Dr. Dean Taciuch
George Mason University

Spring 2007

English 201:MT4

Course Description

English 201 is designed as an introduction to the reading and analysis of texts, including poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. In this course we will read, discuss, analyze and interpret fiction, poems, and nonfiction memoirs. This section of 201 is linked to a section of Music 107, History of Jazz. This link gives us the opportunity to study how the sounds, rhythms, structures, and culture of jazz have influenced and been expressed through poetry, fiction, and nonfiction prose. Although many of our readings will have jazz music as a topic, our primary concerns will be structural: we will consider how the literature is "put together" by analyzing sound, rhythm, image, characterization, and narration.

Students will write three full-length essays (1500-2000 words). These essays will analyze one or more of the texts we read in the class, using the concepts introduced in the English and Music courses.

The course will develop critical and interpretive skills useful in any form of analysis. Reading a text is an act of interpretation, requiring you to formulate, develop, and defend (using evidence from the text itself) your opinions and insights into such things as language, structure, symbolism, meaning, plot, and character.


Lange & Mackey, eds. Moment's Notice. ISBN: 1566890012 (17.50)
Toni Morrison. Jazz. (Trade Paperback.) ISBN: 1400076218. ($13.00).
[You can use any edition of the Morrison novel]

Prices as of January 12, 2007. If you are charged more at the bookstore, let me know.


The major assignments are the three writing projects, each of 1500-2000 words, a midterm, and a final exam. The minor assignments include peer reviews of each major essay (conducted in class). There will also be a midterm and final exam.

Essay 1: 20%
Essay 2: 20%
Essay 3: 20%
Midterm: 15%
Final: 15%
Peer reviews (3) 5%
Weekly responses (7): 5%


Most of your work will receive a letter grade. An "A" paper has a strong thesis, clear organization and focus, very good support, and very few if any grammatical errors. A "B" paper has a good thesis, good organization and focus, good support and examples, and a few grammatical errors. A "C" paper may have a weaker thesis, some organizational problems (though still an identifiable organization and focus), some support (though it could use more), and some (though not too many) grammatical errors. A "D" paper may have problems with its thesis or organization, may lack focus and support, or may have serious grammatical errors. An "F" paper has serious problems in more than two of these areas.

I will give all assignments letter grades. I calculate final grades by converting the letter grades to a 100 point scale using the following values:

A+ 100  
A 95 C+ 78
A- 90 C 75
B+ 88 C- 70
B 85 D 65
B- 80 F below 60

The University translates letter grades into 4-point GPA values:

A+ 4.00 B- 2.67 C- 1.67
A 4.00 B 3.00 D 1.00
A- 3.67 C+ 2.33 F 0.00
B+ 3.33 C 2.00  

(please note that A+ and A have equivalent point values.)


So far, we have one major event planned for the class: the performance of the Washington Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra on Saturday February 17th, at 8:00 in the Concert Hall. All members of the class should plan to attend. There will be a writing assignment associated with the concert.

Course Policies

Late Assignments: Unless you make prior arrangements with me, late papers will lose one letter grade per day. The lost grades cannot be made up by revision.

Revisions: A revision is a thorough reworking of a paper; it is not merely correcting spelling and grammar errors (that's proofreading, and it won't result in a higher grade, since I assume you proofread before you turn in a paper). Generally, "B" papers are more difficult to revise; they are already better than average, and revising means changing them substantively. There is always a risk that the changes may result in a weaker paper, but I will not penalize anyone for revising (you won't drop below the original grade on a revision). I recommend revising papers with a "C" or lower, since these papers usually have more serious problems which respond better to the thoroughness of the revision process.

All revisions must be submitted by April 27.

: "Plagiarism means using the exact words, opinions, or factual information from another person without giving the person credit. Writers give credit through accepted documentation styles, such as parenthetical citation, footnotes or endnotes; a simple listing of books and articles is not sufficient. Plagiarism is the equivalent of intellectual robbery and cannot be tolerated in an academic setting" (Department of English Guidebook). I will report any suspected cases of plagiarism to the Honors Committee.

Attendance: I will not take attendance, but it is not possible to do well in this course without regular attendance. In class assignments make up part of your grade. Class discussions of the texts are necessary for the papers, exercises, and the research project. Topics will develop from the class discussions. In addition, we will work on revising the drafts in class.


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