ENGL 10 introduces students to the methods of academic literary study and explores the heart of our discipline: What is a distinctly humanistic way of knowing? How is humanistic knowledge produced, and what is it worth? How can we value, assess, and engage with humanistic ways of knowing? What does it mean to approach the world as a humanist or with training in the humanities? When working to understand this intellectual project, students will dwell at length with a wide variety of literary texts from a number of genres and periods.
To start the quarter, students in ENGL 10 will work on “close reading,” which is the critical practice at the foundation of literary study. When we read closely, we attend to the properly “poetic” or “literary” features of language, and we come to understand how meaning is made by these literary features, including tone, image, word choice, rhyme, meter, plot, “structure,” etc. After students acquaint themselves with the key tools of literary study, ENGL 10 will shift its focus and turn outward: using the skills developed over the first half of the course, we’ll begin to think about the relationship between literature and the worlds in which it operates. How does literature represent, understand, or capture “reality”? How does literature render reality in novel, important, or valuable ways? How does literature intervene in the worlds in which it circulates? To answer these questions, we’ll turn to three writers -- Judith Schalansky, Claudia Rankine, and Megan Fernandes -- who will then join us for virtual Q+As.
Because the Fall semester is likely to be -- frankly -- an organizational mess, we’ll adapt to ensure that ENGL 10 remains useful both for students interested in a broad survey course and for students interested in pursuing literary study more rigorously throughout their degree programs. In normal times, we’d work carefully over the course of semester to produce work cumulatively, so that each project leads naturally to a final, long research essay. Considering the constraints under which we’re working and the well-known limits of online study, the assignments in ENGL 10 this Fall will be shorter and more frequent, allowing students the opportunity to work through a large variety of smaller problems in assignments with lower stakes. The goal here is to provide students the opportunity to learn what they need from ENGL 10 while also acknowledging that we are living through a truly brutal moment.