Lit Based English Composition II Course Sample Syllabus


ENG 102: Composition II

Mississippi as Seen Through the Eyes of its Authors

Instructor: Allen Berry


William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Larry Brown


Course Description: The South is a unique locality; more than a mere geographical location, it is a tradition and perspective on living which can perhaps best be understood through its literature.  The perspectives and ideas presented by Southern writers, and particularly Mississippi writers, are as different and varied as the citizens of the South itself.  Exploring the works of William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Larry Brown, readers come to appreciate varied outlooks on the world of the South.  Considering that the South has long been the subject of stereotype and controversy, the work of Southern writers exists as both apology and resistance.  Embedded in the works of Southern fiction writers are arguments about the true nature of the South, its people, and the lives of Southerners.  The three authors that will comprise the basis of this course approach their work and the South itself  from very different perspectives.   William Faulkner’s characters roamed a desolate landscape fraught with depravity and violence.  Eudora Welty took a much gentler view, focusing on the gentility and humor supposedly innate in many of the residents of the South. Larry Brown combines these viewpoints incorporating the humor and violence peculiar to the everyday life and struggles of the working class with his own struggles as an author at his work.

The goal of this course is to instruct students in rhetorical analysis by requiring them to analyze the rhetorical strategies of three very different authors. Each of these authors has a unique perspective as to the character of the South and its denizens. The contributions of these three authors to the Southern Canon will be presented for analysis of their rhetorical strategies as well as their individual perspectives on Southern-ness.    The students will be challenged to analyze the rhetorical discourse of each author with regard to message, audience, and perceived personal agenda as well as conduct a literary analysis of the works that they will be studying.  In addition to the written texts the students will be reading, they will also view cinematic interpretations of some of the works we will be studying in order to analyze how effectively the filmmakers’ interpretations adapted the original texts.  The students will be asked to explicate how faithfully the filmmakers’ adapted the texts they interpreted and to suggest reasons for any changes that the filmmakers made to the respective stories with regard to message, audience, medium and the agendas of the filmmakers themselves.

Student’s Daily Reading Blogs:

Each student will be expected to keep an online journal in which they will discuss at least two readings per week.  The student’s blog should reflect his or her reactions and insights into the reading for the week.  While this is a largely informal writing, keep in mind that the goal is writing for an audience that includes the professor and not merely fellow students.  Please adhere to business like standards of conduct when creating blog posts.  Each student will be required to respond to at least two other student’s postings during the course of the week.

Project 1: Rhetorical Analysis

Students will choose an essay from either Larry Brown’s On Fire or Eudora Welty’s Stories, Essays and Memoir.  The student should discuss the writer’s rhetorical choices with regard to message, word choice, and rhetorical devices utilized in addressing his or her subject.  This essay should address the questions: what does the author communicate, and how effective is the author with regard to making his or her argument. Utilizing the strategies explained in Practical Argument, explain how the author utilizes these rhetorical strategies. 

Project 2: Comparative Rhetorical Analysis

Students will read the works of at least two of the three authors and discuss how each author’s rhetorical choices shaped their message.  For example, William Faulkner’s portrays a Southern landscape that is fraught with violence and depravity.  In his short story Barn Burning, Faulkner portrays a family who is ruled over by a violent and cruel patriarch.  Conversely, Eudora Welty in her story Why I Live at the P.O. treated the subject of family with humor and affection.  This essay should reflect how the two authors you chose to compare express their individual views of the South and how effectively their portrayals reflect their subjects.  A secondary approach would be to compare a film version of the story to the text version.  A film is a visual argument; your comparative analysis should reflect how the filmmaker’s interpretation of the work differs from the author’s.  The student should explicate how the filmmaker’s own message is presented and whether or not it overshadows the author’s message.  You should answer the question does the filmmaker deviate from or co-opt the author’s original message communicated in his or her original text.  

Project 3: Annotated Bibliography

In preparation for the final paper, you will collect sources for a research project on one of the three authors we have studied this semester.  In this assignment, you will be researching the history of your chosen author and the body of his or her work. You will produce a 10-source minimum annotated bibliography, MLA style, on the author’s works, history, and any other facts that would inform your research on the author. You will be required to include a variety of sources in your bibliography, books as well as journals, online and print.  Each entry should be accompanied by a brief paragraph explaining the source’s relevance to your research as well as a general introduction at the beginning of the work and a conclusion at the end that explains what you hope to accomplish with your research paper.

Project 4: Final Research Project

For the final project you will research one of the authors that we have studied this semester and explore what forces shaped their work. In order to complete this assignment, you will need to research the author’s history and the events both cultural and societal that shaped the events in their writing.  In order to successfully complete this assignment, you will argue how the author’s work was shaped by his or her life experiences and other forces that may have shaped the author’s work, be they cultural, political, or economic.  Based on the information you find through your research, you should argue for the writer’s intent.  For example, does Faulkner’s work reflect racism or does it reflect the South that he knew?  Does the work of Eudora Welty perhaps provide a view of the South that is too idealized?  Writing as a humorist, is the view of the South a whitewash, or does it reflect the author’s particular view of the South?  Does Larry Brown’s writing cast the South in a less than favorable light, or does it merely draw attention to a particular group of people within the South?   In addition to the paper portion of the final research project, each student will be required to present a 5 to 10 minute presentation on their selected author and/or the work(s) they have chosen to focus on for the scope of this final project


Assignments and Grading:        Blog Entries 10%

                                                     Analytical Papers 60%

                                                    Class Presentations 10%

                                                     Final Portfolio 20 %  

Required        Brown, Larry.  Big Bad Love. New York: Vintage Press, 1991.

Texts:              Brown, Larry.  On Fire.  Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 1994.

                        Faulkner, William.  Collected Stories of William Faulkner.  New York: Vintage  

                                    Press, 1995.

                        Kirszner, Laurie G. and Stephen R. Mandell, The Practical Argument.  New

                          York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011.

                        Welty, Eudora. Stories, Essays, and Memoir.  Library of America Edition.

                                    New York: Penguin Books, 1998.

                        Welty, Eudora. Why I Live at the P.O. New York: Penguin Books, 1964.



Texts:              Barn Burning. Dir. Peter Warner.  Perfs. Tommy Lee Jones, Diane Kagan. 

                                    Monteray Media, 1980. DVD.

                        Big Bad Love. Dir. Arliss Howard. Perfs. Arliss Howard, Debra Winger, Paul Le

                                    Mat, Rosanna Arquette, and Angie Dickinson. MGM, 2002. DVD. 

                        The Rough South of Larry Brown. Dir. Gary Hawkins.  Perfs. Will Patton, Natalie

                            Canerday, and Dakota Smith.  Down Home Entertainment, 2002. DVD.

                       Why I  Live At The P.O.  An original one-act Opera by Stephen Eddins, based on

                           the short story by Eudora Welty.  Dir. Stephen Eddins.  Perfs. Jennifer

                           Goltz-Taylor, Claire Divizio, Diana Herstein, Emily Goodwin.  Web.




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