Topic outline

  • General


    • SEE BELOW FOR THE COURSE FILES (THE SYLLABUS ASSIGNMENTS, etc.).  Scroll down further to get the uploaded course reading material and links used for week 1, week 2, etc., according to the syllabus.  Books used for the course are available in the College bookstore, but many of our shorter readings are provided here free on Moodle.
    • "How 2 Not Write Bad" and other files and links (including Prof. Schmidt's additional advice about why comma mistakes are not trivial) give you brief, good, & clear advice about how to avoid common punctuation errors and other mistakes (things your previous English teachers may not have told you)
    • Swarthmore imposes severe penalties for students convicted of plagiarism (academic dishonesty, such as presenting another person's work as your own.  See my note on what plagiarism is and why you nevertheless SHOULDN'T be afraid of collaborating with others and borrowing good ideas from them (but be sure to give credit where credit is due).

    • Click on the BLOG link above.  I recommend writing your blog post in your favorite word processing program.  Then save it to your device, then copy and paste it into the blog.

    • ... plus other info about the course, including a course overview, info on disability accommodations, and a list of the student discussion & writing skills that all English Literature first-year seminars (including 9H) focus on improving. DOWNLOAD OR PRINT AND READ THIS DOCUMENT (AND ALSO THE ENGLISH 9H SYLLABUS) BEFORE OR DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF CLASS.  YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR KNOWING THE CONTENTS OF BOTH THESE DOCUMENTS.


    • Download or print.  Consult this document when doing homework for each class.  Most of this is also on Moodle, but not everything: use this document.  


      YOU WILL HAVE A BRIEF READING ASSIGNMENT FOR OUR FIRST CLASS, ON MONDAY, SEPT. 3:  see this document and the materials/links below.


    We'll discuss these in class at varied points during the semester; download and save all these files.

    For guidelines that apply to specific paper assignments, see above and also consult the syllabus.

  • Sept. 3, 5, 7, and 10:

    Week 1 9H Moodle readings to print or download and bring to class.

    Sept. 3:  Before our first class on Monday, read the brief Cain and Gaiman essays (see below), and listen to novelist Chimamanda Adichie's now famous TED talk, "The Danger of a Single Story" (link below).  See also the short essay on the new "open" workplace at Facebook headquarters and many other companies.

    Have the access to these 3 materials for our class, in either digital or print form.  (In short, it's NECESSARY to bring to class every day your favorite digital/Internet device like a laptop, tablet, or phone.  

    There are just 2 rules in English 9H re digital devices:  1) in class your device should only be used to access course-related materials; and 2) you need to participate regularly in our face-to-face discussion, not retreat all the time into your screen.  These rules make sense, yes?

    Sept. 5 - 10:  Read Plato's Cave Allegory, then after you've read it, read Prof. Ledbetter's essay on Plato's Cave and the role played by Socrates.  Have both pdfs accessible for class, either printed or on your device.  

    We also may discuss some of the Resources for Writing materials on Sept. 7 or 10: see syllabus.  These materials are ABOVE.  To begin, read the documents provided on a strong vs. a weak thesis.

    NOTE:   PLEASE BRING A DIGITAL DEVICE (SUCH AS A LAPTOP OR PAD/TABLET OR PHONE) WITH INTERNET ACCESS TO EVERY CLASS.  If you prefer to print some of all of the course materials, of course, you're welcome to do so.  


  • Sept. 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 23:

    Sept. 12      Download and/or print from this English 9H Moodle site the Arabian Nights pdfs #1 (the famous opening to The Arabian Nights, pp. 1-16) and #2 (the Ali Baba story).  Read #1 several times along with Prof. Schmidt’s study questions handout; bring both to class.  If you’d prefer to have all digitized course materials on your laptop or other device, that’s OK; bring that.  We’ll discuss the etiquette of using online devices in this class. 

    Sept 14   Continue discussion of the Arabian Nights: the famous “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves” story (in a new translation):  Arabian Nights pdf #2, on Moodle.  Download or print and bring a copy to class.

    Sept 17   Arabian Nights concluding discussion

    Sept 19   Compare Shahrazad with Edwidge Danticat’s portrait of the artist in her essay “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work,” about her complex sense of the artist’s identity and responsibilities in Haiti and in the United States (pdf below)

    Sept. 20 and 21:  Gee's Bend quilting events, celebrating Mary Lee Bendolph.  Optional but highly recommend.  See further info on our syllabus and below.

