Michael D Willett
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.
ENGL 200F: Diabolical Literature This class might be subtitled: “On the Devil and Devils.” The task is not so much to form a literary genealogy of the bothersome or demonic, but to confront great works of literature that have themselves been so classed. Byron’s epic poem Don Juan was, when published, immediately classified as belonging to “The Satanic School of literature:” why? Did the poem’s subversive nature help sales figures? Does it damage our ability to interpret the text now? Most of what we know meanwhile about the figure of Satan comes from Milton’s Paradise Lost. How does he look now?
Student learning goals
The first goal of a class like this is enjoyment. We're reading some magnificent and engaging work, old and new, long and short; private diaries, epic poems, bits of tirade. The appreciation of some of those forms is dependent (though not wholly, thankfully) on our knowing some things about how they're built and what they're meant to do.
The second goal is to further our mastery of the language through exposure to the challenges that reading work from eras and countries not our own offers.
Third, though by no means the last of the benefits and outcomes of our time together, will be increased practice in the methods of historical and literary research, and of writing forcefully and clearly in academic contexts.
General method of instruction
Guided reading, small and large group discussion, electronic and analog methods of research, lecture, journalling, memorization, recitation, and group and individual presentation will make up the bulk of our practices, though, this list is not exhaustive. We'll come at this work from all angles: historical, aesthetic, theoretical, and as children, unafraid to point out the obvious, or to feel a brush of wonder.
Participation in this class presupposes no prior knowledge of or particular affection for any of the authors on our list. Neither is a theological background required, though a passing familiarity with Western religion will be helpful. The books are longish, though. Get them early and make as much headway as you can.
Class assignments and grading
Expect mainly reading, writing, and speaking. Lots. Of all of them.