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Engl. 181: Writing about Literature


Spring 2014, Emory University



“There exists among us … a profound conviction that the South is another land, sharply differentiated from the rest of the American nation,” so began W.J. Cash’s 1941 The Mind of the South. In this course, we will examine texts that grapple with concerns of the South as “another land,” as theme park, as Southlandia!. We will be exposed to a variety of textual representations of the South across a span of time in order to compose, in various media, arguments for or against the South as “another land.” The centerpiece project will be entitled “Writers-in-Place” and will include a proposal and digital project and a traditional, written literary analysis concerning a southern text. Our readings will include texts by the aforementioned Cash and Tracy Thompson as well as selections from an array of southern authors and thinkers. We will also examine photographic and cinematic depictions of the South, including our culminating analyses of Kevin Willmott’s C.S.A. and Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild. Ultimately, the course aims to make us better definers, readers, writers, and critical thinkers of our Southland.


English 181 is an intensive writing course that trains students in techniques of writing and literary analysis. We will write about literature, but this class is not a survey of the South, southern identity or southern literature. The class serves as an experiment in analyzing southern rhetoric, or how we think, write, understand, and shape that which we label “southern” or “South.” As such, we will neither attempt to read the whole of southern literature nor the body of histories or sociologies written about the region. The goal of the class is to make students better writers and critical thinkers—the prism through which we will achieve this is “the South.” The course satisfies the first-year English writing requirement.




This course serves as an introduction for first year college students to college-level writing, critical reading, basic citation, and rhetorical tools in order to prepare students to participate successfully in the Emory University discourse community and the world at large.  It follows the philosophy of the WPA outcomes statement for first year composition, found online here:


In summary, by the end of the semester, students should be able to:

  1. Compose in various medias and genres, including digital environments.

  2. Engage in a personal process of writing, such as draft, revise, review, and submit.

  3. Collaborate in a collective process of writing via Group Work, peer review and overall effective critical response to others’ work.

  4. Illustrate knowledge of standard conventions, formatting, and mechanics.

  5. Critically engage the definition and narration of “the South” through interpretation, argument, and composition.

  6. Summarize, analyze, and synthesize literature and other texts in order to develop solid interpretative arguments.

  7. Articulate developed values for understanding place in personal discourse communities and the world at large.

  8. Continued developing reading, responding, and research skills.




You (and your writing) are the primary texts for this course.  However, as this is a writing-about-literature course, we will place readings on equal footing with your own responses and interpretative acts of composition.  Throughout the semester we will read from three texts about the South listed below, as well as draw from a helpful writing guide that is recommended but not required.  Please order the texts. 


Many additional stories and other readings will be accessible online or provided by the instructor.  These will be available on blackboard (BB, as indicated in the course calendar),


  • W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South. Vintage Books Edition, 1991. ISBN: 978-0679736479

  • Tracy Thompson, The New Mind of the South. Simon & Schuster, 2013. ISBN: 978-1439158036

  • John Shelton Reed, Minding the South. University of Missouri Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780826214904.



From Critical Thinking to Argument: A Portable Guide, Third Edition. Bedford St. Martin’s Press, 2011. ISBN: 978-0312601614.




In this course, students will write 3 main papers and 2 “proposal” papers.  Students will also engage in digital and in-the-world activities to explore their own understanding of the South.  Students will write extensively, both formally in official papers, and more informally with in-class activities, workshops, peer reviews, and blog posts.  Below is a breakdown of the main assignments.  Attached, students will find a more thorough overview.


  • Definition Memoir (3-4 pages) 15%

  • Literary Mappings Activity (In-Class) 5%

  • Writers-in-Place Proposal (2-3 pages) and Digital Project 10%

  • Literary Analysis and Research Paper (8-10 pages) 20%

  • MARTA: Mapping Atlanta’s Recreational and Tourist Attractions 10%

  • Southlandia! Proposal (3-4 pages) 10%

  • Viewing Different Souths, Visual Rhetoric and Rogerian Argument (5-7 pages) 20%

  • Participation, Blog Posts (9) and Attendance 10%



A grade of D or above in the course satisfies the requirement for first year writing.  Each paper will be graded on a scale from A to F.  These grades will be determined by the coherence, depth, consistency, and clarity of your argument, its relevance to the course, and the amount of effort your work displays.  You must complete every major assignment to pass this class.  Your final grade will follow the Emory College grading scale, with pluses or minuses assigned where appropriate.


