English R1A

Reading & Composition: (Re)presenting the Past

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Fall 2012 Dumont, Alex
MWF 12-1 225 Wheeler

Book List

Bechdel, Alison: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic; James, Henry: The Turn of the Screw; Melville, Herman: Billy Budd and Other Stories; Sebald, W.G.: Austerlitz

Other Readings and Media

- A course reader, which will include: Nathaniel Hawthorne's, "My Kinsman, Major Molineux", selections from Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology, selections from Charles Darwin's, On the Origin of Species, selected Victorian ghost stories, and selected criticism on The Turn of the Screw, as well as a variety of other short critical and theoretical texts.

- The Innocents (dir. Jack Clayton), a film to be screened in class.


This course will ask a variety of questions about the interaction of the past and the present in literature, beginning with one that may (at first) seem simple:  What exactly do we mean by “the past”?  This question, as we will see, has many answers.  Personal experience, history, inheritance, memory and tradition will all be considered.  The past, as we will see, can be nurturing and haunting, inspiring and oppressive, far out of reach and all too close.  Finally, we will ask, in what ways does art always contend with the past?  In what ways is it always separated from it?

The connection between past and present is not just something about which we read and write, but also part of how our own reading and writing work.  Texts and ideas are engaged in a conversation with earlier texts and ideas, and the work we will do in this class is no exception.  As you develop your abilities in reading, writing, and analysis, you will hopefully begin to think about your work as part of this larger conversation.  To this end, we will spend substantial class time considering how an argument is constructed, and how we relate critically to a text—skills that should serve you well whether your major is in or outside of the humanities.

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