Reading & Composition

Reading & Composition

Family Portraits: Kinship, Transgression, and Loss in the Domestic Sphere
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Mary Mussman
89 Dwinelle

For this course, we will examine texts in a range of styles and genres that deal with representations of the family and that challenge normative expectations of what a family might be. What role does society play in shaping family structures? How might literature expand our notion of kinship? How do literary forms create space to consider the kinds of loss that families experience? How might we reconsider transgression, and even taboo, through the lens of fiction? At what point do family secrets go too far?

The primary goal of the course will be to develop skills as writers and thinkers that allow us to answer some of these questions critically. As writers, you will be encouraged and challenged to analyze texts closely and carefully. Both class discussion and writing assignments will thus direct you to consider form in equal measure to content. By learning to identify and evaluate the literary and filmic techniques in each text, you will adopt a mode of aesthetic appreciation. Perhaps more importantly, you will learn to describe in writing how these texts work: how they construct and deconstruct, reinvent and critique our conceptions of the family. Taking on the method of a literary scholar, you will learn to craft persuasive, original, and exacting analytical essays.

Required Texts
Bechdel, Alison – Fun Home (ISBN-10: 0618871713)
Euripides – Medea (in Euripides I, ISBN-10: 0226308804)
Nelson, Maggie – The Argonauts (ISBN-10: 1555977359)
Sagan, Françoise – Bonjour Tristesse (trans. Irene Ash; ISBN-10: 0061440795)
Shakespeare, William – Twelfth Night (ISBN-10: 1903436990)

Required Screenings
Almodóvar, Pedro – Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother)
Anderson, Wes – The Royal Tenenbaums
Varda, Agnès – Le Bonheur (Happiness)
The X-Files Season 4, Episode 2 – “Home”
Short pieces and excerpts from the works of Charles Addams, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Judith Butler, Anne Carson, and others will be made available.