English R50

Freshman and Sophomore Studies: Reading and Eating

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2011 Loofbourow, Lili
Loofbourow, Liliana
TTh 12:30-2 222 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Milton, J.: Paradise Lost, 3rd ed.


What does it mean to "digest" something, and what does reading have to do with eating? From Adam and Eve eating the apple to communicants eating the body and blood of Christ, eating in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England was fraught with confusion over how the body intersected with the incorporeal soul. The communion table had become a high-stakes symbol; people were burnt at the stake over what it meant to eat the Host, which was (or wasn't) Christ, the Word made flesh.

In this course, we'll investigate the politics (and parallels) of reading and eating, both in the early modern period and (to a more limited extent) now. What does it mean to take something in? How does it change you? How do you change it? What (if anything) is the difference between what you absorb physically and mentally, and to what extent is the way in which you're affected by what you ingest a matter of will? For the most part, we'll be focusing on seventeenth-century theories of reading and the ways that "reading" gets metaphorized and reframed as a physiological process. We'll be reading all of Milton's Paradise Lost and excerpts from several other texts, possibly including Sidney's Defense of Poesie, Astrophil and Stella, Spenser's Faerie Queene, the Persephone myth, Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, Gulliver's Travels, and Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. We'll be looking at some modern conceptualizations of reading too--from studies in cognitive science to platforms like Twitter and Facebook. There will be creative, technological and research components to the class in addition to major paper assignments. Easy access to an internet connection is strongly recommended.

English R50 is intended for students who are planning to be English majors and who have already taken R1A. It satisfies the College's R1B requirement.

This course may not be counted as one of the twelve courses required for the English major.

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