English R1B

Reading & Composition: Belief

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
11 Fall 2012 Kolb, Margaret
TTh 5-6:30 225 Wheeler

Book List

Austen, Jane: Northanger Abbey; Scott, Sir Walter: Waverley; Shakespeare, William: Othello; Walpole, Horace: The Castle of Otranto


What constitutes belief, and how and why do we believe what we do? What kinds of belief attend to particular genres -- to fictional text, editorial, article, or essay? What makes a convincing (or “believable”) essay, and to what extent is such convincing in accord with, or subservient to the constraints and expectations associated with the essay form? In this course, we will explore historically shifting conceptions of evidence and proof over the modern period alongside various explanations of the kinds of belief that attend to particular forms (including, for example, Coleridge’s explanation of the “suspension of disbelief” that fiction entails). Substantial readings include selections from the Bible, Shakespeare’s Othello, Pascal’s Pensees, David Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature, Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Samuel Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria, and Walter Scott’s Waverley, but we’ll also attend to articles and editorials of a wide variety of genres (including mathematical arguments) to consider these questions thoughtfully in our conversations and in our writing. Written assignments will include bi-weekly short assignments (1-2 pages) and revisions, culminating in a longer research essay on a topic of your choosing.

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