ECC140 introduces the study of literature as a mode of discourse for defining, exploring, and expressing human experience. By means of significant out-of-class reading, engaging in-class discussions, and frequent writing assignments, ECC140 focuses on learning the skills of reading and writing about literature. To this end students will be introduced to various ways of reading literary texts which highlight the different investments people make when they choose to read in one way rather than another, how different ways of reading lead to different interpretive results, and how certain texts invoke certain types of reading. As such, the course's unifying element will include consistent attention to close reading and to a grasp of basic notions of literary discourse's relationship to genre and models of reading.
The course will cover poetry, drama, and fiction, with attention also paid to literary non-fiction, beginning with instruction in close reading techniques. Thus the class will introduce students to such basic concepts as (for fiction) plot structure, point of view, voice, characterization, imagery and symbolism, setting, tone, irony, and style; (for poetry) persona, denotation/connotation, figurative language, metrics, major verse forms (like sonnet, dramatic monologue); (for drama) protagonist /antagonist, plot, dramatic structure, tragedy, comedy. Along with instruction in close reading, the course considers as well a variety of ways of reading texts in order to show students that reading is not an ideologically free act, that meaning is not automatically within the text but is dependent on the assumptions and questions that the reader brings to the text, that the phenomena observed in close reading can lead to a number of different interpretive possibilities. Instructors may choose to illustrate this by introducing students to the basics of a number of different reading models, as for example from the following not all-inclusive list: New Critical, structural, new historical, biographical, psychoanalytic, archetypal, Marxist, feminist, reader response, cultural criticism, deconstructive. The goal of instruction in multiple ways of reading will be to make students aware how each model of reading places emphasis on different aspects of the text, context, and reader, leading to different interpretations of how literature represents human experience.
Recommended Texts: four anthologies provide reasonably substantial material on different models of reading. They are Birkerts, Literature: the Evolving Canon, 2nd ed. (Allyn and Bacon); Gillespie, Fonseca, Sanger, Literature across Cultures (Allyn and Bacon); Jacobus, Literature: an Introduction to Critical Reading (Prentice Hall); Meyer, The Bedford Introduction to Literature, 4th ed (St. Martin's). (Meyer, we agreed, is the best of these texts, Gillespie the weakest.)