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

Spring 2007

E 314L • Literary Contests and Contexts

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
33733 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM

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When we look at the context of a work, we'll consider relevant historical documents, essays, and biographical and critical information that helps us to see the work as part of a broader play of culture and history.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

Paper #1, 20%
Paper #2, 30%
Paper #3, 40%
Response papers (there will be several throughout the semester), class presentations, and on-line postings, 10%


Carson McCullers, The Ballad Of The Sad Café; Toni Morrison, Beloved; Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter; John Trimble, Writing With Style; Additional essays and on-line readings, plus short stories by Flannery O'Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, Richard Wright, Louise Erdrich, and Sherman Alexie.


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