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E 314L • Banned Books And Novel Ideas
TTH 330pm-500pm BEN 1.124
Prerequisites: E 603A, RHE 306, 306Q, or T C 603A.
Description: According to the Miller Test, a series of guidelines for determining legal obscenity in the United States, obscene material must lack “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” In other words, the First Amendment protects offensive works as long as they have one of these redeeming qualities. While seemingly straightforward, this standard raises questions. Who determines what constitutes “serious” literary value? Who determines what constitutes “offense?” In this class, we will discuss works that exist at the intersection of these two realms. These works have been banned, challenged, or otherwise critiqued on the grounds that they violated contemporary standards of decency, but many audiences consider them great literature in spite of (or, perhaps, because of) the boundaries they break. We will consider how each text operates in different historical contexts and use the works themselves and the debates that surround them to engage with questions of censorship, obscenity and artistic merit.
This course helps students prepare for upper-division English classes (as well as a wide range of upper-division courses in other UT programs and departments) by focusing on close reading and critical writing, and by introducing formal, historical, and cultural approaches to literary texts. Students will learn how to use the online Oxford English Dictionary as well as other resources essential to literary study.
Possible texts include: The Awakening, Kate Chopin; Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov; Beloved, Toni Morrison; Howl, Allen Ginsberg. Additional readings will be provided in a course reader.
Requirements & Grading: 3 critical essays (2-4 pages)—30%; 1 research paper and revision (5-8 pages)—30%; reading journals—20%; homework, classwork, quizzes—10%; presentation—10%.