English R1B

Reading and Composition: The Really Quite Contemporary

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2013 Gregory, Jane
MWF 9-10 225 Wheeler

Book List

Foust, Graham: To Anacreon in Heaven and Other Poems; Hacker, Diana: Rules for Writers; Heti, Sheila: How Should A Person Be?: A Novel from Life; Lerner, Ben: Leaving the Atocha Station; Lin, Tan: Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking ; Rankine, Claudia: Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric

Other Readings and Media

A Course Reader containing selected stories, poems, and essays will be available.  

Films and Television may include:  Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976); The Future (Miranda July, 2011); episodes from Girls (Lena Dunham, 2012)


In this course we will investigate our reals, some [real]isms, and maybe even realityism in contemporary prose and poetry.  We will look at works of contemporary fiction and poetry—and also at television and film— that both insist on their fidelity to the contemporary world we share and inhabit, and also question the possibility of making art in and out of that world.  Because our course is an attempt to think about the slippery contemporary and its realities, we will spend some time investigating the various theoretical characterizations and periodizations of our times. The works we will study often issue from a narrator, speaker, character, or director who is nearly indistinguishable from the author or creator of that work. This is not a new phenomenon, but it is now happening in a fairly new context: the context of reality television, social media, and a preponderance of paratexts that emerge simultaneously with the works in question and to which these works often refer. In works like these it is no longer possible to ignore the identity of the author, and so we will by implication be forced to investigate our own identities and representations thereof when we produce works about these works.  We will ask about the ways in which we court or resist identifying with these characters or authors and the realities they insist we share.  We will also experiment with modes of reception that are appropriate to these contemporary works.  You may be asked, for example, to write book reviews and to practice the art of critical reception in the form of tweets or on facebook.

Building on the skills you learned and practiced in R1A, this course will use the questions this material poses of us, as well as those we pose of it, to develop your reading, writing and research skills.  There will be significant class time devoted to pre-writing, peer-review, and developing research skills.  You will produce at least 32 pages of writing—including pre-writing, drafts and revision, and culminating in a research paper on a topic of your own design. 

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