English R1B

Reading and Composition: “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I feel fine)”

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Spring 2013 Lee, Sookyoung (Soo)
MWF 11-12 222 Wheeler

Book List

Kafka, Franz: Amerika: The Missing Person; Melville, Herman: Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life; Spark, Muriel: Memento Mori; Swift, Jonathan: Gulliver's Travels; Williams, Joseph: Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace

Other Readings and Media

A course reader with the following materials: Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798); Didion, “Slouching towards Bethlehem” (1968); Dostoevsky, “The Grand Inquisitor” chapter from The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80); selections from First World War poetry; selections from Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848 (1962).


“But the age of chivalry is gone—That of sophisters, oeconomists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever,” laments the political thinker Edmund Burke upon seeing Marie-Antoinette’s head chopped off. “From the response of the nation, revealed through its culture, you would have thought that death had been invented on November 22, 1963. And for that culture, it indeed had,” observes the sociologist David Reisman in an essay written a month after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. An individual life speaks for the vitality of a collective. In turn, a nation, a culture or a time period is understood and talked about as an organic form, living, growing, decaying and dying. By what process does a phenomenon take on its inevitable, ironic character within the larger historical narrative? To put it differently and bluntly, how do we recognize when an era begins and ends, when the world as we’ve known it dissipates in anticipation of a world we’ve yet to know? “Be not afeard,” the brave monster Caliban assures the shipwrecked visitors:

The isle is full of noises,

Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices

That, if I then had waked after long sleep,

Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,

The clouds methought would open and show riches

Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked

I cried to dream again. (The Tempest. III.ii. 137-145)

The texts in this course will show us, shipmasters and boatswains stranded and lost, the strange and surprisingly familiar imaginings of new and old worlds; tell us about the anxiety of discovery and of world-weariness; and bring us into experiences as foreign as they are intimately within. You will be asked to choose a text early on and sustain an ongoing research project throughout the semester. You will present your research writing in two stages, a preliminary proposal (5-7 pages) with an oral presentation and a final paper (10-12 pages) with at least two critical sources.

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