E 314L • Literary Contests and Contexts
8:00 AM-9:30 AM
This course introduces English majors to a variety of critical methods through the contests and contexts involving multiple literary genres from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. We will read, discuss, and write about a collection of texts in several complementary ways: we will consider the text of each work, its literary and historical contexts, and the cultural contests in which it has participated.
When we consider the text of each work, we will examine stylistic and aesthetic elements (e.g., the author's use of character, setting, imagery, and language patterns) and how those elements contribute to the work's broader themes and apparent purposes. We will also think about how the text exists as a physical object in manuscript and print, and how the possibilities of representation in manuscript and print cultures affect the author's literary text. This will involve our examining various physical texts in the Harry Ransom Center. We will, further, consider various modes of critical reading and theory in regards to our texts.
In considering each work's relationship to its literary and historical context, we will read historical documents as well as shorter literary works from the period in which the work was written. Finally, we will consider how each of the central works has fared since its publication: that is, how it has been valued and devalued in various cultural "contests?" When has it been considered "great literature?" By what criteria has it been judged since its first publication? Does the work have any social, intellectual, or aesthetic value at present?
Three 5-7+ pp. papers (plus required drafts for first two; required 1-page prospectus for all three) 25% each
In-Class Performance (writing, presentations, discussion, engagement, preparation, peer feedback) 25%
Attendance required (repeated absences will affect grade)
Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker
James Joyce, The Dead
Various short selections of poems and prose works