SYLLABUS--CL215KA/Fall 1993

Topics in Modern Literature: Authority

Instructor: David A. Goldfarb

W 1:00-3:30, Office Hours: 3:30-4:00 after class


Grades will be weighted as follows:
Journal 15%
Proposal 10%
Draft of Final Paper 15%
Final Paper 40%
Participation 20%

There will be no final exam, and it is not necessary to write about every book in the course in your final papers. Class participation and attendance, therefore, will be taken very seriously in the determination of your final grade. You are expected to do all the reading carefully and to make arguments on the basis of it in class. If you get behind, however, it would be better to skip ahead and be on schedule, rather than getting further behind and missing out on class discussion altogether.

Keep a journal of your reactions to the readings for the class. Write down questions you have, disagreements, problems, arguments, things you like, quotes you find particularly meaningful, personal situations you are reminded of, other texts you think are relevant to the material, whatever you want to add. The purpose of the assignment is to be sure you are reading actively. Meaning is the product of the interaction between the producer of the text, the text itself, and the reader/viewer/hearer of the text. By keeping a journal you will be better prepared for class, thereby improving your class participation grade, and you will be engaging all the material more fully. Your journal will also provide valuable material for your final papers. Notebooks will be provided, but I suggest providing your own, if you can. People who write a lot tend to be fussy about the physical materials they use. I use blank, unlined notebooks, sewn in a hard binding. Some prefer spirals or legal pads or blank sheets of paper inserted into a three-ring binder or even the exam "bluebooks" I will distribute in class. I hate bluebooks, personally, because they are institutional and make me feel like I am in Junior High School. This may seem trivial, and it probably is, but is hard to feel relaxed enough to write freely if you are distracted by unpleasant materials. Please write legibly. I will be reading them. If this requirement gets in the way of your writing, you can recopy your notes or type them out to hand them in. This process will involve revision, and may be a good idea anyway.
Final Paper:
Using three or more of the texts discussed in class, write a 6-8 page paper on the nature of authority. You might limit the scope of your essay to a context like state authority, race and power, gender, socio-economic class, aging, community, authority in the family, authority in institutions, corporations, street gangs, schools, or whatever interests you. You can frame your discussion in terms of questions of meaning, knowledge, control of information, physical power and capacity for restraint, psychological control, economics, or any other theoretical framework which helps you understand the phenomenon in question. If you need to do research, see me or Cindy Coren, and we might be able to arrange trips to the library. As Queens College students, you should all have an ID that can be validated for use in the library. I have tried to structure the assignments, however, so that you will not need to be heavily dependent on the library. Your mode of criticism itself engages questions of power and authority, and I have tried to create an environment for personal or autobiographical criticism, allowing you to bring your personal experience to bear directly on your interpretations. This act itself is an assertion of power, when compared with other critical modes that try to erase the person of the critic, leaving the reader with the impression that the critical text is an objective, impersonal, scientific statement about the meaning of a primary text.
A 1-2 page proposal is required before you write your papers. In it you should state the thesis or argument you will defend in your paper, the works or other materials you are using as evidence, and your critical strategy. The proposal is due November 17. You are, however, encouraged to turn it before then, if you want to get your topic cleared and start working on your draft early. Since the due date is before we will get to Beloved, you might want to look at it early, and think about whether you will want to use it in your paper.
Turn in a draft of your final paper by December 1, and I will comment on it and suggest areas where you could improve it in our conferences on December 8. Treat this as though it were the final paper. If you want to do really well on this assignment, you should make an outline of your paper and a rough draft for your own purposes, before you write the draft you will hand in.


7 September 1995