English R1A

Reading and Composition: Gossip

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Fall 2013 Stancek, Claire Marie
MWF 1-2 222 Wheeler

Book List

Austen, Jane: Persuasion; Fuller, Margaret: Woman in the Nineteenth Century ; Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm: The Annotated Brothers Grimm; Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley: The Turkish Embassy Letters ; Stein, Gertrude: Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas ; Woolf, Virginia: Moments of Being ; Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway ; Wordsworth, Dorothy: The Grasmere Journals ; Wordsworth and Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads

Other Readings and Media

A reader including: Martin Heidegger, from Being and Time (1927); Soren Kierkegaard, from The Present Age (1846); Roland Barthes, from A Lover’s Discourse (1978); selections from nineteenth-century magazines, including the Spectator, the Rambler, The Gentleman’s Magazine; selections from contemporary magazines and blogs, including People, In Touch Weekly, The National Enquirer, and Perez Hilton’s blog


Gossip, according to Roland Barthes, constitutes “murder by language”—which, although extreme, is hardly a surprising condemnation. From Soren Kierkegaard’s dismissal of gossip as “idle talk,” to one contemporary synonym for this kind of speech, “the dirt,” Western culture seems collectively to bad-mouth gossip as “bad-mouthing.” Why? What difference between this and other, culturally-accepted modes of discourse makes gossip so frightening, dangerous, dirty, and self-evidently “wrong”? What new forms of thought, feeling, criticism, and community become available to us when we take seriously a mode so trivialized, maligned, and taboo? In this course, we will read philosophy and literature about gossip, gossip as literature and philosophy, letters, journals, biographies, as well as gossip columns, magazines, and blogs.

In this course, you will be asked to write several short essays of increasing length in order to develop your academic reading and writing skills.

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