English R1A

Reading and Composition: A Meet and Happy Conversation

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
10 Fall 2013 Greer, Erin
TTh 9:30-11 222 Wheeler

Book List

Carson, A.: The Beauty of the Husband; Forster, E. M.: A Passage to India; Ibsen, H.: A Doll's House; Woolf, V.: To the Lighthouse

Other Readings and Media

We will also discuss critical and philosophical readings that will be provided through bSpace, including selections from John Milton, Stanley Cavell, Maurice Blanchot, and Jurgen Habermas.


In Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, John Milton writes that “a meet and happy conversation is the chiefest and noblest end of marriage.” This course will explore the ethical, romantic, and philosophical implications of this claim by placing it in dialogue with literary and philosophical texts that call into question assumptions about the nature of conversation and the nature of marriage. Both marriage and conversation have served as metaphors representing society and the social contract, so this inquiry will carry us into political discourse and considerations of concepts like “public” and “private,” as well as into modes of imagining gender, love, and intimacy. In the figure of conversation, language and its protocols emerge as both the model and the medium for human community. So, with literature to help us find the words, we will ask what makes a conversation “meet and happy”? What does it mean to found ideas of intimacy and politics in an image of talking? And, finally, what has become of “conversation,” “society,” and “intimacy” in the age of social media?

The twofold aim of this class is to spark new insights about conversation in its various dimensions and to help you develop the arts of critical reading and writing necessary to participate in scholarly conversation. Frequent, short writing assignments will help you build critical reading and writing skills, sharpening your perception of others’ language and your use of your own.

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