English N1B

Reading & Composition: Senses of Magic

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
1 Summer 2017 Alexander, Edward Sterling
TTh 2-4 Dwinelle 225 C

Book List

Berssenbrugge, Mei-mei: Hello, the Roses; Duncan, Robert: The Opening of the Field; Notley, Alice: Certain Magical Acts; Rothenberg, Jerome, ed.: Tehnicians of the Sacred; Shakespeare, William: The Tempest


One common sense of the term "magic" is that the word pertains to the extraordinary, the otherworldly or the supernatural. We associate it with the belief that one can gain control over external events through special means that defy logic or rationality. In this respect, magic is seen historically to constitute a nascent or undeveloped form of the more properly scientific modes of rationality that would eventually supersede it. In this course we will consider not only this sense of magic as we find it addressed in a variety of literary representations, but also other possible senses, such as the more straightforward (if seemingly more abstract) sense that the notion of magic pertains to what we might call the "self-existence" of the world. In what ways do things already have, at their most ordinary level, a way of existing that it makes sense to call 'magical'? In what ways does the notion of magic have a sense that helps us to understand the world at this most basic level? Why might literary study be a privileged site in which to ask these kinds of questions?

Most of the focus in the course will be on developing skill in essay writing at a college level and as close-readers of literary works. Our main focus will be on the mechanics of essay composition, including thesis statements, providing evidence to substantiate claims, and constructing paragraphs and sentences. We will also cultivate our sensitivity to the ways different writers present a particular sense of the world through their use of language. While we are learning to read for distinctiveness, we will also be learning how to describe accurately and make arguments about the significance of what we have noticed during our reading experiences.

Over the course of the summer, students will hone their skills in academic writing through a series of written assignments, revisions, in-class exercises, and peer workshops.

This 3-unit course will be taught in Session C, from June 20 to August 10.

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