English R1B

Reading & Composition: The Way We Read Now

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Spring 2014 Ling, Jessica
MWF 11-12 222 Wheeler

Book List

Dickens, Charles: Bleak House

Other Readings and Media

Course reader with selections from: Stanley Fish, Elaine Scarry, Wolfgang Iser, Maurice Blanchot, Carla Hesse, Elizabeth Eisenstein, William Flesch, Martha Nussbaum, Alva Noe, Stephen Best & Sharon Marcus, George Gissing, Roland Barthes, Blakey Vermeule, WK Wimsatt & Monroe Beardsley, Geoffrey Nunberg, 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 enter into debates on how print, the book, and media technologies shape our present-day experience of literature. Our starting point will be how a Victorian novel thematizes the intricate relation between what and how we read: Is there ever such a thing as "too much" print? How might serialization affect narrative form? 

Secondly, we’ll think about the kinds of readings we perform (close, distant, surface, cognitive, reparative, and sometimes "bad") 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 thematize reading itself.

This course is aimed primarily at honing research skills and positioning smaller arguments against broader perspectives. The class will culminate in a research paper, with an emphasis on handling critical sources, citing responsibly, and developing complex arguments. 

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