Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

This class will investigate the ways in which the formal aspects of Western storytelling in various media have shaped both fantasies and perceptions, making certain understandings of experience possible through the selection, arrangement, and processing of narrative material. Surveying the field chronologically across the major narrative genres and sub-genres from Homeric epic through the novel and across media to include live performance, film, and video games, we will be examining the ways in which new ideologies and psychological insights become available through the development of various narrative techniques and new technologies. Emphasis will be placed on the generic conventions of story-telling as well as on literary and cultural issues, the role of media and modes of transmission, the artistic significance of the chosen texts and their identity as anthropological artifacts whose conventions and assumptions are rooted in particular times, places, and technologies. Authors will include: Homer, Sophocles, Herodotus, Christian evangelists, Marie de France, Cervantes, La Clos, Poe, Lang, Cocteau, Disney-Pixar, and Maxis-Electronic Arts, with theoretical readings in Propp, Bakhtin, Girard, Freud, and Marx.

Criteria for HASS-CI Subjects

Communication Intensive Subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences should require at least 20 pages of writing divided among 3-5 assignments. Of these 3-5 assignments, at least one should be revised and resubmitted. HASS-CI subjects should further offer students substantial opportunity for oral expression through presentations, student-led discussion, or class participation. In order to guarantee sufficient attention to student writing and substantial opportunity for oral expression, the maximum number of students per section in a HASS-CI subject is 18, except in the case of a subject taught without sections (where the faculty member in charge is the only instructor). In that case, enrollments can rise to 25, if a writing fellow is attached to the subject.

Requirements and Grading

The final grade for this class will be computed according to the following weighted scale:

Active Class Participation 20%
In-Class Exercises 10%
5 Short Reader Response Papers (each 2 pages in length) 20%
Final Paper (10 pages in length) 25%
Final Exam 25%

Guidelines for Reader Responses

Approximately every other week, Reader Responses covering the current reading assignment will be due. Reader Responses should be 2 pages in length, typewritten in 12-point type, double-spaced with 1-inch margins on all sides, stapled together, and each page must be numbered. Each Reader Response will consist of three principal parts as described below:

  1. Identify some feature within the text (e.g., imagery, theme, incident, passage, narrative structure, framing device, style, sentence construction, message or moral, etc.) which happens to strike you as strange, unfamiliar, remarkable, or problematic, and explain what it is that you find so unusual about that particular element or how it differs from what you might have expected.
  2. Consider how that feature is operating within the text, what function or purpose it might be serving within its immediate context or within the broader narrative as a whole, and why it might have been represented in this particular manner rather than some other way.
  3. Then explain how this feature helps you to interpret the general meaning of the text as you explore the particular implications and consequences of your new understanding.

In-Class Exercises

Opportunities for applying new methods of approaching texts will be provided through in-class exercises.

Final Paper

A final paper (8-10 pages in length), selected from a list of assigned topics and integrating the work you have been doing throughout the term, will be due towards the end of the semester. This work will be evaluated on the basis of consistent logical argumentation, judicious use of evidence, coherent development of ideas, and rhetorical effectiveness. A first draft will be submitted two weeks earlier to allow for revisions.

Final Exam

A final exam, comprehending all the material throughout the semester, will be given during exam period.

Late Paper Policy

Final papers and reader responses may receive an automatic extension for one class period upon consultation with the instructor. Further lateness will result in a reduction of 1/3 of a grade for each class the paper is overdue beyond that time.

Rewrite Policy

Any paper or reader response may be rewritten upon satisfying the following requirements:

  1. The original paper was submitted on time.
  2. The student meets with the instructor to go over the paper.
  3. The paper is completely rewritten from scratch and not just edited.
  4. The rewritten paper is resubmitted no later than one week after the original was returned in class.

The highest grade that a rewritten paper may receive is a B+.

Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism - use of another's intellectual work without acknowledgment - is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgment for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available in the Writing and Communication Center and the MIT Website on Plagiarism.