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Close Readings and Discontents

ENGL 261.301
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

This course invites students to reflect upon the close reading skills that they
have acquired in English courses. What does it mean to close read? What do we
find when we close read? The author’s intended meaning? New meanings s/he never
considered? Does close reading help us develop an image of a text’s whole
structure, or does it make us slow down and experience reading as a process
that happens in time? Might we close read a whole novel, or must we select
smaller chunks to consider closely? What would it mean to read distantly? To
answer these questions, we will consider how readers like I.A. Richards,
William Empson, Cleanth Brooks, Eric Auerbach, Edward Said, Dorrit Cohn, D.A.
Miller, and Eve Sedgwick have attended to poems or novels by John Donne, Jane
Austen, Henry James, T.S. Eliot, and Virginia Woolf. Students will hone their
own interpretive skills and respond to questions like the above in weekly blog
postings and 3 medium-length papers.