English R1A

Reading and Composition: The Sound of Modern American Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Spring 2018 Neal, Allison
TTh 8-9:30 211 Dwinelle

Book List

Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man; Johnson, James Weldon: The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man; West, Nathanael: The Day of the Locust

Other Readings and Media

We will read essays on sound and orality by critics like Roland Barthes, Theodor Adorno, and Jacques Derrida and sound studies scholars like Lawrence Sterne and Susan Douglas. We will also read a large body of twentieth-century American poetry by Gertrude Stein, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Charles Olson, Frank O’Hara, Robert Creeley, and Amiri Baraka. All of these materials will be available on bCourses.


How can we best listen to literature? How is literature like or unlike a conversation, a piece of music, or the cacophony of a city street? This course will examine a vast swath of twentieth-century American poetry and prose in order to probe the ways that we might listen to a text in an age of mass culture. It will examine how various modern sound media—the radio, the telephone, the phonograph—affect how texts envision their audience, questioning the extent to which we might connect literature, sound, and orality.

This class is organized around texts that thematize the sonic aspect of literature, and accordingly, its primary goal is to generate a dialogue between you and the texts that we read. Just as literature produces different modes of listening, your writing will be characterized by different modes of conversing with and engaging those texts.  This class will be structured as a workshop and will include peer revision, individual meetings, and in-class discussions of various techniques of essay writing. Students will be responsible for writing a series of short essays and revisions.

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