Effective Date of this Description/Syllabus: Spring 2014

Prepared by: Dr. Rhonda Wilcox

Office: Honors House 104

Phone: (678)359-5296

email: rhonda_w@gordonstate.edu

Spring Office hours: TR 12:30-1:45; T 3:30-4:30;

W 12:15-2:00, 3:30-5:45; R 3:30-4:00




Course Designation: Colloquium 2994H (Honors)

Section A

Course Title: Romantic Comedy from Shakespeare to the Present

Class hours per week: 3

Credit hours: 3

Division offering course: Humanities

Prerequisite for the course: Honors status or permission of the instructor


Course description for college bulletin: Humanities Colloquium: A colloquium on selected topics in the humanities emphasizing the development of critical thinking skills.

Course description for college schedule: We will study a selection of romantic comedies from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to the present in terms of genre, narrative, cultural studies, and historical context.

Teacher’s Course objectives:


How do you define romantic comedy, and what does romantic comedy tell us about the world in which it was created? Shakespeare’s  romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing provides a starting point for many elements of later comedies. We will study a selection of romantic comedies from his work to the present to engender intellectually stimulating critical thinking in the following categories:


1) genre definition;

2) narrative, style, character, and other elements of traditional literary analysis;

3) cultural studies analysis in terms of gender and class;

4) historical analysis in terms of continuity and difference.


The overall purpose is to learn from each other (teacher and students alike), to enjoy the art that we encounter this semester, and to propel ourselves to further exploration after the course is ended.


Course Content:

Students will read selected plays, screenplays, and novels, view selected screen works, engage in discussion, and write in response to the various texts. Each student will also produce an honors project for the semester.


Required Texts:

William Shakespeare’s late sixteenth-century Much Ado About Nothing (as adapted by Joss Whedon)*

William Congreve’s seventeenth-century The Way of the World*

Jane Austen’s nineteenth-century Pride and Prejudice*

Dorothy Sayers’ early twentieth-century Strong Poison* and Have His Carcase*

Robert Riskin’s early twentieth-century It Happened One Night (available for rental)

Robert Butler and Michael Gleason’s late twentieth-century Remington Steele, selected episodes (available for rental)

Nora Ephron’s late twentieth-century When Harry Met Sally*

Other works may be assigned.

*Available in the bookstore.

We will also consult the work of Wes Gehring, whose short monograph on screwball comedy is a seminal text, and who also has written a broader work on romantic comedy. I will place his work on reserve in the library.


Honors Project:

            Your honors project should be developed over the course of most of the term. You are required to have at least one planning conference with me and are welcome to have more; feel free to show up at my office. (Bring your friends!) You may, if you wish, write a term paper on any of a variety of subjects: there is a considerable body of written scholarship on our topics, and you could discuss any work’s class or socioeconomic themes, gender presentations , visual representation on screen (visual rhetoric), music, or many other topics. You may also, if you wish, plan another type of project that demonstrates thoughtful exploration of the subject. For example, you could yourself write a piece of fiction that serves as a brief sequel to one of the romantic comedies we study, if you like. You could attempt a set of songs (words and music) appropriate for the characters. You could create a videogame based on the characters’ experiences (N. B. Remember copyright laws.) You could do an audience study, devising a set of questions on matters important to you and surveying and videotaping responses of various readers and/or viewers of a particular romantic comedy. You could draw maps or illustrations for Austen or Sayers, writing a commentary to explain your choices. You could even create a very brief play or film yourself. Whatever you choose, you will need to include some non-fiction prose explaining your thinking process (more details on this later).

You have great freedom in shaping your project. Start thinking now, and talk to me about your thoughts soon. Expecially if you feel a bit lost, talk to me soon. After we bounce ideas around, you should be able to come up with an idea for something you would be happy to share with others. Then you can slowly develop it throughout the semester.


Grading:               Participation (including attendance, quizzes, and other work)                                                   20%

Midterm Exam:                                                                                                                                   20%

Short paper (800 words or more, typed)                                                                                         20%

Honors project (oral presentation required)                                                                                   20%

Final Exam:                                                                                                                                          20%



Standards: A=90-100, B=80-89, C=70-79, D=60-69


Attendance policy: The word colloquium refers to the idea of conversation. Class participation is essential to a colloquium, as the percentage of the grade accorded it above would suggest. You will find that experiencing a group’s reaction to a piece of writing is something that cannot be recreated through merely reading class notes. Furthermore, specific in-class activities will be used to help establish your participation grade, and in most cases these activities must be carried out during a particular class period. I do understand that some absences are unavoidable; if you must miss a class, let me know beforehand if you can (or leave a phone or email message even during class if need be); ask me or a classmate about assignments so you can prepare in case there is a pop quiz when you return to class. If you miss more than four classes you should not expect to pass the class. My home phone number is (404)373-5328. If you cannot contact me or a classmate, then read the next assignment listed on the syllabus. If you are in class, you will be expected to take the quiz. I hope you will find that you do not want to miss this class.


