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Azin Arefi - English

ELIT 39: Contemporary Literature

This course is designed to help students develop analytical and comparative skills in reading and writing by reading and analyzing works by contemporary writers. The class will include a variety of writings from men and women of differing backgrounds, in the forms of poetry and novels. The link with all the writings will be creativity and madness.

Course Objectives:

Students will develop analytical and comparative skills in reading of literary texts linked by the cultural and historical aspects of writings by contemporary writers. We will look at texts as a way to analyze not only the works themselves, but the cultural and identity of individuals, trying to find the connection between creativity and madness.


Course Requirements:

  • Regular attendance and active participation in class discussions.
  • Keeping up-to-date on the assignments and readings.
  • Two papers
  • Presentations and group work
  • Keeping a Journal
  • Unannounced quizzes and in-class assignments

Required Texts:

  • The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  • The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
  • Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
  • Veronika Decides to Die, Paulo Coelho
  • A Course Reader, available from the instructor (sorry, no exchanges or refunds)

Recommended Texts:

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon
  • A grammar guidebook of your choice

Course Evaluation:






Final Exam




Journals/Group Work








Grading Scale:

100-95% = A, 94-90 = A-, 89-85% = B, 84-80=B-, 79-75% = C, 74-70=C-, 69-60% = D, 59%-below = F

Course Assignments:

Journal/Discussion Questions. You will keep a course journal in which you write responses to particular discussion questions or ideas discussed in class or to specified readings. You will write some of your journal entries in class, but others will be given as homework. I will collect and evaluate them towards the end of the quarter.  

Quizzes. These quizzes measure your preparation for class and your understanding of class lecture and concepts covered. Quizzes will be given at the beginning of the class period so do not be late.  They are meant to reward you for your preparation and your on-time attendance.

Participation. You are expected to come to this class prepared with paper, pen, appropriate text, having completed the reading and all assignments due, and ready to participate in discussion.  Whether as a class or if you are in small groups, your contribution is required and necessary. 

Papers. You will be required to write two papers during the course. In each of these essays you should pay close attention to style and mechanics and implement the writing skills we discuss in class. You must demonstrate your critical thinking abilities. Your papers should be typed, double-spaced, 12-pt font, with one-inch margins all around. Each essay must be organized and written clearly. Careful proofreading and correct grammar and punctuation usage are crucial. Three to five pages is appropriate for each. Use MLA format (refer to the sheets in your course reader)


Course Policies:

Plagiarism. Plagiarism is using someone else’s words or ideas in direct quote, paraphrase, or summary form and submitting them as your own. I expect no copying or cheating whatsoever, at any time, by any student. IF YOU EVER FEEL BOGGED DOWN BY WRITER’S BLOCK OR FRUSTRATED WITH AN ASSIGNMENT IN ANY WAY, COME TALK TO ME! IF YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT YOUR WRITER’S VOICE AND WANT TO SOUND BETTER ON PAPER, COME TALK TO ME! Plagiarism is often committed on accident, by people who want to sound better or by those who do not know how to correctly incorporate and cite research into their papers. But these are not excuses for it. Plagiarism, whether intentional or not, is always wrong. Plagiarism may result in automatic failure of the course.

Attendance: Attendance every day is required. You should come to class on time and prepared. If you have to be absent, please call to excuse yourself.  If you have three unexcused absences, I will assume that you have withdrawn, and give you a W. Repeated tardiness will equal absences. (NOTE: It is ultimately the student’s responsibility to formally drop themselves from a course. If you are on my final grading roster, I am legally required to give you a letter grade. )

Respect: In class we will be discussing a lot of sensitive issues and each individual person's opinion must be respected. You are to listen to each other and be considerate of one another at all times. You can disagree with someone, but always in a respectful manner.

Disruptive behavior may result in being dropped from the class. As part of that, please remember to turn off cell phones (and put them away --no texting) and other electronic device that makes noise, as they are disruptive to the class. If your cell phone does go off, you are to bring treats for the class the next day J. 

Daily Assignments and Deadlines

Week 1: The Catcher in the Rye

Monday April 6th:


Tuesday April 7th:

Link between Madness and Creativity

Journal #1 (in class)

Wednesday April 8th:

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 1-4

Thursday April 9th:

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 5-9


Week 2: The Catcher in the Rye

Monday April 13th:

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 10-14

Tuesday April 14th:

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 15-18

Wednesday April 15th:

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 19-22

Thursday April 16th:

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 23-26 (End)

Journal #2 Due


Week 3: The Bell Jar

Monday April 20th:

The Bell Jar Chapter 1-2

Journal #3 Due

Tuesday April 21st:

The Bell Jar Chapter 3-4

Wednesday April 22nd:

The Bell Jar Chapter 5-6

Thursday April 23rd:

The Bell Jar Chapter 7-8


Week 4: The Bell Jar

Monday April 27th:

The Bell Jar Chapter 9-10

Tuesday April 28th:

The Bell Jar Chapter 11-12

Wednesday April 29th:

The Bell Jar Chapter 13-14

Thursday April 30th:

The Bell Jar Chapter 15-17


Week 5: The Bell Jar

Monday May 4th:

The Bell Jar Chapter 18-20 (End)

Tuesday May 5th:

In-Class Movie: Sylvia


Wednesday May 6th:

In-Class Movie: Sylvia

Thursday May 7th:

In-Class Movie: Sylvia

Paper #1 Due


Week 6: Girl, Interrupted

Monday May 11th:

Girl, Interrupted, “Toward a Topography” to “Freedom”

Tuesday May 12th:

Girl, Interrupted, “The Secret of Life” to “Applied Topography”

Wednesday May 13th:

Girl, Interrupted, “The Prelude to Ice Cream” to “Do You Believe Him or Me?”

Thursday May 14th:

Girl, Interrupted, “Velocity vs. Viscosity” to “ 1968”


Week 7: Girl, Interrupted

Monday May 18th:


Tuesday May 19th:

Girl, Interrupted, “Bare Bones” to “Mind vs. Brain”

Wednesday May 20th:

Girl, Interrupted, “Stigmatography” to Girl, Interrupted” (End)

Thursday May 21st:

Girl, Interrupted Midterm


Week 8: Girl, Interrupted

Monday May 25th


Tuesday May 26th

In-Class Movie: Girl, Interrupted

Journal #4 Due

Wednesday May 27th

In-Class Movie: Girl, Interrupted

Thursday May 28th:

In-Class Movie: Girl, Interrupted


Week 9: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Monday June 1st:

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, pg. 1-41

Tuesday June 2nd

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, pg. 41-69

Wednesday June 3rd:

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, pg. 70-101

Thursday June 4th:

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, pg. 102-137


Week 10: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Monday June 8th:

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, pg. 138-173

Tuesday June 9th:

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, pg. 174-190

Wednesday June 10th:

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, pg. 191-241

Thursday June 11th:

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, pg. 242-272 (End)

Journal #5 due


Week 11: Veronika Decides to Die

Monday June 15th:

Veronika Decides to Die, pg. 1-47

Tuesday June 16th:

Veronika Decides to Die, pg. 48-84

Wednesday June 17th:

Veronika Decides to Die, pg. 85-129

Thursday June 18th:

Veronika Decides to Die, pg. 130-164

Journal #1-5 Due


Week 12:

Monday June 22nd:

Veronika Decides to Die, pg. 165-210 (End)

Paper #2 Due


Final Exam:

Tuesday June 23rd 9:15 am-11:15 am

email icon Email: Azin Arefi
phone icon Phone: 408.864.8547


Last Updated: 4/25/16