E 314L • (Introduction to) Reading Literary Form
9:00 AM-10:00 AM
Computer assisted instruction.
This course presents an introduction to literary form as a critical approach to reading and understanding texts. As such, we will be considering structural characteristics of various genres and how they work: what makes a short story a short story; what elements must be in place for a work to be considered a poem or a drama; how might we attempt to define the novel? The texts we will be reading, however, move far beyond mere formalist critiques, and in fact challenge the very critical and structural conceptions that we have established for reading literature. Underpinning our approach in this course is the notion that literary form becomes most apparent when we are confronted by texts that defy simple categorization and challenge our critical assumptions about these forms. So, somewhat paradoxically, we will be studying literary form through the texts that display it most elusively.
Two 5-6-page essays 20% each
7-8 page final paper 30%
Online discussion forum responses to the readings and informal in-class presentations 20%
Attendance and class participation account for the final 10%
Among the possible texts we will be exploring are short stories by Poe, Joyce, and Borges, poetry by Cummings, Mallarmé, and Stevens, and a play by Beckett. We will also grapple with Mark Danielewski's novel House of Leaves and Shelly Jackson's hypertext work Patchwork Girl. Our readings will be supplemented with various critical writings that will provide us with some possible approaches for understanding these texts.