Student Evaluation of Instruction: Near the end of this course, you may be asked to evaluate the instruction of the course. Your honest responses will help make this a better course. Also, please feel free to make suggestions during the course. Remember, I want to hear from you.


Plagiarism, Cheating:

                The English faculty of Gordon College views any form of cheating as a serious violation of commonly accepted standards of honesty. All student work must be solely that of the person submitting the work. Any giving or receiving of unauthorized help from others or from notes or other materials during the course of taking a quiz, test, or exam or in writing a paper will result in an F on the work; any use of forbidden materials such as rough drafts during the course of in-class writing will also result in an F for the assignment. Note that an F on the work involved in cheating is the minimum punishment; a zero on the work is another possible consequence; if justified by aggravating circumstances, the matter may be referred to the Academic Dean or (according to a rule approved by the Faculty Senate in Fall 2009) the Dean of Students. See the Academic Dishonesty Policy in the Academic Catalog (pp. 60-61).

                Moreover, when source materials are used in the writing of papers, the student must document such use of sources both by clearly indicating material being used as quotation and by giving proper recognition when ideas or information has been paraphrased or summarized; the following principles enunciated in the section on avoiding plagiarism in James D. Lester's Writing Research Papers: A Complete Guide, 8th edition, should be scrupulously observed:

1. Acknowledge borrowed material by introducing the quotation or paraphrase with the name of the authority. This practice serves to indicate where borrowed materials begin.

2. Enclose within quotation marks all quoted materials.

3. Make certain that paraphrased material has been rewritten into your own style and language. The simple rearrangement of sentence patterns is unacceptable. [To illustrate: It is unacceptable to simply rearrange sentence patterns.]

4. Provide specific in-text documentation for each borrowed item. For example, MLA [Modern Language Association] style requires name and page for all in-text references. Requirements differ for other fields . . . .

5. Provide a bibliographic entry on the Works Cited page for every source cited in the paper.

6. Omit [from the bibliography] sources consulted but not cited in the text. This point is important.You do not want your instructor leafing back through the paper trying to find your use of a source that, in truth, was not cited. (140-41)

Furthermore, you must avoid collusion. Here is a definition from the Humanities Division Chair: Collusion is defined as receiving excessive help to the point that a work can no longer be considered the product of a single author and therefore cannot be accurately assessed an individual grade. If I suspect a submitted work to be the result of collusion, I reserve the right to refuse credit for that work if the claimed author is unable to demonstrate sole authorship. A good way to avoid this problem is to get help from the Student Success Center rather than from family or friends.

I may decide to have you submit some of your work to Turnitin.com. Terms and Conditions of Use may be found at http://www.turnitin.com/static/usage.html.


In general, if you have a question, feel free to ask it. My goal is for you to learn and to enjoy learning.




Week 1, 1/7-9  Introduction: Romantic Comedy in genre, literature, culture, history; 16th Century: Much Ado About Nothing


Week 2, 1/14-16 Much Ado About Nothing


Week 3, 1/21-23 Much Ado About Nothing; 17th Century: The Way of the World


Week 4, 2/28-30 The Way of the World


Week 5, 2/4-6 19th Century: Pride and Prejudice


Week 6, 2/11-13 Pride and Prejudice


Week 7, 2/18-20 Early 20th Century Strong Poison


Week 8, 2/25-27, Strong Poison; Early 20th Century Have His Carcase


Week 9, 3/4-6 Have His Carcase; Midterm


Week 10, 3/11-13 Spring Break


Week 11, 3/18-20 Early 20th Century It Happened One Night


Week 12, 3/25-27 It Happened One Night


Week 13, 4/1-3 Late 20th Century Remington Steele


Week 14, 4/8-10 Late 20th Century When Harry Met Sally


Week 15, 4/15-17 When Harry Met Sally


Week 16, 4/22-24 21st Century


Week 17, 4/29 Overview discussion; Oral presentations


FINAL EXAM: Wednesday May 7, 10:15 am-12:15 pm