Intensive study of, and exercise in, applying important or influential interpretive practices for studying language, literature, and culture, along with consideration of their powers/limits. Focuses on developing critical writing abilities. Topics vary and may include critical and interpretive practice from scripture and myth to more contemporary approaches, including newer interdisciplinary practices. Prerequisite: minimum grade of 2.0 in ENGL 197 or ENGL 297; a minimum grade of 2.0 in ENGL 202 or ENGL 301; may not be repeated if received a grade of 2.0 or higher.
Writers write; readers read. What process connects one to the other? This is a course in the problematics of reading fiction, by which I mean attention to (1) the fascinations, affects, identifications, and mysteries that happen when we read, and (2) the particular secrets of style and story that writers use to help determine how and why we live (or not) in the worlds they create. We'll ask such questions as: What forms do the weird pleasures, wild emotions, and secret seductions of fiction take as texts and as psychic structures? How, exactly, do we "take in" fiction? How much control does the author have over how readers experience a novel world? Do we read differently when we're reading across gender or sexuality or ethnicity? Why do some readers choose puzzle novels while others prefer love stories? Can we love novels if they are about things we hate? Do we identify with characters who seem in many ways to be our opposites? We'll read two classic modern novelists (probably Woolf and one other); two classic contemporary novels: (probably Beloved [Morrison] and A Gesture Life [Lee]) and one recent graphic novel: Fun Home (Bechdel), together with some work in narrative and reading theory. Discussion will be at the heart of what we do, so come expecting lots of talk and lively differences of opinion. By the end of the course you will have the language and tools necessary to discuss fiction analytically in future classes and in life more generally. And equally important, you’ll have a stronger sense of why you, personally, love or hate the fiction you read.
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