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Plan II Honors

Michael Johnson

Assistant ProfessorPhD, Emory University

Michael Johnson



Classical and medieval rhetoric, Medieval European literature and culture, Sexuality and Gender Studies, Critical Theory, Psychoanalysis, European comics


I am an assistant professor of medieval French literature with a research focus on medieval grammar and rhetoric.

Current project: The Medieval Erotics of Grammar. This book-length study aims to account for the persistent use of grammatical terminology in reflections about and debates on sex in high medieval literature. The principal claim put forward in the Medieval Erotics of Grammar is that medieval grammatical discourse played a central role in shaping and regulating Western views of sex, particularly in the cultural elevation of the male-female couple hailed by courtly literature. A great deal of medieval writers harnessed grammatical discourse both to the end of celebrating heterosexual erotic love and in condemnations of same-sex eroticism. I examine both of these instances in a large corpus of writing, ranging from a selection of erotic poems in Latin and the vernaculars –– including Goliardic writings, some of the Carmina Burana, an erotic parody of Alexander of Villedieu’s Doctrinale, and troubadour lyric –– to debates that call upon contemporaneous grammatical theories to condemn homoerotic sex, including, most notably, the anonymous but hugely popular Altercatio Ganimedis et Helene, Alain de Lille’s De planctu Naturae and Gautier de Coinci’s Seinte Léocade.

I have also published on Lacan and the troubadour excremental, on euphemism and desire in the Romance of the Rose, and on sex and reading in Alan of Lille's Plaint of Nature. My secondary research focus is on sexuality in twentieth-century French writing, to which end I have published on André Gide, Claude Louis-Combet, Fabrice Neaud and Jacques Derrida.


T C 603A • Compositn & Read In World Lit

43745 • Fall 2009
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm CRD 007A

Michael A. Johnson
HRH 3.112C, 471-7470
Office Hours: Tue 12-2pm and by appointment

TC603A: Composition and Reading in World Literature
Unique: 43745
TTH 2:00-3:30
CRD 007A

This course presents a broad survey of world literature from the classical tradition to the present, with special focus on the theme of metamorphosis. In our readings of epics, poetry, prose essays, plays, novels, graphic novels, and films, we will look at gods and monsters in their various incarnations, and consider the ideas of transformation, development, change, and revolution as they are manifested in literary representations of self and other, male and female, body and soul, human and animal, nature and society. The emphasis in the course is on close textual readings as well as contextual interpretation as we analyze the ways in which form as well as content can reflect these ideas of change and revolution; special attention will also be paid to the questions of gender, power, and identity.

In the Co-op:
Homer, The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles (New York: Penguin, 1996)
Ovid, Metamorphoses. Trans. Charles Martin (New York: Norton, 2004)
The Book of Chuang Tzu. Trans. Martin Palmer (New York: Penguin, 2006)
R.K. Narayan, The Ramayana (New York: Penguin, 2006)
Popol Vuh. Trans. Dennis Tedlock (New York: Touchstone, 1985)
William Shakespeare, The Tempest (New Haven: Yale UP, 2006)
Aimé Césaire, A Tempest. Trans. Richard Miller (New York: TGC Translations, 2002)
On Blackboard:
    Selected lyric poems
    Plato, The Republic (excerpt)
    Marie de France, Bisclavret
    Jean d’Arras, Romance of Melusine (excerpt)

This course will be conducted as a seminar; therefore students will be expected to attend every class fully prepared to participate in discussion of the texts. For each class meeting, students are required to post at least one question or comment on that day’s reading assignment on the course blog. Class participation, including blog postings, individual and group presentations, will count for a substantial portion of the final grade. There will be four formal papers assigned during the course of each semester, along with various more informal writing assignments both in and outside of class. The formal papers will cover four different kinds of approaches: thematic analysis; textual analysis; stylistic analysis or pastiche; and comparative analysis. The first three short papers (3-5 pp) may be rewritten once. A longer, 8-10 page paper will be due at the end of each semester.

Writing Assignments
Writing assignments must be typed out and submitted in hard copy. No late work accepted.

