English R1B

Reading & Composition: How to Be Popular

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2014 Dumont, Alex
MWF 9-10 225 Wheeler

Book List

Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice; Wordsworth, William: The Major Works, including The Prelude

Other Readings and Media

Additional readings will be posted to bSpace.


Though this class unfortunately makes no promises to improve students’ own popularity (although, hey! you never know!) it will provide the opportunity to consider the problems and the pleasures of popularity in many other forms. To start, we will consider just what it means to be “popular”: Is being popular being loved, being respected, or simply being known? Exactly how many people have to like something before it is considered popular? Are some forms more likely to be liked by many people than others? And why do some texts remain popular—either as “serious” literature to be read in school, or as “guilty pleasures” to be enjoyed in private—long after others have faded away?

This class considers all of its subjects both in the terms that the text itself gives us (what is its form? what kinds of language does it use? what readers does it seem to imagine for itself?), and in light of the things that others have thought, said, and written about it (what kinds of readings and interpretations have critics or scholars produced? have readers understood the text differently over time? how was the text reviewed when it first appeared?). These questions will provide us with rich material for expanding your reading and writing abilities, and helping you incorporate research into your essays. Much of the class will be devoted to learning how to make sense of what others have written about a text, and how to respond thoughtfully to these other writers—skills that should serve you well whether your major is in or outside of the humanities. 

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