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C LIT 240 E: Writing In Comparative Literature

Meeting Time: 
TThF 9:30am - 11:20am
PAR 313
Head shot of Richard Boyechko
Richard Boyechko

Syllabus Description:

Writing in Comparative Literature: First Contact

TTh(F) 9:30–11:20
Parrington (PAR) 313

We will not meet on Fridays for the most part. Unless the calendar says otherwise for that week, assume there will be no class on Friday.

  • Instructor: Richard Boyechko
  • Office Hours: TTh 1:30–2:30pm, and by appointment
  • Office Location: Padelford (PDL) B524
  • Email:


  • (2016-12-01) Changed calendar for week 10; added short story reading; changed due date for Essay #2.
  • (2016-11-22) Adjusted calendar for weeks 9 through the end of class.
  • (2016–11–12) Changed what to do for extra credit and how it is to be submitted. Revised calendar for weeks 8 through 11.

  • (2016-10-25) Added reading for October 27th; removed conference requirements, redistributing that portion of the grade to longer essays.
  • (2016–10–18) Added “Shitty First Drafts” reading for October 25th and calendar for the latter half of the quarter.

  • (2016–10–13) Added additional office hour times on third and fifth Fridays.

  • (2016–10–06) Added course description.

  • (2016–10–04) Expanded the information about index cards, including the choice of a comment instead of a question.

Course Description

“Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” – Paulo Freire

“Nobody can write who never writes, just as one cannot swim who never swims.” – Paolo Freire

The first encounter between humanity and some extraterrestrial intelligence is a well-known trope in science fiction, showing up everywhere from H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds (1898) to the last year’s Hugo Award winner The Three-Body Problem (2006/2015) by Liu Cixin. In this class, we will read a few classic science fiction novels dealing with such first contact. While doing that, we will attempt to figure out why this is such a widespread trope, and to explore to what extent this might be explained about our anxiety about communicating with people different from ourselves.

Since this a composition class, expect to write a lot. In addition to keeping a regular reading journal, you will also need to write several short reading responses, as well as two longer essays.


  • Stanisław Lem, Solaris [originally published in 1961], trans. Joanna Kilmartin and Steve Cox (Mariner, 2002, ISBN 978–0156027601)
  • Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic [1972], trans. Olena Bormashenko (Chicago Review Press, 2012, ISBN 978–1613743416)
  • Octavia E. Butler, Dawn [1987] (Aspect, 1997, ISBN 978–0446603775)

Please make sure to get the editions specified above, especially for the two texts that are in translation. Also, while ebooks are excellent for pleasure reading, they do not work well for literature classes; please get the paper copies of the books. They are all available at UW Bookstore, among other book sellers.

Course Calendar

Unless otherwise noted with “(Canvas)”, all readings are from the three novels for the class.

I will keep the calendar updated throughout the term, notifying everyone whenever I make a major change.

Week 1 (9/26–9/30)

  • (Nothing)

Week 2 (10/3–10/7)

  • Tue: Dawn, up to Part 2, Chapter 1 (p. 45)
  • Thu: Dawn, up to Part 2, Chapter 6 (p. 75)
  • Fri: (Due) Reading Response

Week 3 (10/10–10/14)

  • Tue: Dawn, up to Part 3, Chapter 1 (p. 115)
  • Thu: Dawn, up to Part 3, Chapter 6 (p. 151)
  • Fri: (Due) Reading Response #2
    • Additional Office Hour in Suzzallo Library Café (12:15-1:15pm)

Week 4 (10/17–10/21)

  • Tue: Dawn, up to Part 4, Chapter 1 (p. 199)
  • Thu: Dawn, to the end (p. 248)
  • Fri: (Due) Reading Response

Week 5 (10/24–10/28)

  • Tue: (Due) Longer Essay #1, Shitty First Draft; Anne Lamott's "Shitty First Drafts" (Canvas)
  • Thu: Octavia E. Butler, "Amnesty" (Canvas)
  • Fri: (Due) Reading Response

Week 6 (10/31–11/4)

  • Tue: Roadside Picnic, up to Chapter 2 (p. 57)
  • Thu: Roadside Picnic, up to Chapter 3 (p. 105)
  • Fri: (Due) Reading Response