    Sept. 21  Read and discuss in class these materials on the General Resources for Writing section of our 009H Moodle page (above): 

    ·      “What Makes a Good Thesis?”; “Arguments & Evidence”; “Counter-arguments,”;

    ·      the documents in the Common Writing Errors section (above, Resources for Writing); and

    ·      the Avoiding Plagiarism links on our 009H Course Requirements document, plus Biology professor Amy Cheng Vollmer’s document on the 3 most common kinds of plagiarism in academic writing (also above, in the Resources for Writing section)

    After class on Friday, if you're free from 10am to noon, why not visit Scheuer Room in Kohlberg for the panel of guests discussing Mary Lee Bendolf's quilts and the Gee's Bend tradition of African American quilters?  2 Swarthmore seniors are on the panel—

    ========Sunday, Sept. 23     First paper due uploaded via this Moodle page.  Due: 10pm, 4-6pp double-spaced using a 12-point font.  Topic: write either on Plato or on some aspect of Arabian Nights.  If you'd like, you may also use ideas from Danticat's essay.  You paper must be a Microsoft Word .docx file (NOT a pdf or other format).  Use the link below to upload it.

    • in a contemporary translation

    • Please download and/or print and bring to class.  These questions will give you a sense of the sorts of questions I ask when reading and, especially, re-reading.  Please also bring your own questions and points of view to all our discussions too.  Note: these questions were fun to do!  I try to do something like this during and/or right after a reading assignment: it helps me identify my first observations and thoughts and then go deeper.   (Hint hint.)

    • Arabian Nights excerpt #2

    • If you're writing on The Arabian Nights, copy and paste the following into your Works Cited at the end of your paper:

      The Arabian Nights.  Translated by Husain Haddawy.  Text From the Fourteenth Century Syrian Manuscript Edited by Muhsin Mahdi.  Volume One.   New York:  Norton, 1990.  

    • You'll also receive a free print version of this catalog for the show, courtesy of Andrea Packard and the Swarthmore Art Department (thanks!).

    • Please download and consult.  I hope you can make some of these events!  It will be a brilliant show. 

    • 4-6pp. double-spaced, in a 12-point font.  Due uploaded by 10pm on Sunday, Sept. 23.  

      Upload only as a Microsoft Word .docx file please, not a pdf, not a Pages file, etc.  Note: most word processing programs have as a Save option making a copy of your text file as a Word .docx file.  Save your original, then make a .docx copy to upload.  

  • Sept. 24 - Oct. 3

    Amadeus the movie is long, rich, and complex, so we'll take 2 weeks of classes (approximately) to appreciate it carefully.

    Use the link below to access the streaming video.  Amadeus is ~3 hours long, so plan ahead.

    We'll show excerpts of particular scenes in class, but you should watch at least the first hour of the movie before our first class meeting on Sept. 24.  See the specific syllabus assignments for each class on Amadeus.

    • Marvelous YouTube video of the scene from Amadeus where Mozart composes the Confutatis section of his Requiem with Salieri's help.  Includes music, scrolling score, a translation of the Latin words from this part of a Requiem mass, and the movie soundtrack -- all synched so you can follow along.  We'll play in class to help us discuss this scene when discussing the last third of the movie.  Thank you to "Gerubach," who posted this!

      If you're not a musician and don't know what "tonic" and "dominant" notes are in a scale, look up these terms on Wikipedia.  We can discuss in class if you have questions, and musicians in the class can help us.  See also Prof. Schmidt's and Prof. Andrew Hauze's notes below.

    • ...discussing some more musical details re Gerubach's video on the Confutatis section of Mozart's Requiem

  • Oct. 5 (Friday) and 8 (Monday): Steve Martin, 2 short plays. Oct. 10 and 12: Maya Lin and Awkwafina

    We'll discuss Patter for the Floating Lady on Friday and Picasso at the Lapin Agile on Monday.

    Also check out the discussion questions & topics in the "lesson plan" for Patter (see below).

    • This lesson play was written by an "alum" of English 9H, Abhinav Tiku '18, as one of his class projects, then slightly revised after feedback from a certain professor.  Use this plan to prepare for our class, but only after you've read Martin's play twice (the play's brief & fun).

      Abhinav's good advice for you:  "I would encourage everyone to read the play out loud, either with a friend or by yourself. This is a play and a play is meant to be acted, so enjoy rolling sounds on your tongue and playing around with accents. Doing these actions personally helped me grasp the subtleties in the language."


