English 303 A, Studies in World Literature
Click here for ENG 303 LINKS

Professor: Michael Webster  Office: 129 LHH, 331-3071 
e-mail: websterm@gvsu.edu Office Hours: 11-12 MW and 2-3 TTH, and by appt. Webster's Winter 2003 Schedule.
home-page: http://faculty.gvsu.edu/websterm/ Class meets: 3:00-4:15 MW, LMH 275


Schedule of Readings, ENG 303
Note: Read all introductions to authors and finish all readings before class meets.

Week 1 [Jan. 6-8] Spirituality, East / West, Alienation. Read in Lawall, volume F. "Modernism Expands and Evolves" (1589-1596). Read also in Lawall, Naguib Mahfouz, "Zaabalawi" (2527-2538) and Albert Camus, "The Guest" (2570-2582).
Why do we read fiction? What's your favorite story and why?

Week 2 [Jan. 13-15] Alienation in the West. Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis (Lawall 1996-2030).

Week 3 [Jan. 20-23] Colonialism and Alienation. Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, part one (Lawall 2855-2915). Ohadike, "Early Igbo History" and "Social and Political Structures" (handout?).

Week 4 [Jan. 27-29] Achebe, Things Fall Apart, parts two and three (Lawall 2915-2948). Read also Ohadike, "Igbo Religion" (xxxii-xxxix) and "The Igbo People Meet the Europeans" (xxxix-xlix), Gikandi, "Chinua Achebe and the Invention of African Literature" (ix-xvii), and essays from Achebe’s Hopes and Impediments (on reserve at library).

Week 5 [Feb. 3-5] Historical Drama. Tawfiq Al-Hakim, The Sultan's Dilemma (Lawall 2277-2336).

Week 6 [Feb. 10-12] Historical Fiction. Orhan Pamuk. My Name Is Red, chapters 1-25 (1-135). Read also the "Chronology" (415-417) and Pamuk's article on the aftermath of 9/11 in Turkey: "Listen to the Damned" (online).

Week 7 [Feb. 17-19] Orhan Pamuk. My Name Is Red, chapters 26-42 (135-273). Various sources on Turkish minature painting (online).

Week 8 [Feb. 24-26] Orhan Pamuk. My Name Is Red, chapters 43-59 (273-413). [Midterm]

Spring Break! [March 3-7]

Week 9 [March 10-12] Modern Egypt. Naguib Mahfouz, The Day the Leader Was Killed and "Half a Day" (handout).

Week 10 [March 17-19] Modern Egypt. Alifa Rifaat, Distant View of a Minaret and Nawal El Saadawi, "In Camera" (Lawall 2979-3008).

Week 11 [March 24-26] Modern Israel. Poems by Yehuda Amichai (Lawall 2793-2799). A. B. Yehoshua, Facing the Forests (Lawall 3071-3099). Start Amos Oz, "Nomad and Viper" (handout).

Week 12 [Mar. 31-Apr. 2] Finish "Nomad and Viper" (handout). Read also Salman Rushdie, "The Prophet's Hair" (handout).

Week 13 [Apr. 7-9] Colonialism revisited: Doris Lessing, "Old Chief Mshlanga" (Lawall 2722-2734). Read Scenes 1 and 2 of Wole Soyinka's, Death and the King's Horseman (Lawall 3021-3043).

Week 14 [Apr. 14-16] Finish Wole Soyinka, Death and the King's Horseman (Lawall 3021-3070).

Final Exam: Thursday, April 24, 2-3:50 p.m.

Aims of the Course: This course will offer readings in (mostly) African and Middle Eastern fiction. We will start with two short stories by Naguib Mahfouz ("Zaabalawi") and Albert Camus ("The Guest"). While the first is an allegory of a spiritual search set in modern Cairo, the second depicts a man torn between loyalties to East and West, France and Algeria. Next we will read Kafka's Metamorphosis in order to see how alienation is depicted in a European context. Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is an account of the experience of colonization and alienation, this time from the point of view of an African novelist. Next we will enter the Ottoman Empire of the 16th century via Orhan Pamuk's My Name Is Red (a novel about murder and rivalries among the Sultans' miniature painters). Among other things, this book presents the encounter between East and West in terms of the power of pictorial representation. Two books about modern Cairo follow, Naguib Mahfouz's The Day the Leader Was Killed, and Distant View of a Minaret, a book of short stories by a woman writer, Alifa Rifaat. After a section on modern Israel (Poems by Yehuda Amichai, and stories by A. B. Yehoshua [Facing the Forests] and Amos Oz ["Nomad and Viper"]), we will finish contrasting and comparing African and Middle Eastern works by reading, discussing, and writing about stories by Salman Rushdie ("The Prophet's Hair") and Doris Lessing ("Old Chief Mshlanga"), along with a play by Wole Soyinka (Death and the King's Horseman).

This class will investigate the hybrid cultures and personalities which often result when different cultures and religious traditions meet. Whether through colonization, revolt, or as middle-class American readers entering a fictional world different from our own, the result of this meeting of cultures and religions is often incomprehension, misunderstanding, and alienation. I hope we can reduce all three in this course. The course presupposes a certain amount of empathy with the alien, since fiction can take you inside other, alien worlds as few mediums can. No one can be totally objective or subjective: it is very difficult to surrender critical distance or cultural baggage when reading.

