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C LIT 240 F: Writing in Comparative Literature

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
CMU 243
Brad Gerhardt
Brad Gerhardt

Syllabus Description:


MW 1:30-3:20, CMU 243


Brad Gerhardt

B-428 Padelford Hall

Office Hours: Tues/Wed 11:30-12:30



            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.

            In literary history, one important genre is the Bildungsroman, typically translated as “novel of development” or a “coming of age” novel; its narrative of the transition from adolescence into adulthood, and the development of character that entails, has had wide-spread implications in a number of cultural narratives over the last three hundred years. But the term Bildung itself is more closely related to “education” than to “development,” and to examine these transitional narratives specifically in terms of the types of education they depict and how these forms of education result in or undermine “development” will be our task throughout the quarter. We will look at narratives of education in novels, novellas, short stories, and poetry, and examine the interplay between education, identity, and development. As a writing class, we will also focus on thinking critically about the expectations of academic writing and developing habits of close reading and comparative analysis.



            -Yoko Ogawa, The Housekeeper and the Professor, Trans. Stephen Snyder (Picador, ISBN: 978-


            -Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Harper Perennial Classics, ISBN: 978-


-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (Harper Perennial Classics, ISBN: 978-0060837020)

            -André Gide, The Counterfeiters Trans. Dorothy Bussy (Vintage, ISBN: 978-0394718422)

 -Course Packet, available at Rams Copy Center (4144 University Way NE)



  1. Students understand the investments, contexts, and effects of the kind of close/critical reading skills or approaches under study/use.
  1. Students consider the centrality of historical and cross-cultural awareness for effective interpretation of literary texts and engage in meaningful comparative analysis.
  1. Students improve their writing skills generally, and with regard to writing about literature.



            Graded assignments practice a variety of skills, but all will require you to develop and maintain habits of close reading. They will be evaluated on the originality of thought, clarity of articulation, and depth of analysis. Please note that I expect printed copies of all written work.


Close Reading (750-1000 words, generally 2-3 pages double-spaced)

            An effective argument gains its authority through careful consideration of its evidence. This assignment is all about your thinking, not about the form; you will not have an introductory paragraph culminating in a thesis; rather, you will begin with analysis—untying and unpacking through detailed observation—and your own argument will arise from your examination of the components of the passage you’ve selected, rather than simply reciting what you think it “should” be saying.


Comparative Analysis (1800-2400 words, generally 6-7 pages double-spaced)

            As a comparative literature course, CLIT 240 expects you to recognize, articulate, and synthesize different perspectives. This may be the most valuable and difficult skill you take away from this course. Your task is to create an “anthology” from at least 3 texts (incorporating both course materials and outside texts) and write an introduction to it, comparing perspectives on an issue of your choice and offering justification for including the texts you did. A successful introduction will be a critical synthesis of your materials, placing them in a dialogue with each other rather than subordinating their differences. To encourage collaboration and diversity of perspectives, you will engage in peer review; in groups of 3, you will carefully read and annotate copies of your peers’ work, and then collaborate to discuss strengths and areas for improvement.


Thematic Analysis (1000-1500 words, generally 4-5 pages double-spaced)

            Although depth and clarity of thoughts should be our priority in all writing, an argument gains much of its credibility through a sound and intentional structure or form. In this assignment you will practice a thematic analysis of The Bell Jar, utilizing organizational skills we will discuss in class, and geared toward a specific audience of your choice.

As part of this assignment, you will write a critical reflection about your own writing, and meet with me in a one-on-one conference to discuss your goals, ideas, and areas for improvement.


Research and Narrative (2-3 pages for research; 5-7 pages for narrative)

            This assignment asks you to examine a particular textual artifact connected to the issues of education and development as we’ve discussed all quarter, and to narrate that artifact. The artifact should be something from your own educational experiences, and which is meaningful to you: a report card from 4th grade, a scholarship application, your high school sweetheart’s yearbook entry, etc. You will spend some time examining the artifact, then compile an annotated bibliography of research into personal, cultural, political, or historical circumstances surrounding you and your artifact, and then narrate how that object has shaped your sense of identity, specifically addressing the question: “How has my education resulted/not resulted in ‘development’?


Reading Journal (length will vary)

For our last text of the quarter, you will make journal, with one entry for each day, discussing your reflections, questions, and observations from that day’s text. Your grade for each journal is more directly correlated to the consistency of your record than its length; this is intended to practice reading skills and not necessarily writing finesse. The format is up to you, but it should pay close attention to details from the text and be primarily analytical, not summary or evaluative, in its approach.



            To balance the more formal written assignments, we will also have lower-stakes, informal writing exercises to practice skills and build community. Do not expect any feedback from me on them.


Discussion Board

            Each week, there will be a set of discussion questions on Canvas. I will assign 2-3 students each week on Wednesday to generate a question by Friday night, and the rest of the class should answer one of the questions be Sunday night. The intent is to continue discussions from class, add your own insights, and see how others are interpreting the texts. Responses should be about a paragraph in length, with clear reference to or quotation from specific parts of that week’s reading.


