English R1A

Reading and Composition: Acts of Interpretation

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Fall 2006 Kristin Fujie
MWF 3-4 204 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Diana Hacker, Rules for Writers

* Course Reader including writings by George Orwell, Sui Sin Far, Toni Morrison, Edgar Allan Poe, and others. "


"This course is an introduction to the mechanics and pleasures of critical reading and writing. If you�re not sure how critical reading and writing differ from other kinds of reading and writing, don�t despair! That�s precisely what we�re here to figure out. We will begin by abandoning the idea that writing�creative or critical�just happens, and instead approach it as a series of careful and strategic choices. Thus, with respect to both the texts we read (see list below) and the texts you write (see writing requirement below), we will think very carefully about how little decisions such as word choice, verb tense, or the ordering of events/ideas, can influence the overall meaning and effect of a sentence, paragraph or even an entire work. By becoming more conscious of words as active creators of meaning rather than passive transmitters of information, you will become more perceptive readers and more skillful writers by the end of the semester.

The thematic focus of this course overlaps with the practical focus described above. We will read short stories and novels, supplemented by autobiographical sketches and essays, all of which are centrally concerned with the acts of reading and writing. In its simplest sense, this means that we will read stories that are about writers: journalists, diarists, and note-pad toting spies will all make an appearance this semester. Many of our characters are also readers, but not simply in the bookish sense, and this is where the true crux of our course lies. For the authors of the works we will read this semester, �interpretation� is not an activity reserved solely for English class, nor is it simply about making sense of texts. Rather, interpretation emerges as a strategy for making sense of the world, for organizing the raw material of experience into meaning. The characters in their fiction thus emerge as �readers� of people, events, history and culture, all of which emerge as �texts� demanding interpretation. Freed from the page, the act of reading assumes unexpected and often bizarre forms: a nasty wallpaper design, a spouse�s perfectly white teeth, and a decapitated head each emerge as ciphers which we, along with the characters, are asked to render meaningful. To read these stories and novels is to participate in their construction of meaning, whether by joining a character in his/her search for a �truth� which lies beneath the surface of things, or by reading between the lines of a character who seeks to hide something from others or from him/herself. Our project this semester will be to read our way into these linguistic worlds and then, by constructing our own understandings of the texts� meaning, to write our way back out. Students who enroll should come prepared to read constantly, write furiously, and participate earnestly in class discussion! "

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