English R1B

Reading and Composition: Fictions of Time, Space, Memory

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
12 Spring 2022 Vinyard Boyle, Lizzie
MWF 2-3 225 Dwinelle

Book List

Brontë, Emily: Wuthering Heights; Morrison, Toni: Beloved; Verne, Jules: Journey to the Center of the Earth; Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway; de Lafayette, Mme.: The Princesse de Clèves

Other Readings and Media

Shorter readings will include selections from Sappho, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, and Gertrude Stein; Plato, Lucretius, Galileo, Newton, and the British Royal Society; David Hume and Immanuel Kant; Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, and Karen Barad; Jorge Luis Borges, Samuel Beckett, and Gérard Genette.  These will be made available as pdfs and as a printed course reader.


Does literature speculate, or theorize?  How does the history of the novel shadow – or shape – an idea of reality that modern science takes as given?  Does the existence of fictional worlds alter the material one that we inhabit?  How does memory compose the experience of human history?

Such questions will guide our explorations for this course, which will begin by situating our own moment within a history of physical experiment and theory – of the disconnect between human experience and our knowledge or vision of the cosmos – in order to appreciate the complexity of literature’s investigations of its own aesthetic powers of representation.  Does the poem expand as a dilated moment, or as a little room in which its reader may dwell?  How do spaces collapse or bend in the novel, and what happens when characters investigate the limits of its strange physics, or the precarity of their contingent durations?  As we travel this history, we will encounter experimental and experiential fictions that ask us to consider the relation of temporal, spoken utterance to the space of the page, as well as the power of language to reflect upon its own acts of imaginative conjuring.  We will ask not only how literature examines or anticipates material philosophy, but also how it interrogates our perception of a bounded, rule-governed world in the very nature of its correspondences.

We will read broadly and deeply, plumbing an expanse from ancient philosophy, to early modern science and historical fiction, to poetic and narrative theory, to modern works that bend our notion of what it takes to hold time and space together.  Much of our time will be devoted to reading and writing on our core novels, works that will unsettle our normal habits of thought including through depictions of gendered and racial violence.  We will compose a series of papers of increasing length and complexity, culminating in a research project that engages with one of our central texts.  As we work with our own writing alongside that of our authors, we will think of the material boundedness of self-narration as an ongoing and iterative process, situating our readerly perceptions within longer (and very short) historical durations, ruptures, and wrinkles.  We will also develop a place to dwell in our own writing, again and again, coming to terms with and at moments even transcending the situatedness of our own time.

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