T C E603B • Composition and Reading in World Literature
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
This course aims to take students on a journey through Western literature from the Greeks up to the present. Along the way we will visit a wide variety of genres of literature, from epic, through tragedy and comedy, to novels, lyrics, and short stories. Our purpose will be to read a host of stunning works of art, and through them gain some sense of the shape and depth of the Western literary tradition. In a sense we will be reading through what is usually referred to as the "canon," but we will be doing so in a way that emphasizes what might be called its anti-canonical character; that is, we will be examining great works of art not because they confirm our complacencies and our pieties, but because they encourage us to critique them. Our approach is that great literature is great not because it confirms some imagined set of eternal verities, but precisely because it makes us suspicious of such things. Great literature, in short, is great because it makes us think. The assumption of this course is that the students who take it are already good readers and writers, so what we want to accomplish during our year together is to make you better at both. To become better readers means to become more active readers, talking to--and talking back to--the texts we will be reading. This "talking" will take two forms, one of which will involve presenting reactions orally to the other members of the seminar. In other words, you will have several occasions each semester in which you will lead class discussion for at least a portion of a meeting. The "talking" will also take the form of writing essays about the readings, starting with shorter essays at the start of the first semester and proceeding toward longer and increasingly more substantial essays during the course of the year. In this way, you will achieve both of the goals of the course: of learning how to be better readers of literary texts and of becoming more literate and sophisticated speakers and writers as well.
About the Professor Professor Rebhorn works on Renaissance literature, rhetoric, and culture in general. He holds a doctorate from Yale University in Comparative Literature and has written books on Castiglione, Machiavelli, and Renaissance rhetoric and literature as well as numerous articles on such writers as Boccaccio, Erasmus, More, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Jonson, and Milton. He has won fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Guggenheim Foundation as well as the Howard R. Marraro Prize of the Modern Language Association for his book on Machiavelli. Among his hobbies are classical music, movies, cooking, handball, and tennis.
Spring semester: Four five-page essays. Two oral presentations in class, one earlier and one later in the semester, both of which should lead the class into a general discussion of the text being studied. Occasional reading quizzes.
Machiavelli, The Prince Montaigne, "Of Cannibals" Shakespeare, The Tempest Moliêre, Tartuffe Milton, Paradise Lost Swift, Gulliver's Travels Voltaire, Candide A sampling of lyric poems by Blake and Keats Conrad, Heart of Darkness Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway A sampling of short stories by post-World War II American writers