Reading & Composition

Reading & Composition

Am I Reading Too Much Into This? Film and Literature’s Scenes of Instruction
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Course Type or Level: 
Cory Merrill, Louisa Kirk
242 Dwinelle

Our course takes up its task of developing critical reading and writing skills through an exploration of literary texts that thematize their own reading: texts that draw attention to the work of reading itself; texts that make us think both critically and strategically about how we as readers ought to approach them; texts that implicate their readers in ways that make them uncomfortable or self-conscious.

In a sense, then, this course is about learning how to read, but in a particular way—namely, by developing a sensitivity to how a text may ask to be read. As a corollary to this pursuit, we will also endeavor to gain awareness of how we ourselves read (what speaks to us individually, what problems interest us, how we think with and through texts) and then to learn to convince others, through writing, what we have read.

As an R&C course, sustained critical engagement with the process of writing will guide our intellectual investigation of texts that teach us how to read. As a class, we will work together to form an understanding of the partnership between careful reading and analytical writing as well as the relationship of re-writing to writing. We will read works of art and philosophy, and we will read others thinking about works of art and philosophy, and then we will learn how to position our own thoughts among academics and artists alike through our writing. With these goals in mind, the first several weeks of class will be dedicated to an intensive introduction to the practice of close reading and arguments structured around close reading before an in-depth analysis of the literary works on the syllabus is pursued.

Throughout the semester members of our course will illustrate the development of their thinking on course topics through regular expository writing assignments, re-writes, free-writing exercises, online blog discussion posts, creative in-class exercises, and consistent in-class participation. Working closely with Rosenwasser’s Writing Analytically, students will participate in weekly writing workshops, in which skill sets related to the practice of analytical reading and writing will be detailed and developed. Attention will also be paid to differences in critical approaches to works of literature from different genres.

Required texts:
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me [ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7] Italo Calvino, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler [ISBN: 978-0156439619]

Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire [ISBN: 0-679-72342-0]

Required Screening: TBD

Additional required readings will be included in a course reader available for purchase from University Copy Services.