Marian Stewart Titus – work-in-progress

The nature of my English course: “Writing about Literature” lends itself naturally to incorporating a poverty-humanities focus.  In previous semesters, I have highlighted poverty if it was a stark feature of a text, or otherwise was central to a text’s meaning. Of course this treatment was without the benefit of my involvement in this faculty seminar thus far, and lacked a holistic focus vis-a-vis poverty and the wider society.  With the new insights that this seminar has given me, I recognize that the course’s original learning outcomes emphasize the mechanics of writing, and pay less attention to the critical analyses of literary texts. These critical analyses provide the opening for more comprehensive discussions about poverty.

The existing course description now in my syllabus:

This is a course that builds upon skills introduced in English 101. In this course, literature is the field for the development of critical reading, critical thinking, independent research, and writing skills. Students are introduced to literary criticisms and acquire basic knowledge necessary for the analysis of texts (including literary terms and some literary theory); they gain proficiency in library and internet research; and they hone their skills as readers and writers. Assignments move from close readings of literary texts in a variety of genres to analyses that introduce literary terms and broader contexts, culminating in an independent, documented, thesis-driven research paper. By the conclusion of English 201, students will be prepared for the analytical and research-based writing required in upper-level courses across the curriculum; they will also be prepared for advanced courses in literature.

This course will analyze major representative texts and explore their central themes. In this particular section, we will focus on three major literary genres: fiction: comprising one novel and selected short stories, poetry, and drama: one play. The overall theme of the course will be that of inclusion and exclusion as individuals seek to find a place for themselves in their world.

This course will focus upon and critically examine the unique stylistic features of fiction, poetry, and drama. The primary goal of this course is to develop an essential understanding and appreciation of these three genres as they have been used in literature from a variety of historical and cultural contexts. The secondary goal of this class is to develop the necessary skills and methodologies needed to critically analyze and appreciate fiction, poetry, and drama in a far different and greater comprehensive context than you may have previously experienced. In order to achieve these goals and prepare you for future academic challenges that you will inevitably experience, learning traditional and twenty-first century analytical skills will enhance your mastery and familiarity with literatures in English.

201 learning outcomes now in the syllabus: 

Most of these emphasize the mechanics of research and writing. Only bullet four refers specifically to the features of literature itself:

  • Write clear, grammatically correct sentences in well organized paragraphs (Measured in Discussion Boards, Research Projects and Papers)
  •  Write well-developed thesis-driven argument and analysis papers, some of which incorporate research (Measured in Discussion Boards, Research Projects and Papers)
  • Frame research questions; plan research strategies; find and evaluate sources using the BMCC Library and the BMCC Library Website; and present results of research (Measured in Discussion Boards, Research Projects and Papers)
  • Define and apply literary terms to analyses of texts within three major genres of literature (Measured in Discussion Boards, Research Projects and Papers)
  • Correctly use the conventions of MLA documentation and citation, including a “Works Cited” page (Measured in Discussion Boards, Research Projects and Papers. 

My revised learning outcomes incorporating a poverty-humanities focus:

These outcomes flesh out the fourth original learning outcome listed above:

  • (1) Sensitize students to how literature is an expression of the human condition, and the role that poverty plays as part of this condition, and how it affects an individual’s life chances.
  • (2) Enable students to critically assess their position in society vis-a-vis the literary texts discussed, and the role that poverty plays, if at all, in their lives.
  • (3) Students will critically analyze poverty’s place vis-a-vis other social and economic classes, and how literary texts demonstrate the place that poverty occupies in the structure and workings of society .
  • (4) Students will critically analyze literary texts with an eye to how authors address poverty as part of their presentation of the human condition

I want to revise the three paragraph course description to incorporate a poverty-humanities focus, but I have not yet decided on the language I need to achieve this.

I have attached my current syllabus and course map.

I have also attached three texts which I am now using in my course:

Chinua Achebe, Dead men’s path

Junot Diaz, Negocios

Zora Neale Hurston, Sweat

and other texts which I want to include:

William Blake, The Chimney Sweeper 

Langston Hughes’ Out of Work and Let America be America Again

I welcome your comments and suggestions.




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