ENG 203: Introduction to Literature


This course is one of the most practical and impractical courses you will take in college. On the one hand, it helps you develop a crucial life skill--the skill of interpretation--which you already use every day of your life. When you listen to a song on the radio, watch a movie, or even converse with a friend, you use your knowledge of language, plot, and character to make sense of your experience. By increasing this knowledge, this course will make you a better "reader" of your world. On the other hand, much of the appeal of literature lies in its impractical nature--its beauty, its humor, the way it makes us feel. Thus, while this course will improve your ability to function in the world, it also will help you to escape from it.

As you read, write, and think over the course of the semester, please keep the following objectives in mind:

Deeper appreciation of language and literature: Our primary objective is to expand our understanding of how words in print make meaning. You will become conversant with many linguistic and bibliographic terms (diction, dialect, quarto), formal features (character foil, motif), and genres (lyric poem, Gothic short story), always examining the ways that form shapes meaning.

Broader understanding of the humanities: To study literature is to study life. As we immerse ourselves in these works and the historical periods in which they were written, we will become more adept at analyzing human thought (perception, motivation, relation), philosophy (free will, determinism, good, evil), and social issues (racism, feminism, economics).

Expanded cultural literacy: Because of the allusive nature of all language, particularly literature, names constitute a crucial part of a person's vocabulary. As we study these novels and their context, you will expand your cultural vocabulary to include the names of many people and characters (Frederick Douglass, Iago), places (Jerusalem, Globe Theatre), events (scientific revolution, American Civil War), and movements (realism, Harlem Renaissance).

Reading: As we read this challenging literature, you not only will expand your vocabulary and your ability to extract meaning from sophisticaed syntax, but also will learn to infer information about audience and purpose, thus preparing yourself to interpret the complex, often veiled messages you encounter in law, business, and the media.

Research: You will learn to complement the knowledge you glean in class with knowledge you gather on your own through research. In addition to becoming familiar with standard literary reference materials (The Dictionary of Literary Biography, The MLA Bibliography), you will polish several general research skills (paraphrasing, quoting, documenting). 

Communication: In a variety of assignments and other activities, you will begin to master various aspects of writing (argumentation, editing), speaking (intonation, eye contact), and graphic presentation (typography, design).

Technology: To complement these other skills, you will learn to make effective use of technology to find and share information. By the end of the course, you will be able to find material on the World Wide Web, communicate via a listserv and an online forum, and design a Web site. 


  • Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Volume I: Inferno 
  • X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia, Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama 
  • A three-ring binder and seven dividers 
  • Three IBM-formatted diskettes and computer paper


I am committed to helping each of you to achieve your potential as a reader, writer, and thinker. To this end, I will interact with you regularly through class or Internet discussions, as well as two conferences, one during each half of the semester. To make these conferences worthwhile, you should keep all of your course materials--including notes, photocopies, drafts, and final projects--in a three-ring notebook and bring this notebook to every class meeting and conference. You also should print a blank progress report and keep it at the front of this notebook. Throughout the semester, use this blank report to write comments and questions about your work. During each conference, I will look at the materials in your notebook, especially your progress report, and discuss your successes, as well as areas where you can improve. After each conference, I also will fill out a progress report for you and share it with you. You should place this report in your notebook, as well.


The following statement appears in the university's 1999-2001 Catalog: "For all general education classes, instructors will keep attendance records. If a student misses three consecutive class meetings, or misses more classes than the instructor deems advisable, the instructor will notify the Office of Freshman Seminar and Academic Advisement (administrator of the Early Alert program) for appropriate follow-up." 

Be Your Best

You can expect me to be the best teacher I can be. I will work hard to make this course interesting and rewarding. I expect you to be your best, as well. Although this course is no more difficult than most college courses, it demands a lot of work, including reading and writing assignments, library research, and study. I expect you to make these commitments, to turn in neatly typed and carefully edited assignments on time, and--particularly because this is an online course--to check your e-mail and the online forum each weekeday for possible assignments and announcements. For tips on improving your study habits, see Be Your Best.
Spring 2000

Professor Mark Canada
118 Dial, 521-6431
University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Office Hours: 9:15-10:15 MTWRF


Ancient Period

January 10: Computers, Mindset
January 12-19: Book of Genesis, Notes
January 21: Research (library)
January 24-26: Book of Matthew
January 28: Graphics (Dial lab)
January 31: Argument, Drafts (Dial lab)

Medieval Era

February 2-4: Selected poems, Reading
February 7-18: Inferno (First essay on literary term due February 9), Learning


February 21-25: Selected poems
February 28-March 3: Othello


March 6-10: No class (spring break)
March 13: Revision, draft workshop
March 15-17: Selected non-fiction (Second essay on literary term due March 17)


March 20-24: The Castle of Otranto, Proofreading(Web page due March 27)
March 27-31: "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Necklace"

Modern Era

April 3-7: "The Open Boat," "The Turn of the Screw" 
April 10-14: Selected poems
April 17-21: Fences
April 24-28: X-Files, Millenium, Speaking
May 1-5: Portfolio presentations



During class on the day an assignment is due, you must turn in a 9x12 envelope containing the following items in the order listed: Write your name, e-mail address, and telephone number on the outside of this envelope and turn it into me when I request it in class. If you cannot be in class when I collect the assignment, you must notify me in advance. Failure to follow these guidelines may result in an F for the assignment.


Before you submit a final draft of any assignment, please review the following criteria, which I will use in grading each assignment: Note: Each project must be your own work. That is, except for properly cited quotations, every sentence and phrase must be in your own words. All interpretations, except for those properly cited, also must be your own. If you turn in someone else's work, use a source's exact words without placing these words in quotation marks, or use an interpretation you found in a source without giving credit to the source, you may fail this course. You must be prepared to prove that you have done all your own work by showing me your sources and discussing the details of your project with me in conference.

Using a point system, I will assign grades as follows:

Furthermore, when the semester is complete, I will consider some of the material you produce for publication on All American: Literature, History, and Culture, a World Wide Web site that I manage. Thus, by working hard in this course, you not only will learn a great deal about literature, improve your writing and research skills, and practice using new computer technology, but may have one or more electronic publications that you may cite in resumes and portfolios.

Terms (20 points)

In this project, you will write two entries for "Literary Terms," a section of All American: Literature, History, and Culture. Your purpose is to help other readers understand the meaning and use of two literary terms, such as "setting," "anaphora," or "soliloquy." After you sign up for two terms, look them up in your text book and at least one other credible source, such as A Handbook to Literature. Once you are comfortable with each term, write a essay of about 100-200 words with the following components: Each essay is worth 10 points. See the example.

Essays (30 points)

Throughout the semester, I will post questions on the online forum. These questions will give you an opportunity to practice interpreting literature, often by analyzing a character, theme, or motif in a literary work. Please respond to each question by writing a clear essay in which you answer the question and support your answer with evidence from a work we are studying in class. In general, each of these essays will be worth 5 points. You may--and should--refer to your notes, the text, and any other sources you find useful when writing these essays. You must submit your essay to the online forum by the due date I post along with the question.

World Wide Web Page (20 points)

Please visit All American: Literature, History, and Culture, a World Wide Web site that I have created with the help of my students. After you have become familiar with this site's content and format, sign up for an American author, conduct some research on this author, and build a World Wide Web page on him or her. This page must contain the following components: See the example.

Portfolio (30 points)

When you invest a large portion of your time and energy in a class for several weeks, you should expect something more than a grade in return. If you work hard in this course, you can receive a good grade, but you also can receive several other, more lasting and important benefits, including a foundation of knowledge and skills. To strengthen this foundation, you will prepare an online literature portfolio, where you will organize your notes and reflections on literature. This portfolio, which you will submit in the form of a World Wide Web site, must contain the following components: In addition to these required components, you may include anything else that reflects your growth as a reader, writer, and thinker. Instead of taking a final exam, each of you will give a presentation, during which you will show me your portfolio, talk about what you have learned, and answer questions designed to measure your success in meeting the objectives of the course.  Some sample questions appear below: I strongly suggest that you use the study guides I have created for this course, as well as the glossary of literary terms that all of you helped to write, to prepare for your portfolio presentation.  I will use my standard criteria to grade your portfolio and presentation. Thus, your score will depend on the thoroughness, insightfulness, accuracy, clarity, and appearance of your portfolio, as well as the clarity and accuracy of your presentation.

I hope that this portfolio's value to you will outlast this semester and that you will continue to consult it and add to it as you encounter language in the years to come. You may even want to show it to friends, parents, prospective employers, and--someday--grandchildren to demonstrate all that you have learned this semester about literature and life.

© Mark Canada, 2000