English R1B

Reading and Composition: Literature and Popular Culture

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2016 Le, Serena
MWF 9-10 211 Dwinelle

Book List

Carroll, Lewis: Alice in Wonderland; Graff, Gerald and Cathy Birkenstein: They Say, I Say; Nabokov, Vladimir: Lolita; Shakesepeare, William: Hamlet

Other Readings and Media

A small course reader with poems and short texts (available in print and online); will include work by William Shakespeaere, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Frost, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, among others. Accompanying media (video and audio clips) will be made available thorugh our course website, and we will also schedule a few screenings of film adaptations.


Note the change in the instructor, topic, book list, and course description for this section of English R1B (as of May 19).

How does a poem about a road merely taken become a poem about a road less traveled? What happens when literature becomes an instrument of individuation and socialization—when something read becomes something talked about, told, retold? In this course, we will look at how and why certain literary works entice, infuse, sustain, and are sustained by popular culture and communal imagination, often at the expense of their source meanings and contexts. From Piper's unwelcome (albeit analytically sound) takedown of Taystee's Robert Frost reference on Orange is the New Black to Lana Del Ray's unabashed (and arguably unwitting) reenvisioning of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita character in the tracks of "Born to Die," we will discuss contemporary portrayals of literature and literariness alongside our own attentive readings of some of the most frequently cited works in the English language.

As a student in this class, you will develop skills in debate and argumentation, as well as in research and reportage. Using Gerald Graff and Cathy BIrkenstein's book, They Say, I Say, as our point of departure for thinking and learning about academic writing, we will grapple with the questions of intention and interpretation that lie at the heart of compelling critical analysis. Short written assignments and exercises will build toward a final research paper on a topic of your choosing within the themes of our course.

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