ENG 303 Requirements: Two 3-5 page papers, a short (50 minutes) midterm, and a final which I currently envision as some sort of combination between a longer paper and a take-home exam. Each student will prepare a short (1-2 page) handout on a specific factual topic and will present aspects of the handout in class. In addition, you may write a few short (1-2 page, handwritten, double-spaced) in-class or before-class response papers. I might also give quiz or two to help you keep up with the reading.

Attendance: Coming to class regularly helps keep you on track and on task. For the most part, this class will be structured around class discussion of questions raised by the stories themselves. You cannot "make up" what you miss in the give-and-take of ideas that happens in the best sort of discussion. The readings in the class will be challenging and interesting, and the classroom is the place to have your questions about them answered. Feel free to talk to me at any time about any aspect of the readings. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it definitely makes the grade go lower. Those who miss more than a week of classes without legitimate excuse will receive a failing grade for the course.

Questions: "The love of wisdom begins in wonder," said Socrates. We learn by asking and working out answers to questions. The study questions in the packet or in handouts are designed to stimulate your thinking and activate your reading, to highlight important issues, and to prepare you for in-class discussion. I ask three kinds of questions:  reading and interpretive, and critical. Reading questions ask you about your feelings and comprehension of subject, content, plot, the literal story-line. Interpretive questions ask for your opinions on themes, figurative language, symbolism, and form. Critical questions ask you to judge the taste, period, history, politics, and ethics depicted in the work of literature. (Elements from previous levels should carry over to each new level. Thus, an analytical interpretation must take into account sensuous aspects like feeling and performance.) The best questions have no "right" or "wrong" answer, only better or worse answers according to the evidence and reasonings you can bring to back up your opinions. These questions usually contain phrases like "do you think" or "why do you suppose."

Grading: Final grades will be based on your papers (roughly 40%) exercises, quizzes, class participation (roughly 20%), and the midterm and final (roughly 40%). I say "roughly" because exceptional performances, both good and bad, will count more heavily, especially in the area of class participation. Because grades are meant to reflect your effort in a course, plagiarism will be  punished severely. At the least, you will receive an F for the paper; you may fail the entire course. For more information on the University's policy on plagiarism, see sections 223.00 and following in the Student Code.

The Writing Center is a place where students can discuss their writing with student consultants prepared to respond to their work. The Writing Center offers assistance on prewriting, drafting, revising previous drafts, editing, and citing sources.
Writing Center home page: http://www4.gvsu.edu/wc/ Locations:
Allendale Campus 
201 STU / 331-3588 Mon.-Thurs. 9am-6pm 
Fri. 9am-3pm 
Pew Campus 
Grand Rapids 
101B DeVos 331-6407 
Mon.-Thurs. 5pm-10pm
Meijer Campus 
Room 119 
Tues.&Wed. 6pm-8pm

SWS Requirements: This course is designated SWS. Completion of WRT 150 and/or WRT 305, as appropriate, with a grade of C or better (not C-) is/are the prerequisite(s). SWS credit will not be given to a student who completes this course before completing the prerequisite(s). SWS courses adhere to certain guidelines. Students turn in a total of at least 3000 words of writing. Part of that total may be essay exams, but a substantial amount of it is made up of finished essays, reports, or research papers. The instructor works with the students on revising drafts of papers, rather than simply grading the finished piece of writing. At least four hours of class time will be devoted to writing instruction. At least one third of the final grade in the course is based on the writing assignments.

Topics for One Page Handouts

(Note: I will place many of the short articles on Reserve in the library. See also ENG 303 LINKS for internet sources. Handouts can summarize information quickly. Concentrate on details that relate to readings in this class.)

Chinua Achebe's life. ("Named for Victoria")
Chinua Achebe on:
 1. teaching,
 2. his novel,
 3. missionaries ("Named for Victoria"),
 4. "The Truth of Fiction,"
 5. "The Writer and His Community"; "What Has Literature Got to Do with It?"
The Ibo or Igbo tribe: culture, history, religion.
The Biafran war (Nigeria).

Orhan Pamuk's life
Turkish miniature painting
Miniature paintings in the novel My Name Is Red
The Ottoman Empire
The sultanates of Süleyman the Magnificent (1520-66)
and Selim II (1566-74) and Murat III (1574-95)
Venetian painting (Carpaccio, Bellini, Titan, Giorgione)

Naguib Mahfouz's life.
Mahfouz and Egypt:  his popularity, politics (New Yorker, July 20, 1990).
Mahfouz's views of literature.
Knife attack on Mahfouz (New Yorker, January 30, 1995)
Mahfouz's Nobel Lecture (available at <http://nobel.sdsc.edu/laureates/literature-1988.html>)
The Wafd party and Sa'd Zaghlul (sometimes spelled "Saad Zaghloul").
Egyptian history, 1952-1981 (Nasser and Sadat regimes).
The Six Day War (1967).

Aspects of the Qur’an (Koran) and / or Islam:
Status of women
Revelation to Mohammed
Bible stories
The Five Pillars of Islam
Lives or critical writings of other authors studied in this class.

Theory:  1.  Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, "What Is Minor Literature?"
  2.  Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism;
  3.  Said, "The Politics of Knowledge."

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