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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Chelsea Jennings
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

The Visual Page & the Material Book

In ordinary reading, the book becomes almost invisible--we read the language inside rather than the book itself. In this course, we will read several literary texts that challenge this way of reading by foregrounding the visual surface of the page and the material object of the book. As we encounter these texts, our primary question will be: how do the visual and material features of this text affect the possible literary meanings? Because these particular texts blur the boundaries between poetry, fiction, autobiography, we'll also explore some of the ways in which genre expectations inform our reading practices.

We'll begin with the illuminated books of William Blake and the handwritten, handbound fascicles of Emily Dickinson before moving to more contemporary texts, including Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's *Dictee*, Anne Carson's *Nox*, and Jonathan Safran Foer's *Tree of Codes*. As the quarter progresses we will also draw on the UW Libraries' considerable collection of twentieth-century artists' books. We will use an array of secondary sources to place the authorship, production, distribution, and reception of these texts in historical context. Our ultimate goal will be to become informed, careful, engaged readers, and to deepen our understanding of these texts through class discussions and written responses.

Student learning goals

To offer convincing close readings of literary texts that take into account these texts' visual and material attributes. To situate close readings of literary texts in historical, biographical, political, and cultural contexts. To demonstrate awareness of literature's relationship to the fine arts. To develop more sophisticated skills for building knowledge through discussion. To improve general writing skills as well as those skills specific to writing about literature and culture.

General method of instruction

The majority of our class time will be spent in small and large group discussions and activities, so expect to participate actively in every class period. There will also be occasional lectures.

We'll use writing as a way of thinking through ideas and problems, so expect to write a number of brief assignments as preparation for class.

Recommended preparation

An interest in literature and a willingness to rethink your assumptions about authorship, texts, and reading are all that is required for the first day of class. Students with a background in fine arts and/or art history may find this class especially rewarding, but this class does not assume any prior knowledge about art.

This course fulfills the university's "W" requirement and as such is writing intensive. We'll devote some of our class time to writing instruction, but this course assumes rhetorical awareness and a familiarity with the fundamentals of academic writing taught in "C" courses. It is strongly recommended that you complete the university's "C" requirement before enrolling in this class.

Please note: Our class is in Condon Hall, which is quite far from the center of campus. You are expected to be on time, so please do not schedule this class back-to-back with a class that ends at 1:20 unless you can travel from that classroom to our classroom by 1:30.

Class assignments and grading

You will write two 5-page papers with the opportunity to revise the first of these papers; brief writing assignments (graded on completion) will also be used as preparation for in-class discussions.

Participation is also a large component of your grade. You'll receive specific guidelines for successful participation on the first day of class.


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 Chelsea Jennings
Date: 07/24/2012