English R1B

Reading and Composition: Literature’s Social Life

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2020 Wang, Jacob
MWF 10-11

Book List

Addison & Steele: The Spectator; Dr. Seuss: The Cat in the Hat; Hurston, Zora: Mules and Men; Miller, Arthur: Death of a Salesman; Starlin, Jim: Batman: A Death in the Family; Woolf, Virginia: A Room of One's Own

Other Readings and Media

Films: Stranger than Fiction (dir. Marc Forster); The Salesman (dir. Asghar Farhadi) 

Poetry by Thomas Wyatt, Surrey, George Moses Horton, Phyllis Wheatley, Jonathan Swift, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Criticism by Raymond Williams, Jonathan Culler, Walter Ong, Louis Menand, Leah Price, Robert Darnton, Pascale Casanova, Michael C. Cohen, Gerald Graff, John Guillory, J. L. Austin 


Literature doesn’t exist in a vacuum, nor does it exist only in classrooms—it has a history, a context, a wider social life that affects how it is produced as well as how it is read, interpreted, circulated, and put to use. In this course, we will examine a broad range of literature— prose fiction, drama, poetry, comic books, non-fiction, periodicals—from various socio-historical contexts in order to get a sense of how to study literature’s social life. We’ll be interested in how literature imagines and relates to its social context, and in how literature itself becomes social through its conditions of production and reception.

The primary aim of this course is to develop your skills as a writer and researcher—someone who engages with other people’s work and investigates the conditions of the world around them in order to shape their own thinking and writing. Accordingly, the reading and writing you do for this class will have its own social life.

Topics include: literature and education, canon formation, literature and identity, literary economy, literary reception history, literary production history, literary anthropology, literary prizes/institutions, literary periodical/reviews, genre, media studies, history of print, history of books, Oprah’s Book Club.

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