English R1B

Reading and Composition: Difficult Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
13 Spring 2013 Taylor, Bradford Alden
MWF 3-4 225 Wheeler

Book List

Barnes, Djuna: Nightwood; Eliot, T.S.: The Waste Land; Sebald, W.G.: The Rings of Saturn


“Poets in our civilization, as it exists at present, must be difficult.” Or so thought T.S. Eliot in 1921. Whether poets must be difficult is an open question, but the fact is that a lot of what we call literature is not exactly easy to read. Strange words, incomprehensible characters, unnecessary scenes, inscrutable systems, irascible narrators: all of these things can be very frustrating, so why do we keep coming back for more? What about difficulty is enticing and important? Why can’t literature just tell it how it is? Why must literature be difficult?

This class will look at a range of poems and novels that are often considered difficult. We will tackle these texts with a combination of close reading skills, secondary literature, and a sense of humor. We will learn how being confused can be a good thing, and we will work together to clarify and channel this confusion into literary critical essays.

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