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

Spring 2008

E 314L • Reading Literary Form

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34337 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
PAR 105

Course Description

The title of this class, "Reading Literary Form," invites us to examine some common literary genres--lyric poem, ode, sonnet, short story, novel, play, etc.-- as well as more detailed formal elements within these genres--rhyme, meter, apostrophe, irony, characterization, and so on. But literature not only has its own set of formal elements and corresponding critical terminology; it also intersects with other arts, imitating or taking subject matter from painting, music, dance, sculpture, and other artistic forms. Poets have long written about paintings and other works of visual art; and novelists and dramatists have recently been influenced by the representational styles of film, radio, and television. With these artistic intersections in mind, our examinations of strictly literary form will also search for what is musical, painterly, and filmic in the written word.

In beginning to learn about literary form, we will begin, naturally, with poetry, in which form is immediately apparent. A few choice poems have been selected for both their wide range of historical periods and styles and the insight they provide into poetry's relationship with music and the visual arts. This early focus will culminate with a visit to the Blanton Museum, where we will experience some works of art that combine words, music, and images in particularly novel ways.

After several weeks of poetry, we will turn to prose, with several short stories and two novels: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. These two extraordinary books will help us to see what the novel can do and how it differs from its offspring, the Hollywood film. We will dip into film with some excerpts from one or more of the many television and film adaptations of Austen's novel, and then we will go to the movies again with the recent film version of the Dalloway spin-off, The Hours (with our entrée to the movies facilitated by Delmore Schwartz's haunting, film-related short story, "In Dreams Begin Responsibility").

We will finish the course with some dramatic works by Samuel Beckett, whose attacks upon the formal limits of drama and experiments with new technologies make him an appropriate ending point. We will read (and watch or listen to) at least two stage plays (Endgame and Krapp's Last Tape) and at least one radio play, All That Fall. Our understanding of the latter will be aided by two of its most famous radio predecessors Orson Welles' adaptation of the novel The War of the Worlds and Dylan Thomas' original poetic play, Under Milk Wood.

Grading Policy

Three essays--one 4-5 pages and two 5-6 pages (75%; 25% each); approximately 15 short response papers; final exam (25%).


Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice
Virginia Woolf - Mrs. Dalloway
Samuel Beckett - Endgame
Course reader on sale at Jenn's Copy & Binding, 2200 Guadalupe


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