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COURSE NAME: "Special Topics in English Literature: Literature and Radicalism"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Stephanie Richards
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 11:30-12:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: EN 110 with a grade of C or above
OFFICE HOURS: one hour before class

An in-depth treatment of a current area of special concern within the field of English Literature. Topics may vary. This is a reading and writing intensive course. Students in 200-level literature classes are required to produce 4-5,000 words of critical writing.

Course description (cont'd):
This course will explore the theme of radicalism as depicted in literary works that range from pre-revolutionary France and England to modern-day Iran. The course will not only focus on the effects of radicalism as revealed in the texts, but also on how radicalism arises, the psychology and circumstances that lead to it, and the similarities and differences between various ‘radicalisms’ around the world. A range of historical and theoretical perspectives will be considered as context to analysis of this literature.

Course content:
Born from European Enlightenment thought, the term radicalism was associated in the 19th and 20th centuries with the modern idea of progress toward a better future. Often spurred on by a deterministic mindset, radical individuals or groups defined themselves in opposition to more moderate approaches to change. They embraced agendas with profoundly transformative goals that often supported extreme methods — like violence and murder — and called for swift action to social, cultural, and political change. Literature has often served as a means to explore the radical mindset, either as a mouthpiece of radical agendas or as testimony to their effects.


In this course will discuss the various means each author uses to present his/her ideas, such as narrative structure and style, literary devices and genre. Students will engage with the socio-historical background and literary context of the texts analyzed, and will be required to participate in class discussions after having read the material attentively. We will read one play, selected poetry and four novels, as well as relevant theoretical texts.


By the end of the course, students 1) will be able to discuss major themes and ideas that appear throughout the texts we have studied in a comparative manner 2) will be able to research and write analytically about these themes and ideas in accordance with discipline norms (MLA) and academic standards of honesty 3) will be able to clearly articulate and argue a thesis, and 4) will have a deeper understanding of the origins of radicalism and the socio-historical impact of radicalism in the world.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
The Marriage of FigaroPierre BeaumarchaisOxford9780199539970 0199539979 other editions are acceptable
The ColonelMahmoud DowlatabadiMelville House9781612191324 Trans. Patterdale. Use this edition
MeridianAlice WalkerHarcourt0156028344 use this edition
KanthapuraRaja RaoOxford9780195624373 use this edition
DemonsFyodor DostoevskyVintage9780099140016 use this edition

Midterm paper2000 word analytical paper — topics will be provided by the professor. If you wish to write on another topic, it must be approved by the professor.25
QuizzesThere will be four quizzes on general information taken from your reading and our class discussions of the texts, e.g., character names, plot details, major ideas, publication information20
PresentationStudents will give a 5-7 minute presentation on an article assigned by the instructor5
ParticipationStudents are required to attend and participate in class. Participation requires having read the assigned materials and being prepared to speak about them. 10
Final paper3000 word analytical paper — topics will be provided by the professor. If you wish to write on another topic, it must be approved by the professor.40

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.



The French Revolution

Week 1:           Introduction to Class. What is (was) Radicalism?

                        Readings: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract (excerpts provided) and Emile (excerpts provided);

Pierre Beaumarchais The Marriage of Figaro

Week 2:           The Romantics and the French Revolution

Readings: Pierre Beaumarchais The Marriage of Figaro;

Selected works by Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge (handouts will be provided)

Week 3:           The Romantics continued.

Readings: Selected works by Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge;

student presentations

(quiz on Marriage of Figaro)

Radicalism in 19th century Russia: The Nihilists

Week 4:           Background on Russian Nihilism, Sergei Nechaev and The Demons

                        Readings: Demons Part I

Week 5:           Readings: Demons: Part II

Victoria Thorstensson, “The Demonic Nihilist” in The Dialog with Nihilism in Russian Polemical Novels of the 1860s and 1870s (provided by instructor)

Week 6:           Demons: Part III; student presentations

  (quiz on Demons; first draft of short paper due)

Anti-colonial Radicalism: Gandhi

Week 7:           Historical and political background for Kanthapura

                        Readings: Akeel Bilgrami. “Gandhi’s Radicalism: An Interpretation” in Beyond the Secular West (provided by instructor); Mahatma Gandhi. Selected Political Writings pp. 50-88 (provided by instructor); Raja Rao. Kanthapura pp. 1-85

(final draft of short paper due)

Week 8:           Kanthapura pp. 85-190; Concluding thoughts on Kanthapura; student presentations

Civil Rights Movement in America

Week 9:           Background for Alice Walker’s Meridian.

                        Readings: Margaret Whitt. “Civil Rights in Literature” in The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 9: Literature (provided by the instructor); Meridian pp. 1-135

Week 10:         Reading: Meridian pp. 135-201

(quiz on Kanthapura/Meridian)

Week 11:         Reading: Lynn Pifer. “Coming to Voice in Alice Walker’s MeridianSpeaking out for the Revolution” in African American Review (provided by the instructor); Meridian pp. 201-241

Radicalism in Iran  (Please note: Since this book is out of print, we well not be reading it. We will prolong other discussions from the previous weeks and focus on our final papers at the end of the course.)

Week 12:         Background for Dowlatabadi The Colonel

                        (first draft of long paper due)

Week 13:         Dowlatabadi The Colonel; student presentations

(quiz on The Colonel)

Week 14:         Concluding thoughts on The Colonel;

                        Discussion of the changing face of American literary radicalism from the mid-20th century to today

(final draft of long paper due)