English N1A

Reading & Composition: Sound Counsel

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
1 Summer 2017 Young, Rosetta
MW 12-2 Dwinelle 225 C

Book List

Austen, Jane: Persuasion; Coates, Ta-Nehisi: Between the World and Me; Cole, Teju: Open City; Ferrante, Elena: My Brilliant Friend; Moore, Lorrie: Self-Help; West, Nathanael: Miss Lonelyhearts

Other Readings and Media

Also: Walter Benjamin's "The Storyteller"; Slate's "Dear Prudence"; NY Mag's "Dear Polly"; The Washington Post's Ask AmyDear Sugar podcast; Beyoncé's Lemonade; excerpts from Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son and Charles William Day's Hints on Etiquette (1834)


(Note the changes in instructor, topic, book list, and course description for this class as of March 29.)

In his essay "The Storyteller," Walter Benjamin writes, "The storyteller is a man who has counsel for his readers," and declares "Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom." Unlike the narratives of the premodern storyteller, Benjamin sees the novel as devoid of counsel, and pictures the novelist as the "solitary individual" who is "himself uncounseled, and cannot counsel others." In this course, we will consider a host of questions related to "counsel"—or what we might now call "advice." What do we define as "advice" or "counsel"? When do we need it? And what issues do we need it for? What forms and genres do we turn to for counsel (classic literature; newspaper advice columnists; religion; podcasts; self-help books; the crowd-sourcing of Reddit and Yahoo Questions; tradition; "elders"; Wikipedia; lawyers; television; Beyoncé)? How do we give counsel when asked for it by others? And if Benjamin is right about the novel, then what is the relationship between "counsel" and the book? How do we know when we are giving bad advice, good advice, and why do we try to give it, and why do we try to receive it, when the risks seem so high? As a class, we will contemplate these questions through reading a host of different materials from a range of mediums, and students will pose answers to these issues through short written assignments and formal essays. 

In this course, students will develop the organizational, argumentative and mechanical skills to succeed in writing the college-level essay; students will write three five-page essays, including revisions, in addition to a two-page diagnostic essay in the first week of term.

This 3-unit course will be taught in Session C, from June 19 to August 9.

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