English R1A

Reading & Composition: The Miniature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2012 Ty, Michelle
MWF 10-11 225 Wheeler

Book List

Stein, Gertrude: Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein; Walser: Microscripts


First and foremost, this course will be about writing.  A propos of the seminar’s theme, we will work on and revise mostly small pieces, while reading and thinking about miniatures of all kinds.

This course about the miniature will begin big, with an epic, and end with pieces of literature so small, you can hold them, entire, in the palm of your hand.   Throughout the semester, we will explore what it means to attend to the minute—and how such attention might also correspond to various ways of seeing the world.  We will spend time considering how the microscopic gaze might be distinguished from the kind of view offered by the (social and political) microcosm, and will think about how the scale of a representation can invite certain modes of interpretation, along with various assumptions about a work’s value, potency, charm, or exemplarity.

In the latter part of the course, we will consider how “smallness” has become something of a pseudo-concept in aesthetics, often opposed to the sublimely great, and associated with a feminized notion of beauty.  And we will ask how miniature genres, like the anecdote, might function, or not function, as a kind of historical writing.  

Requirements for the course include the following:

·      One two-page response paper at the semester’s beginning;

·      Three three-page papers, which will be revised and peer-reviewed

·      Weekly responses on the online forum 

·      An in-class presentation, relevant to the selected week’s readings, which will become the basis for a 4-page paper, due at the semester’s end

Book/Film List:

The Odyssey (Selections); Austen, Emma; Aesop, Fables; Robert Walser, Microscripts; Kafka, Parables & Paradoxes; Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings, and “How to Write” (excerpts); Lichtenberg, The Wastebooks; films by Marie Menken and Maya Deren; animated shorts by Brad Neeley

Available as a course reader: 

Woolf, “Solid Objects” and “Kew Gardens”; Andreas Huyssen, “The Modernist Miniature”; Félix Fénéon, Illustrated Three-line Novels; Poe, “The Black Cat”; Boxes, by Joseph Cornell

Also selections from the following: Susan Stewart, On Longing; Walter Benjamin, the Arcades Project and “The Storyteller”; Pascal’s Pensées; Hooke’s Micrographia; La Rochefoucauld, Maxims; Swift, Gulliver’s Travels; Cervantes, “Exemplary Tales”; Nietzsche’s The Gay Science; Anne Carson, Short Talks; Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment; The New Testament; Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful.


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