English R1B

Reading and Composition: Unprotected Texts: Tales Told and Retold

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2015 Hsu, Sharon
MWF 10-11 225 Wheeler

Book List

Austen, Jane: Emma; Forster, E.M.: Howards End; Shakespeare, William: Twelfth Night; Smith, Zadie: On Beauty

Other Readings and Media

Films: Twelfth Night: Or What You Will (1996); She's the Man (2006); Clueless (1995)

Additional critical essays and secondary readings will be made available via bCourses.


"Beauty brings copies of itself into being. It makes us draw it, take photographs of it, or describe it to other people. Sometimes it gives rise to exact replication and other times to resemblances and still other times to things whose connection to the original site of inspiration is unrecognizable." -- Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just

What does it mean to re-imagine the opening of a Modernist novel as a series of e-mails? Or to put the words of a beloved Jane Austen heroine into the mouth of a teenage Valley Girl? And why do so many film versions of Shakespeare's plays take place in high schools? In this course, we will explore a series of texts and what we might call their counter-texts -- novels, films, and essays that speak back to or against the original work by reimagining its themes, characters, or settings in a significant way. In doing so, we will ask questions such as: Why do some texts lend themselves to this kind of counter-textuality more than others? How does a counter-text comment on, critique, or subvert its original? And is it ever possible to read a counter-text apart from its original text?

The purpose of this course is to refine comprehension and analytical skills, improve writing, and broaden the scope of your essays to include research. To that end, we will devote considerable class time to learning how to find and analyze secondary sources and critical essays about texts (another form of counter-textuality, if you will) and how our own writing responds to texts and their counter-texts. The efforts of this class will culminate in a larger research paper of the student's own design.

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