ENGL 242 A:Reading Fiction: “Not Your Average High School Novel Class: Re-Reading as Critical Practice”
Spring Quarter 2009
MTWTH 8:30-9:20 AM
MAYA ANGELOU, once said, “When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.” It is this sense that literature is important, that literature can reveal something about ourselves and the world, and that reading is a practice and lifeway maintained and sustained over time that is central to this class. In other words, literature is more than just words on a page, literacy is not a destination or a merit badge, and reading is as much about rereading as writing is as much about revising. This class will take up reading and rereading as critical practice by pointedly revisiting literature commonly taught in high school curricula in the US, literature needing rescue and revivification from this-is-so-boring mindsets, from the constraints of teaching-for-the-tests, and from the too easy themes and summaries of notes by Cliff and Spark. This is not your usual high school novel class. Texts may include in whole or in excerpt the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Kate Chopin, Sherwood Anderson, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger, Ray Bradbury, Toni Morrison, and J.K. Rowling.
A REQUIREMENT for this class is a well-developed curiosity about the world, about the culture we live in, and about the cultural productions we imagine, produce, and consume. In other words, this class is about reading, critiquing, and analyzing our culture through literature. Our understandings of identities, meanings, and power, as well as the intersections of cultural and social locations like race, gender, class, nation, and sexuality, can be excavated through the analysis of the texts we create and consume. This class will spend the quarter reading, thinking, writing about various fictions and how and what these texts argue, reveal, narrate, hide, perpetuate, and complicate the world we live in.
FINALLY, as a class, we will engage the techniques and practices of reading and enjoying literature. We will identify and develop different ways to read different kinds of texts — from verse to prose to visual and digital — and understand and develop strategies, habits, and perspectives of reading, thinking, and writing. Foremost, we will read with pleasure and for pleasure. We will also rhetorically read, close read, read for analysis. And lastly, we will read and deploy literature as theory, as dramatizing the concerns, wonders, struggles, and politics of lived life and experience.