English 380. Romancing the Archive: Research Quests and Scholar-Adventurers Spring 2007   
TuTh BC, in P32A, Payne 26                                                            
Professor Suzanne Keen                                                                      skeen@wlu.edu
Office: P 32A                                                                         office hours: TuTh 11-noon, 1-2 pm

To be a literary scholar has been a deadly assignment for a fictional character since George Eliot's Casaubon wasted his life in futile research, blighting the existence of Dorothea Brooke, and failing to produce A Key to All Mythologies . In the mainstream realist tradition, too close an acquaintance with mouldering books, indices, monographs, bibliographies, slips of paper, and footnotes denotes inflexibility, lack of imagination, petty-mindedness, infirmity, and impotence. Romancers depict antiquarians and researchers rather more favorably, but even Walter Scott rarely lingers on the archival frame he creates to surround his historical adventures. Spies, detectives, and the fugitives in romances of pursuit can pause to examine collections of papers only so long as more exciting and violent activities follow without delay. Oddly enough, a scholarly habit of mind and an aptitude for interpreting texts has become an attractive trait of fictional characters in contemporary fiction. This seminar investigates the traits of the fictional scholar-adventurer and studies the quests for Truth that drive romances of the archive. The seminar may be used for either American or later British distribution for majors.

20% participation; 30% (6 combined presentation grades of 5% each); 50% 15 pp. paper. No examination. Click here for guidelines on preparing a tutorial presentation.


Altick, Richard. The Scholar-Adventurers
Byatt, A. S. Possession
Cooley, Martha. The Archivist
Faulkner, William. Go Down, Moses
James, Henry. The Aspern Papers
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon
Rainey, Lawrence, ed. The Annotated Waste Land
Rainey, Lawrence. Revisiting The Waste Land
Tey, Josephine. The Daughter of Time

Recommended (on reserve at Leyburn Library):

Altick, Richard and John J Fenstermaker. The Art of Literary Research
Keen, Suzanne, Romances of the Archive in Contemporary British Fiction
Larkin, Philip. "A Neglected Responsibility: Contemporary Literary Manuscripts." Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982, 98-108.
McGann, Jerome. The Scholar's Art: Literary Studies in a Managed World .

If reading is bracketed [like this], then only the presenter needs to read it.   Otherwise it's required of all classmates, even if you are only responding to another's presentation.

Tu April 24 introduction to the course: James Pennebaker's research

Th April 26 Henry James, "The Aspern Papers" 1-96 Michael
Altick, The Scholar Adventurers 1-85 Han

Tu May 1 William Faulkner, "The Bear" in Go Down, Moses 183-315 Victoria
Altick, The Scholar Adventurers 86-141 James
[Keen, Romances of the Archive , "Identifying Characteristics" Kara]

Th May 3 Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time Kara
Altick, The Scholar Adventurers 142-75 Michael
[Keen, Romances of the Archive , "Custody of the Truth" Han]

Tu May 8 Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
·on the historiography of slave experience and alternate truth(s) Victoria
·on "research as a journey," the quest motif Kara
[Keen, Romances of the Archive , "History and Heritage" James]

Th May 10 Altick, The Scholar Adventurers 176-199 Kara
Rainey, Revisiting The Waste Land ix-70 Michael (read the poem in advance)
[Jim McCue essay, critiquing Rainey: Han]

Tu May 15 T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land 57-74 in Rainey, ed., The Annotated Waste Land
· Introduction (1-54) and 57-9 "Burial of the Dead" Victoria
· 59-62 "A Game of Chess" Michael
· 62-66 "The Fire Sermon" Han
· 66-67 "Death by Water James
·67-70 "What the Thunder Said" Kara

Th May 17 Martha Cooley, The Archivist

· who was the real Emily Hale? James
· what do we need to know about The Four Quartets ? Han
Altick, The Scholar Adventurers 200-48 Victoria

Tu May 22 Altick, The Scholar Adventurers 249-69 Michael
Philip Larkin, "A Neglected Responsibility" (on reserve) Victoria

Th May 24 A. S. Byatt, Possession 1-172
·the embedded fairy tales Han
·Mortimer Cropper Kara
Altick, The Scholar Adventurers 270-318 James

Tu May 29 A. S. Byatt, Possession 173-357
·liminality Michael
·forms of romance Victoria
·the correspondence James

Th May 31 A. S. Byatt, Possession 358-555
Seminar paper due (ungraded presentations from all students on papers).

The fine print:

· Attendance is a vital component of class participation. The only excused absences are those for illness or family tragedies.   Court dates, athletic contests, job fairs, interviews, and early departures for breaks are unexcused absences.   Plan ahead if you know you must take a couple of unexcused absences: we will need to reschedule your oral presentations.

