English R1A

Reading and Composition: The Way We Read Now

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
14 Fall 2013 Ling, Jessica
TTh 3:30-5 222 Wheeler

Book List

Calvino, Italo: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler; Dickens, Charles: Bleak House; Juster, Norton: The Phantom Tollbooth

Other Readings and Media

Course reader with readings from:  Stanley Fish, Elaine Scarry, Wolfgang Iser, Maurice Blanchot, Nicholas Dames, William Flesch, Martha Nussbaum, Alva Noe, Stephen Best & Sharon Marcus, Italo Calvino, Milan Kundera, Anthony Trollope, George Gissing, Roland Barthes, Blakey Vermeule, WK Wimsatt & Monroe Beardsley, Geoffrey Numberg, Paul Duguid, Jonathan Franzen.


This course is an occasion to reflect on how--if at all--we read now. Our engagement with this famously vexed question will be twofold. We'll first consider what we read, entering into contemporary debates on how digital and media technologies shape our experience of literature, and considering how iterations of this debate may have surfaced in the past. Does print matter? Victorian anxieties over Grub Street hacks, overproduction, a mass reading public and "the spawn of the press" suggest that this question has a history. Secondly, we'll think about the kinds of readings we perform (close, distant, surface, cognitive, reparative, and, sometimes, bad ones) and the affective states they may engender: detachment, boredom, arousal, sympathy, among many others. Can we ever enjoy "assigned reading"? What does it mean to read for leisure? How does the academy solicit, or foreclose on, certain types of reading? In pursuit of answers, we will take up extensive readings ourselves. You'll read--and quarrel with--contemporary theorists inside the academy and out, as well as novelists who thematized reading itself.

This class seeks to hone both expository and argumentative styles of writing; students will write a number of short essays and embark on extensive revision. In addition to the readings, group workshops, individual conferences, and in-class discussions on essay form--thesis and argument, textual support, style--will be used to refine these skills.


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