English R1A

Reading and Composition: The Literary Character

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Fall 2014 Yu, Esther
TTh 11-12:30 222 Wheeler

Book List

Brontë, Charlotte: Jane Eyre; Milton, John: Paradise Lost

Other Readings and Media

A course reader will include selections from the Bible, Virgil's Aeneid, Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare's sonnets, Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, and Richardson's Pamela; a number of critical readings will also be provided.


How do loose bits of textual material transform into literary characters of heft and substance? The question seems deceptively simple when referred to the poles of cultural habit or of the fluid workings of the reader’s imagination. In this class, we’ll look more closely at the role of literary design, and experiment with a range of analytical terms to bring the construction of character into clearer focus. Before reflecting on the “realistic” characters of novels, we’ll survey a handful of ancient, medieval, and early modern texts to consider alternative models of the literary character. How do the figures of the Bible or the classical epic exceed representational demands on the way to becoming larger than life? How does the artfully imprecise rendering of a figure in, say, Renaissance love poetry enhance its affective power? We will have occasion to consider texts that primarily deploy characters as embodiments of concepts or ideals, and will think critically, too, of the historical shifts that have formed our taste for literary figures of flesh and blood.

Students in this course will frequently be asked to think through writing, and to think self-consciously about their writing. A substantial portion of the class will be devoted to the skills and strategies necessary for writing persuasive argumentative essays. Core assignments include a diagnostic paper and three essays.

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