English N1B

Reading and Composition: (Note new topic:) Pop Truth

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
1 Summer 2014 Ahmed, Adam
TTh 12-2 222 Wheeler

Book List

Blake, William: Selected Poems; Breton, Andre: Nadja; Lin, Tao: Taipei; O'Hara, Frank: Lunch Poems; Reines, Ariana: Couer de Lion; Wordsworth, William and Coleridge, S.T.: Lyrical Ballads

Other Readings and Media

A course reader


NOTE NEW COURSE DESCRIPTION (and the instructor and texts have also changed):

In his “Proverbs of Hell,” from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake writes, “Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believed.” This perplexing proverb asks us to balance two contrasting statements: 1) truth cannot be told in a way that can be understood, and 2) truth cannot be disbelieved when it is told. Though these statements seem to rebut the Enlightenment claim that truth is something that needs to be told in a demonstrable way in order to be understood, Blake does not deny the need to tell truth. Instead, Blake’s proverb and his use of the proverb form to convey his truth lead us to wonder: if truth is something everyone should know, why does one need to be told how to know it? Through close readings of proverbs, pop songs, ballads, poems, tales, and novels, this class will look at the tension between truth that everyone knows and truth that needs to be told. In examining these different popular forms, we will also trace the historical shift of truth and the way it is told in Romantic adaptations of folk traditions, 20th-century avant-garde responses to the standardization of culture, and contemporary works that seek an unironic relationship with knowledge we all know.

While we consider truths that everyone knows, the goal of this class will be to make sure everyone knows what you’re talking about. As an R1B, this course will develop students’ organizational and rhetorical strategies for an argumentative essay (5-6 pages), while introducing them to some of the scholarly and analytical techniques for a longer (8-10 page) research paper. Through themed groupings of critical material, small writing exercises, and analytical papers, students will learn how to engage with outside source material to support their own original theses. 

This course will be taught in Session C, which runs from June 23 to August 15.

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