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

Spring 2009

E 314L • Literary Contests and Contexts

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
33615 MW
5:00 PM-6:30 PM
PAR 204
Leigh, P

Course Description

Consider the following pairs of assertions:
1) Huckleberry Finn is racist. Huckleberry Finn is antiracist.
2) Mark Twain is racist. Mark Twain is antiracist.
3) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is racist. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is antiracist.

Each of these statements on the classic American novel have been made by critics and supported with evidence from the text and from the larger historical and cultural contexts in which The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is situated. This class will examine how textual, intertextual, and contextual evidence can be used in support of arguments about literary works, particularly American fiction. Fundamental to this examination will be a discussion of who is representing whom (and how) in a fictional narrative. For example, in Sarah Orne Jewett's novel, The Country of the Pointed Firs, we will consider what is at stake when an urban tourist represents rural inhabitants. In Charles Chesnutt's The Conjure Tales, we will look at the implications of a black author reworking the traditionally white-authored "Plantation tale." We will introduce the skills and strategies employed in the class with a look at Blake's deceptively complex "children's songs." We will close with a consideration of the frightening effect of Tim O'Brien's splintered narration in In the Lake of the Woods.

Grading Policy

This course will be graded using the Learning Record (see The course strands provided by the instructor will be "reading" (with an emphasis on close reading skills), "writing" (with an emphasis on structuring arguments), and "citizenship" (with an emphasis on effort, attendance, and engagement with the aims of the course)

Requirements: mastery of the Learning Record Online, weekly one-page assignments, 2 three-page papers, 1 five-page final paper


Blake, William. Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Chesnutt, Charles. Conjure Tales.
Jewett, Sarah Orne. The Country of the Pointed Firs.
O'Brien, Tim. In the Lake of the Woods.
Supplemental readings to be supplied by the instructor.


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