Welcome, Honors Students!

A little about the course title...Fiction Studies: Not Just a Bunch of Dead White Guys:

As a teacher of English, I certainly love and appreciate great literature and want my students to love and appreciate it, too. But I do remember wondering in graduate school why we never studied works that were a bit more contemporary. Hadn't somebody written great literature in the last fifty years? My professors believed that only classics were worthy of study--in other words, works that had stood the test of time. Unfortunately, if we apply their logic, only people a hundred years from now will know if that critically acclaimed novel I read last month is a classic. That hardly seems fair.

So when they told me I could give my honors lit course a special title, the phrase not just a bunch of dead white guys kept popping in my head every time I tried to write a title that was a little more lofty or dignified. In the end, I decided to create the class I would want to take, a class where we read good, even great, literature that wasn't written by just a bunch of dead white guys. We won't exclude them. However, we will definitely stray beyond the literary canon. And I want to assure you that there is something meaningful and worthy of our time in every work we read.

We will read a range of fiction, works by authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, Edith Wharton, Alice Walker, Jhumpa Lahiri, Amy Tan, and Tim Gautreaux. Some stories will be familiar to you. Others won't. You will probably notice that cultural identity serves as a dominant theme in many of the works we read. We will have (I hope) stimulating discussions in the discussion forum. You will write (I'm sure) scintillating, thought-provoking response papers over many of the readings. The most fun for you (I think) will be the research project that will allow you the choice of writing an analysis paper in which you may include a creative, visual presentation as part of the analysis. 

I have a reputation for creating well-structured online courses where the guidelines and expectations are clear. I will certainly work to keep that reputation in this course. However, I want to allow for spontaneity, too. That means remaining flexible to a certain extent. (If you want to read between the lines, the message is that we are all, to some extent, guinea pigs participating in an intellectual experiment that I am determined will be stimulating, challenging, and fun.) And if you have never taken an online course, don't worry. In my experience, online students are the most helpful students out there. You will have everyone's support.

How the course works:

Each week you will need to complete the readings assigned on the Calendar Page linked from the main page in Canvas. Usually, you will also be expected to complete a response paper, take an occasional quiz, or participate in a discussion forum that will run throughout that week. I do build in a couple of extra assignments to provide you the opportunity to skip one or two assignments if you have scheduling conflicts during the semester. Deadlines are always Sunday night at 11:59 p.m. The discussion forum takes place in Canvas. You turn in all papers in Canvas.

About the texts...

One of my aims in this course has been to find short stories that are available online or that I can make available to you for download. The only books you must purchase will be the novels.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale

We will begin the course studying short stories. The novels will come in the second half of the course.

I look forward to working with you in this semester!

To get started, go to Canvas...