Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Grad level teaching bleg: journal articles wanted

Hey all you literature types, across the historical spectrum, I need your help.

In my 'intro to grad school and literary research' class in the fall, I want to do a couple of practical and analytical assignments focused on journal articles. Indeed, the central theme for the class is the journal article -- what it does, what it's for, who reads and writes one, how to model graduate level papers on one, what rhetorical moves it makes, etc.

I could choose a handful of articles from medieval and early modern studies that I know, but that might get kind of dull, especially if we revisit the same articles over the course of the semester. I'd rather have a small collection of articles from across English and American literary studies, even if it means new reading for me. At least that will keep things interesting and allow me to make different assignments with different articles, and allow students some variety in their choices.

So here's where I'm asking for your assistance, oh wise and learned readers. Help me put together a collection of journal articles that I can use again and again in my intro to literary research class. Here are the criteria:

  • I prefer more recent articles (last 10-15 years, depending on how fast your field moves), but "classic" articles that everyone still cites and that are still part of the conventional wisdom are good, too.
  • The literary text(s) addressed should be commonly anthologized, taught, and read works -- not just from a specialist point of view, but from a generalist one. That way, if the student hasn't read it, at least they'll recognize it and likely recognize that they should read it.
    • For example, in late medieval, I'd likely go for an article on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight over Sir Orfeo, and definitely over Havelok the Dane, as much as I love them all (and might teach all in a medieval lit. class). Or in Shakespeare, I'd choose Hamlet over Titus Andronicus, even though, like Bardiac, I find the latter utterly fascinating.
  • The articles should be, on some level, "must read" works. Either they've been greatly influential, or you think they exemplify the best in a lucid and persuasive argument, or you think they could show graduate students how new critical and scholarly interventions can still be made in long-held critical conversations.
  • The authors need not be superstars.
  • Don't shy from articles that are difficult in their assumptions about their audience's knowledge of either theory or literary-historical contexts. Students have to learn how to deal with the unknown whenever they're doing their own research, so they might as well deal with it with these articles.
  • I prefer journal articles to essays in collections, but I won't rule out the latter. But since I'd like essays that are complete in and of themselves, I am ruling out chapters of monographs.
  • Coverage of every period and movement in English and American literature isn't necessarily the goal. A range of choices is enough. As long as it's not all medieval and early modern Brit Lit (as it would likely be if I were doing this alone), that's OK.
So tell me what your favorite articles on well-known works are. And if you don't know the whole citation, if you can give me enough to find it in the MLA bibliography, that's OK.


JM said...

You're going to look at this and say "that doesn't look like it meets my criteria," but hear me out.

The article:
Pizer, Donald. "Bad Critical Writing." Philosophy and Literature 22.1 (1998) 69-82.

Pizer opens his article by asking "Why do we so often have to put up with terrible prose seeking to pass as legitimate expression?" and goes on to answer it. The articles he uses as his examples need not have been read, and knowledge about American literature (and specifically realism and naturalism) isn't necessary either.

Give it a look-see. I can imagine using it as a way into an analytical assignment/response to/presentation of/etc another article. It hasn't been terribly long since I took the type of course you're describing, and I would have liked to have seen this article in that class.

Dr. Virago said...

Ooh! Thanks! That looks really useful for the course in general!

Prof. de Breeze said...

I imagine you've already thought about most of the articles I would recommend, but let me put in a plug, regardless: for Beowulf, I think John Leyerle's "The Interlace Structure of Beowulf" University of Toronto Quarterly (1967):1-17 fits the description of "classic," in that it makes a clear, compelling, and significant argument that is also accessible to non-specialists (I've even taught it in my sophomore survey classes). It may be less influential than, say, Tolkien's "Monsters and the Critics," but it's a better illustration of the journal article form, in my opinion at least.

Dr. Virago said...

Prof de Breeze -- I was thinking of using Jane Chance's article on G's Mother and the structure of the poem, but Leyerle's might be better. Thanks for bringing it up!

negativecapability said...

I teach this one a lot:

Bewell, "An Issue of Monstrous Desire: Frankenstein and Obstetrics." Yale Journal of Criticism. (1988): 104-128

It's a good example of a certain kind of historicism that's still popular in romanticism these days, and it it he cites a lot of the "classic" F-stein articles.

Dr. Virago said...

NegCap -- Ooh, that sounds like a goody! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Steven C. Weisenburger, "Errant Narrative and The Color Purple," The Journal of Narrative Technique 19.3(1989): 257-275. It's a remarkable essay that places The Color Purple in political and historical context for the mid 1980s to explain how a novel rife with temporal errors could go unnoticed by prize committees and screenwriters.

BTW, you might be interested in the essays in a recent book edited by Ann Hawkins, Teaching Bibliography, Textual Criticism and Book History -- it's like an MLA approaches for teaching volume for teachers of Methods of Research.

Best wishes -- and perhaps I'll see you at Swansea.

highlyeccentric said...

Since you mentioned SGGK, I recently read a (fairly hefty) article thereon, which was not only interesting in its own right, but actually managed to make Theory make sense for me.

