Reading & Composition
Picking up the Pieces: A Partial History of Fragments
Many of the literary texts we study today come to us incomplete. Perhaps the author passed away before the work was finished, or perhaps we know the text only through scraps of parchment used in the binding of a different manuscript. Still other texts consciously position themselves as fragments, even if this move is but an artifice on the part of the author.
Though the precise type of fragmentation may vary, all these texts pose similar interpretive challenges to their readers. How can we productively engage with a text that is or that claims to be incomplete? To what extent can a collection of fragments ever become more than a sum of its parts? At what point can one safely deem a work of literature “complete” anyway? All these questions and more will inform our approach to and discussion of the texts we encounter in this course, and we will simultaneously seek an understanding of how our own reading—and writing—practices necessarily fragment the texts we encounter, even if they are otherwise complete.
Working Reading List:
Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland
Novalis, Heinrich von Ofterdingen
Wolfram von Eschenbach, Titurel (fragments)
Petrarch, Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta
Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
Sappho (via Anne Carson’s If not Winter)