English R1B

Reading & Composition: Are There Stories?

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
12 Spring 2014 Greer, Erin
MWF 3-4 225 Wheeler

Book List

Camus, A.: The Fall; Conrad, J.: Lord Jim; Woolf, V.: The Waves

Other Readings and Media

Additional theoretical texts will be made available on bSpace, and students will also listen to recorded stories broadcast through radio and podcast programming.


Walter Benjamin wrote that “the art of storytelling is reaching its end,” arguing that the oral, communitarian art of storytelling encountered its first crisis in the rise of the bourgeois novel, and a second crisis in modern societies’ privileging of “information” over the subtler “truths” of story. Although Benjamin’s 1936 assessment of the turn to “information” seems a startlingly prescient way of describing contemporary American culture, in recent years there has been a resurgence in the oral storytelling tradition on radio programs like This American Life and Snap Judgment, and at live storytelling events like The Moth, RISK! and San Francisco’s Bawdy Storytelling. This research-intensive R&C course will consider the contemporary appeal of storytelling, via investigations in literature of the nature of storytelling and of the connections between storytelling and politics. We will turn, perhaps paradoxically, to (and through) novels that grapple with the ability to tell stories in a modernity that suspects the tidiness of plot, the coherence of self or of character, and the transmissibility of experience and “truth.”

Numerous writing and drafting projects will culminate in a research paper of 8-10 pages, which will consider questions about the contemporary viability of stories from literary, theoretical, anthropological, and/or political angles. In addition to inspiring classroom conversation about the nature of stories and the nature of the life that stories try to represent, this course is designed to help students develop the arts of research and expression that will serve them in both professional and personal adventures.


Back to Semester List