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Literary Authority and the Holocaust

ENGL 310.301
instructor(s):
TR 12-1:30

This course will explore the slippage between the authority of an author over the reading process and other, more direct ways of exercising authority. We will investigate the extent to which modernist writers may have tried to engender a different model of reading, one that might have helped ordinary people resist Nazi authority. This "new" model of reading gives the reader much more responsibility in the reading process, and it insists that the reader be a more careful, flexible, and knowledgeable interpreter. We will begin by reading Primo Levi's Survival at Auschwitz, and we will go on to read Ordinary Men and Stanley Milgrim's Obedient to Authority. Once we have developed a model of maladaptive "reading" (or responding to authority) based on these works,we will turn to some of the most famously difficult modernist texts to see if these texts succeed in "retraining" readers. Our readings will include James Joyce's Dubliners and a sample of Finnegans Wake, Virginia Woolf's The Waves, poems by T.S. Eliot, H.D., and Ezra Pound, and selected works by Samuel Beckett. Requirements include a one-page written and oral presentation, two 6-8 page papers, and a final examination.