STUDIES IN ORAL AND WRITTEN LITERATURE OF APPALACHIA
ENG 648. Studies in Oral and Written Literature of Appalachia
Three hours lecture (3).
Study of specified genre of oral or written Appalachian literature, or a combination of genres from both types of Appalachian literature to show cross influences. Genre selections, which may vary from term to term, include folktale or ballad in oral literature, or perhaps a combination of ballad and poetry. With a different subheading, may be taken twice for credit.
Detailed Description of Content of Course
The specific content varies with each offering of the course, depending on the particular topic ("subheading") designated by the instructor. Designated topics focus on significant scholarly issues and concerns relevant to the literature and folklore of the Appalachian region. Such topics might include thematic concerns (male-female relationships in written literature or the recurrence of the supernatural "helper" in the folktale); generic concerns (the development of the novel: Murfree, Fox, Still, Arnow, or the evolution of the ballad from traditional British to broadside ballad to Native American); linguistic concerns (Appalachian dialect); cultural, social, political or historical issues, (stereotyping, cultural intervention or the politics of culture, industrialization, immigration and settlement patterns and linkages to the motherlands, or the role of women); source studies (motif and tale type indexes); studies of the influence of one author upon another writer or group of writers (Murfree and Fox, or collections of oral stories and Richard Chase); or other problems of literary history (possible textual piracy of Emma Bell Miles' writing by the MacGowan sisters); a particular critical approach to selected literary works of the period (a feminist approach to Arnow's novels, or to Dykeman's writing); an intensive study of a single major work or a selected body of works (Lee Smith's novels or traditional balladry of Southwest Virginia).
Close reading of primary texts is assigned in conjunction with the designated topic and extensive reading in relevant secondary texts, including those providing historical, cultural, social and political backgrounds and contexts as well as those providing a variety of critical and theoretical approaches to the literature of the period.
Detailed Description of Conduct of Course
The course is conducted as a seminar, directed by a member of the English Department's graduate faculty with expertise in the literature and folklore of Appalachia and whose role is essentially that of consultant. The seminar meets weekly. These meetings are most often conducted by one or more seminar participants who may lead discussion of assigned readings or field experiences, offering their own interpretations and critical analyses as well as raising questions, concerns and/or problems posed by the readings and field experiences; engage other seminar participants in debate over controversial issues; report on readings in secondary texts; explore potential topics for further research; share drafts of papers for peer review and response; or make formal presentations of finished papers.
While seminar meetings afford students the opportunity to take responsibility for much of their learning and to engage both with their peers and with the instructor in the kind of scholarly discourse characteristic of the discipline, the greatest emphasis is on independent study and research done outside the classroom. In consultation with the instructor students develop an extended research project culminating most commonly in one or more formal scholarly papers developing an original thesis and conforming in style and format to the guidelines of the Modern Language Association. Students are encouraged to submit such papers for publication in professional journals or, if opportunity affords, for presentation at a professional conference.
Goals and Objectives of the Course
The primary goals of the course are (1) to provide graduate students with the opportunity for intensive study of particular literary texts, modes and traditions of the oral and written literature of Appalachia; (2) to provide graduate students with the opportunity to engage in the kinds of scholarly research, writing and discourse characteristic of the discipline; (3) to provide graduate students with the opportunity to develop and practice the skills requisite for advanced literary and folkloric studies in general and for such study of the Appalachian region in particular. For graduate students pursuing the Master of Arts degree with a concentration in American literature, or more specifically Appalachian Studies, the course affords the opportunity to investigate topics of special interest, to undertake significant research into such topics, and to compose formal scholarly papers that may become the basis for a thesis.
While individual instructors may wish to consider a variety of measures in their final assessment of student achievement in this course (e.g., preparation for and participation during seminar meetings, oral presentations, informal and/or creative writing exercises, quizzes and examinations), the single most important measure is the ability of the student to engage in meaningful independent research, to develop on the basis of that research an original insight into or perspective on a significant question, and to present that insight or perspective in a formal scholarly paper.
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