General Scale: I will grade on a ten-point scale. 

A: 90-100

B: 80-89

C: 70-79

D: 60-69

F: < 59


  • “A” papers have an original compelling thesis that is clearly articulated and supported effectively with relevant evidence.  The structure is logical and engaging, and the paper is free from grammatical and mechanical errors.

  • “B” papers meet the requirements of “A” papers, but fall short in one or two respects.

  • “C” papers have a thesis of average quality, an argument that is fully presented to the reader, but obscured by problems with grammar, mechanics, and/or organization.

  • “D” papers have a poor thesis or do not have a thesis at all, lack organization and clarity, and contain many stylistic, grammatical, or proofreading errors.

  • “F” papers have no thesis, poor organization, and many grammatical, stylistic, and proofreading errors.




  1. LATE WORK AND REVISION: All late work must be pre-approved by the instructor except in extenuating circumstances, i.e. a medical emergency.  Extensions will not be granted the day an assignment is due.  All late work is due the next class meeting after the original date posted in the syllabus unless otherwise stipulated by the instructor.  Late work will be deducted a letter grade for every day it is late unless otherwise specified by the instructor.  Unapproved late work will not be accepted.  However, during the semester, you are allowed to revise one assignment, with no guarantee for a higher grade, per the instructor’s approval. The lectures, class discussions, group work, or other daily class work or homework exercises in a writing class cannot be reconstructed for a student who has been absent; therefore, daily work missed due to tardiness or absence (for any reason) cannot be made up.  Students may arrange to turn in major-grade work in advance or online only if allowed by your instructor.

  2. RESPECT: All students are expected to be respectful of others and their opinions and to act with decorum. 

  3. ATTENDANCE: Students are expected to attend class with thoughtful and active classroom participation.  In a writing heavy course, in which we will often engage in in-class writing workshops, it is imperative that you come to class.  More than 5 unexcused absences results in a lower grade; I recommend no more than 3 course absences.  However, if you must miss class, please email me in advance. 

  4. TARDINESS: Students are expected to come to class prepared with tasks completed, texts, homework, and pen in hand, ready to go on time and awake. If you arrive to class after roll has been taken (and I strongly advise you do not), it is your responsibility to approach the instructor and make your presence known.  Otherwise, you may automatically be counted absent.  If your presence is noted after arriving late, points will be deducted from your class participation grade. Such late arrivals disrupt class and prevent both the late student and his/her classmates from benefiting from the entire period of instruction and workshopping.

  5. ELECTRONIC DEVICES I: I strongly discourage the use of cell phones, even for texting, during class time.  If you are experiencing a special circumstance, the birth of your child, etc., that requires that you leave your phone on during class, please inform me before class begins.

  6. ELECTRONIC DEVICES II: At various times during the semester, we may be working with laptops or the in-class Mac computers during class time.  Please observe the following policies regarding laptop use.

  1. All laptops should be fully charged before class begins.

  2. All laptop sound should be turned off before class.

  3. “Screens down” policy: Unless instructed to open/ use your laptop by the instructor, you laptops should remain closed.

  4. Non-class related surfing, gaming, social networking, chatting, and working on other class materials are prohibited during class time.  Doing so will result in a failure for the day’s class participation.  Repeated offenses will be more harshly sanctioned.


Policy on Academic Misconduct

Emory University and the English Department take plagiarism cases and all academic misconduct very seriously.  The full College Plagiarism Statement from the Emory College Honor Code can be read here:



Emory Writing Center

The Emory Writing Center offers 45-minute individual conferences to Emory College and Laney Graduate School students. Our discussion- and workshop-based approach enables writers of all levels to see their writing with fresh eyes and to practice a variety of strategies for writing, revising, and editing. The EWC is a great place to bring any project—from traditional papers to websites—at any stage in your composing process. EWC tutors can talk with you about your purpose, organization, audience, design choices, or use of sources. They can also work with you on sentence-level concerns (including grammar and word choice), but they won’t proofread for you. Instead, they’ll discuss strategies and resources you can use to become a better editor of your own work.


