ENGL 105 - Nonfictional Prose

This course develops thinking, reading, and writing skills by focusing on the literary study of nonfiction. Types of nonfiction studied may include personal essays, travelogues, autobiographies, biographies, science journalism, etc. The course may also include works that challenge the boundary between fiction and nonfiction. Evaluation is conducted through written assignments and in-class examination.


Credits: 3


Hours: 45 (Lecture Hours: 45)


Total Weeks: 15




Non-Course Prerequisites:
English 12 with a B, or equivalent (as defined in additional course comments and policies)




Course Content:
Beginning with the European settlement of North America and ending with late-twentieth-century urbanization, the reading list for this section of English 105 consists primarily of autobiographies, a genre that deals with the purportedly “real” experiences of real people. Throughout, the autobiographical examination of selfhood is deeply linked to place: sometimes reluctantly, sometimes willingly, individuals travel from cities into wilderness environments, undergoing harrowing journeys that become associated with enlightenment. However, as the books span time and cultural circumstances, insights into civilization, nature, and selfhood differ. Ultimately, perhaps, a close reading of the various life stories challenges distinctions between fiction and nonfiction, pointing to narrative constructions of reality—to life as story.
Introduction to the Course
- Opening comments on nonfictional genres such as autobiography and biography
- Optional supplementary reading: Georges Gusdorf’s “The Conditions and Limits of Autobiography” (on Reserve)
- University-level literary criticism as a disciplinary practice: prestige abstractions, close reading, previous studies, theoretical  frameworks, etc.
Colonialism and Mary Rowlandson's Sovereignty and Goodness of God
- Colonialism as a paradigm or world view
- New England Puritanism in an historical context
- The overall structure of Sovereignty and Goodness of God: autobiography as mythology\
- Ideological tensions in Rowlandson's narrative: deconstructing an "official" world view
- Analyses of literary criticism: see David Downing’s “Streams of Scripture Comfort”
- Group analysis of image patterns
- Thematic developments in “Indian captivity narratives” as a genre in North American culture: Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas, etc.
Colonialism and Rich Hobson's Grass Beyond the Mountains
- Popular celebrations of the cowboy as an American icon
- Reading against the grain: a critique of the cowboy myth
- Video: Stale Roles and Tight Buns
- Homosociality in Hobson's narrative
- "Otherness" in Grass Beyond the Mountains: nature, women, and Aboriginal peoples
- Analyses of literary criticism: see J. Gerard Dollar’s “Misogyny in the American Eden”
- Representations of Otherness in contemporary popular culture
Romanticism in Emily Carr's Klee Wyck
- Romanticism as a paradigm or world view
- Survey of Emily Carr's development as a painter
- The overall structure of Carr’s text
- “Ucluelet” and other early chapters as "creative" nonfiction
- Analyses of literary criticism: see an assigned article on Klee Wyck
- Group analyses of assigned chapters
Romanticism and Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild
- Videotaped interview with the author
- The author’s involvement with his subject
- Biography as artifice: narrative design and the "poetics" of biography: plot, figurative language, literary allusions, etc.
Ecocentrism and Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire
- Ecocentrism as a paradigm or world view
- Video: Underground Rebels: Abbey and the global environmental movement
- Eliot Porter's photographic depiction of Glen Canyon in The Place That No One Knew
- Biographical considerations: Abbey's life
- Structure and imagery in Desert Solitaire
- Group analyses of image patterns
- The problem of gender in Abbey's work
- Abbey and postmodernism
Ecocentrism and Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place
- Opening discussion: Williams and Mormonism
- Major symbolic structures throughout the narrative
- Group analyses of image patterns
- Williams and contemporary feminism
- Analyses of literary criticism: Cassandra Kirchner’s “Rethinking Dichotomies in Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge”
- Summary of key concepts throughout the course


Learning Outcomes:
As a first-year literature class, English 105 introduces students to some of the concepts and practices associated with literary criticism at the university level. By the end of term, students will be able to:
- Constructively engage a variety of perspectives through discussion.
- Select a focused research site within a literary text.
- Employ prestige abstractions that are relevant to the disciplinary community (race, class, gender, etc.)
- Situate literary texts within their historical/cultural context
- Develop an argument through “close reading”
- Use various rhetorical strategies (methods of development, paragraph structure, etc.) to present textual details in effective ways
- Engage in effective library research that facilitates the employment of secondary sources
- Provide accurate and consistent attribution by adhering to the MLA Style of documentation
- Demonstrate an understanding of rhetorical structures in published literary criticism, particularly the use of theory
- Engage in effective revision by having an opportunity to revise the first paper or by demonstrating improved skills in the second paper.
The objectives identified above are consistent with the list of “aims” recently developed by the BC English Studies Committee. Moreover, Simon Fraser University recognizes English 105 as a course that meets Writing (W) and Breadth (B) criteria.


Grading System: Letters


Passing Grade: D (50%)


Percentage of Individual Work: 90


Percentage of Group Work: 10


Additional Course Comments:
-Regular attendance is expected.  Students who do not regularly attend class will likely jeopardize their ability to meet assignment criteria.
-Except where otherwise specified, all take-home assignments are due at the beginning of class, on scheduled due-dates.  In fairness to all students, half a letter grade per day will be deducted from late assignments.  This grade penalty may be waived if the instructor determines that lateness is due to justifiable causes.
-While academic writing necessitates a dependence on sources and the employment of other voices, there is an important distinction between these conditions and the academic offence of plagiarism.  We will discuss plagiarism during the semester.
-The potential for intellectual enrichment hinges on our collective readiness to express and challenge opinions in a cooperative spirit of mutual inquiry.  We learn from each other.
-Class discussions will frequently involve representations of race, class, and gender.  These are important considerations in academic culture, involving sensitive issues such as colonial prejudice toward First Nations people, sexual stereotyping, etc.  Students who do not wish to discuss such concepts are advised to withdraw.  Also note that the reading material may be disturbing and/or challenging in other ways.  One text, for example, deals with cancer-related deaths in a family.
ENGL 105 requires English Language Proficiency equivalent to having achieved a grade of B in English 12:
                •             English Literature 12 with a B
                •             English 12 First Peoples with a B
                •             ENGL-050 with a B
                •             ENGL-099 with a B
                •             EASL-060 with a grade of Mastery
                •             University-level placement on the NLC Writing Assessment
                •             Any university-level English course with a "C" grade or higher
                •             IELTS Writing Band with 6.5 or higher (or equivalent)


Textbooks are subject to change.  Please contact the bookstore at your local campus for current book lists.