Sample Syllabus for Fiction

This course develops students’ critical thinking skills through the study of literary elements such as plot, character, setting, point of view, symbolism, and irony. Additionally, students will learn the Modern Language Association (MLA) system of parenthetical citation and how to incorporate quotations into their analysis of literary texts; they will also complete a research assignment by consulting both print and online sources. Students will be able to interpret and write critically about each of the three major genres: fiction, poetry, and drama.


Course Objectives

In this course, the students will become familiar with three of the major genres of literature (fiction, poetry, and drama) and read and write critically about one or more of these forms. By the end of this course, they are expected to

Columbia Core at Hostos

Welcome to ENG 111. This section of ENG 111, along with 13 other sections at the college, is piloting a new curriculum based on the Columbia University Core Curriculum. We will be reading texts that are considered “classics.” The purpose of this class is to engage in the writing process through the study of key questions about what makes us human.  What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to know yourself? What is freedom? While we will be reading texts from another time, the real-world purpose of this class is to enhance your capacity to be free individuals with self-governance in society. Through exploration and discussion of these texts, this class will give you the intellectual and practical tools to be empowered social agents and to participate in social, civic, and political life. Our class is part of a larger community of ENG 111 students at the college studying these same texts and questions. The materials and texts on the syllabus have been selected to make this a meaningful, engaging and intellectually stimulating learning experience for you and your classmates.

Required Course Materials

Dante, Alighieri. Inferno. Trans. Allen Mandelbaum. New York: Bantam. 1980. ISBN-13:


Homer, The Odyssey. Ed. And Trans. Richmond Lattimore. New York: Harper.
        ISBN-13: 978-0061244186

Sophocles. Oedipus the King. University of Chicago Press. ISBN-13: 978-0226768687

Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: Vintage. 1977. ISBN-13: 978-1400033423

A Notebook and folder exclusively for ENG 111

Grade Configuration

Essay 1: 15%
Essay 2: In Class Essay: 15%
Essay 3: Using secondary sources 15%
Essay 4: Research paper 25%
Final Exam: 20%
Classwork : 10%


By semester’s end, you will each have experience writing about fiction, poetry, and drama. Final essay drafts will be evaluated on the depth of content, the strength of the organization, effective style, and proper use of mechanics. These assignments are designed to facilitate engagement with our course readings and strengthen compositional skills.

Guidelines for Final Drafts of Essays

  • Use Purdue University’s website for writing and grammar guidelines:
  • Use MLA format for citing sources, available on the web under “MLA style guides” at sites such as or Grades will be penalized if essays are not properly cited.
  • Please keep in mind that you may be required to submit your typed essays electronically through Blackboard, to determine the authenticity of your assignment. More information will be provided at a later time, but please be sure that you have access to Blackboard in the meantime.
  • The format for all typed assignments is the same, and must be followed consistently. Use standard pages with 1” margins on top, sides, and bottom. All work should have a proper heading and original title. Your essays should be double spaced, pages numbered, and use Times New Roman, 12 point font.

Research Paper

In this course, we will devote considerable time to strengthening library skills and refining research questions. As this project comprises a significant portion of your final grade, you will need to plan your time accordingly to accommodate your research, organization of sources, writing, and revision. You are strongly advised to consult the Writing Center to maximize your potential on this high stakes assignment.

Revision Policy

Students will also be given the chance to revise ONE graded essay, which can improve only by one letter grade.

Final Exam

The final exam will be a timed essay that will require you to analyze a selected work from one of the three literary genres, using the terminology appropriate to the genre and our course. Exam review will occur the week before the exam.

    1. Identify literary elements such as plot, character, point of view, setting, imagery, irony, tone, and symbols when analyzing stories, poems, and plays;
    2. Interpret a literary text and support that interpretation with evidence gained from close reading;
    3. Write clearly and coherently in varied, academic formats using standard English;
    4. Integrate ideas with those of others from print and online sources;
    5. Find, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize appropriate primary and secondary sources in a literary research paper;
    6. Write at least three formal, critical essays (minimum ten pages total) and one research paper (minimum 5 pages).

Schedule of Assignments

Week 1

1/30: Introduction to the class and course syllabus. Informal writing prompt: What is an odyssey? How is an odyssey different from a journey? How can an odyssey be linked to identity?

Discussion topic: What makes for good storytelling? Introduce elements of fiction. What is an epic? An epic poem? Introduce Book 1 of The Odyssey.

Read the first 10 lines of The Odyssey. For discussion: Who is me, the muse, and the man in line 1? What words and phrases stand out in these lines? What can they tell us about what we are going to read? Read the next 10 lines: Note the repetition of the word “homecoming.” What is a homecoming? Why would one long for it?

End of class writing: What questions do you have after today’s discussion?

Homework: Assign excerpts of Book 1 of The Odyssey for Homework.

2/1: Discuss Book 1 for the context of The Odyssey. Assign Book 9 for Homework.

Week 2

2/6: Discussion of Book 9. Assign Book 10 for homework.

2/8: Essay 1 assigned. Viewing of O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Week 3

2/13: Lincoln’s Birthday College is Closed

2/15: Classes Follow Monday Schedule; Discussion of Book 10. Who is Circe? Characterization exercise; Draft of essay 1 due and workshopped in class.

Week 4

2/20: President’s Day; College is Closed

2/22: Book 22 Odyssey.

Week 5

2/27: Essay 1 due; Begin discussion of drama; Read the beginning of Oedipus Rex in class. Discuss characters, the function of a chorus, the Concept of self-knowledge, and how one arrives at it. Assign first half Oedipus for homework. Oedipus Rex.

3/1: Continue discussion of Oedipus Rex; Finish Oedipus for homework

Week 6

3/6: Continue discussion of Oedipus Rex. Discussion of up-coming in-class essay. Brainstorming/planning activity in class.

3/8: In-class essay on Oedipus Rex. Assign “A Meditation on the Afterlife” by Judith H. Dobrzynski for homework.

Week 7

Introduction to Poetry; Inferno: What is the afterlife? Informal writing prompt: Visions of the afterlife often imply some sort of commentary on the current world. Pick a religious tradition you know something about. How does its vision of the afterlife imply judgments about what it “right” or “wrong” in the present world?

3/13: Inferno: Discussion of Cantos 1-3, 5. Introduce students to Digital Dante.

3/15: Inferno: Assign essay 3 (with research element); Canto 9 and Aristotle; Discuss Canto 13, Pierre delle Vigne.

Week 8

3/20: Discuss Canto 15, 26—Ulysses

3/22: Discuss contrapasso Canto 28, Cantos 33, Ugolino—art discussion; and 34 Satan

Week 9

3/27: In-class workshop on Essay 3

3/29: Inferno: draft of essay 3 due/peer review

Week 10

4/3: Begin Song of Solomon; Begin reading chapter 1 in class.

4/5: Chapter 1-2 of Song of Solomon discussed in class; Essay 3 due; Assign chapters 3- 5 for spring break.

Week 11

4/10- Spring Break

4/12- Spring Break

Week 12

M. 4/17: Spring Break

4/19: Song of Solomon

4/20: Classes follow Monday Schedule: Song of Solomon Chapter 6 and 7

Week 13

4/24: Song of Solomon Chapters 8 and 9; research project assigned

4/26: Song of Solomon Chapter 10

Week 14

5/1: Class on the research project

5/3: Song of Solomon Chapters 11-15.

Week 15

5/8: Class on research project

5/10: Song of Solomon

Week 16

5/15: Drafts of Research Project Due

5/17: Prep for Final

Thursday, May 18th Last Day of Classes