Special Graduate Topics in Fiction--Style & Voice

Course Details

Course Number
Section Number
Spring 2017
Bea Wood Hall
Classroom Number
Days & Times

M 6:30-9:20 PM

Dr. Robert Johnson III (view Profile)

Course Attachments


The Sound on the Page
Notes of a Native Son
Breakfast at Tiffany's
novel and story
The Middleman and Other Stories
The Art Lover
In Mad Love and War

Course Objectives


We will attempt to survey a range of basic attitudes about what style is and what it does.  Along the way, we will read works from writers who are said to present readers a distinctive voice.  We will both learn about the style of others and, under their influence, perhaps become better—more stylish—writers ourselves.

Course Expectations


Ideally, a seminar (by label, a kind of "seed plot") should not be founded on teacher-talk.  Thus, I shall try to allow you the freedom, through participation, to create your own letter mark.  The grade I record will be composed of the following elements—


1.  Preparations (up to 10 pts.)  Each meeting, I will assign a set of preparations for our next meeting.  At the beginning of each class, I will stamp any preparations that are complete.  At term's end, each stamped set will be worth one point.  Incomplete, unstamped preps, will not score points.


2.  Participation (up to15 pts—1 point per response.)  I will ask that you keep a brief log (sample form attached; or you can turn in a typed list), noting, after each day's work, your participation.  What questions did you pose?  What discussions did you support?  We all sometimes will listen more than we speak, of course.  But please be accumulating a log that you can hand to me at class's end.  In it, be prepared to describe for me how (at least fifteen times) you spoke to issues raised in class, answering questions, asking them, making comments. . . .  List your responses, please, by date.


3.  Teaching Notes (up to 35 points, total: 1-5 points for each set)  While reading through the application texts, please be taking notes.  As requested by due date, then, please supply me with a typed, double-spaced list in which you present those style issues that you think are key to defining each text’s voice.  Offer (page-cited) examples to establish your claims.  For each text, please try to be creating about a two-page bundle of teaching notes.  At class's end, this portfolio, fully assembled, will offer you an invaluable tool if you ever have to present these writers in sections of your own.   As a header for each set of notes, position a paragraph of about 100 words that sums how you would open the discussion in class, what general background you might present, for example.  Notes will be on MLA-style pages.


4.  Seminar Paper  (40 pts)  Each member will develop a typed, double-spaced analytical essay that accomplishes the task described below.  During the final two sessions, class members will present to the group a brief (about 10 planned minutes) oral summation of their papers.  The written paper will be graded as an essay.  This is NOT a class in public speaking, but the talk will be graded according to its organization and completeness (it will not be winged, ad lib).  We are not trained speakers, but we can be direct, orderly, and fully prepared to help our audience understand.  Points: 0-30 for the paper; 0-10 for the presentation and following discussion.  Essay length: 8-10 typed pages.  Please supply a one-page topic outline of your presentation on the day you speak and bring enough copies for everyone.


Task: Pick a one-page section of a text you have read outside this class’s work.  Photocopy and annotate that section, to be turned in with your essay.  Then, compose an MLA-style essay in which you accomplish the following:


a.  Offer a short (1-2 page) introduction to the text.  Label the text by genre.  Then tell me how it fits into the writer’s career.  Explain, briefly, how critics have reacted to the text, early to late, over the course of the text’s history.


b.  Next, analyze what you believe to be the key (foregrounded, that is, for you) elements of the writer’s style, as expressed in the chosen section of the text.  Use strategies outlined in lecture, handout, and Yagoda.


c.  Close with a couple pages of summary of the effects of the foregrounded elements on your reading of the text.


The last two sections should be written in a primary-source voice; the opening section will refer to materials outside the text and will make necessary, thus, a “Works Cited” section.

Grading Standards

In this class, the following numerical equivalents for final grades are used: A = 100-90%; B = 89-80%; C = 79-70%; D = 69-60%; F = 59-0%. 

Submission Format Policy

See individual assignments.

Note: You may not submit a paper for a grade in this class that already has been (or will be) submitted for a grade in another course, unless you obtain the explicit written permission of me and the other instructor involved in advance.

Late Paper Policy

I'm sorry, but no late work can be accepted, unless arrangements have been made with me. 

Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is the use of someone else's thoughts, words, ideas, or lines of argument in your own work without appropriate documentation (a parenthetical citation at the end and a listing in "Works Cited")-whether you use that material in a quote, paraphrase, or summary. It is a theft of intellectual property and will not be tolerated, whether intentional or not.

Student Honor Creed

As an MSU Student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else do so."

As students at MSU, we recognize that any great society must be composed of empowered, responsible citizens. We also recognize universities play an important role in helping mold these responsible citizens. We believe students themselves play an important part in developing responsible citizenship by maintaining a community where integrity and honorable character are the norm, not the exception.

Thus, We, the Students of Midwestern State University, resolve to uphold the honor of the University by affirming our commitment to complete academic honesty. We resolve not only to be honest but also to hold our peers accountable for complete honesty in all university matters.

We consider it dishonest to ask for, give, or receive help in examinations or quizzes, to use any unauthorized material in examinations, or to present, as one's own, work or ideas which are not entirely one's own. We recognize that any instructor has the right to expect that all student work is honest, original work. We accept and acknowledge that responsibility for lying, cheating, stealing, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty fundamentally rests within each individual student.

We expect of ourselves academic integrity, personal professionalism, and ethical character. We appreciate steps taken by University officials to protect the honor of the University against any who would disgrace the MSU student body by violating the spirit of this creed.

Written and adopted by the 2002-2003 MSU Student Senate.

Students with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Disability Support Services in Room 168 of the Clark Student Center, (940) 397-4140.

Safe Zones Statement

The professor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being - regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the professor's expectation that ALL students consider the classroom a safe environment.

Contacting your Instructor

All instructors in the Department have voicemail in their offices and MWSU e-mail addresses. Make sure you add your instructor's phone number and e-mail address to both email and cell phone lists of contacts.

Attendance Requirements

Regular attendance and participation will be expected.  After the first cut, each additional cut can lower the final mark one grade.  Two late arrivals count together as one cut. 

Other Policies

See class bundle.

Writing Proficiency Requirement

All students seeking a Bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University must satisfy a writing proficiency requirement once they've 1) passed the 6 hours of Communication Core and and 2) earned 60 hours. You may meet this requirement by passing either the Writing Proficiency Exam or English 2113. Please keep in mind that, once you've earned over 90 hours, you lose the opportunity to take the $25 exam and have no option but to enroll in the three-credit hour course. If you have any questions about the exam, visit the Writing Proficiency Office website at, or call 397-4131.

>Calendar Attachment

Campus Carry

Senate Bill 11 passed by the 84th Texas Legislature allows licensed handgun holders to carry concealed handguns on campus, effective August 1, 2016. Areas excluded from concealed carry are appropriately marked, in accordance with state law. For more information regarding campus carry, please refer to the University’s webpage at

If you have questions or concerns, please contact MSU Chief of Police Patrick Coggins at