English R1A

Reading and Composition: Four Nobelists - Great Writers of the Last One Hundred Years

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2021 Nathan, Jesse
MWF 9-10

Book List

Heaney, Seamus: Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996; Milosz, Czeslaw: New and Collected Poems (1931-2001) ; Morrison, Toni: Beloved [ISBN: 0-452-26446-4]; Walcott, Derek: The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013 [ISBN: 978-0374125615]


One survived World War II in Poland. Another hailed from a small island in the eastern Caribbean, an outpost on the verge of breaking free of Europe's colonial grip. One was born to a people burdened and ravaged by centuries of enslavement. Another grew up in war-torn Ireland. They came, generally, from small towns and provinces, but their lives were both rural and urban, local and worldly, and they each went on to achieve great acclaim as poets and storytellers. Each was awarded the highest literary honor there is, the Nobel Prize. In this course, we'll explore the lives and works of Czeslaw Milosz, Derek Walcott, Toni Morrison, and Seamus Heaney, considering each writer's context, how they spoke to their times, and how they spoke against them. We'll consider, too, the question of greatness—What is a "great writer," and who gets to decide? Are there timeless literary qualities? How does "great work" in one time and place resonate—or not—in another? What, in 2020, can a concept of universality possibly mean? What makes a poem so sure, so sweet, or so powerful that it lodges in our lives, never leaving us?

The broader purpose of this course is to develop your critical reading and writing skills, whatever your major might be. Over the semester, you'll write a series of short papers and revise three of them. We'll study the summary and synthesis of materials we read, the construction of logical and persuasive arguments, the conveying of attitudes and information. You'll learn by practicing these skills, by thinking about and talking about your own efforts and those of your fellow students, and by analyzing the work of other writers.

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