English | Literary Interpretation
L202 | 4380 | Tim Wiles


7:30a-8:20a D (25) 3 CR.

This course will give students a good deal of experience in the
close analysis of representative literary texts, including poetry,
drama and fiction.  Our goal is to develop the art of lively,
responsible reading through class discussion and writing of papers.
Attention will be paid to literary design and critical method. In
addition to methods of close reading which are designed to help us
hear what the author is actually saying in a literary text
(intrinsic approach), we will consider a few of the cultural
contexts in which literary texts (and other texts) are read,
depending on certain social agendas.  The resulting approaches are
sometimes called extrinsic ones, and they include perspectives from
fields such as psychology, feminism, politics, and history.  My
personal goal will be to show the interdependence of intrinsic and
extrinsic approaches for practically everything we read, from a love
lyric to a novel about the French Revolution.

Students will write a number of short papers in this course (4-6
pages), and do a final creative project; ideally, you will produce
something about each work or unit in the course.  There will be two
writing-based exams.  Thus, L202 fulfills the Intensive Writing
requirement and is also a required course for both the English and
English Education majors.  The course will be taught by a
combination of lecture and discussion, and your active participation
will count.

Readings include two novels that contain varying perspectives on
history and society, A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens) and Song of
Solomon (Morrison), a unit on lyric poetry, and several plays,
including a comedy and a tragedy by Shakespeare on the theme of love
(A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Othello) and a recent feminist play,
Cloud Nine (Churchill).  We will also read an example of a “graphic
novel,” Art Spiegelman’s Maus, to consider connections between
verbal and visual interpretation.  Along with Maus, I would like us
all to share the task of reading and presenting a second graphic
novel in the first weeks of class, Fax from Sarejevo.

In this section of L202 I want to try out a method of teaching that
will involve students more actively in the knowledge we create in
class.  On occasion, I will talk with you quite explicitly about why
I am teaching a certain literary item, how I hope to teach it, and
how I hope that you will learn (and even co-teach) the item.  This
may particularly interest students who plan to teach, but it should
be valuable for everyone.  A friend called this strategy “nothing up
my sleeves teaching.”  I should also specify some of my expectations
as a teacher.  Students may not cut for casual reasons, and they
must read all materials before the designated class.  This is a
discussion course, and the teacher will try to engage you in
fruitful discussion, sometimes using directed exercises.  We will
generate topics for the writing assignments in class.  Papers are
due on the designated dates, or points may be deducted.