A hand drawing a hand

Reading, Response & Self-Reflection in American Literature

A word is dead, when it is said,
Some say—
I say, it just begins to live
That day                    —Emily Dickinson

We are absurdly accustomed to the miracle of a few written signs being able to contain immortal imagery, involutions of thought, new worlds with live people, speaking, weeping, laughing. . . . What if we awake one day, all of us, and find ourselves utterly unable to read? I wish you to gasp not only at what you read but at the miracle of its being readable (so I used to tell my students). Although I am capable, through long dabbling in blue magic, of imitating any prose in the world, I do not consider myself a true artist, save in one matter: I can do what only a true artist can do—pounce upon the forgotten butterfly of revelation, wean myself abruptly from the habit of things, see the web of the world, and the warp and weft of that web.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire

This course will study selected works not as self-contained texts but in the interactive process of making meaning between texts and readers. Conceptually, the course leans on insights from Reader Response criticism and Constructivism in philosophy and education, but a main focus will be on our own responses, forming the basis for our own discoveries and theories. The “self-reflection” in the title refers both to the nature of the texts we read and our own processes of exploration. We will begin with our responses to Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and move from that to Melville’s Moby-Dick, Emily Dickinson’s poetry, Nabokov’s Pale Fire, and John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse. We will also attempt to develop approaches to learning and teaching that are more empathic, democratic, and community-building; of necessity, the course will involve more writing of various kinds and more active discussions. It will be like no other English course you have ever taken. Prospective students are encouraged to speak and/or write to the instructor before the class begins: bickman@colorado.edu.

Explores a special topic in American literature. May be repeated for a total of 9 units for different topics.

Repeatable: Repeatable for up to 9.00 total credit hours. Allows multiple enrollment in term.
Requisites: Restricted to students with 57-180 credits (Juniors or Seniors).
Additional Information:Arts Sci Gen Ed: Distribution-Arts Humanities
Departmental Category: American Literature

Taught by Marty Bickman.