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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2006

T C E603A • Composition and Reading in World Literature

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34425 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
PAR 104

Course Description

This course will focus on developing two of the core values of this university: discovery and leadership.

We will start by adapting the discovery learning method promoted by the College of Natural Sciences. Active learning has been used in English courses to explore the inner world, but, like the natural sciences, we will start with the outer world. Hence for us "World Literature" will mean primarily literature of the world around you here on and near campus: the sense of the world as your sphere of action or thought; the 'realm' within which one moves or lives (OED). And we will expand the sense of literature as well: all of your world will be your text. We will approach it as semioticians, those who study all signs, linguistic and non-linguistic, including art, architecture, landscapes (geography), material culture (archeology), etc. Hence, some class meetings will devoted to drawing and writing about nature, buildings, and works of art, on campus, at the Japanese garden at Zilker Park, and buildings downtown. We will identify objects around us as palimpsests, tracing their layers of meaning back to various eras and places. For example, in the first semester the carved dragons on the mantle in the Littlefield House will lead us, via the Internet, to medieval cathedrals, and what Adams and Ruskin wrote about them. In the second semester, questioning fossils in Waller Creek will lead us back to the origins of life on earth and forward to the writings of Darwin and Tennyson and to the contemporary debate between evolution and creationism.

In our writing we will employ the New Literacies, not only in our writing for the Internet but also in our participation in Second Life (, which is both a role-playing video game and a virtual world. There we will recreate the ourselves and the campus.

Grading Policy

About 50% of the final grade will be determined by the multimedia web projects and/or contributions to Second Life (15% for each first draft-150 points each, 10% for each revision-100 points each), 14% by the portfolio (140 points); 30% by informal writing which can also be contributions to Second Life (300 points); 6% by class participation (60 points). Out of the aggregate 1000 points, 900 are required for an A-; 800 for a B-; 700 for a C-; 600 for a D-. However, more than 1000 points will be available so that students can emphasize formal over informal writing or vice versa, class participation more than the portfolio, etc. At the end of the course, students will receive exactly the grade recorded in the online gradebook, even if it is one point short of the next higher grade.

Fall semester multimedia web and Second Life projects will address undergraduate life, often comparing UT and Oxford, and will culminate with the crafting of a personal vision statement. Spring projects will culminate with the outlining of a leadership vision. Informal writing consists primarily of self-reflection and journaling. Class participation includes the art of listening as well as speaking in public.

Students will need to have or get in the first semester multimedia and web skills. Students should also be prepared to think for themselves. Discovery learning dictates that for projects there will be fewer instructions than what students may be used to from other courses. This can be frustrating for some, especially those who want a detailed formula that will guarantee them a good grade. Instead students will be encouraged to be creative and write about what is important to them, within limits. Initial comments on the projects will be made online by the other students in the class, with the instructor then focusing on polishing the final drafts for punctuation, word choice, etc. Rewriting and preparing almost perfect final drafts will be stressed. The first requirement for rewriting is time management. Hence, procrastination will be heavily penalized.


Discovery learning applies to the inner world as well, of course. There we will train ourselves to be leaders, both in our writing and by our reading about heroes such as Hindu gods and goddesses, Buddha, Moses, Prometheus, Socrates, Jesus, Mary, Mohammed, Dante, UT alumni, and others. In the first semester we will begin with the questions "Who am I?" and What am I doing here? We will read Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Hardy's Jude the Obscure, and Beerbohm's Zuleika Dobson as commentaries on undergraduate life, and selections from Newman and others on the purpose of university education. Then, places on campus will lead us to selections from the Wordsworth, Lopez, Pater, Dickens, Taniguchi, Jones, Graves, Tennyson, Eiseley, Darwin, Oliphant, Barney, Berry, Lawrence, Harrigan, Arnold, Forster, Dobie, Ruskin, Hopkins, Pugin, and Hugo.

In the spring semester, unless students vote otherwise, we will begin by examining the griffins of the Littlefield House and then turn our attention to their Victorian context in John Fowles' novel The French Lieutenant's Woman. That will lead us to medieval and medievalist art, architecture, and literature, guided by some of the first-semester authors as well as Adams, Morris, the Rossettis, and others. The course will conclude with a focus on Gothic in Gawain and the Green Knight and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Students will also be required to do presentations on murals and paintings in the second semester.


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