English R1B

Reading and Composition: The Mind's Island

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Spring 2005 Joseph Ring
MWF 3-4 204 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Thomas More, Utopia

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

V.S. Naipaul, The Mimic Men

J.G. Ballard, Concrete Island

J.M. Coetzee, Foe

Course Reader

Recommended: a good grammar and style book (e.g. The Random House Handbook) "


This course takes as its organizing topic early modern and modern literary islands. As we hop from island to island, starting with Thomas More's Utopia (at once overdetermined as literally 'nowhere,' as a mirrored double of England, and as the New World), we will be guided by the following steering questions: is the island indeed a space 'out there,' a location that signifies the freshness, the possibility, and the rejuvenation of the New World? Or, is the island in its literary manifestation the ultimate space of self-confrontation and of confinement? We will closely examine these twinned suggestions of escape and entrapment, of home and not-home, and of hope and despair that inhere in the very notion of 'island.' As many of the texts that we will read perform a crossing of the anthropological and the literary in the form of colonial and post-colonial encounters, we will also return throughout the semester to the question of ethnography, both as a mode of writing a verbal portrait of another culture and of turning a critical lens back against one's own culture. This course is designed to teach you not only how to work with principal modes of academic rhetoric (description, analysis, and argument) but also how to incorporate secondary sources and research in your writing projects. To this end, students will be required to write a short diagnostic essay and three formal essays, the first two of which they will substantially revise, and the last of which will include a research component.

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