ENGL 1423.E2 - Winter 2015

Reading and Writing Critically

T, Th 3:00 - 4:30
BAC 204

Prof. Richard Cunningham
Office: BAC 431

Course Description

The goal of reading or of writing critically is to arrive at a critical assessment or judgement of something. Yes, we "criticize," but not in the simple sense in which that word is typically used, the simple sense according to which only negative comments are offered. Rather, we will strive to achieve informed understandings of criteria of judgement against which we then gauge the object of our critical attention. In all cases, questions of good and bad, right and wrong, effective and ineffective, caring and insensitive, etc. will have local, regional, and global, physical and metaphysical implications. Only once we have considered such implications can we arrive at an informed and worthwhile critical judgement of something.

The goal of this section of English 1423 is to offer instruction in using explication, definition, and comparison and contrast to critique through reading and writing. Both reading and writing are practices, and as such both must be practiced. To that end we will read poetry, a play, a short story, a novella, a novel, and movies. Students will write one paper in each of the genres of analysis, definition, and comparison and contrast to give them practice using these genres to arrive at informed, critical assessments on a variety of topics.


Disability Statement

Students with disabilities that affect learning:

If you are a student with a documented disability who anticipates needing accommodations in this course, please inform me after you meet with Kathy O'Rourke (902-585-1823) disability.access@acadiau.ca or Abu Kamara (902-585-1291) abu.kamara@acadiau.ca in Accessibility Services, Student Resource Centre, lower level of the Old SUB.


Plagiarism Statement

The following text is quoted from Plagiarism at Acadia - Student Guide:

Plagiarism is a serious academic offence. According to the online Oxford English Dictionary, plagiarism is defined as:

The action or practice of plagiarizing; the wrongful appropriation or purloining, and publication as one's own, of the ideas, or the expression of the ideas (literary, artistic, musical, mechanical, etc.) of another.

Plagiarism also includes:

Stated in simpler terms, plagiarism is stealing. Attempting to pass off others' work as if it were your own is fraud and grounds for academic discipline.

See Plagiarism at Acadia - Student Guide, and also

Plagiarism at Acadia - Faculty Guide


Required Course Textbooks

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Ed. Ross C. Murfin. 3rd ed. Boston and New York: Bedford St. Martin's, 2011.

Findley, Timothy. Not Wanted on the Voyage. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2006.


Assignments, Grading, and Standards


Assignment Description Date Due  Marks 

# 1

Explication paper
In your first paper you will be expected to explicate Marlowe's Dr Faustus in accordance with the model of explication we will have worked out in class by the end of January.

February 12


# 2

Comparison and contrast paper
In this paper you will compare and contrast the novel Heart of Darkness to the movies Apocalypse Now and King Leopold's Ghost. You may choose to write a two-part paper in which you compare and contrast Heart of Darkness to Apocalypse Now based on one set of criteria, and Heart of Darkness to King Leopold's Ghost based on another set. Or you may choose to compare and contrast all three texts each to the other based on a single set of criteria.

March 19


# 3

Definition paper
Using Not Wanted on the Voyage as your base text, define "good." What does it mean to be good? Where does goodness come from? How do we decide what is good? Is goodness open to individual judgement, or must it adhere to (some) social standard(s)? Do the means matter, or only the end?

April 2


Final Exam

Open Book, no computer



Attendance & Participation

Attend every class. Contribute regularly to class discussion. Never be caught ignorant of the text because you have not done the reading.



Grading System

Percent Grade Grade
Grade Definition

94 - 100

A+ 4.00  

87 - 93

A 4.00 Excellent

80 - 86

A- 3.67  

77 - 79

B+ 3.33  

73 - 76

B 3.00 Good

70 - 72

B- 2.67  

67 - 69

C+ 2.33  

63 - 66

C 2.00 Average

60 - 62

C- 1.67  

57 - 59

D+ 1.33  

53 - 56

D 1.00 Pass

50 - 52

D- 0.67  

0 - 49

F 0.00 Fail

All course work must be completed by the end of term.
Extensions may only be granted for documented medical reasons.
Grades submitted ''incomplete'' are recorded as ''F'' (0).

Grading System Source Document


An excellent paper (80 - 100%) will be imaginative, thoughtful, original, well argued, well supported, properly formatted, and virtually error free. There are few excellent papers in any group because they stand out as better than the rest. An excellent paper will engage its own author such that the intelligence behind the paper is evident to the reader.

A good paper (70 - 79%) may have all the qualities of the excellent paper, but not to such an extent. Or a good paper may have most of the qualities of the excellent paper, but not all. Every good paper will communicate to its reader the intelligent engagement of its author.


Course Schedule

Day & Date Text Activity (Due)
T, Jan. 6 N/A Introductions
Th, Jan. 8 Enemy
T, Jan. 13 Enemy Explication
Th, Jan. 15 The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" and "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" Explication
T, Jan. 20 N/A How to Define ||
Last day to add/change course sections for any winter course
Last day to drop a winter course without a "W" appearing on the transcript
Th, Jan. 22 "Holy Sonnet X[: Death be not proud]"
T, Jan. 27 The Tragicall History of Dr. Faustus
Th, Jan. 29 The Tragicall History of Dr. Faustus
T, Feb. 3 The Tragicall History of Dr. Faustus
Th, Feb. 5 "The Story of an Hour"
T, Feb. 10 Heart of Darkness Discussion
Th, Feb. 12 Heart of Darkness Explication paper due
Feb. 17 & 19 N/A Reading Week
T, Feb. 24 Heart of Darkness
Th, Feb. 26 King Leopold's Ghost
T, Mar. 3 King Leopold's Ghost / Apocalypse Now
Th, Mar. 5 Apocalypse Now Comparison and Contrast
T, Mar. 10 Heart of Darkness Comparison and Contrast
Th, Mar. 12 Discussion
T, Mar. 17 Not Wanted on the Voyage
Th, Mar. 19 Not Wanted on the Voyage Comparison and Contrast paper due
T, Mar. 24 Not Wanted on the Voyage
T, Mar. 26 Not Wanted on the Voyage
T, Mar. 31 Review
Th, Apr. 2 Review || Final Paper Due