English R1B

Reading and Composition: Riddle Me This: Puzzles, Puns, and Palimpsests

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
12 Fall 2018 Clark, Amy
MWF 2-3 122 Wheeler

Book List

The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation; Carroll, Lewis: Alice in Wonderland (Norton Critical Edition); Donoghue, Emma: Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins; Gaiman, Neil: The Sleeper and the Spindle; Snyder, Scott: Batman: Zero Year, vols. 1 and 2

Other Readings and Media

Selections from other texts will be provided online and in class.


"Have you guessed the riddle yet?" the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.

"No, I give it up," Alice replied. "What's the answer?"

"I haven't the slightest idea," said the Hatter.

"Nor I," said the March Hare.

Alice sighed wearily. "I think you might do something better with the time," she said, "than wasting it in asking riddles that have no answers."

Well, then: why IS a raven like a writing desk? In Alice, no one seems to know, but the pen and the bookchest in the Old English riddles might have an opinion! In the texts for this course, bells and onions speak, happy endings fail to end, and nothing is quite as it seems—but that, of course, is the fun of it all.

Our goal in this course is to "get messy." Like solivng a riddle, academic writing is a process of discovery: we walk new roads, we test our ideas, and when we lose the way we back up and try again. And whatever Alice may think, it is the riddles without answers—the wrong turns, revisions, and unexpected detours—that demand our greatest insights and innovations. The course readings combine Old English medieval riddles with graphic novels, fairy tales, and Alice's classic adventures to consider how these texts form a response to the genres, styles, and stories that came before them. Each has, at one point or another, been dismissed by literary critics, and yet each has unique strengths and experimental possibilities that deserve our attention.

We will begin the semester with an extended exploration of what it means to enter a critical academic conversation. Who else has written about the works we are reading? What do they have to say, and how does that change our own interpretation of the the text? In addition to working with library databases and resources, you will also be learning to think of yourselves and your classmates as producers of academic writing. Throughout the course, you will receive feedback not only from me, but from one another, as you learn to integrate published books, articles, reviews, and other forms of academic writing into your own research papers.

While some riddles may remain unsolved, you will gain experience in "getting lost" as you develop your skills as an academic writer and literary critic—and these, of course, will help you find your way.

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