllabus Preparation

One of the more interesting things about teaching is that every year or so you get to do kinda the same thing all over again with a new set of students. You can pretty much recycle the same class, do something completely different, or more likely adapt things as needed in the quest for elusive pedagogical perfection.. This year I am teaching two sections of English 160: Literatures of the World, a class I taught two years ago. Half of my previous novel selections did not go exactly as planned when my students went through them. Contrary to popular belief (and by popular belief I mean the nerdy friends I have conversations with), teaching webcomic did not go well to the point that only one student actively liked it. Less than 5% approval rating is not a good thing by any stretch of the imagination. I shuffled a few of the novels around and this is my syllabus for the course. Compared to last time, I feel that student’s will not be as suffocated with reading loads. Still there are a few things I am anticipating for trouble down the line that I want discuss from the syllabus as you read it further down.

First, the theme of home (plus identity, purpose, and journey) should be familiar enough for students to apply to the selected readings and to other texts they are familiar with. A big crux of the class will be based on something that seems simple enough during class introductions. In addition to the standard questions, I want everyone to tell me their favorite story ever, something that they have pretty much memorized and can talk about forever.  Pretty much any time that there are presentations it is going to be centered around these already familiar texts. By the time they finish overthinking and analyzing them, there is a good chance they may hate me for ruining their favorite stories.

Another interesting thing you may notice is that interspersed between readings there are discussion days about different stuff. I put them in there specifically to give kids a break, especially after a somewhat long and potentially boringish novel. My favorite one is the one about active reading and ludological practices, which actually means that I am talking about video games. The surprise factor  alone should make it a memorable class.

The other thing that worries me is Oscar Wao. That novel is awesome but the Spanglish and nerdy references galore could be too much for most students. Let’s see if they can handle it. Without further ado, here is the syllabus.

English 160/CLS 160: Literatures of the World                                                                  

Professor Gabriel E. Romaguera

Meeting time/place: Section 004 MWF, 1:00-1:50pm Washburn Hall 308

Section 007 MWF 2:00-2:50 Washburn Hall 308

Office Hours: M, W, F, 3:00-5pm

Office Location: TBD

Email Address: gromaguera@gmail.com

Course Description:

Leaving and Building Nests: Exploring Notions of Identity, Purpose, Journey, and Home

This course is designed to introduce a number of themes, forms, issues, and literary devices

relevant to a contemporary transnational or global moment. We will study how the physical and metaphorical home serves as a starting point and as a destination. Be it from something as broad as a continent to as small as a house, this sense of origin and accomplishment becomes an integral part of one’s identity.

·         How do motions across national borders alter individual and collective identities?

·         How does the journey away from one home or towards another affect perceptions and

reflections of the characters in these narratives?

·         Does transnational movement lead to a sense of placelessness? Is this placelessness

inherently negative? Can it be liberating?

·         Do certain artistic practices stem from travel back and forth?

·         What distinctions can be drawn between physical presence in a place or psychological

presence and absence in relation to location?

·        In what ways if any does gender play a role in any of the above factors?

Learning Outcomes:

·         Understand and analyze texts within broader social, philosophical, and historical contexts.

·         Recognize influences of artistic forms on contemporary cultural productions.

·         Develop critical writing and analytical skills.

·         Develop personal preferences and aesthetic regarding literature.

·         Observe how the printed word juxtaposed with pictorial and other images can be used for narrative construction.

Course Requirements:

Attendance and Participation: Attendance and active participation in all classes is required.

Students are allowed a maximum of three unexcused absences throughout the semester. Every additional absence will amount to a two point subtraction from your final grade. All excused absences must be accompanied with their pertinent paperwork. Keep in mind that absences of any kind also affect your participation grade. All students are responsible for keeping up with class discussion and material for any classes they have missed for any reason.

Classroom Courtesy: Get to class on time with the assigned readings read and bring your texts. Cellphones should be off or silent during class time. Refrain from texting. E-readers can be used in class but only for looking at the text at hand, no web surfing or chatting.

Quizzes: There will be announced and unannounced quizzes based on readings and/or any part of classroom discussions. You may not make up quizzes.

Reading Journal: Students are required to keep a reading journal throughout the semester.

Record your notes about the assigned reading and your responses to the reading and to issues that emerge in class discussion. The purpose of the reading journal is to be prepared for class discussion. It also serves as preparatory writing for the final critical essay. The reading journal will be collected at the midterm and final. The quality of your reading journal will be

factored into your participation grade.

