English R1B

Reading and Composition: Truth, Lie, and Narration in the Novel and Film

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
9 Fall 2004 Chris Eagle
T/Th, 12:30 ? 2:00 204 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Wilde, O. The Importance of Being Earnest, The Decay of Lying, The Critic as Artist

Woolf, V. To the Lighthouse

Plato. The Republic

Joseph Williams. Style: 7 Lessons Towards Clarity and Grace

Course Reader. Selections from Nietzsche, Heidegger, Descartes "


"This course approaches literary works from a philosophical standpoint, taking up certain longstanding philosophical debates about the nature of Truth, and applying those debates to works of literature. We will spend the first few weeks familiarizing ourselves with some of these debates through brief selected readings in the history of philosophy by Plato, Descartes, and Nietzsche. Put simply, we will discuss whether truth is an objective (and universal) part of our external world, or instead, a set of subjective (or pluralistic) perspectives on reality. We will then apply these debates to works by Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf. In the case of Wilde, I expect we will explore what it means for Wilde to write essays in the form of dialogues, a conversational form which embraces a multiplicity of perspectives. Likewise, I hope we will appreciate the philosophy behind Woolf?s narrative techniques (i.e. alternating perspectives, fluid points-of-view) and how these techniques reflect her own sense of ""truth."" In the last few weeks of the semester, we will take up these same issues in films, focusing on examples of what is often called ""unreliable narration"" (a term for narratives that in some sense ""lie"" to us). We will look at three canonically ""unreliable"" films: Kurosawa?s Rashomon, Hitchcock?s Stage Fright, and Siodmak?s The Killers.

Our method throughout will be a close in-class analysis of the novels, dialogues, and films. Our focus will be on the development of your close-reading skills as well as an improvement in your writing that builds upon your experience in 1A. Thus, a significant portion of in-class time will also be spent ""workshopping"" each other?s writing. There will also be exercises assigned to develop your research skills for the final paper. "

Back to Semester List