The EWC is located in Callaway N-212. We encourage writers to schedule appointments in advance as we can take walk-ins on a limited basis only. We require hard copies of traditional paper drafts and encourage you to bring a laptop if you're working on a digital or multi-modal text. Please bring a copy of your assignment instructions, too. In addition to our regular conferences in Callaway, we host Studio Hours every Tuesday from 7-9 pm in Woodruff Library 214. Studio Hours provide a supportive, focused workspace and are open to all students. EWC tutors circulate to encourage writers, provide resources, and address questions. For more information about the EWC, or to make an appointment, visit


Tutoring for Multilingual Students

If you are a multilingual student and English is not your first language, you may benefit from working with trained ESL Tutors. These tutors are undergraduates who will support the development of both your English language and writing skills. Like Writing Center tutors, ESL tutors will not proofread your work. Language is best learned through interactive dialogue, so come to an ESL tutoring session ready to collaborate!


ESL tutors will meet with you in designated locations on campus for 1-hour appointments, and they will help you at any stage of the process of developing your written work or presentation. You may bring your work on a laptop or on paper.


In Spring 2014, a new scheduling system called ASST will replace TutorTrac for ESL tutoring appointments. For instructions on how to schedule an appointment, links to ASST, and the policies for using the service, go to:


If you do not have a scheduled appointment, you may use the Academic ESL Skills Lab, located in Room 422 of Woodruff Library (next to the Language Center). Here, you may have less time with a tutor if other students are waiting, but you can find drop-in support just when you need it. To view the lab hours for the current semester, go to: .


For information about other ESL services available to undergraduates, go to:

or contact Jane O’Connor, Director of ESL Services ( ) or Denise Dolan, Assistant Director of ESL Services ( ).


Disability Statement

Emory University complies with the regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and offers accommodations to students with disabilities. If you are in need of a classroom accommodation, please make an appointment with me to discuss this as soon as possible. All information will be held in the strictest confidence. For more information, please visit or contact the office by phone at (404) 727-9877 [voice] or TDD: (404) 712-2049.


Emory Counseling Center

Free and confidential counseling services are available at the Emory Counseling Center.

(404) 727-7450,

Class Calendar

Note on Syllabus Changes: Everything in this course calendar is subject to change at the instructor’s discretion, especially during the early weeks of the semester.

Week 1

Wed, Jan. 15

Getting to know you: Introductions and course overview.  (Neon Note Cards)


Review your syllabus carefully. Sign Course Contract.




Jesmyn Ward, “Prologue,” from Men We Reaped (2013) (BB)


James McBride, “Prologue,” from The Good Lord Bird (2013)


“Sahara of the Bozart” (1917)



Fri, Jan. 17

Discussion of Assigned Reading.  Introduce Definition Memoir Paper.



Week 2

Mon, Jan. 20

No Class. MLK Day.




John Berendt, “Destination Unknown,” from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994) (BB)


John Shelton Reed, “The Three Souths” and “The Mind of the South and Southern Distinctiveness,” Minding the South

Wed, Jan. 22


Discuss Assigned Reading. Blog Post 1.



Conrad Aiken, “Strange Moonlight”


Mind of the South, Book One, Chapters 1 and 2


Fri, Jan. 24

Definition Memoir Due.


STUDENT PRESENTATION 1: Mind of the South, Book One, Chapters 1 and 2


Introduce Literary Mapping Activity.



Edward King, selection of your choosing from The Great South (1875)


Week 3

Mon, Jan. 27

Literary Mapping Activity In-Class

Look over Southern Spaces “Poets in Place” series, Select one entry to summarize and discuss. Further details discussed in class. Blog Post 2.



Natasha Trethewey, “South” (2006),


James Baldwin, “Notes of A Native Son” (1955) (BB)

Wed, Jan 29

Finish Literary Mapping Activity. Introduce “Writers-in-Place” Unit and Assignment.



Mind of the South, Book One, Chapter 3


Fri, Jan 31

STUDENT PRESENTATION 2: Mind of the South, Book One, Chapter 3



Eudora Welty, “Place in Fiction” (1994),


Eudora Welty, “A Worn Path” (1941),


William Faulkner, “That Evening Sun” (1931),


“Dry September” (1931)

TBD: Edouard Glissant, “Road to Rowan Oak” (BB)


Blog Post 3

Week 4

Mon, Feb. 3

Discuss Assigned Reading and Blog Posts.


What is a “Proposal”? Draft and workshop “WIP” part 1.

