E 314L • Literary Contests and Contexts
2:00 PM-3:00 PM
While this course is designed to prepare students for the English major, it will be of value to anyone who wishes to become a sharper reader, writer, and thinker. In it we will read, discuss, and write about four major American literary works from the Revolutionary and the Civil War periods of U.S. Literature. We will read these texts in three, complementary ways: we will consider the text of each work, its literary and historical contexts, and the cultural contests in which it participates. Through these often overlapping approaches to literary and cultural analysis, we will explore many issues that engage students and scholars of literature and develop along the way some useful interpretive methods.
When we consider the work's text, we will examine very closely its stylistic, structural, and rhetorical elements and how these elements contribute to its broader themes, arguments, and goals.
Grouping texts by historical period, we will explore their individual relationships to various contexts: literary, historical, biographical, social, etc. To expand our sense of a text's various contexts, we will read some shorter literary works and essays along with some relevant literary criticism and biographical and historical information.
Finally, we will amplify our investigation of literature by exploring and debating the cultural significance of each work. Here we will address how the work has been received or contested (or not) by various kinds of readers-that is, how it could or should be valued or devalued in various cultural "contests." Should a particular work be considered "great literature," for example? Might it have some social, historical, or aesthetic/artistic value? How about intellectual or ethical value? And who decides, and with what criteria?
Paper 1 (4-6 pages): 25%
Paper 2 (4-6 pages): 25%
Paper 3 (5-7 pages): 30%
Literature Reviews (4 Minimum, 1-2 pages): 10%
Daily Assignments, Participation, Discussion: 10%
Phillis Wheatley's Complete Writings
Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland
Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin
Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson
Course Packet with Primary and Secondary Readings