M/W/F 01:00-02:00 204 Dwinelle
When is the last time you heard a classmate or reviewer celebrate the “relatability” of a work of literature or film? This term has become so prevalent that New Yorker writer Rebecca Mead has recently decried the “scourge of relatability” that has come to afflict contemporary culture. But what does it mean to be “relatable”? Why is this something we look for in a work of art? What, if anything, is wrong with expecting or seeking out “relatability”? Is this a new phenomenon or an age-old one?
In this class we will examine texts from a range of time periods and cultural traditions in attempts to elucidate how the contemporary use of “relatable,” meaning inviting identification, might relate to the word’s original meaning, which was closer to “tellable,” or capable of being related in narrative. Does a text that bars us from identifying with it through difficult form or unlikeable characters necessarily jeopardize its ability to tell a tale? Why might some tales resist being relatable in either sense? How might a text’s refusal of “relatability” help us to recognize and respect cultural difference, to question our right to know another’s story, or to appreciate indirect or non-narrative ways in which deeply personal or traumatic experiences might be transmitted?
In fulfillment of the Reading and Composition requirement, this class aims to improve the students’ abilities to think rigorously and write clearly about subjects of intellectual complexity in order to prepare them for the demands of college-level coursework. Significant class time will be devoted to the skills required to close read a literary text, articulate an interpretive argument, and write a clear and compelling analytical paper.
William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Lear
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!
Clarice Lispector, The Passion According to G.H.
Salvador Plascencia, The People of Paper
Other readings (provided in the required course reader) may include the work of: Ovid, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Juan José Saer, Toni Morrison, Julio Cortázar, Tillie Olsen, and Sherman Alexie.
Course Catalog Number: 17209