Tips for Active Reading and Making your Reading Journal:

1. Create a list of characters and consult it often.

2. Take notes on the action of each chapter.

3. Keep a dictionary close by in order to look up unfamiliar words.

4. Write plot summaries to refer back to when studying for the midterm, final, and writing your paper.

Critical Essay: 6-7 page paper that shows original work supporting a literary

interpretation of selected texts.

This final essay will be developed from student thinking and reflection in the reading journals

and quizzes, and which will bring together the student’s close reading skills and newly-gained

knowledge of the field.

Midterm and Final Exam: The midterm and final exams will take place on the dates listed and

will be given only on that day. The exams will be objective in form and will test knowledge of

the lectures and the basic content of the texts.

Sakai Postings:

Short writing assignments will be assigned regularly through the Sakai website. Please visit

Sakai regularly as important announcements and expansions on class discussion will be sent

through here.

Plagiarism: All submitted written work and presentations must be your own; if you consult

other sources (class readings, articles or books from the library, articles available through

internet databases, websites or other internet sources) these sources MUST be properly documented using the MLA citation format. Please see http://www.mla.org.

Failure to document any outside research will cause you to be charged with plagiarism and

receive an F for the assignment. In some cases, this might result in a failure of the course as

well. If you have any doubt about what constitutes plagiarism, visit the following website: http://gervaseprograms.georgetown.edu/hc/plagiarism.html

Writing center: All writers, all disciplines, all levels, and all stages of writing. If possible, call

ahead for an appointment (874-4690). Drop-in tutorials are often available. 4th floor, Roosevelt Hall.

Disability Services: Any student with a documented disability is welcome to contact the

instructor early in the semester so that reasonable accommodations may be worked out to support

his or her success in this writing course. Please also contact Disability Services for Students,

Office of Student Life, 330 Memorial Union, 874-2098.


Midterm: 20%

Final: 20%

Critical Essay: 20%

Quizzes and presentations: 15%

Participation: 15%

Work on Sakai: 10%

Grade Scale:

A: 100-93       A-: 92-90         B+: 89-88           B: 87-83          B-: 82-80              

C+: 79-78       C: 77-73 C-: 72-70            D+: 69-68        D: 67-60          F: 50-0

Required Texts:

Cao, Lan. Monkey Bridge. Penguin. 1997. ISBN 0-14-026361-6

Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Riverhead. 2008. ISBN  9781594483592

Pratchett, Terry. Going Postal. Doubleday. 2004. ISBN 0-385-60342-8

Satrapi, Marjani. Persepolis I. Pantheon. 2000. ISBN 037571457X

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon. 1991. ISBN 0-394-54155-3

Welch, James. Fools Crow. Viking. 1986. ISBN 0-14-008937-3


Read the material prior to class on the date it is listed.


4: Introduction to course

6: Intro Continued. Discussion of narrative and “home”.

9: Discussion of “identity” Start individual presentations.

11: Discussion of “purpose” Cont. individual presentations.

13: Meet at Library: Tour and intro to research.

16: Discussion of “journey”. Finish individual presentations.

18: Fools Crow, Chapters 1-8

20: Fools Crow, Chapters 9-18

23: Fools Crow, Chapters 19-27

25: Fools Crow, Chapters 28-36

27: Discussion of the “bildungsroman” aka the coming of age tale.

30: Persepolis Pages 1-86


2: Persepolis Pages 87-end

4: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,  Chapters 1-2

7: Oscar Wao, Chapter 3

9:  Oscar Wao, Chapter 4-5

11: Oscar Wao, Chapters 6-7

14: Columbus day. No classes

16: Midterm: Bring your Reading Journal

18: Discussion on active reading and ludological interactive practices.

21: Monkey Bridge, Chapters 1-3

23: Monkey Bridge, Chapters 4-7

25: Monkey Bridge, Chapters 8-10

28: Monkey Bridge, Chapters 11-13

30: Discussion of Critical Analysis and Research


1: Group Presentations

4: Group Presentations

6: Group Presentations

8: Maus, Chapters 1-2

11: Veterans’ Day: No Classes

13: Maus, Chapters 3-4

15: Maus, Chapters 5-6

18: Going Postal, Chapters 1-5

20: Going Postal, Chapters 6-9

22: Going Postal, Chapters 10-Epilogue

25: Quick Presentations on Critical Paper topic

27: Discussion of Research Methods for Critical Paper

29: Thanksgiving (No classes)


2: Individual Presentations

4: Individual Presentations

6: Individual Presentations

9: PAPER DUE Class wrap up.

*Note: This course schedule is subject to change during the term.

Final Exam will be held on Friday, December 13 for Section 004 and Monday December 16 for

section 007. Both sections will have in the same classroom from 11:30am-2:30pm.



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