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Reading and Composition
You can’t judge a book by its cover, but can you judge it by its length? Why is it that some of us love burying our noses in a large book, while others of us feel drowsy at the very sight of anything over 200 pages long? Why don’t they sell books by the pound, like meat or produce? Why are so many of the “timeless classics” we feel we should read sooooooooo darn long? Was Yoda right when he told Luke in Empire Strikes Back, “Size matters not”?
In this class, we’ll explore the respective merits of wordiness and brevity by reading two long works over the course of the entire semester, alongside a series of short works. For the long novels, we’ll start in post-independence New Delhi with Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, and travel back in time to Victorian London in Charles Dickens’s Bleak House. The shorter works we’ll be reading include short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri and James Joyce, a short novel by Jean Rhys, and a variety of other stories, plays, excerpts, and essays included in a course-reader.
Students will be required to write three essays, respectively, 2-3 pages, 6-7 pages, and 8-10 pages in length. The last two essays will each undergo a substantial amount of revision (including peer-revision), and the 8-10 page writing assignment will be a research paper.