ENGL 242 A: Reading Prose Fiction

Playing Genre: Music and Memory in American Fiction

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 8:30am - 9:20am
Location: 
CDH 105
SLN: 
14056

Syllabus Description:

 

Playing Genre: Music and Memory in American Fiction

Course Overview:

Think of one of your favorite songs. Along with the tune, beat, rhythm, instrumentation, or lyrics, what else comes to mind? We form visceral ties to the music that moves us the most, and more often than not these ties are bound up with specific memories that extend far beyond the several minutes of the song. Associations like these exist in the realms of the personal, political, cultural, and historical moments in which they are experienced. This course will explore the relationship between music, memory, and storytelling in twentieth and twenty-first century American fiction.

The course title, Playing Genre, highlights an element of play that will be central to several lines of inquiry: how are particular genres of music represented in fiction; or, how does fiction “play” music? When authors take music as a major theme, how does music influence the composition of the narrative, from overall structure and organization, to sentence-level phrasing, pacing, or word choice? Musicality in prose may occur in more abstract or figurative ways, or it can be quite literal and direct, as in House of Leaves, for which the author’s sister, a popular singer songwriter in her own right, composed a companion album in tandem with the novel. How does the fiction in this course play with, through, and/or against music? When we consider the memory of particular time periods, how does the music of a temporal location play a role in shaping perceptions, and misconceptions, of the time? Many of the stories in these novels are set decades before they were published. Doctorow writes about the time leading up to WWI from the standpoint of the 1970s; Naylor about the time just after WWII from the 1990s; Egan about the 1960s from our present in the 2010s. How do ragtime, jazz, the blues, punk, post-punk, alternative rock, or electronic—as genres of music, and as components of larger cultural and artistic movements—inform the composition of these narratives and our reception of them?

 

ENGL 242 A Au14 - Syllabus.pdf

ENGL 242 - Weekly Blogging Prompt & Rubric.pdf

Additional Details:

“Everything we encounter involves an act of interpretation on our part. And this doesn’t just apply to what we encounter in books, but to what we respond to in life. Oh, we live comfortably because we create these sacred domains in our head where we believe that we have a specific history, a certain set of experiences. We believe that our memories keep us in direct touch with what has happened. But memory never puts us in touch with anything directly; it’s always interpretive, reductive, a complicated compression of information.”
~Mark Danielewski, interview

“If you’re expecting to get the answer in a few notes, you’re mistaken.”
~“Bailey” in Gloria Naylor’s Bailey’s Café

Course Overview:
Think of one of your favorite songs. Along with the tune, beat, rhythm, instrumentation, or lyrics, what else comes to mind? We form visceral ties to the music that moves us the most, and more often than not these ties are bound up with specific memories that extend far beyond the several minutes of the song. Associations like these exist in the realms of the personal, political, cultural, and historical moments in which they are experienced. This course will explore the relationship between music, memory, and storytelling in twentieth and twenty-first century American fiction.

The course title, Playing Genre, highlights an element of play that will be central to several lines of inquiry: how are particular genres of music represented in fiction; or, how does fiction “play” music? When authors take music as a major theme, how does music influence the composition of the narrative, from overall structure and organization, to sentence-level phrasing, pacing, or word choice? Musicality in prose may occur in more abstract or figurative ways, or it can be quite literal and direct, as in House of Leaves, for which the author’s sister, a popular singer songwriter in her own right, composed a companion album in tandem with the novel. How does the fiction in this course play with, through, and/or against music? When we consider the memory of particular time periods, how does the music of a temporal location play a role in shaping perceptions, and misconceptions, of the time? Many of the stories in these novels are set decades before they were published. Doctorow writes about the time leading up to WWI from the standpoint of the 1970s; Naylor about the time just after WWII from the 1990s; Egan about the 1960s from our present in the 2010s. How do ragtime, jazz, the blues, punk, post punk, alternative rock, or electronic—as genres of music, and as components of larger cultural and artistic movements—inform the composition of these narratives and our reception of them?

Course Objectives:
This course will develop students’ critical reading, thinking, and writing skills through class discussions; low-stakes writing in weekly blogging and in-class writing assignments; and formal writing in a creative multimodal project, and a final essay that will expand on and revise material generated in previous assignments. Students will also learn to articulate an understanding of their own reading and writing processes, and how these processes shape the original lines of inquiry students choose to explore in their essays.
Required Materials:
E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime (1975)
Gloria Naylor, Bailey’s Café (1992)
Sherman Alexie, Reservation Blues (1995)
Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves (2000)
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2011)

Other materials will be made available electronically.

Assessment:
Participation 30%
Weekly Blogging 20%
Midterm Project 25%
Final Paper 25%

This course fulfills the University’s W (writing) requirement, as well as the VPLA (visual, performing, and literary arts) requirement.

Please note that this course requires a heavy reading load and meets at 8:30am four days a week. Participation in every single class period is crucial to your success in this course. If you fall behind in the reading,

Catalog Description: 
Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Other Requirements Met: 
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
March 15, 2016 - 3:30pm