English R1A

Reading and Composition: Issues

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2016 Ling, Jessica
MWF 9-10 262 Dwinelle

Book List

Dickens, Charles: Hard Times; Dreiser, Theodore: Sister Carrie

Other Readings and Media

Selections include:  Thomas Carlyle, "Signs of the Times"; Adam Smith, A Theory of Moral Sentiments; Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin; Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, The Gilded Age; Henry Mayhew, London Labor and the London Poor; Rebecca Harding Davis, "Life in the Iron Mills"; Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Man the Reformer"; Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England; Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, "Striking It Richer"; n+1, "Occupy!"; Nathan Schneider, Thank You, Anarchy!


Note the change in instructor, topic, book list, and course description for this section of English R1A (as of May 20).

How bad are things, really? This class puts problems of past and present up for debate. We take as our starting point the nineteenth century, looking at techniques by which writers called for change and tracing how reformist language and description evolved across a number of issues: the condition of the industrial laborer, abolition, income inequality, corruption and enfranchisement. Our premise is that how something is argued is just as important as what. We'll therefore think about the relationship between representation and argument; how the scale, seriousness, and persuasiveness of certain issues rest on inflationary or urgent rhetoric; the ways literature gets conscripted into arguments (good and bad); the ambitions and limitations of literature in the public sphere. Other areas of inquiry include the uses of satire and vitriol; facts and "realist" description; the rhetoric of crisis; the effects of continuing coverage and the 24-hour newsfeed. We will approach contemporary activist journalism and election-year debates with a skeptical ear. In examining arguments about hard and "workful" times, we'll start to craft arguments about our own.

Our emphasis is on independent thinking, critical reading, and analysis. You'll be asked to build balanced, well-researched cases on literature and contemporary issues. In-class debates and short papers (3-4 pages) will be the culmination of your work.

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