    • ~ 80 minutes.  View beforehand, to discuss in class Oct.  10.  Note: this link will take you to the Proxy server in Tripod, then you'll need to login using your Swarthmore system ID and password.  The video window should then appear.  

      If you eventually want to quote from the words used in the documentary, the small-screen setting on the right of the video window will give you a running transcript of the words said.   Check it for accuracy, though....   Or you can just hit the pause button and write down what you heard.  That's what I usually do :) 

      Director:  Freida Lee Mock; released in 2013.  It's amazing how young Maya Lin was when she came up with the design for the Vietnam Veterans' memorial—and also impressive is the inner strength she summoned when her now-revered design faced a firestorm of backlash. 

      You may find lots of other info on the Web on Maya Lin's life and career since that time—including her installations commemorating environmentalism and other important events, such as the history of women students at Yale, her Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Selma, etc.  Check them out!

    • This and the next short video are for class right before Break (Oct. 12).  Here’s intro info about the young Queens-born NYC-based actor and performance media star featured in the hit movie Crazy Rich Asians:

      • Best of Awkwafina (Tawk)

      • Rapper Awkwafina is Effortlessly Unfiltered / NBC News




    • You're read (oops, I mean _ready_) for a break, yes?  

      Maybe begin reading A Tale for the Time Being over break, if you have time?  It's our next assignment.

  • Ruth Ozeki, _A Tale for the Time Being_ (2013)

    9 classes:  Oct. 22 - Nov. 9

    Oct. 22 and 24:  read all of Part I (pp. 1-108) if you can

    Oct. 26: definitely finish Part I

    Oct. 29, 31, Nov. 2:  Part II (109-258).  This is the longest reading assignment; allow extra time.

    Nov. 5, 7:  Part III (259-355)

    Nov. 9:  pp. 357-420 (Part IV, plus Appendices, Bibliography, Acknowledgments).  Also read for Nov. 9 the first THREE resources below; they're brief.

    Optional: check out one or both of the essays below, by Schmidt and Zunshine.

    • A copy of the homework assignment handout, for each of the 3 groups to use.

    • for our Fri., Oct. 26 2018 class.  based on photos I took of the blackboard lists.

    • Ozeki visiting Professor Schmidt's English 52B class (U.S. Fiction, 1945 to the Present), April 2015.

    • on mid-ocean garbage patches (discussed in A Tale for the Time Being)

    • Relevant for our Ozeki reading...

    • from The New Yorker, May 2, 2011.  Cited in Tales for the Time Being, p. 395, note 160.

      Optional reading.   Compare and contrast the ideas in this article with those in Ozeki's novel, particularly pp. 393-98 and 409, 413-15?

    • from Prof. Tristan Smith, Swarthmore Department of Physics and Astronomy

    • by Peter Schmidt.  This is a relatively new essay.  I wrote it in the summer of 2015, to honor a colleague and friend of mine, Amritjit Singh, for an anthology celebrating his life and work.  My essay was in part inspired by discussing this amazing novel with Swarthmore students in my English 52B "U.S. Fiction, 1945 to the Present" (spring 2015).  Ruth Ozeki visited our class (!!) and also gave a public talk on the novel and its origins; she loved meeting Swarthmore students and engaging with their caring and intelligent questions, and they loved her right back.  We also gave her a parting gift:  a real Hello Kitty metal lunchbox.  (You can buy them on the Internet.)  I've now decided to add the novel to some of the versions of "Portraits of the Artist," the first-year seminar I teach.

      This essay is optional reading.  Its purpose is to provide a decent guide or map to the novel's use of Buddhist and quantum ideas in the form, not just in its content, of the stories it tells.  The beginning 8pp. or so of the essay and some other passages place the novel within some contemporary developments in fiction, cultural studies theory, and environmental studies--if you'd like to skip these intro pages and go right to the comments on Ozeki's novel, go ahead.  I recommend you read this essay only after you've either finished the novel (spoilers).

    • Other optional reading, from PMLA, a publication of new scholarship from the Modern Language Association, 2015.

      Uses concepts from "theory of mind" psychology to discuss how reading fiction promotes vocabulary development and adeptness at imagining others' mental states (and empathizing with them?).  Yet children are assigned less and less imaginative literature as they progress from primary school to high school--especially when they live in poorer neighborhoods and go to poorer schools.  Zunshine argues that exiling strong imaginative literature from children's education is disastrous for them, goes against clear scientific findings about what stimulates learning, and will increase social inequity.

      This article may also give you some new ways of conceptualizing the key role played by empathy, "nested mental states," and "constructive learning" in Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being. 

