Reading & Composition
Complicated Points of View: Unreliable, Self-Undermining, and Unidentifiable Narrators
The project of reading always involves assuming some authority on the part of the narrator from whose point of view the text unfolds. But just how far does that authority extend? In this course we will explore texts from a wide range of linguistic traditions and historical periods that have particularly complicated relationships with narrative authority and point of view. We will begin with straightforward examples of unreliable narrators who directly or deliberately mislead their readers. We will then move on to read some self-undermining narrators, who claim the authority of narrator while simultaneously signalling their bias or their investment in some agenda that may run counter to the “best interests” of the reader. Finally, we will turn to a number of texts where the point of view from which the narrator is speaking, or even their very identity, is complicated to the point of undecidability. While the texts we will read in this class have been chosen for their particularly complicated engagement with these issues, virtually any literary text will reward careful attention to and a nuanced understanding of the narrative construction of point of view. As an R&C course, one of the purposes of this class is to foster sustained critical engagement with the process of writing. As a class, we will work together to form an understanding of the partnership between careful reading and analytical writing, as well as dedicating deliberate time and attention to questions of organization, stylistics, and grammar. As we turn to the research-focused portion of our course, we will learn how to position our thoughts about course materials among other writers’ interpretations of those materials. This course will culminate in the production of an 8-10 page research paper, but we will build up to it through a series of smaller assignments targeting different dimensions
of the writing and research process.