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Telling Tales: Narrative Authority and Credibility

ENGL 103.920
TR 4:30-7:30

In this class we will be asking how and to what effect writers work through conventions of narrative form--adapting, manipulating, and transforming those conventions. As we examine a variety of works that have emerged out of different historical periods and writing communities we will consider, in each case, how the narrative works, what it seeks to accomplish, and what demands it places on us as readers and critics. We will limit the scope of our investigation by focusing on narratives--primarily novels and short stories by a range of writers including Jane Austen, Harriet Jacobs, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, Sandra Cisneros and Toni Morrison--that are particularly conscious of the related issues of authority, credibility, and voice. What does the narrative tell us? What does it fail to tell us? How credible are our sources? How is the narrative framed? What are some of the cultural and political stakes of claims to textual authority? Requirements include active class participation, a reading journal and several papers; there will be no final exam.