Week 7 (11/7–11/11)

  • Tue: (Due) Longer Essay #1, Revised
  • Thu: Roadside Picnic, up to Chapter 4 (p. 157)
  • Fri: (Due) Reading Response

Week 8 (11/14–11/18)

  • Tue: Roadside Picnic, to the end (p. 193)
  • Thu: Solaris, up to “Sartorius” (p. 38)
  • Fri: (Due) Reading Response

Week 9 (11/21–11/25)

  • Tue: Solaris, up to “The Conference” (p. 90)
  • Thu: No Class: Thanksgiving; Solaris, up to “The Liquid Oxygen” (p. 132)
  • Fri: (Due) Reading Response

Week 10 (11/28–12/2)

  • Tue: Solaris, up to “The Dreams” (p. 176)
  • Thu: Solaris, to the end (p. 204)
  • Fri: (Due) Reading Response

Week 11 (12/5–12/9)

  • Tue: Ken Liu, “The Caretaker” (Web)
  • Thu: Course Debriefing; Course Evaluations (bring laptop/tablet)
  • Fri: (Due) Reading Response
  • Sun: (Due) Essay #2, Raw Ingredients

Finals Week (12/12–12/16)

  • Thu: (Due, Rigid) Essay #2, Revised; Everything Else


  • Class preparation and participation: 35%
  • Reading responses: 30%
  • Longer essays: 25%
  • Journal: 10%

Preparation and participation (35%)

Since a major component of the class are the reading discussions during the class sessions, it is important not only to come to class, but also to come having read the assigned reading. Please consult the course calendar (above) to see what you need to read each week.

Index Cards

For each class session, please come with a 3x5" index card where you have written the following:

  1. your name;

  2. the class session date; and

  3. either a) a question from the reading that puzzled you and that we might be able to find an answer for, or b) an observation you had about the reading.

    Example of a question: “Why is ‘Awakening’ capitalized (3)?”

    Example of an observation: “The appearance of the Oankali make Lilith imagine ‘small, tentacled sea slug … grown impossibly to human size and shape’ (12). This seems a deliberate choice of the author to base the Oankali appearance on the most ‘alien-looking’ of Earth’s creatures, but still imaginable to a human.”

Additionally, at the beginning of each class, I will ask a simple question about the reading that should be easy to answer if you have done the reading. It’s okay if you are behind on the reading sometimes, just write that as your answer; as long as you don’t make a habit of it, it will not have much of an impact.

If you cannot make it to class, please email me the content of your index card before the class meeting.

Canvas Discussions

Another way to get participation credit (either because you cannot make it to class or because do not feel comfortable speaking up in class) is to post on the Canvas Discussion page. Please post in the appropriate thread by either 1) responding to something I or another student (preferably mentioning them by name) said in class or posted about in the class session’s thread, or 2) by bringing up something you found interesting in the reading but didn’t get a chance to mention in class. These should be more substantial than “I agree” but need not be as involved as the Reading Responses (see below); one short paragraph is enough, though more is always welcome.

Keeping Score

I keep track of preparation and participation primarily by collecting 3x5" index cards every class period; it’s helpful to have one even if it only has the date and your name on it. If you take part in class discussion, I will make a note of your name for that day, so that way I also know that you were present. For each class session you can get as many as 62 points (maximum 124 per week), calculated as follows:

  • 32 points – being present throughout the class
  • 16 points – posting at least once on Canvas Discussion page
  • 8 points – participating at least once in class discussion
  • 4 points – having an index card for the session, and having it properly filled out before class
  • 2 points – answering one of the Questions of the Day correctly

Throughout the term, my expectations (i.e. to get 100% for participation and preparation part of the grade) are that you come to every class, have a filled-out index card every time, and take part in class discussion majority of the time (70% of the time). I am not expecting that you should take part in Canvas Discussions in addition to participating in class. As you can imagine, doing more than that in some areas will balance out with doing less in others. However, you cannot get multiples in any “category”; for example, posting five times on Canvas Discussions in a given week will earn no more than posting twice (once per class session).