Draft “WIP” Proposal.


Wed, Feb. 5

“WIP” Proposal Peer Review



Mind of the South, Book Two, Chapter 1


Fri, Feb. 7

STUDENT PRESENTATION 3: Mind of the South, Book Two, Chapter 1


“WIP” Proposals Due.

From Groups for “WIP” Digital Project.

In your groups, create Digital Projects.  Guidelines will be discussed.



Ayana Mathis, “Floyd,” from The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (2012)


Week 5

Mon, Feb. 10

Continue Work on Digital Projects.  This may be done in or out of class.  Consult the instructor.

Finish Digital Projects. 


Wed, Feb. 12

 View and Discuss Digital Projects.



Mind of the South, Book Two, Chapter 2


Resources on Critical Thinking and Argument (BB)


Fri, Feb. 14

STUDENT PRESENTATION 4: Mind of the South, Book Two, Chapter 2


Introduce “WIP” Literary Analysis and Research Paper.



Resources on Literary Analysis and Research Papers (BB)


Karen Russell, “Ava Wrestles the Alligator,” “Out to Sea” (2006) (BB)


Week 6

Mon, Feb. 17

What is a Literary Analysis? What is a Research Paper? Overview.


Examples (In Class): “Ava Wrestles the Alligator” and “Out to Sea”


Introduce the Annotated Bibliography.

Blog Post 4: Close Reading of one of our Russell short stories. Where is “the South” in the story? Or, is the story “southern”?


Select an author and central text(s) for “WIP” literary analysis/research paper. Please consult the instructor if you have questions.


Wed, Feb. 19

Discuss selected authors/texts. Begin to work on Annotated Bib.


Discuss Blog Posts.



Mind of the South, Book Three, Chapter 1


Thesis and Argument Resource (BB)


Generate an argumentative, interpretative thesis for your selected text.  Find 2 sources for Annotated Bib.


Fri, Feb. 21

STUDENT PRESENTATION 5: Mind of the South, Book Three, Chapter 1


Annotated Bibliography Work (remember, 8 sources total required).

Finish Annotated Bibliography.

Begin Drafting “WIP” Research Paper.


Week 7

Mon, Feb. 24

Draft “WIP” Research Paper.


Grammar and Mechanics Workshop Day.

Submit a Working Annotated Bibliography.

Draft “WIP” Research Paper.


Wed, Feb. 26

Draft “WIP” Research Paper.


Individual Consultations.



Mind of the South, Book Three, Chapter 2

Fri, Feb. 28

STUDENT PRESENTATION 6: Mind of the South, Book Three, Chapter 2


Draft 1 Due. Peer Review 1.



Elizabeth Spencer, “Ship Island” or “A Southern Landscape” (BB)


Week 8

Mon, March 3

Draft 2 Due. Peer Review 2.



Minding the South, “The Southern Elvis,” “The End of Elvis”


Wed, March 5


The Aural South/ Songs of the South Presentation:




Bob Dylan, “Mississippi,” “Highway 61 Revisited”


W.C. Handy, “Memphis Blues”

Marc Cohn, “Walking in Memphis”

Bessie Head

Muddy Waters

B.B. King


Gone With The Wind score.

“Gone With The Wind Fabulous,” Kenya Moore


Song of the South clips.




Mind of the South, Book Three, Chapter 3


Blog Post 5 and Link: What is your song of the South?


Fri, March 7

STUDENT PRESENTATION 7: Mind of the South, Book Three, Chapter 3


Final Draft “WIP” Research Paper Due.


Week 9

Mon March 10-Friday March 14



Extra Credit Activity: Watch Ray McKinnon’s The Accountant ( 2001 full short movie) on YouTube.  In 1,000 words, summarize the film and provide an analysis: what kind of South is presented/depicted here?


Week 10

Mon, March 17

In-Class, Treme.


Blog Post 6: What is Treme? How do you understand the role of “neighborhood”?


Selections on the “New South” TBD

Bobbie Ann Mason, “Shiloh” (1980) (BB); Larry Brown, “Big Bad Love” (1990) (BB); Erskine Caldwell, “After-Image” (1932) (BB)

Minding the South, “The World’s Best Selling Novelist”


Wed, March 19


 MARTA Activity Introduced


Discuss Reading


View: Rebecca Solnit’s Unfathomable City

Select Site for MARTA assignment.



