English 190

Research Seminar: On Style


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
9 Fall 2016 Xin, Wendy Veronica
TTh 2-3:30 262 Dwinelle

Book List

Austen, Jane: Sense and Sensibility; Bronte, Charlotte: Villette; Eliot, George: Middlemarch; Ishiguro, Kazuo: The Remains of the Day; Wilde, Oscar: The Importance of Being Earnest

Other Readings and Media

Selected essays and excerpts from T. W. Adorno's "The Essay as Form" and Aesthetic Theory, Roland Barthes's The Fashion System, Charles Baudelaire's The Painter of Modern Life, Pierre Bourdieu's Distinction, Thomas Carlyle's Sartor Resartus, E. M. Forster's A Room with a View, John Ruskin's Modern Painters, D. A. Miller's Jane Austen or, The Secret of Style, Tzvetan Todorov's "The Place of Style in the Structure of the Text," Paul Valéry's "Style," Helen Vendler's The Breaking of Style, and Oscar Wilde's "Aristotle at Afternoon Tea"

Films: Rear Window (1954) - dir. Alfred Hitchcok; Clueless (1995) - dir. Amy Heckerling

Description

NOTE: The topic, course description, book list, and instructor for this section of English 190 changed on May 2.

Good style is easy to spot but tough to imitate, and "style," good or bad, is itself difficult to define: does style constitute a particular method of engagement? Might we say it expresses a mode of intentionality? Or, conversely, is style only style when it produces the effect of effortlessness? Is style everything but substance, or is it nothing but "mere form"? In this course we will investigate these mercurial aspects of style by examining literary depictions of its multifarious manifestations: in the Victorian novel it can act at once as a marker of cultural taste, a form of social engagement, and as expressing a set of moral judgments; in the contemporary British novel style is a trace of a long-lost history that the labor of everyday life and the relentless drive of mass production can no longer spare the time to accommodate; and in theories of fashion, art, and aesthetic form, style can be taken as  a sociology, a self-conscious cultivation of identity or psychic management of shame. We will make the transition from thinking about styles of literary representation and literary representations of style to fashioining writerly personas of our own, interrogating the qualities shared by authors, critics, filmmakers, and fictional characters from Adorno to Wilde. While we will spend a good deal of class time puzzling over the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the selected texts, we will also theorize, through longer writing assignments, the very elements needed to produce that always extraordinary, often volatile, and almost alchemical substance that is style. With this in mind, students will build upon skills gained in upper-division literature courses, honing their writing and research through one shorter 5-page close-reading essay and a final 15-to-20-page research paper due at the end of the semester.

Please read the paragraph about English 190 on page 2 of the instructions area of this Announcement of Classes for more details about enroling in or wait-listing for this course.

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