L202 9074 LITERARY INTERPRETATION
Mary Favret

1:25p-2:15p MWF (25 students) 3 cr., A&H, IW.

In an essay titled “Reading,” Maurice Blanchot suggests what how much is – and is not -- involved in the work of reading:

"Reading that accepts the work for what it is and in so doing unburdens it of its author, does not consist of replacing the author with a reader, a fully existent person, who has a history, a profession, a religion. . . . Reading is not a conversation, it does not discuss, it does not question. It never asks the book – and certainly not the author – “What exactly did you mean?” . . . . Only the nonliterary book is presented as a stoutly woven web of determined significations, as an entity made up of real affirmations: before it is read by anyone, the nonliterary book has been read by everyone. . . . But the book whose source is art has no guarantee in the world, and when it is read, it has never been read before; it only attains its presence as a work in the space opened by this unique reading, each time the first reading and the each time the only reading."

This is a course about the work of reading works of writing. Whether one agrees with Blanchot or not, his discussion raises the question of the inter-dependency of reading and works of literature: one cannot be without the other. This course will offer training in the use of various tools for reading – primarily the tools of close, formal textual analysis -- applying them to a series of literary texts. But it will also consider what it might mean to produce a “unique reading,” a “first reading.” In a graduated series of short papers, students will experiment with various modes of interpretive analysis; these assignments will be designed to underscore the tight nexus of writing-reading-writing at the heart of our work in this course. The works we read will range from short poems to short stories, a play (probably Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night), one assigned novel (Ian McEwan’s Atonement) and one contemporary novel, to be chosen by the student in conversation with the instructor.