Ashton Nichols Syllabus

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Archive for January, 2016

ENGL 101 Small Poems, Big Ideas

English 101                   Small Poems, Big Ideas                        Spring 2016


Required Texts:


Bly, Robert, ed. News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness. Sierra Club.

Negri, Paul, ed. Great Short Poems. Dover.

Nichols, Ashton. Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism: Toward Urbanatural Roosting. Palgrave Macmillan.

Raffel, Burton. How to Read a Poem. Meridian, Penguin.

Shigematsu, Soiku and Gary Snyder. A Zen Forest: Zen Sayings. White Pine Press

(all texts must be in these editions)

–plus numerous handouts or web-linked assignments + bookmarked online dictionary

Course Aims and Learning Goals

Poems are like diamonds and atoms, full of contents under remarkable pressure, often containing astonishing energy in very small spaces. The course will look at short lyric poems that are long on ideas. Our survey of poets will range from Sappho to Shakespeare, through Spenser and Shelley, to Stevens and Sting (a former English teacher). Genres studied will include the ballad, the sonnet, the song, the sestina, the Romantic ode, even haiku and zen phrase poems. We will study dozens of lyric poems over the course of the semester; several short poems will be discussed during each class period. Students will be expected to read as carefully and as closely as is humanly possible. Students will also present poems for class discussion and will write several short essays as well as a final revised essay portfolio. We will learn careful reading, close reading, and will begin to explore the different ways that poems produce meaning under differing conditions. As one of the poems we will study has it : “Words fail. / Mind fails.”

Useful Websites for Small Poems, Big Ideas

 Short Poems
Poetry Daily: A new poem for each day
Haiku for People
Analyzing Poetry (University of Texas)
Great Poems (Academy of American Poets)

 Required Work:

Students will be required to read carefully and come to class prepared to discuss the assigned work. Reading carefully will include reading each short poem several times in order to prepare for class work and discussion. Reading quizzes and in-class writing will contribute to discussion and will be graded. Discussion will form an important part of the evaluation for the course. More than three (3) unexcused absences will be grounds for lowering your grade. Like this attendance policy, the Dickinson College plagiarism policy will be strictly enforced. You must complete all required work in order to pass the course. Grading will be based on the following scale:

Class participation————–10%

Essays (2)———————-60%

Final exam (portfolio)———–30%

Total 100%

The essays (4-5 pages) will ask you to analyze poems with care and attention to details of form and content. The portfolio will ask you to revise one of your essays and two take-home poems, one of your choosing and one of mine. You will find information to help you in the preparation of your essays at:

More details on the essays and portfolio will be provided closer to due dates for those assignments. I am always available during office hours and by appointment to discuss the course, our readings, your writing, or your grade.

Schedule of Reading

JAN. M 25 Small Poems, Big Ideas: our course syllabus as a text and one small poem with big ideas.

H 28 Write out the title and the author of three (3) short poems from any of our texts (Bring all of our texts to class).


FEB. M 1 Shelley (“Oxymandias,” Dover 16-17) Raffel (How to Read Chapter 1) plus Zen Forest 33-39

H 4 Raffel (Chapter 2) plus Shakespeare (Dover, Great Short Poems 1-2) Herrick (Dover 4) and Milton (Dover 5)


M 8  Bradstreet (Dover 6) and Etherege (Dover 7)

H 11  Raffel (Chapter 3) plus Wordsworth (Dover 12-13)


M 15 Blake ( Dover 10-11) and Byron (Dover 15-16) and Keats (Dover 17)

H 18 Raffel (Chapter 4) plus Tennyson (Dover 21-22) and Browning (Dover 23) Whitman (Dover 25) and Dickinson (Dover 27-28)


M 22 Emerson (Dover 19) and Thoreau (Dover 24) Raffel (Chapter 5) Frost (Dover 44-45) and Thomas (Dover 53-54)

H 25 Raffel (Chapter 6) Zen Forest 62-82


M 29 Zen Forest 82-117

MARCH H 3 Essay #1 due at start of class (Workshop)


M 7  Urbanatural Roosting, xiii-67

H 10 Urbanatural Roosting, 69-135





M 21 Urbanatural Roosting, 137-end

H 24 Darwin Outline—A Handout


M 28 NoU 1-20

H 31 NoU 20-31


APRIL M 4 NoU 32-47

H7 NoU 47-53


M11 NoU 54-55 (A “perfect” poem)

H 14 Draft of Essay #2 due at start of class (Workshop)


M 18 Find a poem online you want to discuss in class

H 21 Final Essay #2 due at start of class (Workshop)


M25 NoU 98-99, 192-93, 235-7

H 28 NoU Pick a favorite poem from this collection and explain why it is your favorite (1-2 paragraphs)


MAY M 2 Bring your favorite from any of our texts for discussion

H 5 FINAL CLASS Portfolio Exam Review plus take-home questions



May 13 (Friday) 5:00 p.m.: Last time for Take-Home Final Exam (portfolio) to be submitted.


