English R1B

Reading and Composition: Melodrama and Morality

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2004 Misa Oyama
MWF 10-11 221 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Paul Auster: The Book of Illusions

Graham Greene: The Quiet American

Grace Metalious: Peyton Place

Susan Sontag: Regarding the Pain of Others

Course reader (essays and short stories)

Frederick C. Crews: The Random House Handbook (recommended)


Alan Ball: Six Feet Under (selections)

Michael Epstein: American Masters - None Without Sin

Justin Lin: Better Luck Tomorrow

Errol Morris: The Fog of War

Phillip Noyce: The Quiet American

Nicholas Ray: Bigger Than Life

Stephen Sondheim: Sweeney Todd "


"Melodrama is often seen as an old-fashioned or simplistic genre, because it appeals to emotions rather than reason and dramatizes the battle between good and evil. But these characteristics also make melodrama a popular way of dealing with complex problems; melodrama gives its audience clarity in a morally ambiguous world. We will examine the ways that people (from novelists and filmmakers to journalists and politicians) use melodrama to address questions about sexuality, class, race, and nationhood.

Students will begin the course by writing short close readings of small moments in the texts, and progress to longer essays which link these close readings together to form a larger argument. Through these assignments (several of which will be rewritten), students will sharpen two skills: looking closely at evidence and using that evidence to make a claim that matters to them. Additional requirements include three reading quizzes and an oral presentation on one of the works.

Films will be screened outside of class in the late afternoon or evening; students who cannot make the screening can see the films on their own at the Media Center in Moffitt. Texts may be subject to change; please come to the first class before purchasing any books. "

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