Reading & Composition R1A (Cancelled 05/10/21)
Writing about Talking about Reading: Boccaccio’s Decameron and its Descendants
This course takes up its task of developing critical reading and writing skills via an exploration of texts that stage their own reading and reception within the work. More specifically, we will focus on texts—such as Boccaccio’s Decameron and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales—in which the characters themselves narrate and discuss other stories. Though this genre emerges in the West in the Middle Ages, it remains productive up to the present day, and similar literary traditions exist in other cultures across the globe. As a course, we will trace the permutations of the framed novella collection structure as it moves across literary periods and national boundaries, investigating both how the texts portray and problematize the telling of stories as well as the specific sociocultural dynamics that are called into play.
As we progress through the course, we will be faced with the same questions and struggles as the characters in the texts we read, asking, most fundamentally, what role literature should and can play in our lives. To what extent can literature create a sense of community or order? Does literature have the power to make us better people? Or worse? What sort of lessons can we learn from literature? Can literature teach us anything at all?