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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2006

E 314L • Literary Contests and Contexts

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34500 TTh
8:00 AM-9:30 AM
MEZ 2.102

Course Description

This course is intended to be an introduction to the English major and an opportunity for all students to explore, investigate, and write about literature in a variety of ways. We will look at a wide selection of American literary works and examine them from three different perspectives: the text of each work, its literary and historical context, and the cultural contests in which it participates.

When we examine the text of a work, we will look closely at the ways that various elements all work together to make a work mean something to a reader. How does a work's shape, form, and style make us react in a certain way? How do the choices that authors make about settings, characters, and points-of-view influence our response to the work? How is language itself a medium that authors work through to produce literature?

When we look at the context of a work, we'll consider relevant historical documents, essays, and biographical and critical information that helps us to see the work as part of a broader play of culture and history.

Finally, we'll think about how works of literature participate in various broader cultural contests. This means examining how a work's cultural importance has fared since its writing: why or why not has a work become part of the pantheon of so-called "great literature" (and how do some works complicate the very notion of "great literature")? What cultural factors have contributed to a work's relative popularity, unpopularity, or controversy? What criteria can we use to judge a work's personal, intellectual, and ethical value for ourselves and for others, and why?

Grading Policy

3 major written assignments 75%
Response papers, class presentations, and class participation 25%


Short Stories by: Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, Richard Wright, Louise Erdrich, and Sherman Alexie
Carson McCullers, The Ballad Of The Sad Café
Toni Morrison, Beloved
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
Additional Essays, On-Line Readings, and Audio Selections
Textbook: John Trimble: Writing With Style


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