My goal over the course of this year is to improve your skills, enrich your knowledge, and enhance your appreciation for how literary language and texts are constructed and analyzed. Along the way you will be exposed to the intellectually challenging and surprisingly contentious world of literary criticism and literary history. Each term we will focus on a single, deceptively simple question as a way to explore individual texts, distinct genres, and various critical methodologies. In fall term we begin by asking, WHY WRITE? (and by extension, why publish? Why seek readers?) Very quickly we will find that this question spools out into myriad possible, interconnected threads: How has the technology of writing, printing, and publishing influenced or changed human subjectivity, identity, culture and history? Why do authors write what and how they do? Why is writing sometimes seen as politically powerful and even dangerous to individuals or society at large, and sometimes considered mere entertainment? How do race, gender, class and other factors affect an author’s approach or even access to writing?) In winter, we will ask, WHY READ? In spring term we bring these threads and approaches together to ask (and likely not to answer) the question, WHY LITERATURE?
(from the Class Syllabus)