ENGL 102 - Reading the Theater

This course is designed as a broad survey of dramatic literature from ancient Greece to contemporary stages, exploring texts in terms of both literary analysis and performance theory. It’s also intended as an introduction to college writing – in terms of style, form, and the conventions of academic prose.

The class will be divided into three units: critical interpretation, social engagement, and adaptation. Each unit will pull from a variety of time periods, inviting discussion about historical context and cultural interpretations, as well as calling attention to structural shifts in the dramatic form. Questions of race, class, gender, and form will be integral across all three units, but in the first unit we’ll focus closely on how these questions play out in critical interpretations of plays by Shakespeare and Henrik Ibsen. The second unit will explore the attitudes of various dramatists regarding the role of drama/art in society. The third unit will focus on adaptations of older texts, thinking about questions of authorial and directorial interpretation.

Each unit is designed to build on and incorporate material from the previous units, as are each of the major writing assignments. No expertise in literary criticism or theater will be presumed. The broad goals of this course will be to introduce you to the basic tools of literary analysis and to develop your own critical writing.

Learning Objectives

If we’ve all done our jobs (y’all as engaged students and me as an effective professor) by the end of this semester, you should be able to:

  • Read carefully and critically (i.e. close read)
  • Participate in and contribute meaningfully to classroom discussion
  • Analyze texts from formal, historical, and cultural standpoints
  • Conduct library and web-based research and document your sources
  • Edit and proofread your own and others’ prose
  • Produce a clean, efficient academic writing style
  • Construct and organize effective arguments

Required Texts

 “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (Third Edition) by Gerald Graff & Cathy Birkenstein, Norton.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Norton Critical Edition

Medea by Euripides, Dover Thrift Edition, edited by Rex Warner

Ibsen: Four Major Plays by Henrik Ibsen, translated by James McFarlane and Jens Arup, Oxford World’s Classics.

All other readings (or watchings, as will be the case with various videos we’re likely to explore) will be made available to you in advance of the due date – either electronically in the course wiki or hard copies handed out in class.

Grading and Assessment

Rather than a traditional model of grading that generates a complex math equation for how much each piece of work is worth in the overall pie chart of coursework, all major assignments are created equal in this class (in a certain sense). Your grade will be based on the work you accomplish and the progress you demonstrate rather than my subjective evaluation of the “quality” of your writing (for the most part – you’ll have to meet basic quality standards).

Below, I provide detailed and clear expectations for what is required to obtain each letter grade the class. This is the “contract” by which we will hold each other accountable. Regardless of strengths or weaknesses as writers, you can get the grade you want by simply completing the required assignments on time. This means you can do as much or as little work as you like up to the level of the grade you want. You’ll collect all of your work into a final portfolio, and your final grade will be based on the work you show in that portfolio.

Overview of major assignments:

  • Initial Reflection – an informal writing assignment reflecting on your relationship to writing, reading, literature, and theater
  • Hamlet Slow Reading Portfolio – a Pathbrite portfolio containing multiple components to generate a “slow” reading of a monologue from Hamlet
  • Academic Article Breakdown – a multimodal assignment that summarizes/deconstructs the argument(s) of an academic article
  • Short Paper 1 – a 2-3 page paper making a claim about Medea
  • Short Paper 2 – a 2-3 page paper making a claim about your adaptation of choice
  • Research Dossier and Presentation – your final research project for the course in which you research an adaptation and present on it to the class
  • Final Portfolio and Reflection – collection of your work for the class and a 3-5 page reflection paper tracking your growth as a reader/writer

Daily/weekly assignments (blogging):

To keep us on track with reading assignments and to ensure we have ideas to discuss, you’ll be writing blog posts that reflect on/respond to the reading. You’ll be split into two groups, one group will be responsible for posting for Tuesdays, the other group responsible for posting for Thursdays. On the day that you aren’t posting, you’ll be expected to read and comment on at least 3 of your peers’ posts. We’ll all post to a shared Wordpress site that will be private – to keep our thoughts and commentary shared only within the class.

To obtain an A in the course, you must:

  • Complete* all major assignments on time
  • Produce revisions of at least two major assignments
  • Complete 9 blog posts
  • Consistently provide thoughtful commentary on classmates’ posts

To obtain a B in the course, you must:

  • Complete* all major assignments on time
  • Complete 7 blog posts
  • Consistently provide thoughtful commentary on classmates’ posts

To obtain a C in the course, you must:

  • Complete* the Initial Reflection, the Hamlet Portfolio, the Academic Article Breakdown, one of the two short papers, the Research Dossier and Presentation, and the Final Portfolio and Reflection
  • Complete 6 blog posts
  • Consistently provide commentary on classmates’ posts

*If any of the work you turn in fails to meet the minimum expectations of the assignment, you will be notified and required to revise it to meet the minimum standards. It will not be considered “complete” until it has been revised (see revision policy below). Revisions to meet basic assignment expectations do not count toward the revisions required for an A.


