A good reader of literature is a good reader of anything—a tweet, a blog, an advertisement, a news story, a movie review, a market analysis, a cookbook. If you read something, you will read it better—with more understanding, and with more appreciation—if you become adept in the specific techniques and approaches that literary analysis requires.
Notice the details. It requires discipline to notice the details, but real understanding and appreciation is impossible without this fundamental principle of good reading in mind: what has an author chosen to describe? What has she or he left out? Where does the writer draw your attention? Why? Everything in any piece of writing worth the name was put there by careful choice. Literary characters speak to each other and to us, but they could always have said something else. So, why these words, in this order?
In this class, we will work on becoming better readers of and writers about literature. Our initial focus will be on poetry, because it often presents the greatest challenges to our reading of it; to develop confidence in how you read poetry means greater confidence in all the reading you do. We will study common poetic forms, techniques, and subjects with special attention to poetic language—it’s the language we speak every day, but heightened, often in electric ways, and can be deeply affecting. How does a poet do that? Once we have established a real comfort level with poetry, we will move on to read fiction and drama.
This course is restricted to English majors.
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