Reading & Composition
The Fiction of History: Literary Forms and Historical Materials
If, as some say, history is written by the victors, in this course we will ask what alternative histories literary texts write. How does literature create worlds for the so-called losers of history, for those not included in the fight and those who turned away from either by choice or by necessity and who prefer not to appear in the historical record? In what ways do literary texts contest the official historical record or collude with it or both? How do the resources that are distinctive features of literary genres (fiction, drama, poetry) register the less-than-audible voices of history? By reading a range of text from different historical periods and national literatures, we will investigate the relationship between literary forms and historical documents and archival material. In the second half of the class, we will focus on Black writers and their engagement with the archives of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery’s afterlife in the United States.
This course satisfies half of the University’s Reading & Composition sequence and is recommended for students who have completed R1A or have placed out of the R1A requirement. This course is designed to help students improve their skills in critical thinking, reading, and analytical writing. Students will learn how to write with clarity, precision, and nuance through reflective engagement with all stages of the writing process, from brainstorming to proofreading. In addition to regular attendance, reading, and participation, assignments include an introductory paper and a series of essays—drafts and deep revisions—as well as bCourses posts and a creative project. Students will also develop skills for incorporating secondary sources into analytical writing, and the course will culminate in a research paper of 8-10 pages. This is a reading- and writing-intensive course.