Class participation is important in English courses; as we read writers who are themselves very much invested in using words in the service of an energetic exchange of ideas, we should also join those writers in energetic conversation. It’s important, therefore, that you come to every class with a hard copy of the material we will be discussing.

It is also important, however, that you recognize that while having the text in hand is necessary, it’s also not enough. Courses that focus on historical literatures as well as theoretical concepts or methods in literary studies entail demanding reading assignments in which you will confront characters, conventions, allusions, terms, sentence-styles, ideas, and phrasings that are unfamiliar. You cannot just skim historical literatures, scholarly writing, or theory. For every text assigned in this course, the internet is your friend, and the library’s resources are your best friend. You should not expect to “get” — sometimes, at even the most basic level — some of the texts assigned in this course on a first read. You are expected, however, to come into class having “gotten” the gist of those texts. And even more than that is expected: you should have formulated before the start of class some claims and ideas about what the text we’re reading is up to. You should therefore research assigned texts before, during, and after reading them so that you can talk about them in class with confidence.

I recommend that you come to class with notes that include:

  • a summary of the assigned reading
  • a selection of two or three key passages that you’d like to discuss and/or clarify
  • one or two questions that you’d like to explore with your peers, and
  • one or two claims you’d like to make about the assigned text that would be suitable for considering at more length in an assigned essay
  • one or two key theoretical terms that might be usefully applied to (or refuted by or developed further by) the assigned text
  • a sense of what other specialized critics have already said about the assigned text
  • a sense of what your response is to those critics

Student participation is an especially indispensable component of a graduate seminar. Courses such as this one value your preparedness, curiosity, unique perspective and willingness to take risks in order to understand assigned texts as well as to collaborate in charting new intellectual territory. Graduate courses aim to offer advanced instruction not only on research and writing but on all forms of communicating, including the verbal exchange of expertise and ideas; in fact, in a graduate seminar, these are inseparable activities. It is crucial, therefore, that you practice your verbal skills by participating in class discussions during every class session so that, by the end of the semester, you will have demonstrated the achievement of this course objective.

In order to earn class participation points (up to 15), you have to make a substantial contribution to class discussion every week.

A substantial contribution means that either

a) you introduce a discussion question with reference to a passage or passages from that week’s assigned readings and follow up with one additional comment or question based on on others’ responses with another reference to a different passage,


b) you offer at least two meaningful contributions to one/the same discussion question introduced by a classmate or the professor, and make reference in each contribution to a different, relevant passage from the assigned readings.

1 percentage point will be automatically awarded to you every week for a or b.

Only 1.5 percentage points towards the final total are available for a student to earn in any given week, and a or b (above) is required to earn a full percentage point.

Students who offer briefer comments through discussion, introduce a discussion question, a follow-up question, and/or a passage for consideration, and pepper class conversations with their insights may earn up to .5 of a percentage point each week.

In other words, participation grades will be assigned accordingly each week of the semester until the student has reached the full 15 points available:

  • 1.5 points: student does a or b as well as participates in class discussions by contributing additional comments, questions, and/or passages
  • 1 point: student does a or b but does contribute additional comments, questions, and/or passages
  • .5 point: student does not do a or b, but does contribute additional comments, questions, and/or passages
  • 0 points: student does not participate in class discussion or is absent