Good or Good for You? The Fiction of Enjoyment cancelled
It’s an age-old debate: If a book is entertaining, is it not literary? One New Yorker stalwart distilled the difference between literature and genre fiction down to the quip, “one was good for you, one simply tasted good”.
According to tradition, Literary Fiction is culturally and ethically valuable, challenging, character and language driven, esoteric. Genre Fiction is plot driven, simplistic, formulaic, and more entertaining than valuable. Love stories, ghost stories, whodunnits, and children’s books, then, fall solidly into the latter, while tragedies, the ideological, and the non-linear narrative reside in the former.
So, where does Frankenstein, Mary Shelley’s complex, atmospheric work that also just happens to be arguably the first Sci-Fi novel ever written, fit into that equation? What about Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Brothers Grimm and Sisters Bronte, E.B. White, Sally Rooney? Stoppard and Gaiman. Stephen King? What about J.K. Rowling, whose easy-to-read kids’ book united millions upon millions of readers worldwide (even as her personal ideologies have recently divided them)?
In this course, we will examine what makes a work good, and what makes it Great. We will read--and watch--across time and matter, from novel to picture book to script, acid-tongued review to Lit Theory treatise. We will take apart that list of what makes what: see what stands, what intersects, what breaks molds, and what never should have been stuck in a mold at all. You don't have to have experience with literary analysis and criticism to be part of this process; you just have to be ready and willing to contemplate the debate. Assignments will include two short response papers, a presentation on your literary passion, and a final project of either critical analysis of your term study or a creative representation of where that study has taken you. Regular participation in class discussions is crucial. And very probably very good for you.