English R1B

Reading and Composition: From Islands to Images, Thinking-Objects in the Sea of History

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Spring 2020 Robinson, Jared
MWF 11-12 279 Dwinelle

Book List

Bishop, Elizabeth: Geography III; Césaire, Aimé: Notebook of a Return to My Native Land; Hurston , Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God; James, C.L.R.: Black Jacobins; Melville, Herman: Benito Cereno; Morrison , Toni: Tar Baby; Shakespeare , William: The Tempest

Other Readings and Media

The philosophy and critical writing required for this course will be either made into a course reader or posted on bBcourses, depending on length and availability. 


Beginning with Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and passing through other works of literature from Elizabeth Bishop’s Geography III and Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno to Aimé Césaire’s Notebook on a Return to My Native Land and C.L.R. James’s Black Jacobins, this course will ask its students to engage deeply with a single literary text by thinking it together with a piece of criticism or critical philosophy—here ranging from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Édouard Glissant, Walter Benjamin and W.E.B. Du Bois to Denis Diderot and Friedrich Nietzsche. It will attempt through this intense attention to teach the strange collage that is the research paper while attempting a thinking through of the question that seems to hold all of these works together: What makes a workable literary figure for the subject of history in the West, or, how has the West produced this subject through the technology of literature? This course organizes itself around a best guess: the Island, and witnesses how this figure transforms over the course of the strung-out Enlightenment’s gasping and collapsing its shipwrecked way into the presents of some of our authors, breaking over local phenomena like the American Civil War and the Haitian Revolution, and more global upheavals like the World Wars and Decolonization, until it is thinned and flattened into the Image. Charting a course from Islands to Images, we will try to discover how critical writing, slow reading, and research allow us to elaborate or resist the ravages of whatever time tosses our way next.

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