English R1A

Reading & Composition: Sympathy and the Problem of Identification

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Spring 2014 Ding, Katherine
TTh 2-3:30 222 Wheeler

Book List

Austen, Jane: Northanger Abbey; Coetzee, J.M.: Foe; Hartzell, Andy: Fox Bunny Funny; Ishiguro, Kazuo: Never Let Me Go; Shakespeare, William: A Midsummer Night's Dream; Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein;

Recommended: Hacker, Diane: Rules for Writers; Struck, William: The Elements of Style

Other Readings and Media

A course reader including short or excerpted works by the following authors: Ovid; Eliza Haywood; Giorgio Agamben; John Keats; Anne Radcliffe; Dante; and Edmund Burke.


How does sympathy function to draw the reader into the text? How do readers navigate sympathizing with characters who are directly at odds with one another? Does sympathy require identification with the character or speaker? Is it possible to sympathize with a character whom one cannot identify with, or “relate to?” What does the impossibility or refusal of identification do to our experience of reading? The texts that we’ll examine in this class problematize—in different ways and with different results—the link between sympathy and identification, between “feeling with” a character and putting oneself in the place of that character. The texts all solicit sympathy from their audiences, but refuse, confuse, or warn against identification.

These texts will provide opportunities ot hone your skills as a reader and critical thinker. You will develop your writing skills in series of short analytical essays, as well as through weekly reflection papers.

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