English R1A

Reading and Composition: Innocence

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2015 Ding, Katherine
MWF 12-1 222 Wheeler

Book List

Blake, William: Songs of Innocence and Experience; Coetzee, J.M: Disgrace; Ishiguro, Kazuo: Never Let Me Go; Mizayaki, Hayao: The Wind Rises (2013 film); Nabokov, Vladimir: Lolita; Russell, Mary Doria: The Sparrow; Shakespeare, William: Othello; de Toro, Guillermo: Pan's Labyrinth (2004 film)

Other Readings and Media

Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Spring and Fall"; Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "The Grand Inquitor" (excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov); additional selections in course reader tba


What does it mean to be innocent? Is innocence simply the lack of knowledge, or the absence of experience—an immature state that is inevitably lost upon self-reflection and understanding? How do those conceptions of innocence relate to the judicial definition of “not guilty” and not thus not culpable?

What does innocence do to us? How do we read it, evaluate it, respond to it? Why does it seem both so problematic and so alluring? How is innocence leveraged and put to use by others (or by oneself?) Rather than positing a single answer to these complex questions, this class traces this shifting concept by focusing on its relation to the term that it is juxtaposed against: innocence/guilt, innocence/experience, innocence/sexuality, innocence/knowledge.

This class will focus on honing close reading and critical analysis skills. We’ll be working with a variety of media: poetry, plays, artworks, novels, movies. We will also be putting these skills to work in writing five close-reading papers through the semester, in addition to turning in reflections every week.

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