Course Syllabus

Updated 3 Feb 2021.


This course is taught synchronously: IRT. There are ethical reasons for my decision, and I would be happy to discuss them in office hours: email me for an appointment. If you are unable to attend class owing to time zones or work, or other known-at-this-point scheduling conflicts, you do need to find another class, one taught in such a manner that suits the pragmatics of your schedule. --JB



Professor Burstein (they/their)                            

English 213B Winter 2021: “Modernism after Postmodernism”

Class time: M/W 11.30-1.20   Check account.

Office Hours (See Zoom link in Announcements) Thursdays 8-10 am; & also by appointment. If my camera is not on, I’m still there, and you are not interrupting me. Please say “Knock knock” or something equally clever so I know you are there and I’ll turn on my camera.



Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway,  Mariner Books,   ISBN-13 : 978-0156628709

Michael Cunningham, The Hours Picador   ISBN-13 : 978-0312243029

Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation Vintage   ISBN-13 : 978-0345806871

Zadie Smith, Swing Time Penguin   ISBN-13 : 978-0143111641




Week One

Monday 4 Jan  Syllabus walk-through; Introduction, Pound, “In a Station of the Metro”


Wednesday 6 Jan: How To Read:  Read and take notes on (Bootleg version of) James Joyce, “Araby" in Files. Or, if you must, read online: There is a difference between the two versions; see if you see.



Week Two

Monday 11 Jan: Reread Joyce, “Araby” along with notes:                                                                                  

Wednesday 13 January: Demonstration: How to close-read (Joyce).       Homework: Start reading Mrs. Dalloway: you have a week, and 32 pages a day (give or take your edition’s pagination) should do it. It will probably be nicer if you read in self-determined chunks, though. There are no chapters, but there are “sections” Woolf deliberately worked in.

            I will provide a “What To Read For” for the class if you ask me. “Examples of connections” will be one.


Week Three

Monday 18 Jan Holiday; no class.

Wednesday 20 Jan:  Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway—the whole book.

10 am PST: Response Paper (“RP”) #1 due on Mrs. Dalloway.


Week Four

Monday 25 Jan Woolf, con’t    Recommended: Jenny Offill, “A Lifetime of Lessons in Mrs. Dalloway


Wednesday 27 Jan Woolf, con’t                                              

                                                            Homework: Start The Hours: 240 pages ergo 60-ish pages a night.


Week Five

Monday 1 Feb: 5 pm Paper #1 due: Close reading of a Woolf passage.  No class.

Wednesday 3 Feb: Woolf.


Week Six  

Monday 8 Feb: Half-Hours (get it?): In class: 2) Woolf: CD's theory; party.  2)  Cunningham (the whole thing). Yeah, I know. Keep track of the character's names, and keep your Dalloway nearby.

Wednesday 10 Feb: 10 am: RP #2 due: Cunningham, con't.


Week Seven

Monday 15 Feb Holiday.

Wednesday 17 Feb Swing Time, parts 1- part 5 (“Night and Day”): pp. 1-282


Week Eight

Monday 22 Feb:  Smith, Swing Time parts 6, 7 (“Day and Night”)-end: pp. 283-453

Wednesday 24 Feb: Swing Time 

                                                Start Offill. 192 pages. Like the Woolf it is best read in chunks, or in 2 long sittings.

Sunday  28 Feb, 5 pm PST .RP #3 due. *Swing Time* 

Week Nine

Monday 1 March: Swing Time

Wednesday 3 March: Offill, Dept. of Speculation


Week Ten

Monday 8 March Offill, con’t.  10 AM PST: RP#4 due.

Wednesday 10 March: Conclusion.

Saturday 13 March, 10 am PST: Paper #2 due (for comments on feedback--write this at the top of the page)

Sunday  14 March, noon PST: Paper #2 due (no comments for feedback).




4 RP’s: 30%

Paper #1: 4 page close reading. 15%

Paper #2: 5-7 pages. Using close reading.  20%:  

In class work (quizzes, Scribing, in-class writing, verbal contribution): 35%


Extra credit: Proto viva voce


  Viva voce's are different from other office hours appointments; for the latter you can come in and talk about confusions, or ask questions, or float ideas, or register the fact that you absolutely loathed the book (for the following reasons) and wish the author had never been born.

Viva voce's must be scheduled by Thursday 4 March. They don't have to occur before that, though.

    This is a viva voce:  By appointment only.  You come to the office hours link for a 20 minute slot of time, ready to chat specifically about one novel or specifically an idea that spans novels.  You choose the topic. You need to have finished the book(s), thought seriously about the thing, and be ready to discuss it in terms of a specific idea. Chat means chat, but if the thought of talking with a professor freezes you in your tracks, you can come in with something prepared. It also can be, dare I say, fun—and good for your college career.

            You must receive written confirmation from me of the viva voce appointment. This can boost your In-Class work grade, as participation.


Response Papers


RP’s are always due in Canvas “Assignments” at 10 am PST.

