ENGL*3960 (01) Seminar: Literature in History (ENGL*3960)
Code and section: ENGL*3960*01
Term: Winter 2017
Instructor: Daniel O'Quinn
This course offers an introduction to a wide range of critical and theoretical approaches to both verse and narrative. The course opens with a survey of critical problems posed by the very notion of literature. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and the digital Whitman Archive will operate as a touchstone of sorts for a range of critical issues not least of which are the question of lyric subjectivity and the problem of historical and national representation. We then test a series of critical procedures in relation to selected texts by Frederick Douglass and Octavia Butler. We will be reading Douglass’s slave narrative and Butler’s novel Kindred in order to develop rudimentary skills in narratology and to explore the history of antebellum slavery. The course will conclude with five weeks on the American Civil War. We will be looking at Civil War photography and the Civil War writings of Whitman, Dickinson and Louisa May Alcott. By the end of the course, students will have acquired valuable skills in reading verse and will be able to negotiate theoretical problems pertaining to historicization, rhetorical reading, narratology, gender/sexuality studies and the racialization of national fantasy.
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