This course is an upper-level introduction to reading as a historical practice, an object of theory, and the basis for humanistic inquiry. It is intended for English and humanities majors and those with side interests in literature who have already taken a college course in literary studies. We will begin with an in-depth exploration of “close reading,” still the dominant approach in high schools and public forums, and to some the discipline’s greatest accomplishment. We’ll then sample several canonical theories of reading such as formalism, hermeneutics, reader-response criticism, phenomenology and affect theory, and cognitive science before concluding with “distant reading,” an emergent school of digital data-driven approaches to literary history. The selection of texts will include lyric poetry, a narrative poem (most likely John Milton’s Paradise Lost), and a novel, as well as a range of essays by contemporary theorists and critics. Evaluation will be based on two essays, a special project and presentation, and active participation in class discussions.
Full syllabus available under FILES