English R1B

Reading & Composition: Consciousness and Feeling in Narrative

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
18 Spring 2008 Ryan P. McDermott
TTh, 3:30-5 225 Wheeler Hall

Other Readings and Media

Emily Bront�, Wuthering Heights ; Diana Hacker, Rules for Writers ; William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury ; Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea ; Jos� Saramago, Blindness ; Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway ; A course reader containing theoretical material related to the theme of the course.


"This course takes on a basic assumption about the experience of reading literature: namely, that we not only feel and experience emotions when we read, but also that the narratives we encounter in literature seem to house feelings and forms of consciousness radically distinct from our own. While we often take this assumption for granted, perhaps by chalking it up to literature's unfathomable �essence� or (more commonly) tracing it back to an author's most probable intention/meaning, we stumble upon an important problem in trying to account for issues of consciousness and feeling analytically�as, say, textual properties, rather than as merely �depicted� or �portrayed� aspects of real people. We will begin with the challenging question: what is it about narratives that enables them to produce and sustain the illusion of a world composed of, among other things, consciousness and feeling? In other words, how do feelings and consciousness ""happen"" in narrative?

As a way of tackling these abstract ideas, we will organize our class discussions around the particular role that narrators play in creating the world of their narratives. Some questions to guide us in our analyses include: what role does the consciousness of a first-person or third-person narrator play both in relation to and apart from the �minds� of (other) characters? Can we find a language to analyze textual consciousness and feeling without assuming an automatic correspondence between the world of a narrative and the �reality� that defines our own? Finally, how can we analyze characters' feelings without pretending that they are real people?

In a nutshell, this is a three-pronged composition course: reading, analyzing (thinking critically), and writing will be our sustained focus. In class, we will devote the majority of our time to developing both critical thinking and argumentative writing skills. More specifically, we will practice close readings of our chosen texts, which will in turn enable us to work towards the type of analytical thinking that is required to write solid analytical prose. As a way of getting there, we will journey through the world of �exposition and argumentation� (the backbones of composition) and make stops at the following destinations: grammar; sentence and paragraph construction; essay structure; thesis development; using evidence; and style. The majority of class time will revolve around class discussions, group work, and writing workshops

Over the course of the semester, each student will be assigned four papers and a number of short take-home assignments. Class time will be frequently spent on group work and in-class writing. The writing portion of this course will be geared towards the production of a final and longer research paper that will make use of multiple critical sources. Each paper will involve a primary draft, a peer editing phase, and then the revision and resubmission of a final draft to the instructor for a grade."

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