In-Class Writing

            I will give out freewriting activities from time to time to practice skills and gauge questions and struggles the class is having with the texts. They are intended to be informal practice opportunities.



Attendance and Participation:

            CLIT 240 is not intended as a lecture course; it is a discussion-based course, and as such, your daily preparation and participation largely determine the success of the course. When illness or other circumstances arise, please let me know beforehand, and please attach to your email any assignments that are due, so that they won’t be counted late. Keeping up with the reading is essential for effective discussions; my first impulse is to trust you implicitly to read and think about our materials before each class. Note that participation is more than merely attending class; it means contributing to discussions. I reserve the right, and will exercise it, to call on anyone in class and expect a response.


Zero Tolerance Policy

            Literature, by its nature, should invite a wide range of reactions, opinions, and interpretations; I hope to encourage this by providing an intellectually challenging but respectful environment; I ask you to do the same. There will be no tolerance for words, speech, behavior, actions, or clothing/possessions that insult, diminish, demean, or belittle any individual or group of persons based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference, ability, economic class, national origin, language, or age. Academic freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of discourse DO NOT protect racism or other acts of harassment and hate. Violations of this Zero Tolerance Policy may result in removal from the classroom and actions governed by the student code of conduct will be taken.


Technology Policy

            Unless you have a very specific reason for needing them, I request that you not use computers or electronics in class. I ask that you purchase physical copies of our texts, and our discussions will refer extensively to those physical objects, so bring to class with you the text you were assigned to read and be ready to engage with it. Please mark up your readings and take notes with pencil/pen and paper.


Late Work:

            I will accept any of the written assignments late with a penalty of one grade level for each day (24 hour period) after the due date (for a paper that would receive a 4.0 had it been on time on Monday, any time after class up through Tuesday, it will receive a 3.0, Wednesday a 2.0, etc.). I will not accept reading responses late.



            In an ideal world, you would receive feedback from me on each assignment, then revise and resubmit. This is logistically unmanageable in a ten-week quarter, so I instead give you the OPTION to revise and resubmit one and only one assignment. This does not include the last assignments. It is due during finals week and should include: 1. the original, with my comments; 2. a substantially revised final copy; 3. a one-page discussion of what you revised and how you feel it strengthened the paper.



            Plagiarism or any other form of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated in any way in my class; your work should be entirely your own, and cite any outside sources you have used (though none of the assignments ask you to do this). Definitions of what constitutes plagiarism and the consequences at the UW can be found at:



Writing Centers

            The Odegaard Writing and Research Center (OWRC) offers free, one-on-one help with all aspects of writing at any stage in the writing process. It is best to make an appointment in advance:

            The CLUE Writing Center in Mary Gates Hall is open Sunday to Thursday from 7pm to midnight. The graduate tutors can help you with your claims, organization, and grammar.


Disability-Related Needs:

If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.



            I will return assignments as quickly as possible with my written comments and grade, which is my primary form of communication, though I’ll also post grades to Canvas.

Total: 600 pts (see Canvas for grading scale)

            Assignments (65%)

                        Close Reading – 50 pts

                        Thematic Analysis – 75 pts

                        Comparative Analysis – 100 pts

                        Reading Journal – 50 pts

                        Research and Narrative – 125 pts

            Reading Responses (25%)

                        Discussion Board – 100 pts

                        In-Class Writing - 40 pts

            Participation (10%) – 60 pts



NOTE: Readings/viewings should be completed BEFORE class on the date indicated.

1 April – Course Introduction

3 April – Virginia Woolf, excerpt from Three Guineas (Course Packet, CP)


8 April – Jorge Luis Borges, “Funes the Memorious,” Alice Walker, “A Sudden Trip Home in

            the Spring” (CP)

10 April – Yoko Ogawa, The Housekeeper and the Professor, Ch. 1-2


15 April – The Housekeeper and the Professor, Ch. 3-6

17 April – The Housekeeper and the Professor, Ch. 7-end


22 April – Allen Ginsberg, “Howl,” “Supermarket in California,” and “America” (CP)

            Close Reading due

24 April – Muriel Sparks, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Ch. 1-2


29 April – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Ch. 3-4

1 May – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Ch. 5-6

Peer review in class


6 May – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Ch. 1-6

            Comparative Analysis due

8 May – The Bell Jar, Ch. 7-9

13 May – The Bell Jar, Ch. 10-14

15 May – The Bell Jar, Ch. 15-20

            Thematic Analysis due


20 May – Andre Gide, The Counterfeiters, Part One, Ch. I-VIII

22 May – Counterfeiters, Part One, Ch. IX-XVIII


27 May - NO CLASS; Memorial Day

29 May – Counterfeiters, Part Two


3 June – Counterfeiters, Part Three, Ch. I-XI

5 June – Counterfeiters, Part Three, Ch. XII to end

            Reading Journal due


12 June – Research/Narrative Paper due (online or in my office)

                 optional revision due


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: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:02pm