Welcome to Introduction to Literature

“Nobody ever got ready by waiting.
You only get ready by starting.”
— John C. Maxwell
Welcome to Introduction to Literature!

This course is an important first step into understanding the worlds around us — real and imaginary. It will also help with learning to find meaning in what we read. You’ll have the chance to explore ideas that interest you while helping develop your critical thinking, communication, and writing skills, which in turn will help you in many parts of life, including personal growth, professional development, and engaging with the world around us. If you can find meaning in literature, you can find meaning in your life, too. And, who doesn’t want to live a meaningful life?

We’re ready to help you succeed in the course — but to help you succeed, you’ll need to work hard, read regularly, and write down your thoughts and ideas to call on them for later assignments. For that, we’ll need your best efforts as well.

To complete the course work, simply move in order from one unit module to the next, while following the instructions and deadlines in each.

About the Course

In this course, there will be briefing videos and readings on each of the major literary forms — creative nonfiction, fictional short stories, poetry, drama, and the novel.

You will select a few texts from a list of official readings in each unit. There are minimums in each unit, although you may read more (or all) of them if you like. The benefit of reading more of them is that you will have more flexibility in writing your literary analysis essays — all eight of them.

As you read, you will need to gather your thoughts, interpret the readings, and take notes throughout. You will submit your notes on all of the readings for each unit.

Then, you can review your notes and use them to craft your literary essays, one in each unit. Some essays are fairly brief, although others are extensive. Throughout, you’ll examine the themes, ideas, and approaches found in all the readings throughout the course.

Grammar, punctuation, MLA formatting, a polished writing style, and framing a cohesive argument are all important elements for your essays. I am most interested in the strength of your critical thinking, the insights your interpretive skills yield, and how deeply you understand what you read. This is a demanding course because there is a significant amount of reading and writing ahead.

Because of the workload, and the time it can take to truly understand literary works, this course should not be rushed or procrastinated if you hope to get a good grade.

I ask that you skim over the course, ahead of time, to give yourself a chance to understand what you can and should grasp from the readings. Because we are not meeting in person, you will submit your notes and questions for each unit so that you and I can discuss the readings.

I also highly recommend that you talk about the readings with someone close to you, to help you work through the themes and ideas in each. in my experience, there is no quicker way to figure out what you’re reading — and at a deeper level — than by trying to describe the readings to a friend or family member. Explaining something to someone else helps clarify, reinforce, and deepen your understanding.

Further, I ask that you select the novel you will read for the course TODAY, secure a copy, and begin reading immediately. Take notes after each chapter, as suggested for the “notes” assignments.

I recommend that you set a time each day to read and work on the course. For me, the easiest schedules to keep are when I select part of my regular day, and work immediately after — after breakfast, after dinner, or after you get home and while you have a snack, or whatever works for you.

Finally, although the course readings are available free online, remember, the novel you choose will need to be acquired outside the course.

But First, An Important Note

We strongly suggest that you read ahead in each unit, if not the entire course.

Why? You will be graded on the quality of your detailed notes for each of the readings and videos in the course.

However, the criteria you will use to take notes only appear later in each unit.

So, please look ahead — especially to the Notes & Questions assignments — to see the list of different criteria for each unit/genre.

Remember to also write down any questions that occur to you, because you will also submit those questions in each Notes & Questions assignment.

To that end, it may be easiest to write, save, and submit your notes digitally, in a document you can upload.

However, since studies show that handwriting your notes may aid in learning retention, you may also submit photos of your hand-written notes, instead. However, they will need to be organized, photographed well, and written in a style that’s neat enough for me (and you) to easily read.

There are other reasons for taking careful notes in the course, beyond the challenges of keeping track of the readings for your essays later in the course.

One of the best ways to learn and retain what you study is to flip or scroll through your notes each day. It only takes a minute or two, and you needn’t read them in any detail. However, simply refreshing your mind each day — just by looking at them, however briefly — should help you in several ways:

  • Reviewing your notes daily will help you remember your studies later on.
  • These one- or two-minute-long reviews will also help clarify your thoughts and ideas about the readings and the course itself.
  • Ideas and concepts that once seemed complicated will become clear, as if by magic.
  • Plus, it’s an easy and positive way to remember all that you’ve accomplished so far! 
  • In these ways, and more, brief daily reviews help you see the big picture and direction of the course, preparing you to move forward into new territory.

We highly recommend briefly reviewing your notes daily.