MWF 09:00-10:00 210 Dwinelle Instructor: Nicole Jones

Literary traditions have developed and continually redefined the often complex relations
between author, poet, narrator, character, and reader in literature. The author implicates
himself in the narrative intentionally or unintentionally, offering overt or subtle
commentaries, opinions, digressions, or self-reflections. The first person narration proves biased, unreliable, limited in the perspective of the storyteller. Even the “omniscient,” godlike voice can be destabilized by the poet’s subjectivity or self-conscious awareness of

The three key words of the course title will provide a starting point for our examination of a
wide-range of literature, in which we will consider the notion of the poet, narrator, or author’s vision, perspective, sight, or perception within or onto a text; the text’s voice as testimony, history, or (possibly) truthful accounting; and the notion of poetic portraiture, that is, the self-representation of an author, poet, speaker, or narrator in a text: what kind of self-portrait gets painted by these writers?

In this class we will focus on narrative devices and the ways that stories are told in a variety
of literature. We will question our preconceived conceptions of how “narrative” as a form,
genre, or style is defined, considering the ways in which lyric poetry, essays, artwork, film,
and drama, in addition to novels and short stories narrate or tell a story. With a focus on the
figure of the narrator in literature we will also consider questions of reliability and truth:
what makes us believe, suspend our belief in, or reject the notion that a work of fiction (in
any of these forms) is attesting to some truth? Is fiction simply a veil over deeper truths or
meaning? Can narrator’s deceive their readers, and if so, what is the consequence of this

Readings may include works by Plato and Aristotle, Dante Alighieri, Luigi Pirandello, Italo
Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and contemporary poets such as Maya Angelou,
Danez Smith, Tongo Eisen-Martin, and Layli Long Soldier. Films may include The Return of
Martin Guerre (1982) and Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959). We will also consider artworks by
such artists as Caravaggio, Velázquez, Artemisia Gentileschi, among others.

Course Objectives
While these questions and proposed texts will furnish us with material for rich discussions,
this class is chiefly geared toward improving your analytical writing skills. We will
concentrate on both mechanics and style, learning how to read closely, formulate interesting
arguments, gather evidence, and organize claims into persuasive essays. Over the course of
the semester, you will produce approximately 32 pages of written work through a gradual
process of drafting, editing, reviewing, and revising. The assignments will also include
shorter close reading papers, in-class reading quizzes, and a research paper, satisfying the
R1B course requirement.