How do we read books? Perhaps more importantly, why do we read books? What kind of meaning do we derive from them? We can't answer any one of these questions without also addressing the others: How we read is integral to why we read and what we get out of the experience. This course is guided by such inquiries, asking fundamental questions of reading practices in order to illuminate the varied ways we can—and should—interact with texts. We will read books on their own terms, and we will read them on ours, learning to reckon first with the words on the page and then with those words in the world. We’ll be tracing contexts, subtexts, and intertexts; digging deep into language and word choice; and examining the critical implications of texts. Ultimately, this class is about learning to see literature as a world within words, and seeing our world according to those words.
Outcomes and Goals
In addition to learning how to read texts and how to talk about texts, students will practice writing about texts. What is a close reading, and how do you do it? How do you write a synthesis? How do you integrate sources into your argument? The writing assignments in this class (some of which are not typically introduced until secondary education) will prepare students to write intelligently and competently, in line with standards of accelerated instruction. This does not mean that students are expected to be already performing at an accelerated level; rather, we’ll work brick-by-brick, and quickly, to develop skill sets which will stay with students beyond this academic year.
This writing-intensive literature course is an accelerated study which focuses on close reading practices and advanced literary analysis. Organized by critical approaches to texts, we will explore literature through the lens of formalism, historical context, and other major critical approaches. Texts range from beloved classics to modern heavy-hitters, including Mark Haddon, Edgar Allen Poe, Lorraine Hansberry, Franz Kafka, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and more. Writing requirements will include bi-weekly short essays (1-2 pages), three long essays (4-5 pages each), and midterm and final exams. This class will challenge students to find meaning on the page and beyond it, to sharpen their analytical skills, and to write with knowledge and conviction.
Trigger Warning: Occasionally, texts in this class use language that may be offensive to some. Instances of such language is alternately visceral, funny, heartbreaking, and always a true representation of how narrators and characters use words to express their perception of the world. If you would like advance notice of passages that contain adult language, please contact me directly.
Required Texts and Materials (Hard Copies, Please)
- Ben Yagoda, How to Not Write Bad
- Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet
- Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
- Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
- Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
- Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
- Additional readings online. Students are required to bring a printed copy of online readings to class.
- Notebook with folders or binder to store all class notes, reading notes, printouts, and handouts
- Writing utensils
- Close reading (1)
- Short papers (4)
- Long Essays (3)
- In-class Essay (1)
- Cumulative Grammar Quiz
- Midterm Exam (identifications and short essay)
- Final Exam (identifications and short essay)
Syllabus and Reading Schedule
Full reading list:
Poe, "The Black Cat"
Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet
Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
Emily Dickinson, selected poems
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper"
Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
Adrienne Rich, selected poems
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Selections from How to Not Write Bad and The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Writing
Unit 1. Words on the Page: Close Reading Practices
8/16 Reading Due: Poe, "The Black Cat"
8/23 Reading Due: "Close Reading" (PDF)
8/30 Reading Due: How to Not Write Bad pp. 1-30; Assignment Due: Your Active (Re-)Reading Notes from Poe's "The Black Cat"
9/6 Reading Due: How to Not Write Bad pp. 40-52 (commas) and PDF on thesis statements, unity and coherence
9/13 Reading Due: Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet; How to Not Write Bad pp. 30-33 (apostrophes). Assignment Due: Close Reading of Poe's "The Black Cat"
9/21 Reading Due: Haddon, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime to middle. Assignment Due: Take-Home Grammar Quiz
9/27 Reading Due: Haddon, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime to end. Assignment Due: Thesis Statement and Outline
10/4: Reading Due: Dickinson, selected poems. Assignment Due: Long Essay on Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
10/11 FALL BREAK
Unit 2. The Word in the World: Contexts and -Isms
10/18 Reading Due: Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper" (online)
10/25 Reading Due: Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun to middle; How to Not Write Bad pp. 59-67 (spelling).
11/1 Reading Due: Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun to end. Assignment Due: Short Paper on A Raisin in the Sun
11/8 Reading Due: Adrienne Rich, Diving into the Wreck poems (PDF); How to Not Write Bad pp. 98-100 (objective pronouns)
11/15 Reading Due: How to Not Write Bad pp. 95-96 (parallelism). Assignment Due: Short Paper on Adrienne Rich poems
11/22 THANKSGIVING BREAK
11/29 MIDTERM EXAM in class
Spring syllabus will be provided at a later date.