English R1A

Reading and Composition: (Self) Portraits in (Post) Modern Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2014 Klavon, Evan
MWF 10-11 222 Wheeler

Book List

Carson, Anne: Autobiography of Red; Conrad, C. A.: The Book of Frank; Ford, Ford Madox: The Good Soldier; Rankine, Claudia: Don't Let Me Be Lonely; Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray; Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway

Other Readings and Media

A course reader will include: Jean Toomer, excerpts from Cane (1923); Langston Hughes, selected poems; Joe Brainard, excerpts from I Remember (1970); John Ashbery, “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” (1975); Lyn Hejinian, excerpts from My Life (1987); and some secondary readings.


Our topic for this course in critical analysis and essay composition will be literary portraiture in a series of Modern, Postmodern, and Contemporary novels, poems, and cross-genre works. During the semester we will encounter a dandy whose looks never alter or fade, the saddest story ever told, early 20th-century London, early 20th-century Harlem, the 16th-century reflection of a 20th-century poet, a teenage winged red monster, and more. Through class discussion and multiple writing assignments, students will explore how literary works offer ways of thinking about how we think about other people and ourselves. Can we separate our judgment of a portrait from the qualities of the person portrayed? What difference does style or genre make? Where does the artist enter the picture? To what extent is an individual a reflection of society? To what degree is it possible to know or understand an other? What about the self? Can a literary encounter with a fictional character change our approach to the real world?

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