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Love, Horror, Monsters, Beauties: Writing about Literature by Reading Below the Surface

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Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRN
July 13, 2015 - July 24, 20152M-F 3:15-6:05POpenDavid Babcock10113

Course Description

The goal of this two-week course is to introduce students to the practice of college-level critical reading and writing. This class works under the assumption that there is not a single, easy meaning to any piece of literature. Thus, instead of trying to find that one “correct” interpretation, we will be reading closely and actively. Students will learn the skills necessary to form their own convincing, thoughtful meanings. We will then work on transforming these “readings” into well-evidenced, argumentative essays. Through this process, students will gain the tools and experience necessary to write about literature in contexts like the AP literature test, the college admissions essay, and college-level literature classes.

Toward this end, we will be reading stories that seem to have an obvious hero and an obvious villain, including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” But is the distinction between hero and villain really as clear as we might think? We will read closely to question what distinguishes the good guy from the bad, the monster from the beauty. How do these texts construct good and evil? How might a text use devices like character development, sentiment, and tone to blur the line between hero and villain? How can we read beyond the surface of the text to complicate any easy answer? In other words, how can we use these texts as exercises in critical and active reading?

The practice of critical reading will allow us to conceptualize and produce essays that are both interesting and convincing. We will develop practices for brainstorming topics and framing textual approaches in order to create essays with manageable and inventive arguments. We will also look at various techniques for choosing and employing appropriate evidence that will support our larger arguments. Finally, we will learn to critique our own writing by practicing revision tactics that move beyond the superficial.

Texts for this class may include both short stories and selections from novels. Short story selections may include: “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Vampyre,” The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and various Fairy Tales. Selections from novels may be taken from The Time Machine, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula, and Frankenstein. Contemporary television and films may also be used to consider other types of “reading.”