Scholars 2301.01

Fall 2013

TR 1:40-2:55

DKSN 209




Close Reading of Classic Texts


Dr. Earl Ramsey

Dr. Laura A. Smoller

Office hours: after class and by appointment

Office hours:  T 3:30-4:30; W 10:30-11:30, and by appointment

DKSN 321

SH 604K

tel.  569-3389, 569-3569, 227-8742   

tel.  569-8389





v Familiarity with some of the best known and most revered texts in the western tradition

v Understanding of genre, historical and cultural issues, and literary modes that shape these texts

v Interpretative skills of close reading (meaning of specific passages) and contextual reading (relationship of parts of the text to the whole, as well as the text to its culture)

v Writing and speaking skills, including the construction of an argument with thesis, evidence, and a sense of significance of that argument; practice of the basic skills of grammar, style, and rhetorical design

v Promotion of good work habits, including reading the assignments; coming to class on time regularly, prepared to discuss the material; and becoming engaged with the issues raised in class







AUG 20:  Introduction to the class

AUG 22:  HOMER, Odyssey, Books 1-4


AUG 27: Odyssey, Books 5-8

AUG 29: Odyssey, Books 9-12


SEPT 3: Odyssey, Books 13-16

SEPT 5: Odyssey, Books 17-20


SEPT 10: Odyssey, Books 21-24 (papers dealing with Odyssey due today)

SEPT 12: VIRGIL, Aeneid, Book 1



SEPT 17: Aeneid, Books 2-4

SEPT 19 : Aeneid, Books 5-6


SEPT 24: Aeneid, Books 7-9

SEPT 26: Aeneid, Boods 10-12 (papers dealing with Aeneid due today)


OCT 1: AUGUSTNE, Confessions, Books 1-2

OCT 3: Confessions, Books 3-6


OCT 8: Confessions, Books 7-9

OCT 10: Confessions, Books 10-13 (papers dealing with Confessions due today)


OCT 15: Fall break

OCT 17: MARIE DE FRANCE, Bisclavret


OCT 22: Bisclavret (papers dealing with Bisclavret due today)

OCT 24: DANTE, Inferno, Cantos I-IV


OCT 29: Inferno, Cantos V-X

OCT 31: Inferno, Cantos XI-XVI


NOV 5: Inferno, Cantos XVII-XXII

NOV 7: Inferno, Cantos XXIII-XXVIII


NOV 12: Inferno, Cantos XXIX-XXXIV (papers dealing with Inferno due today)

NOV 14: MONTAIGNE, Essays, ŇTo the ReaderÓ; I, 1; II, 1


NOV 19: Essays, II, 18

NOV 21: Essays, III, 2


NOV 26: Essays, III, 2; III, 5

NOV 22: Thanksgiving holiday


DEC 3: Essays, III, 5

DEC 5: Essays, Conclusion



DEC 10: Papers dealing with Essays due









v Class attendance/participation (20%)

v Weekly reading responses (except for Thankgiving week) (20%)

v Three papers (20% each; 60% total)


You will be expected to choose a brief passage from each dayŐs reading assignment and be ready to discuss in class its importance to the work being read that day.


Your papers may cover any of the texts read in the course individually, in which case the paper is due on the last day the text is being discussed, or may bring together two of our texts, in which case the paper is due on the final day of discussion of the later work.





Each Thursday in class (with the exception of Thanksgiving), you will hand in a written response to the readings for the week (200-500 words, Times or Times New Roman, double spaced, with standard margins).  The reading response should include: 1) a brief initial reponse to the material read for the week; 2) an analytical response to all or part of that reading; and 3) appropriate quotations from the text to back up your points.  Your analytical response might take the form of an extended commentary on a single short passage (close reading, perhaps of one of the passages you have chosen to share in class), a comparison with another text from the course (or another passage in the same work), or an exploration of a theme of interest raised in the weekŐs reading.   Your response thus ŇprovesÓ that you have done the reading and also serves as a dry run for a possible paper on the text.





Each of your three papers written in the course should be 1500-2000 words (and should be word-processed, Times or Times New Roman, double spaced, with standard margins).    All paper topics must be approved by one of the instructors in advance.


You may rewrite one of the first two papers; the revisions will be due ten calendar days after the paper is returned in class.  If you wish to rewrite a paper, you must first schedule a conference with either of the instructors.


Possible ideas for papers:

v Close reading of a single passage:  In such a paper, you "download" or "unpack" a significant passage as thoroughly as possible, then situate it in terms of the work as a whole. The paperŐs thesis should arise out of the text passage, as contextualized by related issues/themes in the whole work.

v Comparison of different structural components of the same work:  In such a paper, you compare some element present in, say two cantos of the Inferno or two books of VirgilŐs Aeneid

v Exploration of a single theme or device within a single work:  In such a paper you trace the authorŐs treatment of a single theme throughout the work (e.g., DanteŐs comments on language and poetry, or the function of clothing in Bisclavret) or explore the authorŐs use of a literary device (e.g., invocations of the muses in The Odyssey).

v Consideration of one authorŐs appropriations of an earlier work:  In such a paper you examine the way in which the author of a later text explicitly and implicitly nods to, utilizes, appropriates, or reworks aspects an earlier text (e.g., DanteŐs appropriation of VirgilŐs  Aeneid).


If you choose to write on Montaigne, you will be asked to analyze the form of a single essay not among those discussed in class.




Turn in two copies of all papers (one each for Ramsey and Smoller). Papers should be word-processed, in Times or Times New Roman font, double-spaced (indented quotes must be single-spaced), with standard margins. Use a paper clip or staple to secure the pages. Number the pages, beginning with page 2 of the essay text.  (Do not count the cover sheet as page 1.) Papers must have titles.


Check the MLA handbook for proper form of block quotes (prose and poetry) and in-text citations (for the Odyssey, for example, give book and lines:  3.511-18 = Book 3, lines 511 through 518).  (For a quick overview, see  Tuck in-text citations inside the first mark of punctuation following the quote. In the introduction of your paper, identify the edition and translator of the text in lieu of a Works Cited page.


Papers should be "finished" when handed in. They should be neat, but it is better to make corrections by hand (within reason) than to ignore errors.


On revisions, turn in the old paper (with the instructorŐs comments) with the new one.


Late Work:  We do not accept late assignments.





Students must use the editions and translations of the texts available for purchase in the UALR bookstore and must bring the text under discussion to each class.


v Homer, The Odyssey (transl. Fagles). Penguin. ISBN 9780140268867.

v Virgil, The Aeneid (transl. Fitzgerald). Random/Vintage. ISBN 9780679413356.

v Augustine, The Confessions (trans. Sheed).  Hackett.  ISBN 9780872208162.

v Marie de France, Bisclavret (trans. Hanning and Ferrante).  Electronic reserve on Blackboard.

v Dante, The Inferno (transl. Hollander and Hollander). Random. ISBN 9780385496988.

v Montaigne, Complete Essays (trans. Frame).  Stanford.  ISBN 9780804704861.





Your success in this class is important to us, and it is the policy and practice of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to create inclusive learning environments consistent with federal and state law. If you have a documented disability (or need to have a disability documented), and need an accommodation, please contact me privately as soon as possible, so that we can discuss with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) how to meet your specific needs and the requirements of the course. The DRC offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process among you, your instructor(s) and the DRC. Thus, if you have a disability, please contact me and/or the DRC, at 501-569-3143 (V/TTY) or 501-683-7629 (VP). For more information, please visit the DRC website at