Literature Core proposals

Course proposals for the Literature Core should describe how your course fits within your Core discipline, and how your Core discipline is situated within the purpose and values of liberal education.

Components of your proposal

Your proposal will include both a narrative description and a syllabus.
As you develop your proposal, you should not assume that the goals of your courses are obvious. It may be helpful to remember that the members of the Council on Liberal Education, like students in liberal education courses, come from units across the University. The council's aim is to ensure that liberal education courses meet the University's goals and that these goals are clear to students and to faculty members.

Narrative proposal

Your narrative proposal should explain how the course meets:

  1. The general requirements of liberal education.
  2. The common goals for all Core courses.
  3. The specific goals for the Literature Core.

Effective proposals will provide concrete examples from the course that illustrate how the course meets these goals, e.g., from the course syllabus, detailed outlines, course assignments, laboratory material, student projects, or other instructional materials or methods.

Your proposal should also include two brief statements that address:

  1. How your course addresses one or more of the University's Student Learning Outcomes.
  2. How the learning associated with this outcome will be assessed.


Because it is written for students, your syllabus should contain the following elements.

Language to help students understand what liberal education is and how this course fulfills its mission as a liberal education course. A course description at the head of the syllabus followed by a paragraph describing the precise aims according to the guidelines is one efficient way of doing this.

A clear explanation of how the particular course fulfills the Literature Core, so that students are aware of how and why the course meets LE requirements. This can be done through the stated course objectives, course topics, writing assignments, and required readings. You may also include supporting materials, such as lab manuals, sample assignments, or handouts.

Information about small group activities (small group discussion, debates, and so on) that will be employed in the course.

A brief paragraph describing the Student Learning Outcome(s) the course addresses, how it addresses these outcomes, and how the learning that is associated with the outcome will be assessed.

Additional syllabus guidelines:

  • For existing courses, the syllabus must be for a term within the past two years.
  • For courses under development, the syllabus may be provisional but still must document how the course will meet the LE requirement(s), as indicated above. A list of lecture topics or discussion topics should be included, with the understanding that dates, schedules, and readings may be tentative.
  • The syllabus needs to conform to the University Senate Syllabi Policy, approved December 6, 2001. It should be in English, or with an English translation provided.
  • Formatting is often lost when material is copied and pasted into the system.  Try to keep formatting simple.


All liberal education courses must:

  • Explicitly help students understand what liberal education is, how the content and the substance of this course enhance a liberal education, and what this means for them as students and as citizens.
  • Meet one or more of the Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs). In the syllabus you submit, specify which of the SLO(s) that the course meets, how it addresses the outcome(s), and how the learning that is associated with the outcome(s) will be assessed.
  • Be offered on a regular schedule.
  • Be taught by regular faculty or under exceptional circumstances by instructors on continuing appointments. Departments proposing instructors other than regular faculty must provide documentation of how such instructors will be trained and supervised to ensure consistency and continuity in courses.
  • Be at least 3 credits (or at least 4 credits for biological or physical sciences, which must include a lab or field experience component).

All Core courses must:

  • Employ teaching and learning strategies that engage students with doing the work of the field, not just reading about it.
  • Include small group experiences (such as discussion sections or labs) and use writing as appropriate to the discipline to help students learn and reflect on their learning.
  • Not (except in rare and clearly justified cases) have prerequisites beyond the University's entrance requirements.

To meet more than one requirement:

  • A course may be approved to meet one Core or one theme or both a Core and a Theme. In the latter case, the Theme must be fully and meaningfully infused into the course (the old standard of "one-third of the course" will no longer be sufficient).
  • Courses may be submitted for both LE and WI designation.

Literature Core objectives and criteria

Courses that meet the Literature Core requirement will introduce students to the challenges and joys of the close study of literature. Literature uses language in creative and powerful ways to entertain and engage, instruct and inspire, and shock or sadden us. In so doing it enlarges our understanding of the human experience, transforms our thinking and our lives, and helps us to imagine new possibilities for our society and the world. Penetrating analysis of literature teaches the power of literature to express the breadth and complexity of human lives past and present, near and far. Careful study of literature can enrich students' individual and professional lives and make them more understanding and reflective members of their multiple communities.

Courses that meet the Literature Core requirement focus on the ways in which the written word articulates and explores human experience. Courses that meet this requirement may be offered in any world language that has a strong body of written literature. Like other courses in the arts and humanities, literature classes analyze creative works, but their special emphasis is on the relationship between language and meaning in literary texts: we may find more complex meanings when we examine the author, the readers, the social or historical context, as well as the written text itself. Because informed readers of literature appreciate the aesthetic qualities of good writing, courses about literature teach students to work with language as both a vehicle through which ideas and images are expressed and as the material from which aesthetic works are composed. A poem is, for example, a text that communicates ideas as well as an aesthetic object that is composed of words (just as a painting conveys ideas and emotions but is made up of paint and brush strokes).

Courses must meet these criteria:

  • The course focuses on analysis of written works of literature (fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and others), and specifically addresses issues of language and meaning in the works studied.
  • Students study the formal dimensions of literature: they study how the authors' choices—such as the choice of genre, style, character presentation, vocabulary, meter or the use of symbolism—have created the literature's effect of powerfully evoking the reader's response.
  • The course examines the social and historical contexts of the literary works as well as their content.