It's David L. Boyd's 'Sodomy, Misogyny and Displacement: Occluding Queer Desire In SGGK', in the journal Arthuriana. Can't remember exactly which issue, though.

The logic of the article is all clearly laid out, and works progressively from step to step, bringing in and explaining the theoretical basis as he uses it. He ties himself in with key feminist and queer theory studies on SGGK, and locates each piece he uses in the context of his own study.

As well as illuminating for me the usefulness of theory, Boyd's article was also the point in my research where all the various SGGK literature I've read so far started to connect together into a coherent framework. I'm not sure if that's a result of him, or just if it's that stage in semester, but either way, it's the best article I've read so far.

k8 said...

Interested in anything comp/rhet-like? If so, with more of a comp focus or a rhet focus?

Dr. Virago said...

Thanks Anon and HighlyEccentric! Those look great!

And K8 -- The students have to start a critical history of a work of literature in this class, which they will revised and expand for part of their culminating MA portfolio, so I'd intended to stick to lit. crit. *However* I might find use for a rhet/comp article in another place in the course. I think the rhet side would be more useful to me than the comp side.

Morganlf said...

Kate Hayles' work on electronic literature and media theory would definitely work well in your class.

Two articles come to mind:

Postmodern Parataxis: Embodied Texts, Weightless Information, from American Literary History (JSTOR Link)

Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers in October (JSTOR link.)

Morganlf said...

And for film studies (especially with a feminist bent) try:

Mary Ann Doane's Woman's Stake: Filming the Female Body, in October (JSTOR link)

Tanya Modleski's Tania Modleski's "Time and Desire in the Woman's Film" (Cinema Journal, Spring 1984).

Both are well-argued and well-respected.

Dr. Virago said...

Morgan - Although those articles aren't quite what I had in mind for this particular part of the course, I think those could form a very useful segment on "literary studies without literature" or on the breadth of "literary" research and studies today. So thanks!

The reasons why I'm asking for articles on relatively "canonical" texts are manifold, but part of is that for the purposes of the class and the program, students have to do a critical history on something widely studied and variously interpreted. So I wanted some of the articles to point towards how to build an understanding of a critical history, and how individual articles invoke part, if not all, of a text's critical history.

That said, I do want students to know that "canonical" texts and "readings" of them aren't the only subject of our study! So your suggestions are very useful indeed!

Morganlf said...

Ahhhh...my mind immediately jumped to articles that have become canonical in newer fields (like e-lit).

k8 said...

I figured - it sounded more like an intro to literary studies course. If you have time, please include a section/day to talk about copyright issues - most grad students (and professors) I know are woefully ignorant of issues of copyright, creative commons, the SPARC Addendum, what it means to sign away your copyright to a journal, etc.

These citations might be completely wrong for the course,but I think they can be interesting for both comp/rhet and literary studies (and yes, I realize I went a little crazy):

Ede, Lisa, and Andrea A. Lunsford. "Collaboration and Concepts of Authorship." PMLA 116 (2001): 354-369.

Worsham, “The Question Concerning Invention: Hermeneutics and the Genesis of Writing” (in Pre/Text 8 [1987]: 197-244)

Powell, Malea. "Rhetorics of Survivance: How American Indians Use Writing." College Composition and Communication 53:3 (February 2002): 396-434.

Brooke, Collin Gifford. "Forgetting to Be (Post)Human: Media and Memory in a Kairotic Age." JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory 20.4 (Fall 2000): 775-795.

Radway, Janice. "Research Universities, Periodical Publication, and the Circulation of Professional Expertise: On the Significance of Middlebrow Authority." Critical Inquiry 31.1 (Fall 2004): 203-228.

McHenry, Elizabeth, and Shirley Brice Heath. "The Literate and the Literary: African-American Readers as Writers—1830-1940." Written Communication 11.4 (October 1994).

Mao, LuMing. "Rhetorical Borderlands: Chinese American Rhetoric in the Making." College Composition and Communication 56.3 (Feb. 2005): 426-469.

Woodmansee, Martha, and Peter Jaszi. "The Law of Texts: Copyright in the Academy." College English 57.7 (November 1995): 769-87

Brandt, Deborah. "Sponsors of Literacy." College Composition and Communication 49.2 (May 1998): 165-185.

Dr. Virago said...

K8 -- Ooh, those all look so interesting and useful for the course in general! Yay! Thanks!

And Morgan -- no worries! Like I said, I may find a place for those articles anyway. I often do a day on a kind of "is *this* literary studies?" topic -- last year I used the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles! -- and so e-lit might be a way for me to branch out. Heck, maybe I should combine the AS Chron with e-lit!

Karl Steel said...

I'll join DV in the thank you. I'm also teaching a 'welcome to graduate work/developing your thesis' course this Fall, and I will be returning to this thread come August, when I'm slapping together a syllabus. So, thanks! And thanks to DV for the blegging!

Narya said...

Two meta-recommendations:
First, this article, which is definitely meta--but it talks about how language shapes knowledge and self-knowledge, and vice versa.

Second, this guy's blog may be useful. He does the medieval lit, and he also does Tolkien.