Jennifer W Atkinson
B CUSP 187
Examines how literary texts create meaning and emotion. Identifies literary elements and explains their use within formal structures in order to appreciate the pleasures and complexities of literary expression, and their usefulness in other arenas. Instructors may focus on specific genres or topics. Offered: W.
This course provides an introduction to key terms and theories of literary analysis, and explores how formal features create meaning within texts. Our study moves across multiple genres, including novels, creative nonfiction, short stories and poetry. The aim of the course, ultimately, is not only to deepen appreciation of and engagement with literary texts themselves, but also to provide analytical tools that enrich understanding of a much broader set of cultural productions--from newspaper, film and drama to television, advertising and other “texts” of everyday life.
This quarter’s theme is “Place and Identity in American Literature.” Students will examine how factors like race, class, gender and age shape an individual’s relation with different places and environments in the U.S.—from the streets of Manhattan and the homes of middle class suburbia to wilderness regions, Midwestern farms and the rural South. In short, course readings and films will allow students to explore how an individual’s social “sense of place” interacts with one’s physical or environmental “sense of place.” Readings may include works by Henry Davis Thoreau, Willa Cather, Zora Neale Hurston, William Carlos Williams, Leslie Marmon Silko, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Mary Oliver, John Updike and others.
Student learning goals
- Build an understanding of the key terms and theories that literary scholars use in order to appreciate and enter conversations in this discipline.
- Develop a basic critical ability to identify, interpret, and analyze ideas and formal features within literary texts (such as genre, scene, voice, point of view, tone and characterization), and examine how these collectively produce meaning.
- Perform close readings of texts and build this analytical practice into your own writing to produce nuanced, sophisticated and carefully-argued essays.
- Produce written work that is sensitive to the plurality of meaning within literary texts and that acknowledges the diversity of perspectives, social experiences, and traditions embedded in these works.
- Increase communication skills through group work; generate a cooperative spirit as a community of students and mutually support one another as writers/learners through workshops and peer editing.
General method of instruction
Seminar-style discussion of readings, in-class writing exercises, peer-evaluation workshops and some lectures.
Successful completion of at least one college-level composition course.
Class assignments and grading
Reading journal, student presentations, class writing exercises, a midterm and final paper.