Uses of Literature: How to Solve Problems with Books

Course Number: ENGL 11
Prerequisites: None
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 11
Quarter: Winter 2019
Instructor: Droge, Abigail
Day(s): MW
Time: 9:30am - 10:45am
Location: GIRV 1119
Description:

Should literature be applied to current social issues? If so, how? If not, why not? In this class we'll consider the pros and cons of connecting the study of English to present debates, such as environmental policy, education, gender equity, legal representation, housing reform, and economic inequality. Through readings of nineteenth-century authors (which could include William Wordsworth, Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Ruskin, William Morris, and Oscar Wilde), we will ask whether "relevance" is the right question, or whether "art for art's sake" is a valuable alternative. As a final project, we will put on a half theatrical/half analytic public colloquium, in which teams of students impersonate different historical figures and act as a "board of advisors" for current issues. What would Elizabeth Gaskell have to say about climate change? How would Charles Dickens implement an after-school tutoring program? Our main goal will be to discuss and debate whether or not we should take such advice, whether "advice" is an appropriate outcome of literary study, and what relationships we might draw between historical literature and present problems.