Literary research is labor-intensive, both mentally and physcally. In the past, the first step in research was flipping through card catalogue and huge volumes of MLA Bibliographies to manually record and then compile bibliographies we needed, and then "going" to different libraries to try to photocopy as many as possible. (I still remember as a student of an MA research and bib class, I was assigned to make a long long trip to Fu Jen's "Science and Engineering Library" to record with a pen--not from a catalogue but from an old folder of papers--all the titles of literature-related journals, including the period of their subscription and missing issues!)
What does literary research mean today when we have library catalogue system online (OPAC), and many search engines, online and/or electronic databases, as well as those hard-copy bibliographies and indice and encyclopedias? Can scholarship and criticism be distinguished from each other (as Richard Altick did) when we are exposed to endless "published" resources which may come from different disciplines, and whose standards vary from those of primary school to academic ones? I would say no. The traditional reference tools are still indispensible, just as library trips essential. However, a higher degree of judgment and critical thinking should be involved right from the start of our research, while physical labor might be undertaken more in front a computer than in a library.
In our course--part of the "vocational training" for you as you enter the graduate program--we will learn on the one hand to find a topic, get a question, narrow the topic down to a manageable scope and to develope a tentative thesis, and, on the other, to base our ideas in formation on solid scholarship and general awareness of the current critical trends. All the way through we will be critically engaged in both developing our own proposal and doing research. And at the end, we will discuss what scholarship means and what "spirit of scholarhip" we should follow. As a whole, I hope that we will learn together not only the basic codes and rules of literary studies as a profession, but also how to find our own way in the rapidly increasing range of topics and approaches.
- Two reports (40%)-- one on research methods and the other one critical issues. The report on critical issues should be focused on the issues you discover from the reading, but not on the names or history of criticism.
- Final project (60%)-- a thesis proposal + an annotated bibliography and outline.
Textbooks and References:
- Writing Research Papers: A Complete Guide. 9th ed. James D. Lester. NY: Longman, 1999. (Hereafter Cited as Complete Guide)
- Problems in Literary Research. (Hereafter Cited as Research)
- Selection from A Handbook to Literary Research. (website for chap 3) Eds. Simon Eliot and W.R. Owens. NY: Routledge in Association with Open U, 1998. (Hereafter Cited as Open)
- MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 4th ed. Joseph Gibaldi. NY: MLA, 1995. (MLA Style on the World Wide Web--official site with a few guidelines on MLA documentation style. Hereafter cited as MLA)
- The Art of Literary Research. 4th Ed. Richard Altick & John J. Fenstermaker. NY: Norton, 1993.
- A Guide to Literary Criticism and Research. Bonnie Klomp Stevens & Larry L. Stewart. NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1987.
- Literary Research Guide: A Guide to Reference Sources for the study of Literatures in English and Related Topics. James L. Harner. New York : Modern Language Association of America, 1993. (Our library: 820.9016 H229)