English 190

Research Seminar: Close Reading


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2009 Miller, D.A.
Miller, D.A.
MW 12-1:30 300 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

J. Austen, Emma; R. Barthes, S/Z; A.C. Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity; J. Keats, Keats’s Poetry and Prose

Description

It may be argued that close reading is literary criticism. Certainly, it is its only technique and its most widely shared belief. Although it is central to literary criticism, however, close reading is marginal almost everywhere else in the culture, with exceptions to be duly noted. Like all marginal phenomena, it is selectively lionized and massively stigmatized; it has its mythic heroes such as Sherlock Holmes and, more recently, Robert Langdon, and its regular demons, who are usually us, the literature majors and professors who are considered to read too much in. The aim of this course is not to teach students how to close-read—with English majors, I assume both experience and ability in the practice—but to bring them to a more conscious (and self-conscious) understanding of what may be at stake in both the practice and the resistance to it. Accordingly, even as we “do” close reading, we will also engage in assisted reflection on what it is we are doing

Our objects comprise a poem by Keats, a novel by Austen, and a film by Hitchcock, all of which spectacularly lend themselves to close reading, and some mass culture artifacts that categorically do not, but will receive it nonetheless (for the course harbors a certain desire to take close-reading out of the closet of English Literature and into the streets of cultural studies). Our topics include: the institutionalization of close reading, its past, present, and utopian rationales, historicist and other attacks on it, its rules-of-the-game, the problematic of “getting close” (or, the critic’s “intimacy issues”), and, not least, the pleasures of the text.

English 190 replaces English 100 and 150 as of Fall ’09. English majors may fulfill the seminar requirement for the major by taking one section of English 190 (or by having taken either English 100 or 150 before Fall ’09). Please read the paragraph on page 2 of this Announcement of Classes for more details about enrolling in or wait-listing for this course!

Please click here for more information about enrollment in English 190.

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