This course will introduce students to a variety of literary forms as an approach to discover how we read character – how does literature reveal identity from either omniscient or tightly-focused angles, and how does this affect the realism of the characters we are empathizing with? In other words, how does a work’s genre affect our ability to empathize with a character, arguably one of the main goals of literature? By observing a character’s thought processes while they are being conceived of first-hand (essays by David Shields, for instance), one gauges a highly realistic – yet of course biased – view of somebody’s “identity,” but is this not more or less realistic than viewing multiple interpretations of a single character from various narrators and side characters, as in various postmodern short-stories and novels? Within this lens, what do we take to be “real” anyway?
The course will be broken into five literary forms – the personal essay, the graphic novel memoir, works of short fiction, one novel, and one play. This is a “W” course, with two 5-7 page papers due, in addition to several short writing assignments and quizzes throughout the quarter.