English R50

Freshman and Sophomore Studies: Stylin

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2006 Katz, Stephen A
Katz, Stephen
MWF 11-12 121 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Borroff, M. ed.: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Morrison, T.: Jazz; Nabokov, V.: Lolita; plus a course reader


"Humbert Humbert, the narrator of Lolita, speaks of the ?refuge of art? ? a notion that the sheer beauty of his text renders it permanent, impervious to the incursions of time or the judgments of his readers. But if transcendent immortality is the preserve of beauty, what of that gorgeous pair of Uggs (just last fall so crucially de mode), which now languish at the back of the closet, and just don?t seem to cut it anymore? Where does beauty stop and mere gorgeousness begin?

In this class we will consider style ? in its various senses ? as a literary and a cultural problematic. We will endeavor to find precise ways of talking about the distinctive style of a text (is it a mood? A voice? An aesthetic? A grammar?). And we will think about style in a broader sense, as the currency of a runway culture that promises creativity and hipness to all. All of the texts for this course are fraught by a tension about style, finding themselves caught sorting out the difference between permanence and mere trendiness, bookishness and worldliness, an idiosyncratic voice and a collective mood. Above all, style is meant to be noticed, and each of our texts is also freighted by the awareness that it desperately wants to be ?checked out.? What are these texts seeking, or alternately fleeing from, through style?

Such issues will be our intellectual fodder as we address the writerly concerns of the R50 syllabus. Our concentration on stylistics will allow us to consider the technical aspects of good writing (grammar, sentence and paragraph construction, thesis development, evidence, and style) in ways more pulse-quickening than such a list might at first suggest. Our common goal will be the mastery of those competencies necessary for the production of startlingly good analytical prose, and an introduction to the methods of academic research. All of this will acquaint you with the forms of argumentation that you will need at your disposal for such perils as one encounters in the classrooms of Berkeley, and beyond.

Over the course of the semester, you will be assigned three papers and a number of short take-home assignments. The final paper will involve your producing a longer research project that will draw on multiple sources. Each paper will involve a primary draft, peer editing, and a final revision and submission for a grade. You will receive a substantial amount of feedback from the instructor on all three essays. "

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