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Introduction to Literature: Poetry, Drama, Narrative

Course Information

The essence of this course is critical reading, writing, and discussion of selected modern novels, poems, and short stories. We will examine the texts from multiple viewpoints, examining the works not only for themes, narratives, and style, but also through application of a variety of critical theories. The texts are multicultural and may contain mature themes and images. Through intensive, close reading, students will understand diverse experiences, languages, forms, and genres. It is a discussion-centered course mandating that students have a high level of personal investment.

The objectives are for students to gain an awareness of themselves, other cultures and other individuals; to gain an ability to think critically and to express ideas orally and in writing; to gain aesthetic sensitivity; to acquire or further develop their intellectual curiosity, and be challenged by the remarkable range of knowledge available through literature.

Class size limit: 25

Sample Syllabus

U of M Catalog Description

This writing-intensive course is designed for students who wish to develop a foundational understanding of literary study, inquiry, and analysis. This course is organized around literary genres, and thus will introduce students to the fundamentals of fiction, poetry, and drama. This course will also question the boundaries of genre and of the category "literature" itself. Throughout the semester, we will reflect on the central questions: "What is Literature" and "Why do we study it"? After successfully completing this class, students will be equipped with the basic critical vocabulary and toolset for engaging in literary study. They will be prepared to analyze literary voice, tone, symbol, motif, theme, imagery, narrative, and form, among other literary aspects. They will also be equipped with several critical cultural lenses, among them gender, race, ethnicity, class, language, and national identity.

Student Qualifications

English 1001W is an intensive U of M humanities course requiring substantial reading, writing, and critical thinking. Students enrolling in ENGL 1001W must be high school seniors. (Juniors may be allowed with the approval of the CIS instructor and the faculty coordinator, but are strongly advised to wait until they are seniors.)

Students must also meet ONE of the two following additional qualifications:

  • Have a cumulative GPA in previously-taken English courses that exceeds a 3.25, OR
  • Be in the top 20% of their high school class.

AND be able to demonstrate to the CIS instructor ONE of the following:

  • The reading and writing skills necessary for success in the course, OR
  • A passion for reading and writing about literature.

Instructor Qualifications

Instructors apply and are selected by faculty in accordance with the U of M policy governing Academic Appointments with Teaching Functions. Once approved, an instructor is appointed as a Teaching Specialist 9754 (University Job Title and Code) in the College of Continuing and Professional Studies. Instructor qualifications are determined by the sponsoring University department.

View the Instructor Applicant Handbook for course-specific qualifications and application steps. 

Please note: Teachers who teach this course every other year are required to attend U of M-sponsored professional development events for their cohort during their non-teaching years as well as during years when they teach the U of M course.


Instructors select titles to teach from a book list that is supplemented each year. Costs for the books vary depending on the vendor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are all of the readings specified or mandated by the University of Minnesota? If not, what are some of the choices?
CIS literature has a recommended reading list with about 50 titles on it. Teachers generally choose books from that list, especially when they are relatively new to the program. Each summer we read four new titles so that we may add new titles to the ongoing list. We also revisit one often-taught book to see what new insights emerge.

Do teachers have a choice in assignments? Are there required assignments?
Teachers have some choice in making assignments, though we agree on the type of assignments, e.g., no plot summaries or book reports, an emphasis on collaborative work where possible, and creative as well as expository writing assignments. As for required assignments, the staff has agreed that ALL students must complete at least THREE reading notebook entries per text studied, and that EACH of these three must be at least THREE pages in length.

Who creates the exams?
Teachers create their own exams with the understanding that no one will give true/false or multiple-choice questions. Essay exams are given in all instances where exams are given.

Is there a mentoring system for new CIS literature teachers?
Each new teacher is assigned a volunteer mentor from the staff of experienced teachers. This is done in early June and the mentors are invited to take part in the orientation day so they can meet their mentees. Over the summer, the mentors make themselves available at least by email as new teachers begin to build a syllabus for their course, offering advice on which books to teach the first time. Mentors spend informal time with their mentees during the summer workshops and are then actively available for conversation and advice during the mentees first time through the course. New teachers also benefit from an orientation to College in the Schools that will familiarize them with the support available through CIS as well as prepare them for administrative tasks such as registering students and posting grades.

High school class schedules vary: can a teacher in the block system teach literature?
All courses offered through CIS have the same minimum number of contact hours as the on-campus sections. Teachers adapt the University schedule to fit the schedules at their high schools.

What happens at typical teacher workshops?
Typical activities at CIS workshops include meeting University faculty and hearing about their recent research in the discipline; reviewing and/or developing student assessment tools; sharing instructional materials; discussing particular content, pedagogy, or assessment of the University course; and receiving updates on CIS program policies and practices.

What happens at your typical student field days?
Student field days provide an opportunity for CIS students to meet their peers, practice skills they have learned in class, and explore the Twin Cities campus. On a typical English literature field day, students come to campus to hear a lecture by a University professor focusing on one of the critical lenses currently in use in literary studies. They then participate in small groups, led by CIS teachers, in which they apply the theoretical material just heard to a story they have read before the field day. They also write in the small groups on a topic set by the lecturer. At the end of this phase, they reconvene as a whole and read, if they choose, what they have written. The students then have free time on campus for lunch or just exploration.

High Schools Offering This Course

Academy for Sciences and Agriculture
Anoka High School
Blaine High School
Braham Area Schools
Brooklyn Center Secondary Arts and IB World School
Buffalo High School
Burnsville High School
Centennial High School
Central High School
Champlin Park High School
Chatfield High School
Cleveland High School
Como Park Senior High School
Coon Rapids High School
Delano High School
Eagan High School
Eden Valley-Watkins High School
Farmington High School
Forest Lake Area High School
Hastings High School
Humboldt Senior High School
Irondale High School
Johnson Senior High School
Jordan High School
La Crescent-Hokah High School
Litchfield High School
Milaca High School
Monticello High School
Mora High School
New Prague High School
North Community High School
North High School (North St. Paul/Maplewood/Oakdale District)
Parnassus Preparatory School
Pine City High School
Pipestone Area High School
Richfield High School
Rosemount High School
Roseville Area High School
Shakopee High School
South High School
Tri-City United High School
Ubah Medical Academy
Washington Technology Magnet School
Watertown-Mayer High School
White Bear Lake Area High School