Conferences (5%)

During the first few weeks, I would like to meet with everyone one-on-one for 5–10 minutes to discuss your writing, what you’re hoping to achieve in this class, and any issues you might have. These conferences will take place in my office, PDL B524, during my regular office hours, and at the Suzzallo Library Café during a couple of Fridays (see calendar).

Journal (10%)

Throughout the term, please keep a reading journal in whatever format works best for you. This is the place for you to work through your reactions to the readings and explore ideas you have for reading responses or longer essays (see below). I am expecting that you spend 15–30 minutes twice a week writing in the journal.

This is your private writing, and I will not be reading the journal. However, I will ask you to show a couple of times during the term (say week 4–5 and 9–10) that you have been keeping up with it. Since I just want to see the number of entries you made, you can do this before or after class, and during the break.

Reading responses (30%)

Every week, there will be a short reading response (300–350 words, or one page if formatted according to the guidelines below) due about the story or stories we read that week. You only need to write five (5) of these throughout the quarter, so take a look at the calendar to see what weeks would be the most convenient to do that.

I will be reading these every week, but don’t expect much of a written response. I will mark sections that I particularly liked with a solid blue line, and mark the sections that I did not like for some reason with a dashed brown line, but that’s all.

Please note that these are entirely disctinct and separate from the Canvas Discussions posts (part of preparation and participation; see above).

Longer essays (20%)

There will be two longer essays (700 - 1,000 words, 2–3 pages) relating to one or more of the texts we read in class. While the topic is up to you, I would like that you check with me about what you are planning to write.

The goal here to produce coherent essays that begin engaging with the central issues of the works we are reading. To that end, we will be working through several revisions of the essays. We will cover revision techniques in class, and I will provide comments on your paper at each stage of the process.

Extra Credit (up to 5%)

For every reading response over the required five (see above for details), you will get 1% extra credit (for a total of up to 5%).

If you do these throughout the term, just submit them in the appropriate weekly response assignment (no more than one response per week).

If you wait until the end of the term, the responses will need to be different. Since at that point we would have read all the texts, this will be your chance to consider whether they address similar issues, find common threads between them, or explore where they seem to disagree. You will need to submit the extra reading responses in the “Extra Credit” assignment. Please have each response in its own document/file.

Submitting written assignments

Unless otherwise specified, all written assignments should be submitted electronically on Canvas as PDF documents, and should follow the following formatting guidelines:

  • 12pt Times or Times New Roman font
  • one (1) inch margins all around
  • double spacing
  • page numbers
  • standard MLA header (see Purdue OWL MLA guide)

The due dates are flexible within a couple of days; there is no need to check with me if you need a little extra time. For example, if something is due on Friday, it’s perfectly all right if you don’t turn it in until Sunday night. If you are having issues with completing the essay within that timeframe, please speak to me as soon as possible.

Class Policies

Late work

Like I mentioned above, I am flexible within a couple of days. There is no need to email me or check with me if you need a little extra time. I will handle anything over several days late on case-by-case basis; please let me know if you are having issues.

Electronic devices

Please refrain from using laptops or other electronic devices during class. The exception is if you need to use a laptop because you have a disability that makes note-taking by hand difficult, in which case please talk to me as soon as possible.

You will note that I have my laptop with me every day; I will not be using it except for any presentations I will be doing, or to check my lesson plan.


Plagiarism, or academic dishonesty, is presenting someone else’s ideas or writing as your own without giving the original author(s) credit. As a matter of policy, I will report any student found to have plagiarized any piece of writing in this class to my supervisor, Dr. Michelle Liu. If you are having such difficulties in class that you are thinking of plagiarizing, please speak to me so we can find a way for you to succeed without resorting to such potentially disastrous measures.


If you need accommodation of any sort, please let me know so that I can work with the UW Disability Resources for Students Office (DRS) to provide what you require. This syllabus is available in large print, as are other class materials. More information about accommodation may be found at

Catalog Description: 
Comparative approach to literature and a workshop in writing comparative papers in English. Emphasis on cross-cultural comparison of literary works. Readings in English with an option to read selected texts in the original languages Offered: AWSp.
GE Requirements Met: 
English Composition (C)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
January 3, 2017 - 9:13pm