To Whom It May Concern: Letters and Literature
Once the dominant form of personal communication and public address, letters have marked the events of human history on paper and parchment only to find a new life through email. Letters have delivered the religious message of the Bible, declared American Independence, and even given us the macabre tale of Frankenstein and his creature. In this course we will broadly trace the letter through its use in Western literary tradition by examining its many styles (spiritual, political, supernatural, and erotic) through forms such as the novel (e.g. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein) and the poem (e.g. William Carlos Williams's "This is Just to Say"). In this course we will also examine the formal conventions and theories of the epistolary mode. In addition to those listed above, works may include the letters of Petrarch, Christopher Columbus, Fanny Burney, John Keats, Charles Lamb, and Thomas Jefferson, as well as Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail", Edgar Allan Poe's "The Purloined Letter", Tobias Smollett's The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker, Jane Austen's Lady Susan, Alice Walker's The Color Purple, and Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. This course will require two critical essays, weekly response papers, and lively participation in class discussions. No midterm or final exam.