Movin' On Up / Falling (Back) Into Place -- Social Mobility and the Figure of the Parvenue

R1A (Section 1) :  English Composition through French Literature in Translation
Fall 2016
Class No: 15599
Z. Burris


Méliès, Cinderella. 1899

Johnson, Volpone. 1607

Stendhal, The Red and the Black. 1830 (excerpts)

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. 1925

Chekov, The Three Sisters. 1900

Dickens, Great Expectations. 1861 (excerpts)

Balzac, The Father Goriot. 1835

Shaw, Pygmalion. 1913

Thackeray, Vanity Fair. 1847 (excerpts)

Maupassant, “The Necklace.” 1884

Poe, “William Wilson.” 1839

Wells, Citizen Kane. 1941

Cather, “Paul’s Case.” 1905

Course Description:

Literature has long been a space within which an author can examine dynamics of social class and upward mobility. From rags-to-riches fairy tales, through the twists and turns on the road to self-discovery in the picaresque or bildungsroman, to modern novels, plays, and screens big and small, readers (/viewers) have been exposed to countless figures – likeable, detestable, inspirational, successful or ultimately doomed – who have suggested that it is possible to come from nothing and yet reach dizzying heights.

The texts examined in this course will show that the processes of climbing the social ladder are, in fact, much more complicated than a mere act of will suggested by the American adage of “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps.” Many of the characters in the works we will read will be familiar to students, as they have come to represent (perhaps because of their appearance in famous works by famous authors, those “classics” of Western Literature) the social success that can be achieved through talent, hard work, networking, deception, dreaming, and scheming. From Cinderella to Becky Sharp, from Julien Sorel to Jay Gatsby to the Rastignac who to this day lends his name to the French expression for an ambitious social climber, this course will examine (and revel in!) their dazzling triumphs on the social scene – and analyze their sometimes inevitable fall back into obscurity.

This class will introduce students to approaching textual material critically, and will stress the idea of writing as a process through a variety of assignments and revisions geared to guide the development and clear expression of coherent argumentation.

Additional Information:

French R1A satisfies the first half of the Reading and Composition Requirement. Classes are conducted in ENGLISH

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes