Spring 2020 - ENGL 111W J100

Literary Classics in English (3)

Class Number: 1395

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 6 – Apr 9, 2020: Thu, 5:30–7:20 p.m.



Examines literary “classics”, variously defined, apprehending them both on their own terms and within larger critical conversations. May incorporate the comparative study of work in related artistic fields and engage relevant media trends. Includes attention to writing skills. Students with credit for ENGL 101W may not take this course for further credit. Writing/Breadth-Humanities.


Doubling Down on the Classics

Often, when people think of literary “classics,” they think of serious, lengthy books written by dead people; books that are difficult to understand but important and well-written (according to standards established by powerful institutions); books that experts prescribe like cultural vitamins to make you “well-read.” Yet books do not become touchstones in our culture by accident, and we do not consume them because they are good for our intellectual and cultural health. They resonate. This class will examine various twentieth-century literary texts that have somehow caught the public and academic imagination and have been recognized as “classics” (though they all depart in some way from the expectations listed above).

What characterizes all of the classics in this course is that each text responds in significant ways to at least one other text thought to be a classic, so the class learns about double the classics: James Joyce superimposes 1904 Dublin over classical Greek landscapes from Homer's epic The Odyssey; Jean Rhys thinks outside the English attic of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre; Tom Stoppard rewrites Hamlet from the point of view of two of Hamlet’s frenemies while Aime Cesaire recreates Shakespeare’s The Tempest from a postcolonial perspective focusing on race and slavery; Virginia Woolf review the English literary landscape with specific reference to women authors (and their absence); and Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir explores her parents through the lenses of Shakespeare, Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde, and others. These books' relationships with classic works may include humble veneration, inspired reworking, and/or outright criticism. The classics in this course provide case studies to examine how and why classics become resonant touchstones for writers.


Students will learn to apply principles of rhetoric and critical analysis in response to selected readings. They will develop their writing skills through exploratory writing, academic argument, and critical analyses of literary texts.  

A student who successfully completes the course will have reliably demonstrated the ability to:
- Utilize a university-level writing process employing pre-writing, drafting, and revising strategies
- Plan, analyze, revise, and edit writing in response to instructor and peer feedback
- Generate, organize, and synthesize ideas
- Apply principles of unity, coherence, and emphasis in academic writing
- Observe the grammatical and stylistic conventions of scholarly prose in English
- Integrate textual evidence to support generalizations
- Analyze, and interpret, and respond critically to literature through close reading
- Evaluate relevance, purpose, and effectiveness of different approaches to literature
- Use MLA documentation as appropriate with quotations and paraphrase
- Examine structure, logic, style, and themes in literary texts
- Respond critically to, analyze, and interpret texts
- Discuss and debate texts  

Creative thinking and problem-solving skills
- analyzing and drawing inferences from language 
- evaluating relevance, purpose, and effectiveness of different approaches to writing and reading

Oral skills
- asking questions in small and large groups
- listening actively and giving feedback
- participating in classroom discussions

Interpersonal and teamwork skills
- working productively in large and small groups
- offering, listening to, and responding appropriately to peer contributions

Personal management skills
- scheduling and completing tasks to deadline

Writing skills
- producing written work that is clear, logically ordered, and focused
- producing unified and coherent paragraphs
- producing grammatically correct and effective sentences
- writing essays that use evidence to defend a thesis
- gathering information from sources and presenting that information effectively
- practicing editing and revising strategies
- revising work in response to feedback

Reading & Information skills
- reading closely for information, argument, and rhetoric
- drawing inferences from various texts
- analyzing and responding critically to a variety of texts

Technological skills
- navigating and using the resources of a LMS (online learning management system)


  • Attendance and Participation 15%
  • Quiz 5%
  • Written Presentation (2 pages) 10%
  • Revision and Expansion of Presentation (2-3 pages) 10%
  • Essay Proposal (2 pages) 10%
  • Essay (5-6 pages) 25%
  • Final Exam 25%


Attendance the first week is strongly recommeded. Tutorials will be held the first week of classes.



Tom Stoppard Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Aime Cesaire A Tempest

Alison Bechdel Fun Home

Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea

Virginia Woolf A Room of One's Own

Selected works by James Joyce, Sylvia Plath, and Jorge Luis Borges will be made available to students on Canvas.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html