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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
33620 TTh
8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Hamilton, K

Course Description

Computer assisted instruction.

Our interpretation of a literary text depends upon the questions we ask of it. This apparently simple statement might be the motto of "Literary Contests and Contexts," a course designed to prepare prospective English majors (though non-majors also are welcome) to enter the field of English studies. To that end, we will read relatively few texts but devote ample time to various methods, approaches, and questions that have shaped the field of English studies and thus shaped scholars' and critics' understandings of literary texts.

As the title of the course indicates, we will focus on three complementary ways of reading literature: close reading of the text itself, historical reading that places the text in its context, and cultural reading that investigates the contests in which the text participates. In reading from a textual angle, students will learn to interpret texts based on the formal features that writers use to achieve certain effects. Reading from a contextual angle will involve analyzing historical documents as well as other literary texts from the period in order to get a sense of how the work in question was shaped by-- and itself shaped--historically-specific events, issues, and literary trends. Finally, students will learn to see each work as participating in a broader cultural contest, which could include debates about racial, cultural, and national identity, the literary canon, gender roles, and social change. All three ways of reading will be supplemented by recent literary criticism and theory. E314L meets the University's guidelines for a substantial writing component course, and significant attention will be giving to helping students develop as literary scholars able to generate and express arguments about literary texts.

Grading Policy

Participation and reading quizzes 20%
Five short writing assignments 20%
Essay 1 (3-4 pp) 15%
Essay 2 (3-4 pp) 20%
Essay 3 (5-7 pp) 25%


Course reader including short fiction by Raymond Carver, Alice Munro, and Stephen Crane
Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao


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