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No particular textbook for this Commonwealth Course or Litonline exists, but all of the works mentioned are part of the Litonline web or readily available online (e.g. Oedipus Rex and Antigone), on video/DVD (e.g. Hamlet), or in libraries and bookstores (e.g. "A Rose for Emily" or A Farewell to Arms). 

Processing Readings

While there is no required purchase for this Commonwealth Course, some students will choose to buy a hard copy version rather than to read a novel or play online, and others will print out or save poetry and short stories to a file on their computers or paste in Word so that they can annotate and color the font of sections to aid study.

Helpful Text, Especially for Those Who Are
Not Experienced with Writing about Literature


Stanford, Judith.  Responding to Literature: Stories, Poems, Plays, and Essays. 4th edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2003.  Cost < $60.

In the early 1980s, I worked with two authors of English textbooks as their "consulting editor" on behalf of the publisher for which I was under contract.  One of those authors was Judith Stanford, who has since gone on to write this fine textbook and nurture it through four editions.  From our experience working with publishers, we both learned the importance of revising and getting the opinions of the intended audience about the writing.

In this book, the first four chapters comprise an introduction to studying literature (see the "guides" in chapter 3) and writing about a literary work (see the six kinds of essays--with student samples--in chapter 4 to see how much quotation they use and how they balance topic sentences and supporting ideas and information).

The combined English Departments of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College chose to begin using this textbook in Spring, 2003, because of its diverse literary selections, the variety of suggested writing assignments, the examples of student responses to literary works (including 13 student-written essays), the directness and readability of the parts written by Prof. Stanford, as well as the use of photographs and paintings that suggest moods related to the selected readings.

In a Dec. 4, 2002, workshop hosted at JSRCC by McGraw-Hill, the English faculty met with Prof. Stanford and considered several of her ideas about teaching composition, especially with this textbook.  At that workshop, Judith Stanford noted that the painting on the cover had been commissioned by the publisher specifically for this textbook.  Discussion centered on the open door, the leap to the rough seas and the seemingly endangered boat, and to some extent the typewriter.  What do you think these images suggest?  What about the other symbols on the cover?  (There's no "answer key" for these questions because what's important is the responses you make to these images.)

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