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Monsters and Beauties, Heroes and Villains: Writing About Literature by Reading Below the Surface

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

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Course Description

The goal of this two-week course is to introduce you to the practice of college-level critical reading and writing. Making the transition from high school to college writing is a complex process, one that first entails re-thinking the reading process. 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. You will learn the skills necessary to form your own convincing, thoughtful readings. We will then work on transforming these “readings” into well-evidenced, argumentative essays. Through this process, you 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.

We will be reading stories that seem to have an obvious hero and an obvious villain, including The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Time Machine, and Dracula. But is the distinction between hero and villain really as clear as we might think? What makes a villain a villain? 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.

Required Texts (available through Brown Bookstore)
R. L. Stevenson. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Dover Thrift Edition)
H. G. Wells. The Time Machine (Dover Thrift Edition)
Bram Stoker. Dracula (Dover Thrift Edition)
We will be making extensive use of exact page numbers, so please be sure to get these exact editions.

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