Writing About Literature

English 2100
Section 2
John Evelev

This course teaches the fundamentals of writing about literature by studying a range of literary genres (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama) from different time periods. It is intended to prepare students for their work as English majors or minors by focusing on two main goals. First, this class introduces a variety of critical and theoretical approaches that are used in the study of literature. Second, students will practice the basics of literary research, interpretation, and criticism, including modeling various critical approaches to texts, developing research skills, and becoming familiar with the best tools, resources, and databases for research. While working on these essential skills, we will explore the theme of Insider/Outsider. Who is an insider and how do we know? Who is an outsider and how do we know? How do people self-identify as intentionally belonging or not belonging to a group? Who gets to decide who’s in and who’s out? How do groups regulate who is an insider and who is an outsider? What do experiences of an insider and an outsider look like? What does life look like when you’re always on the outside (of society, of privilege, of wealth, of educational opportunities)? To what lengths will people go to hide what and who they are? To what lengths will people go to understand or become who and what they are not? Readings will likely include Beowulf, John Gardner’s Grendel, Charles Foster’s Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide, George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession, as well as shorter readings. There will be lots of in-class discussion, presentations, less formal writing in and out of class, and shorter formal writing assignments, all leading up to a longer research paper.