English R1B

Reading and Composition: When Reading Goes Wrong

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
14 Fall 2018 Bauer, Mark
MW 5-6:30 80 Barrows

Book List

MLA Handbook, 8th edition; Hwang, David Henry: M. Butterfly; Ishiguro, Kazuo: Remains of the Day; McEwan, Ian: Atonement; Nabokov, Vladimir: Pale Fire; Spark, Muriel: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Other Readings and Media

Essays and poems on bCourses


Every day, we're called upon to make hundreds of interpretive judgments based on things we read, see, or hear. But what happens when we misjudge one of these texts, or when we're unable to judge it at all? Besides being a common element in post-World War II literature on both sides of the Atlantic, these depictions of failed readings also raise important questions about our expectations for genres, not just as readers, but as writers. What do we assume about a poem, for example, or an essay, when sitting down to read or write one? How do the writers of those pieces manipulate generic assumptions for maximum effect?

These generic assumptions, along with other sets of conventions and codes that underwrite the reading and writing process, are easiest to see when a reader fails to employ them appropriately. Therefore, the reading for the course will consist mainly of novels whose narrators and characters get it wrong—socially, factually, textually, or some combination of the three. Much of the drama in these texts comes from our sense of these mistakes, so they provide perfect opportunities to ask how and why the conventions of reading are breaking down, and how those breakdowns might be prevented, both from the reader's side and the writer's. In turn, this exploration will lead to careful considerations of writing and the elements that help to constitute skillful uses of language. We'll also be reading some essays about reader response and generic convention to give us a firmer grasp of the subject, in addition to a few poems that will put our own use of conventions to the test.

The writing part of the course will take the form of short essays (mostly 3-5 pages in length), a research paper (8-10 pages), and brief assignments designed to acquaint you with the research process.

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