Reading and Composition
Nighttime, Darkness, Sleep
Our reliance on clocks to tell time tends to overshadow other, more porous categories of temporal experience: the cycles of day and night, the turn of the seasons, periods of rain and drought. In this course, we will turn our attention to both the imprecision and the possibilities of nocturnal rhythms. When does nighttime begin and end? What experiences become possible shrouded in darkness? Is nighttime for sleep, for moonlighting, or, perhaps, for partying? Why do we label periods of unrest “dark times” when the night sky makes its way back to us daily?
Together, we will work our way through various poems, novels, and films that locate their aesthetic potential in figures of nighttime, of darkness, and of sleep. We will trace why nighttime—whether as an eternally recurring period of sensory deprivation or as a moment of freedom that may never return—has such a hold on the imagination, and what enclosures becomes possible, even briefly, under the moonlight. We will pay special attention to moments of misrecognition, attraction, and premonition while asking whether nighttime signals something open and unqualified for all, or whether it brings with it differing moments of danger and respite.
But the figure of the night will not serve merely as the course theme. As a Reading and Composition course, our primary goal will be to develop our writing skills. We will therefore spend a considerable amount of time trudging through the murkiness of early writing and revising our arguments for clarity. In part, class time will be dedicated to models of lucid writing: we will learn about strategies to construct a cogent argument and then put these skills into practice in our own writing projects, both in shorter pieces and longer papers. Assignments will include two substantial papers of literary criticism as well as weekly discussion posts and other, more creative tasks.