While the criteria above clearly outline the requirements/expectations for each full letter grade, plus/minuses will be determined by your participation in class and online, and the quality of the work submitted. Poor participation, a bad attitude, being disrespectful to me or your classmates (in person or online), unhelpful feedback in peer reviews, or consistently vapid comments on your classmates’ blogs will result in a minus. In contrast, active participation, helpful contributions and feedback, thoughtful commentary, and a general attitude of willingness to learn will result in a plus.

Revision Policy

Regardless of your level of experience, one of my primary pedagogical goals for the course is to teach you writing as a process. With that in mind, revision (in the form of peer review) is a built-in component of some assignments, and to obtain an A, you will have to practice revision.

Keep in mind that “revision” does not mean merely correcting mistakes. To have effectively revised a paper is to have re-envisioned it: to reconsider structure (both global and local); to weed out extraneous claims and clauses; to improve the flow of ideas and sentences; to provide additional support for weaker arguments. 

If you plan to revise an assignment (either to achieve an A in the class or because your initial submission failed to meet expectations), you must make an appointment to come speak with me prior to completing the revisions. Together, we’ll map out a revision plan and I’ll answer any questions.

Once you’ve met with me, you can complete your revisions. When you resubmit the work, you’ll also include a written explanation of the changes you made.

Revisions are due two weeks from the date I provide you with my comments. I’ll make note of these due dates on the course schedule.

Late Work

I do not accept late work. I strongly encourage you to turn in a polished, complete version of your assignment by the due date. However, all that is required is that you turn in something, however rough, by the due date. It could be an outline, a paragraph, a rough draft, but it has to be some version of what will become your paper/assignment. If you fail to turn in anything by the due date for any major assignment without arranging for an extension at least 24 hours in advance of the due date, you will no longer be eligible for a grade above a C. Please turn something in. If your work is incomplete, and you know if fails to meet the basic expectations, please notify me when you submit it. I will then provide feedback with revision/completion in mind.


You are responsible for making your own decisions regarding attendance. I do not excuse absences, but I do like to be informed about your well-being. If an unavoidable problem prevents you from attending class, please contact me as soon as possible, preferably ahead of time, to let me know.

Given the nature of the participation component of the class, multiple absences will certainly have a negative impact on your grade. If you miss more than two full weeks of class, you will be withdrawn from the course (WP/WF as is appropriate). In other words, your fifth (5) absence will prevent you from receiving credit for the course.

When you must miss a class, you are responsible for getting notes and assignments from a classmate.

If you show up to class without having read or without a hard copy of the text we have read for the day, you will be considered unprepared and therefore absent.

Tardy Policy

Class starts promptly at 8:00 am. That means you should be in your seat, with your text, awake, and prepared to contribute by 7:59 am. I know it’s early, but this is the ride you signed up for. And I’ll be holding myself to the same standards.

Late arrival (8:01 am or thereafter) will count as tardy (half an absence). Sometimes alarms don’t go off, etc., I know. So everyone gets one free pass for the semester. But you only get one. On the second tardy, you can make up for it by bringing donuts/breakfast for the whole class the next day. But by tardy number three, you’re digging yourself an irrevocable absence hole. Arrival after 8:20 am (or without your text) will count as a full absence – no matter what. Free pass doesn’t apply.

Since I don’t have an attendance policy, but fairness is important to me – if I’m ever late to class or if I have to cancel class with less than 12 hours’ notice, I will bring breakfast/donuts to class the next day.

Academic Integrity

Wofford has a strict and clear honor code, and it applies to all work done for this class. Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Although we will discuss it in class, you are expected to understand what plagiarism is at this point in your college career. Regardless of your intentions, any suspicion or evidence of plagiarism or academic dishonesty will be remanded to the honor council.

For further reading on Wofford’s policies, please refer to the following: http://bit.ly/woffordhonor

Use of Electronics

You are free to use a laptop or tablet in class if that is how you prefer to interact with text. Please do not use your electronics for non-class purposes. In a class this small, I will definitely notice, and violations will affect your grade. Prolonged use may count as an absence. 

I will likely be communicating with you via email with some regularity. Email is an official means of communication at Wofford, and you are expected to check it daily.

I make a concerted effort to respond to all emails within 24 hours. I typically only answer email between 9AM and 5PM, so if you send an email after hours, I’ll get to it the next day. Weekend response times are likely to be longer. 

Conferences/Help Beyond Class Time
I'm happy to talk with you about your work at any stage of the writing process. If my office hours don't work for you, please email me to set up an appointment. If you would like feedback on a draft, I ask that you come talk to me in person and that you email me the draft ahead of time. I will read it (time permitting) before our meeting and have questions and comments prepared. 


Wofford College seeks to provide disabled students with reasonable accommodations needed to ensure equal access to the programs and activities of the college. Support for students with special needs is coordinated through Wofford College Wellness Center/ Accessibility Services. Please let me know how I can best assist you.

Further information can be found at the following: http://bit.ly/woffordaccessibility

Learning Differences
I expect that students will have different learning styles. For example, you may prefer to process information through reading, so some of our discussion may be difficult to absorb. Please talk to me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them. If you do not have a documented disability, remember that other support services, including the Writing Center and library services, are available to all students. I’m also on a mission to design inclusive assignments and activities, so if you have learning needs I haven’t anticipated, let me know, and I’ll see what I can do.