            Being a good reader means being an active reader. On the days indicated you will turn in, on Canvas Assignments, a substantive single spaced one-page / 500 words-or-so response paper (“RP”) formulated around either a specific question or observation having to do with the text under discussion that day/week.

         Response papers receive a check minus, check [minus], check, or (rarely) a check plus. Your goal is to achieve a check. Check minuses mean you should try harder next time (see my comments on where to begin), and checks mean you are doing fine. Check pluses mean you have knocked it out of the park. I am parsimonious with check pluses; don’t panic if you don’t get one—a series of checks is a solid performance, and can result in a 4.0 for this portion of your grade. At the end of the quarter, I will assess your performance on the response papers as an arc over the course as a whole.         

            The intellectual purpose of the response papers is twofold: to give you a start in thinking critically and in a focused manner about the material; and to give me a chance to register your impressions and adjust our discussions accordingly.  

  • You may formulate your response paper around a question, one that you start to answer; or explain why the question emerges as an important one. You can gather instances of a repeated term or image from across the text, so take notes with page numbers.
    • RP’s  require focus. Specificity and reference to the text directly is key. Avoid questions like “What is the author's intention in using X?"; "What is the deeper meaning of Y?": they’re too big, and there’s no such thing as deeper meaning. The question you engage should not be answered readily by a simple yes or no; and indeed you are relieved of the burden of answering the question definitively—but you should begin to answer the question.
    • Think concretely, and stay focused on what the text tells you, not what your impressions are at a general or sweeping level. "How is race presented in this novel?" is impossible to answer in a page (and difficult in a 200-page book). Do ask, "In the scene in which Marlow meets the accountant, is the word "white" used as a racial term, or a chromatic one?" That focuses on a scene, and a word: “white.” Alternatively, you can gather instances of a repeated term or image from across the text.
  • You must use quotations from the text, cited parenthetically with page number, like “this” (42), to reference or explain your question, and your answer or tentative answers to it; or to explain why the question is an important one. The point is to keep you "close" to the text; don't speculate, engage in generalizations, or drift off into hypothetical propositions--they're endless, and none of them will help you focus on what is already there. Occasionally, in order to open discussion, you may be asked to present (verbally) your response paper to the class.
  • Do not use first person and avoid reference to “the reader.” This will force you to focus on the text. (“I love how X happens” will become “X is an important issue because [some reason more specific than your love for it: the way it mattered to the text, the way it was reversed later, etc.].”)
  • Proofread. See “Marginal Comments” in “files." You will receive an automatic check minus for basic errors like comma splices and fragments. Write your RP,  walk away, then come back to it and read it as an editor--with fresh eyes.
  • I may announce a given topic or specific directions for a next response paper. If you turn in a response paper that does not respond to that announcement, it will count as a zero.
  • Late RP’s will be graded down, and won’t be accepted after 72 hours of the due date/time unless you have made arrangements with me otherwise: one of the points is to prepare us for discussion, and for me to hear you.


  1. Cameras on during class periods unless you've made other, tangible, arrangements.
  2. Always write me from your email account. I do not open emails sent from personal accounts. Call IT if you are confused about the mechanics of forwarding email to different accounts: the email to me must emerge from a You can also use Canvas, but email is nicer because we can keep track of the conversation more readily.
  3. Do not plagiarize. Plagiarism includes lifting material from the internet, collusion, and the use of sources without full citation. Papers are to be the result of your own labor, and all sources must be documented. If you have any questions regarding what constitutes plagiarism, consult me.
  4. If I get your name or preferred pronoun wrong, please let me know.
  5. This syllabus is subject to change. I may announce changes during our in-person sessions, and/or notify the class via email. You are responsible for keeping up with these modifications to our schedule and/or assignments: check your email account once a day for the remainder of the term.
  6. In-class work will not be accepted after midnight of the day in which the class occurred.
  7. Things are especially crazy nowadays, and something is going to go sideways at least once and possibly 200 times. It will be ok. Keep calm, stay in contact with me, and carry on.



If you require accommodation owing to a disability, contact the Disabilities Resources for Students Office (DRS) in Schmitz Hall 448 (206-548-8924; or the Disabilities Services Office (DSO) at It is your responsibility to follow all rules outlined by the DRS/DSO: Should forms be involved, you must ensure delivery to me with time enough to allow for us to arrive at a mutual understanding of the means by which those accommodations are best met.


“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( (Links to an external site.). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form ( (Links to an external site.).”

The Department of English at the University of Washington acknowledges that our university is located on the shared lands and waters of the Coast Salish peoples. We aspire to be a place where human rights are respected and where any of us can seek support. This includes people of all ethnicities, faiths, gender identities, national and indigenous origins, political views, and citizenship status; nontheists; LGBQTIA+; those with disabilities; veterans; and anyone who has been targeted, abused, or disenfranchised.

Please see me if your ability to participate in the course is unexpectedly affected. I am aware that these are demanding times.

















Course Summary:

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