 Accommodations for Disabilities

In compliance with the Dickinson College policy and equal access laws, I am available to discuss appropriate academic accommodations that may be recommended for students with disabilities. Requests for academic accommodations are to be made during the first three weeks of the semester (except for unusual circumstances) so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Students are required to register with Academic Resource Services in the Advising Office located on the first floor of Biddle House (contact ext. 1080 or ) to verify their eligibility for appropriate accommodations.

Academic Honesty

The Dickinson plagiarism policy will be strictly enforced. This class adheres to the college’s Community Standards, which clearly state: “Students are expected to do their own work. Work submitted in fulfillment of academic assignments and provided on examinations is expected to be original by the student submitting it.” Please review the Community Standards document for more information. Do not hesitate to ask me any questions you may have about citation, documentation, or academic honesty.

Useful Terminology and Quotations

TEXT: n.1. main body of matter in a manuscript, book, newspaper, distinguished from notes, appendixes, headings, illustrations. 2. the actual, original words of an author or speaker. 3. any of the various forms in which a writing exists. [ME, ML text(us) wording, L: structure (of an utterance), texture.]

LITERATURE: n. 1. writing regarded as having permanent worth through its intrinsic excellence. 2. The entire body of writings of a specific language, period, people, etc. 3. the writings dealing with a particular subject: the literature of politics.

POEM: n. 1. A verbal composition designed to convey experiences, ideas, or emotions in a vivid and imaginative way, characterized by the use of language chosen for its sound and suggestive power and by the use of literary techniques such as meter, metaphor, and rhyme. 2. A composition in verse rather than in prose. 3. A literary composition written with an intensity or beauty of language more characteristic of poetry than of prose. 4. A creation, object, or experience having beauty suggestive of poetry. [French poème, from Old French, from Latin poema, from Greek poiema, from poiein, to create.]

What Poets Have Said About Poetry

“’The mind is its own place, and of itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.’ But poetry [. . .] makes us the inhabitants of a world to which the familiar world is a chaos. It reproduces the common universe of which we are poerse, after it has been annihilated in our minds by the recurrence of impressions blunted by reiteration. It justifies the bold and true words of Tasso— “Non merita nome di creatore, se non Iddio ed il Poeta.” –Shelley

“Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. [. . .] It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.” –R. Frost

Poetry “’tis to create, and in creating live / A being more intense, that we endow / With form our fancy, gaining as we give / The life we image, even as I do now. —Lord Byron

“A good poem helps to change the shape and significance of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.” —Dylan Thomas

“I consider myself a poet first and a musician second.” —Bob Dylan


 Professor Ashton Nichols                                             Class meetings: 3-4:15, M H, Kaufman 179                 Office: Kaufman 192                                         Office Hours: T 3-4:30, H 1-3, and by appointment



ENGL 360 Romantic Women, Victorian Men

Course Aims and Learning Goals

This course in 19th-century literature will use gender as a lens through which to view this revolutionary era. How did male authors talk about female subjects in these works? How did female authors invest authority in male and female voices? What current stereotypes about gender can be traced to Romantic and Victorian literary works? Rossetti will claim that goblin men sell a dangerous fruit that women often buy. Hardy will call an out-of-wedlock mother “a pure woman.” Society will damn him for that description: why? We will work to understand the sources of contemporary critical interest in—and scholarly discussion of—these authors and texts from a variety of critical perspectives. Study of these works will provide the basis for independent exploration of these and other Romantic and Victorian writers and prepare English majors for their ENGL 403 & 404 year.

Required Paper Texts

Norton Anthology of English Literature, The Romantic Period, Volume D

Norton Anthology of English Literature, The Victorian Era, Volume E

Frankenstein, The Norton Critical Edition

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Ed. Beth Newman. Bedford St. Martin’s

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Norton Critical Edition.

Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Ed. Scott Elledge. Norton Critical Edition


Websites for Romantic Women, Victorian Men

Romantic Circles

Romantic Chronology

Women of the Romantic Period

A Romantic Natural History

The Victorian Web=

The Victorian Women Writers Project

The Victorian Canon


Course Requirements

Students will be expected to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned readings for each day. Discussion will form an important part of class work, and students will sign up for two (2) discussion introductions based on our weekly reading schedule. Students will be evaluated on the basis of class participation, two critical essays (6-8 pp., 14-16 pp.), and a comprehensive take-home final exam. Class participation will include written exercises and discussion introductions. Two (2) unexcused absences will be grounds for lowering your grade in the course. The first essay will allow you to work closely with a single text; the second will require that you provide a critical context for research into works by a single author. Assignment sheets for both essays will be distributed three weeks before the essay due dates. The comprehensive final exam will be composed entirely of essay questions.


