English R1A

Reading and Composition: The Demands of Beauty

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Fall 2013 Langione, Matt
MW 4-5:30 222 Wheeler

Book List

Aristotle: Poetics; Burke, Edmund: A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful; Eliot, T.S.: Four Quartets; Emerson, Ralph Waldo: Nature and Selected Essays; Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby; James, Henry: Daisy Miller; Salinger, J.D.: Nine Stories


Channeling Dante’s insight that “beauty awakens the soul to act,” Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that the love of beauty begins with appreciation—the cultivation of taste—and culminates in the creation of a work of art that “throws a light upon the mystery of humanity.” Though this does indeed rub an appealing shine on the enterprise of appreciation and interpretation, it also occasions some essential preliminary questions. What is beauty? What demands does it make of the beholder? Specifically, what modes and qualities of attention does beauty elicit, and how might those prove valuable to the individual and to society? Guided by a selection of writings by Aristotle, Burke, Emerson, James, Eliot, Fitzgerald, Salinger and others, and supplemented by various visual arts, music and cinema (The Graduate, L’Avventura, American Beauty and Lost in Translation), we will attempt ultimately to gain some ground on the discipline’s most elemental but elusive pair of questions: what is literature, and why read it?

Pursuing the answers to these questions will require not only reading and class discussion but also, and above all, regular, brief writing assignments designed to improve fluency in exposition and argumentation. 

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