English R1B

Reading and Composition: In and Out of Realism

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Fall 2007 Paul Kerschen
TTh 8:00-9:30 103 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Juan Rulfo, Pedro P�ramo

Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior

Denis Johnson, Jesus' Son

Diana Hacker, Rules for Writers

A course reader containing stories, poems, and essays."


"How is literature to represent human experience? A prevalent strategy in English literature since the eighteenth century has been that of the realist novel, which presents a rich and detailed account of ordinary life�or some near approximation. But a countercurrent has also flourished of writing which diverges in various ways from our familiar reality. Such writing has gone by various names over the decades: allegory, surrealism, magical realism, science fiction, horror. In this course we will examine these and other genres, asking questions such as: What kind of logic binds these works to our world? Are they an escape from reality or a comment upon it? And might they tell us things that their authors never intended? We will also keep the idea of the realist novel in the background, since one effect of these works should be to make us stop and ask what realism actually is.

In addition to reading these works critically�and of course enjoying them, as they were meant to be enjoyed�we will also work hard on skillful writing about literature. Students will extend their prior skills to produce more complex and extended arguments, and will carry out a substantial amount of independent research on topics of their own choosing. Two shorter papers will lead into a final research project of 8-10 pages, involving a good deal of critique and revision over the semester. "

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