Schedule of Readings and Discussions


26 T   Syllabus as text: men and women, expecting the literary unexpected; 29  F   Blake 112-148

FEBRUARY 2 T Wordsworth 270-292 & 330-342 and Dorothy 402-415; 5 F Coleridge 437-487

9 T Percy Shelley 748-779, 832-855; 12 F Frankenstein

16 T Frankenstein; 19 F Keats 901-951

23 T (Essay #1 due); 26F Jane Eyre 1-123                                                       

MARCH 1 T   Jane Eyre 124-293; 4 F Jane Eyre 293-441 + Jane Eyre, the critics 445-501

8 T Mary Wollstonecraft 194-198 + 208-252; 11  F    Anna Aiken 589-593, Ann Radcliffe 598-601, Felicia Hemans 884-900, Letitia Elizabeth Landon 996-1014


22 T Byron 612-622, 672-725, 742-744, John Clare 869-883; 25 F Great Expectations 9-163

29 T Great Expectations 163-264; APRIL 1F Great Expectations 264-359

5 T “The Woman Question” 1607-1635, Emily Bronte 1328-1338 ; 8 F Tennyson, 1156-1185, John Stuart Mill 1086-1122

12 T Browning 1275-1321, E. B. Browning 1123-1137, 1152-1155; 15 F Arnold 1369-1387, Christina Rossetti 1489-1511

19 T Darwin lecture 1560-1579; 22 F  Tess of the D’Urbervilles 1-119

26 T Tess of the D’Urbervilles 119-219, Hardy’s poems 339-351; 29 F Tess of the D’Urbervilles 219-314

MAY 3 T  Pre-Raphaelites 1463-1470, Morris 1512-1524, Swinburne 1525-1536; 6 F LAST CLASS Final Essay due in class: take-home exam review


MAY 16 Monday–Final Exam due (12:00 NOON, 192 KAUFMAN) 


Questions and Comments About Romantic Women, Victorian Men

My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.  – See more at:

—Mary Wollstonecraft

What makes Jane Eyre such a unique 19th-century heroine? What makes Tess of the Durbeyfield such a typical one?

Jane Eyre unsettled views as to how women should act and behave, suggesting, in Lady Eastlake’s eyes, almost an overthrowing of social order. Unlike the long-suffering heroines in Charlotte Brontë’s early writings, who pine away for the dashing, promiscuous Duke of Zamorna, Jane demands equality and respect. ‘Do you think’, she demands of Rochester, ‘I am an automaton? – a machine without feelings?’. She speaks to him as one spirit to another, ‘equal – as we are’. – See more at:                                                 —Sally Shuttleworth

What was so revolutionary about Jane Eyre as a female heroine in 19th-century fiction?

The two sexes now inhabited what Victorians thought of as ‘separate spheres’, only coming together at breakfast and again at dinner. The ideology of Separate Spheres rested on a definition of the ‘natural’ characteristics of women and men. Women were considered physically weaker yet morally superior to men, which meant that they were best suited to the domestic sphere. Not only was it their job to counterbalance the moral taint of the public sphere in which their husbands laboured all day, they were also preparing the next generation to carry on this way of life.

– See more at:                                          —Kathryn Hughes

Are there still traces of “separate spheres,” or a “double standard,” in relationships between the sexes in 2016?

Calm Lab (if this is your first 300-level class in the English Department)

If this is your first 300-level class in the English Department, you need to make sure that you registered for English 300, the “Critical Approaches and Literary Methods Laboratory,” colloquially known as CALM Lab. Please make sure you have registered for this lab (in the way that you regularly register for a class), enrolling in English 300.

The syllabus for that lab includes two class meetings (in the evening) and written assignments connected to these meetings. If you have questions about the CALM Lab, please contact Chris Bombaro [] in the Waidner-Spahr Library. She is the instructor for the CALM Lab and can answer any questions you may have. I will work closely with her on your CALM lab sessions and will attend at least one of the evening classes.

Academic Honesty

The Dickinson plagiarism policy will be strictly enforced. This class adheres to the college’s Community Standards, which clearly state: “Students are expected to do their own work. Work submitted in fulfillment of academic assignments and provided on examinations is expected to be original by the student submitting it.” Please review the Community Standards document for more information. Please do not hesitate to ask me any questions you may have about citation, documentation, or academic honesty.

 Accommodating Students With Disabilities

 Dickinson College makes reasonable academic accommodations for students with documented disabilities. Students requesting accommodations must make their request and provide appropriate documentation to Disability Services in Biddle House. Because classes change every semester, eligible students must obtain a new accommodation letter from Director Marni Jones every semester and review this letter with their professors so the accommodations can be implemented. The Director of Disability Services is available by appointment to answer questions and discuss any implementation issues you may have. Disability Services proctoring is managed by Susan Frommer at 717-254-8107 or Address general inquiries to Stephanie Anderberg at 717-245-1734 or e-mail


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