Paper 1 (3-5 pp)
A creative adaptation and/or pastiche of either Popol Vuh or The Odyssey adapted to life in the USA circa 2009. Due 9/24.
Paper 2 (3-5 pp)
A thematic analysis of any text read in class from Popol Vuh to Metamorphoses. Students may discuss such themes such as piety, monstrosity, sexual violence, coming-of-age, desire, gender, the divine, animal-human relations, or a theme of the student’s choosing to be approved by instructor. Due 10/22.
Paper 3 (3-5 pp)
A textual analysis of any of the lyric poems read in class. Students will be asked to pay attention to the formal properties of the text (stylistic and rhetorical) and to explore and explain the relationship between form and content. Due 11/19.
Paper 4 (8-10 pp)
A comparative analysis of any two texts, or films, in the class. Due 12/11.

Grading Policy on Rewrites
The first three short papers may be rewritten once each. All rewrites are due within a week from the date I return graded and corrected papers to the class. The final grade will be the average of the first and second grades received (for example: an 80% on the first paper and a 90% on the rewrite will result in a final grade of 85%).

Course Blog
Reading questions are posted on the course blog by noon the day before a reading assignment. Students are expected to respond to one or more of the reading questions and/or to post their own reading questions for their peers. Students are also encouraged to use the blog to share any helpful information, websites, images, contextual or historical background, etc. that will contribute to a fuller understanding of the reading assignments. Participation in the course blog counts for half of the final participation grade.

Students will give one formal graded presentation relating, in some way, to the reading assignment for that day. The formal presentation must follow the constraints of the pecha-kucha format. (20 slides, 20 seconds apiece, for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds. I will provide examples of pecha-kucha on our Blackboard course site). The formal presentation counts for 10% of the final grade. Students may also be asked to give less formal presentations on various subjects throughout the semester. These informal presentations will be included in the participation grade.

Course Grade Breakdown
30%    Short papers (3)   
30%    Long paper (1)
30%    Class participation & regular participation in course blog
10%    Formal Presentation

Grading system
This course will use a plus/minus system for grading. The following table illustrates the correspondences between letter grade, GPA points and percentage grade.

Letter Grade    GPA Points    Percentage Grade
A    4.0    93%-100%
A-    3.67    90%-92%
B+    3.33    87%-89%
B    3.0    83%-86%
B-    2.67    80%-82%
C+    2.33    77%-79%
C    2.0    73%-76%
C-    1.67    70%-72%
D+    1.33    67%-69%
D    1.0    63%-66%
D-    0.67    60%-62%
F    0    Less than 60

Mid-semester evaluations
Although students are encouraged to take advantage of my office hours to meet with me and discuss their work, students will be required to meet individually with me once during the semester to discuss their progress and performance in the class. Meetings (approx. 15 minutes) will be set for the week of 11/3–11/5.


Religious holidays
By UT Austin policy, you must notify me of your pending absence at least fourteen days prior to the date of observance of a religious holy day. If you must miss a class, an examination, a work assignment, or a project in order to observe a religious holy day, I will give you an opportunity to complete the missed work within a reasonable time after the absence.

Use of Blackboard
In this class, I use Blackboard, a Web-based course management system with password-protected access at, to distribute some course materials. You can find support in using Blackboard at the ITS Help Desk at 475-9400, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., so plan accordingly.

Academic Integrity
University of Texas Honor Code
The core values of The University of Texas at Austin are learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity, and responsibility. Each member of the university is expected to uphold these values through integrity, honesty, trust, fairness, and respect toward peers and community. Each student in this course is expected to abide by the University of Texas Honor Code.

Policy on Scholastic Dishonesty
Students who violate University rules on scholastic dishonesty are subject to disciplinary penalties, including the possibility of failure in the course and/or dismissal from the University. Since such dishonesty harms the individual, all students, and the integrity of the University, policies on scholastic dishonesty will be strictly enforced. For further information, visit the Student Judicial Services web site This site offers excellent resources on how to cite sources and paraphrase. Copying materials from other people or from sources on the Internet, for example, or having your work edited by somebody else, constitutes a fraudulent submission. Any work submitted by a student in this course for academic credit will be the student’s own work and will acknowledge others’ work as appropriate (e.g., citing sources).


