English R1B

Reading & Composition: Break-Ups and Other Formal Ruptures

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Fall 2015 Neal, Allison
TTh 9:30-11 225 Wheeler

Book List

Diaz, Junot: This is How You Lose Her; Goethe, J. W.: The Sorrows of Young Werther; Greene, Graham: The End of the Affair; Nelson, Maggie: Bluets; Reines, Ariana: Coeur de Lion

Other Readings and Media

Other materials will be available on the course website, including work by Roland Barthes, Anne Carson, Joan Didion, Lydia Davis, John Donne, Shakespeare, Petrarch, William Wordsworth, and John Keats. We’ll also incorporate some popular love songs, including everything from Edith Piaf to Kanye West. 


While a break-up may (in theory) end a relationship, it rarely ends a novel. This course will take its cue from novels and poems that dramatize the break-up in all of its obsessive, playful, and melancholy permutations in order to get a better glimpse of what it is, exactly, that the break-up breaks. How is a break-up characterized in written form? Does writing down an ending merely prolong it? What counts as a break-up? Can you break up with a place, a house, or a habit? What is our relationship (or obligation) to the person, place, or thing after the break-up? This course will also examine how the relationship between lover and loved object relates to the relationship between writer and reader. It will use break-ups to help us probe poetic terms like apostrophe (when a poet addresses an absent person) or lyric address (how the poetic “I” speaks to the poetic “you”) and to investigate how a poem or novel eventually ends.

While this course will be organized around ideas of the break-up, its primary purpose is to develop your skills as a writer, reader, researcher, and critical thinker. That being said, many of the patterns of behavior that we will find to characterize the break-up—flirtation, agitation, spats, stubborn melancholy—might also apply to your relationship with your own writing! This class will be structured as a workshop and will include peer revision, individual meetings, and in-class discussions of various techniques of essay writing and research. Students will be responsible for a short diagnostic essay followed by two longer essays and revisions.

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