· Participation is a required component of the course and will be rewarded . This is especially true in a tutorial style course.

Specifications for written work:

· Length: A normal double-spaced typed page has between 250 and 300 words on it. Use your word-processor to count the number of words in your paper, or count a page by hand if you are unsure about the length. Overly long essays will fare no better than overly short ones. Do not use an arty font or one that is very small and hard to read. Times 12 is a good choice. This syllabus is in Baskerville 12.

· Staple and number the pages of your papers. Learn how to how to make your word processor create page numbers. A college paper is incomplete without page numbers.

· Keep a hard copy of every paper. Don't trust your disc, hard drive, jump drive, or any W&L server as a back-up.   If I should misplace a paper, I will require you to give me another copy immediately, upon request.

· Drafts: I am always willing to read and comment upon drafts of papers up to a day before the paper deadline.

· Format: Use MLA Style.   That means double space everything. Consult Diana Hacker, A Writer's Reference for a rundown on MLA style, or Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.

·Incompletes: Forget about it.   I don't grant them.


Learning Outcomes : students in the course can expect to improve in the following areas, emphasized by the mission statement of the Washington and Lee University English Department:

·how to write effective, clear, concise, analytical essays driven by arguments about texts;

·how to seek out further knowledge about literary works, authors, and contexts (and document your research appropriately);

·how to detect the cultural assumptions underlying writings from a different time or society, and in the process become aware of your own cultural assumptions;

·how to relate apparently disparate works to one another, and to synthesize ideas that connect them into a tradition or literary period;

·how to ask questions that come from different theoretical perspectives than the ones you already possess;

·how to read closely, with attention to detailed uses of diction, syntax, metaphor, and style, not only in high literary works, but in decoding the stream of language to which modern society exposes everyone in daily life;

·how to work and learn with others, taking literature as a focus for discussion and analysis;

·how to defend your critical judgments against the informed opinions of others;

·how to acknowledge the variety of sources that inform your thinking and writing to adhere to the highest standards of intellectual honesty;

·how to broaden the range of literary texts and performances from which you can derive pleasure and edification in your life beyond college.

Course meetings, oral presentations (evaluated), discussions, and your research paper contribute to the achievement of these goals.


Preparing for a "tutorial" style presentation

Read the assigned material and take notes, responding to any specific prompts or questions that I have posed.   These may require outside research.

You have 15 minutes maximum for your presentation.   I will keep time.   15 minutes goes a lot faster than you think!   If you plan to type out a text that you will read, you should know that a normal typed, 300 word page, takes about 2-21/2 minutes to read at a pace that your listeners will be able to comprehend. If you plan to use this strategy, you should write with oral delivery in mind: that is, sentences should not be overly long with lots of dependent clauses. Another option is to create a one-page handout with an outline of your comments, about which you will speak from memory.   The advantage of this method is freshness and naturalness; the disadvantage is that you may run over without realizing it. I will stop you when you have used your quarter hour. You should rehearse your presentation at least once before you give it!   I will collect your text or outline after the presentation.

Presentations will be on three different kinds of topics: literary history (Altick); primary literary texts (e.g., James, Faulkner, Eliot, Morrison); and literary criticism (Keen, Rainey, others).

When responding to literary history , your main job (other than attending to prompts I've given you) will be to recap the narrative briefly (not more than a paragraph) and explain its significance for students in 2007.   This may mean providing exhibits--such as passage from Wordsworth's 1850 Prelude and a parallel passage from his 1815 version, recovered by literary detectives.   It may mean pointing out biases and omissions in the literary historian's narrative (a 1950 text). It may require that you learn something about the literary figures involved in the narrative, or about how the technology of scholarship has changed in the 57 years since Altick wrote The Scholar-Adventurers .

When responding to a primary literary text , your choices should be guided by the major themes and questions of the course (to which Romances of the Archive serves as a guide). You should respond to specific prompts (check the syllabus), but other than that you have some freedom.   Your presentation should be analytical, not a summary.   It should employ close reading, motif tracing, or elucidation of difficult passages at its center. You may consult secondary sources (that is, literary critics) to answer questions such as this one, about "The Aspern Papers": upon what real Romantic poet does Henry James base his story? Your presentation should not consist simply of recap of critics' views, however; you need to add some original observations and interpretation of your own.

When responding to literary criticism (that is, a secondary source), you need to establish what kind of work it is: scholarly (adding knowledge), genre criticism (identifying type and tradition), interpretation (offering a "reading" of a text), review (evaluation of the merits and demerits of a contribution) or something else entirely.   To assess the argument it makes, you need to summarize the work's thesis.   Thus you first report on what it says, and then you evaluate its persuasiveness, turning some of your primary literary-analytical skills onto the secondary text.   This is good practive for integrating secondary sources into your own arguments in longer essays.