"Ways of Reading" introduces students to the characteristics thought of as literary and the methods for studying them. This is a gateway course into the English major, and only one of the ENGL201 series may be taken for credit.
"Ways of Reading" courses develop strategies for careful and close reading, and techniques for the analysis of literary forms such as poetry, drama, and prose narratives such as novels and short stories. They familiarize students with some of the protocols of the literary-critical essay, examine the idea of literature as a social institution, and explore ways of connecting textual details and the world beyond the text. The ways of reading learned in the course are powerful tools for critically assessing discourses that expand far beyond the realm of literature. So while students will become adept literary critics, they also will learn quickly that to be a literary critic is to read critically and carefully all the time: in poems, novels, and plays; but also in political speech, in popular culture, and in the discourses that shape everyday life.
This "Ways of Reading" course will explore the meaning of authorship and originality in literary study. What does it mean to be original within a literary tradition? How do genres retain their coherence while also enabling originality? When does inspiration become plagiarism? Where do we draw the line between borrowing and stealing in literature? What legal and ethical frameworks help us to distinguish between them? How do such norms vary across genres and media? This course will focus on the different ways that poetry, fiction, and drama foster the recirculation of particular plots, figures, and formal structure while still maintaining the value of originality. We will pay particular attention to the crises of authorship that mark what Walter Benjamin famously called the "Age of Mechanical Reproduction." But we will also look at the central role that borrowing and rewriting has played in the very constitution of the idea of a literary tradition.