  • Kushner's Angels in America assignments, plus link for uploading paper #2

    Nov 12  Kushner, Angels in America: read intro materials & all of Part I (Millennium Approaches)Prof. Schmidt will schedule a viewing of Part I for the class via either a DVD or HBO (time tba), but you should finish reading all the text of Part I (and the brief intro materials) by Nov. 12.  We’ll focus on the 12th on ways to understand the whole of Part I, a look at Act One, and questions you have.

    14                    Kushner, Angels I, more on Act One, but also Acts Two and Three (about 45pp. reading)

    16                   Kushner, Angels I, Act Three

    Sunday, Nov. 18, paper #2 due, uploaded by 10pm to this 9H Moodle site using the link below.  A 5-8pp. .docx Word file, double-spaced with 12-point fontYou must incorporate a counter-argument into paper #2.  Come up with your own topic on any course materials you’ve studied—from Plato or Arabian Nights through A Tale for the Time Being—on which you not yet written.  I recommend you focus just on one text (or a portion of it), though you may refer to other relevant items on our syllabus if it's helpful.  You’re welcome to discuss your approach and idea for a thesis with me ahead of time—just not at the last minute. 

    Nov. 19           Kushner, concluding discussion of Angels Part I (Millennium Approachs).

    21                    Kushner, Angels: read all of Part II (Perestroika), including intro materials.  We’ll arrange to show the DVD or HBO version of Part II also; time tba.  We’ll focus on the whole of Part II but especially Act One.

    22-23               Thanksgiving Break.

    Nov. 26           Kushner, Angels II, more on Act One, but also Acts Two and Three (about 45pp. reading)

    Nov. 28           Kushner, Angels II, more on Acts Two or Three, plus Act Four

    Nov. 30           Kushner, Angels II, Act Five, plus Epilogue and Kushner’s “Afterward.” This act includes Prior’s astonishing trip to Heaven to confront the Angels, juxtaposed with the doings of the other characters back on Earth.  Concluding discussion.

    • Due Sunday, Nov. 18, uploaded by 10pm.  A 5-8pp. .docx Word file, double-spaced with 12-point fontAs the syllabus says, you must incorporate a counter-argument into paper #2.  Come up with your own topic on any course materials you’ve studied—from Plato or Arabian Nights through A Tale for the Time Being—on which you not yet written.  

      I recommend you focus just on one text (or a portion of it), though you may refer to other relevant items on our syllabus if it’s helpful.  You’re welcome to discuss your approach and idea for a thesis with me ahead of time—just not at the last minute. 

  • Cisneros, Miranda, Glover, Monáe (Dec. 3, 5, 7, and 10)

    • Dec. 3     Read this Sandra Cisneros’s short story, “Little Miracles, Kept Promises,” for today's discussion.  From her Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories, 1991.  We could call this story "a portrait of the Latinx artist as a young woman...."

    • Dec. 5.  Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer and lyricist.  Nina’s song “Breathe” is from his Tony award-winning musical set in NYC, In the Heights (2008).  Sung by Mandy González.  "Breathe" has now become a classic audition song.

    • Dec. 7.  See also 3 resources below.

    • We'll show Dirty Computer in its entirety at 7pm on Sunday Dec. 9 (night before class)--please come if you can.  LPAC 201.  Some "homework"! :) 

      class on Dec. 10.  Discuss Monáe's "emotion picture" (2018), her first full-length work since 2013.


      “This album is so much bigger than me,” Monáe said, getting choked up. “It’s not about me. It’s about community of dirty computers, of marginalized voices.”

      “Being a young, black queer woman in America, there was something I had to say. There was a group of people that I wanted to celebrate. I’m happy to be representing them. I hope they feel seen. I hope they feel heard. I hope they feel loved, and I hope they feel celebrated.”

      Later, the “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures” star said that she created the album for the “community of voices that I hear and I see when I look out in the crowd.”

      “You know, there’s something going on in this country and there are a lot of people’s voices that are pushed to the margins of society because of who they love and what God they choose to serve,” she added. “I wanted this album to be for them, to be a community and a church for their lives.”

      Monáe is up for two Grammy Awards this year, with her video for “Pynk” also nominated in the music video category. That brings her totally Grammy nominations tally to eight....

    • This link provides a start.  Explore further.

    • Another ground-breaking 2018 music video exploring gender fluidity:

      • Héloise Letissier's video "Girlfriend."  Her stage name: Christine and the Queens.  Video directed by Jordan Bahat.  Dancers: (LA) Horde, a contemporary French dance collective.  Music: Dâm-Funk.  Letissier:  "Can I make a really gay video that is a really intensely macho video at the same time?"  2018.

