English R1B

Reading & Composition: Sound Counsel

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Summer 2017 Young, Rosetta
MTuW 2:00-4:30 214 Haviland Reading and Composition

Book List

Austen, Jane: Persuasion; Coates, Ta-Nehisi: Between the World and Me; Cole, Teju: Open City; Ferrante, Elena: My Brilliant Friend; Moore, Lorrie: Self-Help; West, Nathanael: Miss Lonelyhearts

Other Readings and Media

Also: Walter Benjamin's "The Storyteller"; Slate's "Dear Prudence"; NY Mag's "Dear Polly"; The Washington Post's Ask Amy; Dear Sugar podcast; Beyoncé's Lemonade; excerpts from Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son and Charles William Day's Hints on Etiquette (1834)


In his essay "The Storyteller," Walter Benjamin writes, "The storyteller is a man who has counsel for his readers," and declares "counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom." Unlike the narratives of the pre-modern storyteller, Benjamin sees the novel as devoid of counsel, and pictures the novelist as the "solitary individual" who is "himself uncounseled, and cannot counsel others." In this course, we will consider a host of questions related to "counsel"—or what we might now call "advice." What do we define as "advice" or "counsel"? When do we need it? And what issues do we need it for? What forms and genres do we turn to for counsel (classic literature; newspaper advice columnists; religion; podcasts; self-help books; the crowd-sourcing of Reddit and Yahoo Questions; tradition; "elders"; Wikipedia; lawyers; television; Beyoncé)? How do we give counsel when asked for it by others? And if Benjamin is right about the novel, then what is the relationship between "counsel" and the book? How do we know when we are giving bad advice, good advice, and why do we try to give it, and why do we try to receive it, when the risks seem so high? As a class, we will contemplate these questions through reading a host of different materials from a range of mediums, and students will develop a final research project on a related topic.

This course will add to the composition skills developed in R1A by focusing on students' research skills; students will write two short essays and one longer research-based paper, in addition to a diagnostic essay.

This 4-unit course will be taught in Session A, from May 22 to June 28.

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