ENGL 170 - Approaches to Literary Studies Semester Offered: Fall and Spring
Each section explores a central issue, such as “the idea of a literary period,” “canons and the study of literature,” “nationalism and literary form,” or “gender and genre” (contact the department office for current descriptions). Assignments focus on the development of skills for research and writing in English, including the use of secondary sources and the critical vocabulary of literary study.
Topic for 2022/23a: Journeys of Transformation. The course investigates the journey as a representation of fundamental change. Not only a plot of movement through space, the journey acts as a figure for transformation in or disruption of physical, emotional, and spiritual states of being, in individuals and groups. We focus on the status and function of the journey as a determinant of bodily character, identity, genre, plot, and history. Each unit also addresses a philosophical framework, an interpretive issue, or an analytical practice important to literature as a discipline. Students develop their skills through class discussion, short, directed assignments, and longer essays, including a research essay and an annotated bibliography. Primary texts include Christine de Pisan’s allegory City of Women, the verse romance Gawain and the Green Knight, Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoir Maus, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original pulp Tarzan, Colson Whitehead’s recent novel The Intuitionist, selections from Harriet Jacobs’ memoir Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Jean Kane.
Topic for 2022/23b: Questioning “Normal:” Disability and Literature. This course is both an introduction to disability studies and an exploration of disability as a lens through which to discover new approaches to literature. Disability studies, which grew out of the disability rights movement, draws attention to the ways in which disabled people are stigmatized and excluded because they are perceived as outside cultural norms of health, beauty, intelligence, and social value. As a form of cultural production, literature both reflects and creates those norms, but it also has the power to challenge them, and thus to become a vehicle for change. After an introduction to key terms and models of disability studies, we explore the diversity and ambiguity of disability representation in literature. We use disability theory to unpack cultural stereotypes of disability and examine texts that work to undo them. Since disability, in the words of Michael Bérubé, “demands a story,” we study how disability functions in narrative–how, for example, disabled characters have often been made to carry symbolic meanings, and how disabled writers have pushed back against the reduction of disability to metaphor. Throughout the course we pay special attention to the intersections of disability with race, gender, and sexuality, and foreground disabled authors who have used writing to claim disability as a source of identity and pride. Texts include fiction, essays, autobiography, poetry, comics, and zines, plus a few films. Leslie Dunn.
Open to first-year students and sophomores, and to others by permission; does not satisfy the college requirement for a First-Year Writing Seminar.
Two 75-minute periods.
Course Format: CLS
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