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Instructor Class Description

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Paul A Jaussen
ENGL 200
Seattle Campus

Reading Literary Forms

Covers techniques and practice in reading and enjoying literature in its various forms: poetry, drama, prose fiction, and film. Examines such features of literary meanings as imagery, characterization, narration, and patterning in sound and sense. Offered: AWSp.

Class description

English 200C--Reading Literature Jaussen, Summer 2011

The simple, two-word title of this course has embedded within it a few implications. Among them, that there is a category of texts which one could qualify as “literature”; secondly, that such texts require a particular kind of reading, different from the reading demanded by other linguistic structures (such as, for example, course descriptions); and, finally, that “reading literature” is sufficiently strange that it warrants its own university course. Instead of taking these implications for granted, our class will be dedicated to experimentally, critically, and rigorously testing their verity. Is there something peculiar to the way “literary” texts are made? Do those constructions both demand and produce reader participation in ways other texts do not? What might be the value of reading these texts? Such basic yet complicated questions will occupy our thinking, reading, and writing.

To conduct this experiment, we will examine a broad sample pool of texts that have been called “literary,” looking for constants and variables. We will begin with readings in one of the oldest textual traditions, namely the lyric poem, considering works by Sappho, William Shakespeare, John Donne, Christina Rossetti, Robert Browning, Charles Baudelaire, e.e. cummings, T.S. Eliot, Charles Olson, and Bernadette Mayer. As we read, we’ll examine poetic devices such as metaphor, voice, rhyme, and meter, as well as poetic tropes and genres, for their conceptual, aesthetic, and affective consequences. For the second half of the quarter, the attention will shift to prose, as well as to the last 200 years (for reasons we’ll discuss), beginning with short fiction by Edgar Allan Poe and Herman Melville, moving to Nathaniel West’s novella Miss Lonelyhearts, and ending with an extended examination of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. We will pay close attention to the strategies of narration, the function of character, and the role of plot, as well as the social, ethical, and philosophical implications of fiction. To aid our inquiry, throughout the course we will also examine some key theoretical literature (!) on these topics, testing the claims others have made against our own discoveries.

Students will be asked to participate actively in each class discussion. The writing will be divided up into three 2-page critical response essays; students will choose one of these essays to expand into a final 6-8 page paper.

Required texts: Herman Melville, Bartleby & Benito Cereno, (Dover Thrift Edition, ISBN 9780486264738); Nathaniel West, Miss Lonelyhearts & the Day of the Locust, (New Directions, ISBN 9780811202152); Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, (Harper Perennial, ISBN 9780061120060). A course pack will also be required.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Paul A Jaussen
Date: 05/02/2011