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

Fall 2004

E 314L • Literary Contests and Contexts

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
32030 TTh
8:00 AM-9:30 AM
PAR 301
DOBBINS

Course Description

Focusing mostly on 20th century American texts, we will read, discuss, and write about literature 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 this triangulated approach, we will explore many issues that engage students and scholars of literature while also developing several interpretative methods available to us.

When we read under the category of “text”, we will emphasize the author’s use of aesthetic procedure, particularly the organization of the text, the imaginative use of language, and the use of rhetorical (persuasive) strategies.

In exploring each major work’s relationship to its literary and historical “contexts", we will read some short stories and poetry by contemporaries. We will also read some literary criticism and biographical and historical information, including documents from the periods in which the principal works are set. Here we will be looking at how the work in question has been shaped by historically specific events and literary trends. We will also examine the ways in which authors engage and confront readers with history.

Finally, we will investigate each work’s “cultural significance”: how it is received by various kinds of readers, how it could or should be valued or devalued in various cultural “contests".

I hope that alongside your developing critical skills, we might together cultivate a deep appreciation for how literature—language, self-expression, storytelling, and imagination—connects us to life: history, culture, each other, and ourselves.

Grading Policy

Paper #1 (3-4 pages) 20%
Paper #2 (4-5 pages) 25%
Paper #3 (5-6 pages) 30%
Short writing assignments (4 minimum, 1-2 pages each) 15%
Daily work, attendance, participation 10%

Texts

Russell Banks, The Sweet Hereafter
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
Herman Melville, Billy Budd (from the specific collection Melville’s Short Novels)
Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
Readings in course packet

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