English R1A

Reading and Composition: Secrets and Sexuality in the Modern Novel

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Spring 2007 Ryan P. McDermott
TTh 9:30-11:00 a.m. 223 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Baldwin, James, Giovanni?s Room

James, Henry, Wings of the Dove

Nabakov, Vlamir, Lolita

Wharton, Edith, The House of Mirth

Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray

A course reader containing critical writing on the topic of the course."


"Throughout this course, we will consider a broad range of aesthetic responses to the problem of representing sexuality in literature, with a particular focus on the role that secrets play in literary constructions of non-normative sexual desire. Beginning with Oscar Wilde?s The Picture of Dorian Gray, we will examine novels that represent and respond to cultural issues that are grounded in questions of sexual representation (for example, aestheticism, feminism, and homosexuality). We will also engage ourselves with the formal dimensions of the narratives that house sexuality by focusing on such techniques of secrecy as indirection, suggestion, and artifice. Along the way, we will ask ourselves a number of questions: Beyond signifying states of concealment and sexual repression, what larger work might sexual secrets perform in the modern novel? How might we describe the ?self? of the character who holds a sexual secret? What would it mean to read a novel from a sexual viewpoint?as opposed to, say, a political or a social one? Finally, what happens when sexuality is no longer a secret, but still remains represented as if it were one?

We will devote the majority of our time to developing our critical thinking and analytical writing skills. More specifically, we will practice applying our close reading skills of literary texts to the writing of solid analytical prose. Our journey through the world of ?exposition and argumentation? (two of the main foci of this course) will include visits at the following destinations: grammar; sentence and paragraph construction; essay structure; thesis development; proper use of evidence; and style.

Each student will be assigned five papers and a number of short take-home assignments. Class time will frequently be spent on group work and in-class writing. Three of the papers 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. Students can expect to receive a substantial amount of commentary from the instructor on all five essays.

Regular attendance, frequent in-class participation, and dedication to the reading are required for this course. "

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