ENG 201 – Introduction to Literature
ENG 201 (Introduction to Literature) is the second course in the English Composition sequence. Building on the analytical writing skills of ENG 100.5/101 (English Composition), ENG 201 focuses on how we discuss and write about the three genres of literature: fiction, poetry, and drama. Department guidelines dictate that over the course of the semester, students will have produced four thesis-driven essays totaling 15-20 pages (or at least 3,750 words). As a composition class, the process of writing (including workshops and revision strategies) is integrated the course schedule.
My project centers on a series of writing assignments that are both analytical and reflective in scope. Through a series of writing prompts (one of which they could complete by recording a podcast), students examined the value of literature and storytelling through a variety of angles: in a week 1 diagnostic, they were asked to write about how literature was important to their lives and to use a reading from previous English class as their evidence. In the first formal essay assignment, building on our analysis of the Poetry In Motion series on New York City subways, students reflected on and wrote about the relationship between literature and the “real” world,” i.e. how one helps us make sense of other. The second essay assignment prompted students to discuss how literature can develop our understanding of history (relating to Tommy Orange’s novel There There), and the third asked them to identify one culture or community they belong to and to research how storytelling is important to it. The final essay assignment invited students to return to the Week 1 writing about the value of literature – this time, using two of our own class readings as their evidence. This final assignment was an opportunity for students to explore, and articulate, how their attitudes toward reading literature have changed over the course of the semester.
Why did you select this project? How does it relate to identity and purpose?
I selected this project as part of my ongoing effort to develop students’ understanding that literature and storytelling exist beyond the scope of their English classes (which, admittedly, BMCC graduation requirements force them to take). Literature adorns the infrastructure of our everyday lives (the subway car), relates to the content of our other classes, and even permeates our own lived / cultural experiences and backgrounds. Also, through each of the prompts, students were encouraged to draw on their own learning backgrounds and interests, thus helping to show that college writing is not, and should not be, separate from their own identities and communities.
What advice do you have for other faculty who would like to implement a similar project?
The second essay assignment, which asks students to reflect on and discuss how literature can develop our understanding of history, related to our reading assignment at that point in the semester, Tommy Orange’s There There. I would encourage colleagues wishing to do something similar to choose a discipline that relates to their own course material. History worked well for my course, based on our class activities and discussions, but it might not transfer to every course as equally well.