english 1015

Literature: How It Works

Dr. R. Maitzen

Dalhousie University Winter 2023

Online - Asynchronous

welcome to english 1015

In this course we will study a range of poems, stories, and essays that illustrate the power of language to surprise, move, anger, persuade, and entertain us. We will pay close attention to how good writers use literary and rhetorical strategies to further their ideas and achieve their effects--to how literature works, not just how it makes us feel or what it makes us think about. You will be challenged to engage actively and critically with our texts through debate, discussion, and writing of your own. The course objectives are, first, to enhance your love of reading, and second, to provide you with the skills, vocabulary, knowledge and experience to express and support well-informed opinions about what you read, whether in or out of class.

About the Instructor

I'm originally from Vancouver, but I have been a faculty member at Dalhousie (teaching mostly Victorian literature, with a side of crime fiction) since 1995. In 2018 I won the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching. I have taught introductory classes many times over the years and I always enjoy the opportunity to meet a wide range of students and help them discover the excitement and challenge of studying literature. I always bring a lot of enthusiasm to the classroom and I promise to do the same for our virtual class space and time together!

My personal web site includes more information about my research, teaching, and other interests. It also includes my blog, Novel Readings. If you're on Twitter, you can find me at @RohanMaitzen.

I will have three teaching assistants for English 1015; as soon as I know who they are, I will introduce them here as well!


See the course schedule page for more information about how English 1015 will probably be organized.

We will read and discuss poems, stories, and essays by writers including Chinua Achebe, Elizabeth Bishop, Seamus Heaney, Kazuo Ishiguro, Langston Hughes, John Keats, Ursula LeGuin, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Richard Wagamese, Virginia Woolf, and more.

All of the required readings for this class are in the Broadview Introduction to Literature: Concise Edition (2nd edition).* This book will available from the Dalhousie University Bookstore or directly from Broadview Press.

The Concise Edition is not available as an e-book, but if you prefer you can purchase an electronic version of the full edition of the Broadview Introduction to Literature for the same price as the hard copy of the Concise Edition. (For what it's worth, I prefer hard copies, as they are easier to mark up and annotate.)

*If you have bought a used copy of the first edition of the BIL: Concise Edition, you should be fine. I have compared its Table of Contents to the readings I have selected for us from the 2nd edition and they all seem to be available in both versions. Page numbers may differ for some content.

More information about our specific readings will be in the course syllabus.


We will do a range of activities designed to improve your skills as both a reader and a writer.

Required course components will include:

Reading Journals

    • record your questions and observations about the readings

    • practice using the skills and vocabulary you learn from lectures

    • try out ideas for your essays

    • get regular feedback from the instructors

Discussion Boards

    • share ideas with your classmates and engage with theirs


    • explain and support your ideas about the readings

    • get detailed feedback on your writing

Quizzes, Worksheets, and Other Activities

  • check that you know the vocabulary, contexts, and skills you need to meet the course objectives

See the Course Schedule page for more information about the course modules and how the components will be assessed.


English 1015 will be offered asynchronously, meaning we will not have scheduled real-time class meetings. This approach respects students' time differences and varied personal circumstances.

However, we will be moving through the course material in concert, following a common course outline. This will enable regular, meaningful interaction.

The course syllabus will include details about the course schedule, requirements, and policies, as well as a proposed weekly routine. As far as possible, details will be added to this website as they are finalized.

The instructors will be holding some synchronous office hours during the term using a tool called Collaborate. We will work out the times together based on your locations and availability.


Though I had never taught courses entirely online before Fall 2020, I have done many other things online for many years: I have been blogging since 2007, for instance, and active on Twitter since 2010, and for several years I collaborated on publishing an online literary magazine. These experiences taught me that it is possible to find, shape, and value communities on the internet, and I am optimistic that we will be able to do the same in our online class. While it is a different experience than being in the classroom together, it can still be a good one--and the positive feedback I have received from students who have taken earlier version of this class confirmed this. Because online learning is still unfamiliar and perhaps also uncomfortable for many of us, there will inevitably be some confusion and mishaps, especially at the beginning of term, but with patience, persistence, compassion, and good humour, we will get through it and have a great term of reading, thinking, and writing. I'm certainly going to do everything I can to make the class an intellectually engaging and rewarding experience. I'm looking forward to getting started!

About brighTspace

Brightspace is Dalhousie's Learning Management System (LMS). It is where all the course materials and activities for English 1015 will be: it will be our virtual classroom.

Registered students will have access to our Brightspace site by late December 2022.

This site gives you a helpful overview of all of Dal's online platforms.