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

Fall 2005

E 314L • Literary Contests and Contexts

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
32310 TTh
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
NOA 1.116

Course Description

This course, though designed for the current and prospective English major, will benefit anyone looking to strengthen their critical writing and critical thinking skills. This course operates under the assumption that every text is a portrait of the various conflicts and compromises that helped and/or hindered its creation, and by pinpointing moments of tension and treaty, we can better appreciate and understand both the text's purposes, and the time, place, and politics surrounding its publication. Additionally, we will discuss how and why judgments of the text have changed subsequent to its publication, up to, and including, our own opinions. These judgments may include questions like: What makes a text worth reading? What makes it great literature? What gives a text artistic, historic, cultural, ethical, and intellectual value? Why are some texts valued critically, but devalued commercially (and, of course, vice versa)?

The course will focus on four broadly painted categories of contests: textual, historical, cultural and commercial; we will trace out the various methodologies used by literary scholars to place the author's works in the context of those four contests, and vice versa. We will also attempt these methodologies ourselves using a selection of American novels written over, roughly, a range of fifty years, along with any attendant biographical, critical, historical, and poetic pieces that may assist our comprehension.

Grading Policy

All papers will be five pages, requiring multiple submissions for purposes of revision.

Paper 1 15%
Paper 2 20%
Paper 3 25%
Paper 4 30%
Class activities and discussion 10%


Donald Barthelme, Snow White
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
William Carlos Williams, In the American Grain
Course packet of critical essays, shorter fictional writings, and poetry


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