English 100 will examine central questions that have shaped literary studies in the twentieth century. The course has two primary aims: 1) to help students develop their own ability to read attentively and analyze what they read, and 2) to introduce students to some of the important issues in literary theory. Every act of reading -- whether it is the quick consumption of a bestseller or the close analysis of an epic poem -- rests upon assumptions about authors, texts, and the interpretation of meaning. The purpose of this course is to pry open those assumptions. What determines literary value? What makes an interpretation valid? How might the complexities of racial, gender, and class identities shape the way authors write and readers read? To explore these fundamental questions, we will examine a range of reading practices and a history of critical theories. Though this course will emphasize the analysis of literature, we may test some of these theories in related cultural forms such as film and television.
The course will combine a lecture format with meetings of smaller class sections designed for lively discussion. Course requirements include two papers, a midterm, and a final.