Introduction to Literary Studies: Literary Witnesses

In this course, students several nineteenth and twentieth century writers across genres whose work captures themes about life in modernity that continue to resonate for us today—themes including displacement and community, individuality and social norms, censorship and surveillance, and the place of art. Students will read poetry, plays and novels by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Arthur Miller, Henrik Ibsen, Ray Bradbury, and Oscar Wilde. As they explore these literary works, they will also be introduced to literary and rhetorical terms, and will practice writing as a staged process of thinking, writing, revising, editing, and reflecting.

Introduction to Poetry Writing

Interpreting poems—our own and others—without a working knowledge of the various ideas that underpin poetry can impede our ability to help each other develop our own unique voices, styles, and purposes. Consequently, we organize our class with the guiding principle that to write, read, and critique poetry requires us to not only read and write poems but also to discuss the diverse ways in which poets, writers, and intellectuals conceptualize poetry. What is a poem? How should a poem be read? Critiqued? What role does poetry play in the world? We’ll organize class discussions around various theoretical essays and poems that evidently believe very strongly in poetry’s power and influence to shape, alter, and reflect authentic human experience.

Major Modern Texts: The (In)Human

In this course, students will read across national borders and across genres as they read, interpret, and write about major modern texts in their respective traditions. Readings include: Goethe's Faust, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali, and Alistair MacLeod's Island. Students will be expected to produce three papers, including a close reading, a comparative paper, and a paper synthesizing readings and issues encountered in the course.

Major Authors: “Reading Wilde: The Critic as Artist”

This course introduces students to comparative and critical reading through a close engagement with the nineteenth century modern writer Oscar Wilde. Students will closely read a diversity of his writings—short stories, selections from his gothic novella The Picture of Dorian Gray, his play Lady Windermere’s Fan, his essay “The Critic as Artist,” and selections from his prison writings. In addition, students will read criticism on the idea of “art for art’s sake” by Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, and others. Through readings, discussions, and paper assignments, students will learn how to critically interpret what they read and how to analyze the pliability of language that is, as Wilde remarked of art, “at once surface and symbol.”