English 101: Reading in the World

Posted on April 11th, 2011 by

Course Descriptions

Eric Vrooman will be teaching Reading in the World: Crime and Punishment. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 12:30 to 1:20 in Vickner 302.

The land of the free has the world’s largest prison population; over 2 million American currently live behind bars. This course focuses on the United States’ obsession with crime and punishment. We will study the film Cool Hand Luke and TV episodes from The Wire and CSI, as well as the creative works of prisoners and correctional officers. Critical texts will inform our discussions about race, class, language, and power as they relate to crime and punishment.

Matthew Rasmussen, Reading in the World: The World at the Margin. Tuesday and Thursday from 12 to 1:20 pm in Confer 334.

The World at the Margin. This course will study literature that enters the world of the outcast, the alienated, or the marginalized. We are occasionally indifferent or even repulsed by these people and the worlds they inhabit, but at the same time we’re drawn to them, for they often seem more intriguing and interesting than the “normal” or “accepted” world we’ve grown accustomed to. Through the reading, studying, and discussion of our texts we will address a variety of ideas and questions, among them: What does it mean to be alienated, outcast, or marginalized? What causes these reactions in us, as readers and as people who are at times the included and at other times the outcast? What can we learn about the margins of our own society by reading literature that delves imaginatively into these worlds? How does one survive/live in a world they don’t necessarily belong to or are not wanted in? What causes a society’s acceptance or rejection of an individual, a group, or idea? We will read poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama in the humble pursuit of answers to these questions and more. Authors and texts include, but are not limited to: Johnson’s Jesus Son, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and A Hunger Artist, Welch’s Fools Crow, Sexton’s Transformations, and Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.

Robert Kendrick, Reading in the World: Body Works. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 12:30 to 1:20 in Vickner 304.

This course compares how writers and artists in many disciplines in Western culture understand the human body and use it to justify or to question widely held beliefs and cultural norms. As we closely read literary, philosophical, and medical/scientific texts as well as the visual arts and film, we’ll question how texts speak to one another and differ in their evocations of the body, and what work the body is made to perform in each text. Works may include Plato’s Symposium, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Galen/Hippocrates, Michel Foucault, John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, William Harvey’s Anatomical Exercises, J. G. Ballard’s Crash, Gunther van Hagen’s Body Worlds, and The Dark Knight, as well as examples from ancient through modern painting and sculpture.

Eric Eliason, Reading in The World: Nobel Prize Winners. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11:30 to 12:30 in Vickner 303.

What does it take to win a Nobel Prize in Literature? Who has the authority to say that one book or writer is better than another? Do we still think that the winners from 50 or 100 years ago are “great” writers? We will read what winners have written, and what readers have written about winners. Along the way we will discuss and debate the politics of literary awards, celebrate and critique notable literary achievements. In the end, we will have read a selection of works by recent and past Nobel Prize winners, and we will form our own conclusions about what kind of literature might benefit humanity enough to merit an award alongside medicine or chemistry.


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