Use of E-mail for Official Correspondence to Students
It is the student’s responsibility to keep the University informed as to changes in his or her e-mail address. Students are expected to check e-mail on a frequent and regular basis in order to stay current with University-related communications, recognizing that certain communications may be time-critical. It is recommended that e-mail be checked daily, but at a minimum, twice per week. The complete text of this policy and instructions for updating your e-mail address are available at

Documented Disability Statement
The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. If you require special accommodations, you must obtain a letter that documents your disability from the Services for Students with Disabilities area of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (471-6259 voice or 471-4641 TTY for users who are deaf or hard of hearing). Present the letter to me at the beginning of the semester so we can discuss the accommodations you need. You should remind me of any testing accommodations you will need no later than five business days before an exam. For more information, visit

Behavior Concerns Advice Line (BCAL)
If you are worried about someone who is acting differently, you may use the Behavior Concerns Advice Line to discuss by phone your concerns about another individual’s behavior. This service is provided through a partnership among the Office of the Dean of Students, the Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC), the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and The University of Texas Police Department (UTPD). Call 512-232-5050 or visit

Critical Dates
Please note the following critical dates for class administration:
—September 11: Last day to add a class or drop a class for possible refund; payment for added classes due
    —September 23: Last day to drop a class without academic penalty
    —October 21: Last day to withdraw or drop a class with approval


Thu 8/27

I. Shaping & transforming the world

Tue 9/1 Popol Vuh (Parts 1–3, pp. 63-142)
Thu 9/3 Popol Vuh (Parts 4 & 5, pp. 145-198)

Tue 9/8 The Odyssey (Books 1–6, pp. 77-178)
Thu 9/10 The Odyssey (Books 7–12, pp. 179-285)

Tue 9/15 The Odyssey (Books 13–18, pp. 286-389)
Thu 9/17 The Odyssey (Books 19–24, pp. 390-485)

Tue 9/22 The Republic (on Blackboard)
Thu 9/24 The Book of Chuang Tzu (Chapters 1–11, pp. 1-90)

First Paper Due 9/24

Tue 9/29 The Book of Chuang Tzu (Chapters 12-22, pp. 92-197)
Thu 10/1 Discussion and review

Screening 9/30 8pm: Oh Brother Where Art Thou?
Joynes Reading Room (CRD 007)

II. Metamorphoses of Love & Desire

Tue 10/6 The Ramayana (Chapters 1–6, pp. 3-105)
Thu 10/8 The Ramayana (Chapters 7–epilogue, pp. 106-157)

Tue 10/13 Metamorphoses (Books 1–3, pp. 15-119)
Thu 10/15 Metamorphoses (Books 4–6, pp. 123-220)

Tue 10/20 Metamorphoses (Books 8 & 10, pp. 263-300; 341-366)
Thu 10/22 Selected love lyric (on Blackboard)

Second Paper Due 10/22

Tue 10/27 Selected love lyric (on Blackboard)
Thu 10/29 Selected love lyric (on Blackboard)

Tue 11/3 Selected love lyric (students present a poem of their choosing)
Thu 11/5 Discussion and review

Screening 11/4 8pm: Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Joynes Reading Room (CRD 007)

III. The Monstrous and the Inhuman

Tue 11/10 Bisclavret (on Blackboard)
Thu 11/12 Romance of Melusine (on Blackboard)

Tue 11/17 The Tempest (Acts 1 & 2, pp. 2-73)
Thu 11/19 The Tempest  (Acts 3–5, pp. 74-136)

Third Paper Due 11/19

Tue 11/24 A Tempest (7-66)
Thu 11/26 Thanksgiving holiday

Tue 12/1 Discussion and review
Thu 12/3 Discussion and review

Fourth Paper Due 12/11


Johnson, Michael A. "Post-Queer Autobiography: Placing/Facing Fabrice Neaud." Contemporary French and Francophone Studies 12.1 (2008): 27-39. MLA International Bibliography.


Johnson, Michael A. "Sodomy, Allegory, and the Subject of Pleasure." Queer Sexualities in French and Francophone Literature and Film. 1-12. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi, 2007. MLA International Bibliography.


Johnson, Michael A. "Translatio Ganymedis: Reading the Sex out of Ovid in Alan of Lille's The Plaint of Nature." Florilegium 22.(2005): 171-190. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO.


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