Reading & Composition
If an eternal traveler should journey in any direction,
he would find after untold centuries that the same volumes are repeated in
the same disorder—which, repeated, becomes order: the Order.
My solitude is cheered by that elegant hope.
—“The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges
The Tower of Babel is a story in the Book of Genesis that describes how languages and habitats became multiple and scattered.
The Tower of Babel is a story in the Book of Genesis that describes how languages and habitats became multiple and scattered. The story’s dramatic ending results in the differences and divisions among peoples in the world. In this course, we examine the way literature continuously returns to and rewrites Babel. How do languages both shape and reflect history, politics, literature, art, and social movements? What is at stake when we translate from one language to another? While we mostly examine works from the 20th century, the ever-changing Babels in these texts remind us that literary time is multidirectional: Are we Babel’s living inheritors, or are we oracles of a future Babel?
As part of the University’s R&C sequence, this course is designed, above all, to help students improve their skills in critical thinking, reading, and analytical writing. Students 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 a diagnostic paper and a series of essays—drafts and deep revisions—as well as bCourses posts, quizzes, and a final group project.