Everything can be read, every surface and silence, every breath and every vacancy, every eddy and current, every body and its absence, every darkness every light, each cloud and knife, each finger and tree, every backwater, every crevice and hollow, each nostril, tendril and crescent, every whisper, every whimper, each laugh and every blue feather, each stone, each nipple, every thread every color, each woman and her lover, every man and his mother, every river, each of the twelve blue oceans and the moon, every forlorn link, every hope and every ending, each coincidence, the distant call of a loon, light through the high branches of blue pines, the sigh of rain, every estuary, each gesture at parting, every kiss, each wasp's wing, every foghorn and railway whistle, every shadow, every gasp, each glowing silver screen, every web, the smear of starlight, a fingertip, rose whorl, armpit, pearl, every delight and misgiving, every unadorned wish, every daughter, every death, each woven thing, each machine, every ever after.
What does it mean to read in the 21st century? Is it different from times past? Are current practices of reading too superficial, too entertainment oriented, such that self-fulfillment can no longer be found within the covers of a book? Alternatively, as spines collapse and dust jackets disappear, does the electronic conveyance of the word better engage the mind, the emotions, the senses—even the soul?
Throughout the quarter, you will attempt to answer these questions, among others, by reading a variety of theories, past and present, about what constitutes the act of reading literature and then putting those theories into practice. Both activities will make you more adept at understanding the underlying theoretical premises about reading “acts” and you yourself will be more self-aware about social influences that shape popular narrative reading norms. You will also be asked to critique what’s at stake in changing those norms. You will critique and test ways of reading and various authors’ views about the pleasures and dangers of limiting reading practices—intellectual, imaginative, sensual, soulful—in print, in film, and online, and via numerous other media formats.
Course readings include reading theory, reading fiction about acts of reading, reading film adapted from fiction, reading readers’ responses to writing, writing about reading, and discussing reading practices, past and present. Course exams may include individual presentations, group presentations, objective identifications of literary and reading theory terminology, a final exam and other writings. As a junior-level course, 307 assumes proficiency in fluent essay writing and knowledge of basic literary terms, and as this is a discussion-based, in-person course, weekly attendance and vocal participation are also essential to course success.