English R1A

Reading and Composition: Narratives We Live By

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2013 Cordes Selbin, Jesse
MWF 11-12 222 Wheeler

Book List

Bronte, Charlotte: Jane Eyre; Jacobs, Harriet: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Other Readings and Media

There will also be a course reader; more information about this will be supplied on the first day of class. 


How does narrative shape our experience of ourselves and the world around us? In what ways do established narratives inflect the choices we make? What possibilities does narrative offer for a more active reworking of our world? In this class, we’ll look specifically at a number of 19th-century texts in a variety of genres, but important to our discussions will be to think about how narrative broadly and deeply affects the way we experience life, both within literature and well beyond it. To this end, we’ll read texts that are literary (works by Charlotte Brontë, Harriet Jacobs, George Eliot, Henry James, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alfred Tennyson, and Robert Browning, among others) alongside texts from other fields in the sciences and social sciences (selections from Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, Henry Mayhew, among others). Although this course is thematically oriented to the consideration of overarching stories and structures, we will counterbalance this with a deliberative attentiveness to the particular words, figures, and forms out of which these broader narratives are constructed.

The primary goal of this class is to develop the skills for effective scholarly writing, to which end we will write and rewrite frequently. We will reflect upon processes of rewriting, investigating narrative’s potential for infinite revision and exploring how texts get written into and out of the narrative of literary history. Expository and argumentative writing are two practical modes that you’ll develop in your own writing in this course; in conjunction with our reflections on narrative in works of the 19th century, we’ll also think about our own work as producers of contemporary scholarly narratives. Throughout the semester, students will write several papers of varying length and will work through the stages of outlining, drafting, editing, peer-review, and revising.



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