Reading & Composition

This course explores the historical and theoretical intersections between aesthetic form and the empires of Europe, from the Spanish conquest of the Americas to twentieth-century decolonization. It considers how different genres—history, prose fiction and film—challenge (and sometimes promote) the establishment of empires in Europe, the Americas, and beyond.

Reading & Composition

In this course we pull out the guts of stories to try and understand how storytellers craft works that grip us. In the process we examine classic attempts to say what makes good storytelling and put to the test the idea that any story has certain “rules” that make it successful. With an emphasis on understanding the structures that underpin the TV drama, we will study shooting scripts of The Wire and Mad Men, learning to interpret screenplay conventions on our way to understanding the complex move from script to screen.

Reading & Composition

“To speak is to blunder,” confessed the Chinese American writer Yiyun Li. Nabokov put it more melodramatically: “My private tragedy, which cannot, indeed should not, be anybody’s concern, is that I had to abandon my natural language, my natural idiom.”

Reading & Composition

Do poems take up truths? Can a novel be a way of thinking about something? What can you learn—about yourself, about others, about the world—from a film? This course considers the ways that literature, art, and film are not only a part of our creative imaginations but also central sources of insight into what is real and actual. How do fictional and imaginative works touch what is worldbound? How do they help us see, hear, and understand our world?

Reading & Composition

Work. If you need to earn money to live you’ll have to do it. And it’s mandatory if you want to earn an undergraduate degree. But why do we have to work so hard? Are there any alternatives? And who gets a say in the conditions we work in anyway? These are some of the jumping off points for a class rooted in two ideas: first, that work and the paltry compensation that often accompanies it is too central to our lives to not talk about, and, second, that fictions are a way to think through these questions.

Reading & Composition

This course explores the historical and theoretical intersections between aesthetic form and the empires of Europe, from the Spanish conquest of the Americas to twentieth-century decolonization. It considers how different genres—history, prose fiction and film—challenge (and sometimes promote) the establishment of empires in Europe, the Americas, and beyond.

Reading & Composition

If, as some say, history is written by the victors, in this course we will ask what alternative histories literary texts write. How does literature create worlds for the so-called losers of history, for those not included in the fight and those who turned away from either by choice or by necessity and who prefer not to appear in the historical record? In what ways do literary texts contest the official historical record or collude with it or both? How do the resources that are distinctive features of literary genres (fiction, drama, poetry) register the less-than-audible voices of history?

Reading & Composition

A barber wakes up one morning without his nose.

An old man with wings shows up in the courtyard of a small town.

The Devil disguised as a professor decides to pay a visit to 1930s Moscow.

Reading & Composition

Writing strategies and expectations vary among cultures. Spanish writers, for instance, may be surprised to discover that their thoughtful attempts at emphasizing an idea can be seen by English readers as unnecessary repetitions. They may also find themselves wondering why a general reflection, intended to highlight the argument’s complexity, can be felt instead as a digression. Conversely, the concision of English prose can sound naïve to Spanish ears, and its frequent resort to irony and witticisms, can be taken as a sign of levity.

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