New Mind of the South, Chapters 1 and 2


Fri, March 21

STUDENT PRESENTATION 8: New Mind of the South, Chapters 1 and 2


Present MARTA site selections. Begin mapping.


Example: Joel Chandler Harris, Wren’s Nest



Carson McCullers, “The Ballad of the Sad Café” (1951),%20Carson%20''The%20Ballad%20of%20the%20Sad%20Café''-Xx-En-Sp.pdf


Blog Post 6


Week 11

Mon, March 24

Continue Mapping.

Discuss Readings.


Katherine Anne Porter, “Magic,” “The Journey” (1955) and “Flowering Judas” (1929) (BB)

Blog Post 7


Wed, March 26

MARTA mapping due.  Present Maps.

Southlandia! Proposal Introduced.


Continue Drafting.


New Mind of the South, Chapters 3 and 4


Fri, March 28

STUDENT PRESENTATION 9: New Mind of the South, Chapters 3 and 4


Draft Southlandia! Proposals.  



Reinaldo Arenas, “End of A Story” (2001)  (BB); Leigh Allison Wilson, “South of the Border” (BB) (2008)


Gabriel Garcia Marquez,  “Monologue of Isabel Watching it Rain in Macondo,” “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” (1968)


“Light is Like Water” (1992) (BB).


Blog Post 8


Week 12

Mon, March 31

Continue Drafting Southlandia! Proposals.


Discuss Assigned Reading.

Present Work in Progress.

 Course Reflection (500 Words)


Wed, April 2

Southlandia! Proposals due.


Tilt-a-Whirl Activity/ Class Oral Reading: from The Titled World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly (2013)



New Mind of the South, Chapters 5 and 6


Fri, April 4

STUDENT PRESENTATION 10: New Mind of the South, Chapters 5 and 6


View: C.S.A., part one (30 mins). Live Tweet.



Dorothy Allison, stories TBA


Week 13

Mon, April 7

View: C.S.A., part two (40 mins). Live Tweet.



Wed, April 9

View: C.S.A., part three (20 mins). Live Tweet.



New Mind of the South, Chapters 7 and 8


Compose “Footsteps” Film Review 1 of C.S.A.


Fri, April 11

STUDENT PRESENTATION 11: New Mind of the South, Chapters 7 and 8


Turn in “Footsteps” Film Review 1.


View: Beasts of the Southern Wild, part one (30 mins). Live Tweet.



Doris Betts, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (1973) (BB); Lucy Alibar, Juicy and Delicious (2012) (BB)


Week 14

Mon, April 14

View: Beasts of the Southern Wild, part two (40 mins). Live Tweet.



Patricia Yaeger, “Beasts of the Southern Wild and Dirty Ecology,”



Wed, April 16

View: Beasts of the Southern Wild, part three (25 mins). Live Tweet.



bell hooks, “No Love in the Wild,”


Alice Walker, “The Black Writer and the Southern Experience” (1983) (BB).


Minding the South, selections:

“Telling About the South,” “The Imagined South,” “The Most Southern State?”, “Choosing the South,” more TBD.


Compose “Footsteps” Film Review 2 of Beasts of the Southern Wild



Fri, April 18

STUDENT PRESENTATION 12: Minding the South, selections.


Turn in “Footsteps” Film Review 2.

Introduce Viewing Different Souths Assignment. Thinking about Genre.



Visual Rhetoric and Rogerian Argument Resources (BB)


Draft VR-RA Paper


Week 15

Mon, April 21

On Visual Rhetoric and Rogerian Argument: Review and Questions.

Draft VR-RA Paper


Wed, April 23

Draft VR-RA Paper.

Draft VR-RA Paper



Minding the South selections: “Southern Studies Abroad,” “Of Collard Greens and Kings,” “Taking a Stand,” “Portrait of Atlanta,” more TBD


Fri, April 25

STUDENT PRESENTATION 13: Minding the South, selections.


Peer Review VR-RA Paper.

Finish VR-RA Paper.

Week 16

Mon, April 28


VR-RA Paper Due.

Reflections: Blog Post 9 (In-Class)

How do you define the South now?

The Kermit Factor:

“It isn’t easy being green” / Final Thoughts on the “South” and Difference

Tues, April 29- Fri, May 9


Sat, May 10


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