      • Commentary on this video, with stills, by one of the New York Times' dance writers, Gia Koulas.  For the column "Why I Love ... The Little Things That Move Us."  This one is on "The Choreography of 'Girlfriend.'"    Traces some links between Girlfriend, Michael Jackson's Bad, and the movie West Side Story (1961).  If you like Girlfriend but don't know those other references, go view them!  They're classics.  From The New York Times/Arts Section.  August 26, 2018.

      • A documentary on the video work of Cao Fei in China, now being shown around the world.  She focuses on how ordinary people (including factory workers) have adapted to the most rapid and intense modernization and industrialization that the world has ever experienced.   Her videos have been widely shown and applauded throughout the world, as well as in China, even as they raise dangerous questions about the future of the "human" in industrialized society.

      Links to all these options are below:

    • Lots of good facts and connections in this short appreciation piece by a dance critic at the Times.

    • Gives background and examples on this artist now based in Beijing.  See also brief note above. 

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe her name is pronounced Shao Fay.

  • Dec. 9-22: Final Exam (instructions and upload link)

    Final exam for Portraits of the Artist: Instructions; the 3 exam essay topics; plus the Upload Link

    As the syllabus says, by 5pm Dec. 14 (Fridayturn in to my LPAC 206 mailbox a printed version of your revision of either paper #1 or #2.  Do not use campus mail.  Do not load this revision onto our Moodle site.  I will have on my computer a copy of your papers #1 and 2 with my comments, to compare with your revision.

    The rest of the exam must be a single Microsoft Word .docx file that you will upload below.  This exam essay file will have 3 brief 3-5pp. sections (essays), as described on our syllabus:  

    Final exam for English 9H:  a take-home open-book and open-notes exam with no time limit except completing it sometime during the final exam period in December.  To be uploaded as a single Word .docx file on the English 9H Moodle site by the end of the exam period (or before)—the final deadline is 5pm Saturday Dec. 22.  Grade penalties for turning in your exam late.  Do not email the exam or print it and turn it in to LPAC 206. Using the Moodle site means that, if you’d like, you may do the upload while traveling or at home.

    Here's the open-book and open-notes essay exam.  It consists of 3 original short essays:

    • The first exam essay topic will ask you to give a thoughtful assessment of how your writing for English 9H has evolved over the semester, as you’ve learned from class discussion and the professor’s feedback.  Refer to the revision of paper #1 or 2 that you turned in to Prof. Schmidt’s office on Dec. 14, and give specific examples to help you support your points about how you believe you’ve improved your writing this semester.  I should have your revised essay so there’s no need to turn it in with your exam.  Note:  this essay for the exam should not be merely an exercise in self-praise.  It’s OK to mention areas in which you’ve struggled and your reflections on why; plus to mention ways in which you’d still like your writing to improve. Approximately 3-5pp., double-spaced, 12-point font.  No time limit for work on this essay.


    • The second final exam essay question offers you the opportunity to write a brief reflection on work we’ve studied since Ozeki—Kushner, Cisneros, Miranda, Glover, Monáe—OR any earlier course materials that you did not discuss in papers #1 or 2.  I recommend that you choose just one artist/writer and focus on the aspect of their work that most interests you and why.  Be specific, not vague, but also be ambitious: why is this work important? How does it help you think about artists and why society needs them (even though sometimes it makes their lives miserable)?  You have freedom to choose your own topic and approach for this essay.  You’re welcome to consult about your essay’s ideas with Prof. Schmidt ahead of time.  This essay approximately 3-5pp., double-spaced, 12-point font, no time limit.


    • The third short essay will ask you to be broadly reflective and comparative regarding all our semester’s “portraits of the artist”; you’ll have free choice regarding the works on which you’d like to focus and the comparative approach you take.  You will use this essay to identify and synthesize the most important ideas and interpretive skills that you’ve gotten from this course this semester, and to reflect a little on the value of studying literature and the Humanities as part of a liberal arts education.  Also approximately 3-5pp., double-spaced, 12-point font.


    • Please make your exam a single Word .docx or .doc file; add your name to the exam file (such as "lastname-FinalExam-9H," and upload it using this link.  Deadline for the exam is the end of the exam period:  5pm Saturday Dec. 22 (though you may of course upload your exam file earlier than that).

      Questions?  Email me or set up an office visit.