English Composition in Connection with the Reading of Literature

Spring 2024
Class No: 31047
Rachel Pearl O'Shea
11:00 AM - 11:59 AM

This course is designed to fulfill the second half of the Reading and Composition requirement. The primary goal of this course is to develop students' reading and writing skills through a series of assignments that will provide them with the opportunity to formulate observations made in class discussions into coherent argumentative essays.  Emphasis will be placed on the refinement of effective sentence, paragraph, and thesis formation, keeping in mind the notion of writing as a process. Other goals in this course are a familiarization with French literature and the specific questions that are relevant to this field. In addition, students will be introduced to different methods of literary and linguistic analysis in their nonliterary readings.

It can be painful to leave home. And it can be painful to struggle with articulating one's feelings and experiences – whether one is emigrating for life or moving for a short period of time. In this course we will read texts across a number of genres – autobiographical texts, novels, essays – in which communicative difficulties arise in the context of displacement and emigration. Among the texts we will consider are Exile: According to Julia by Gisèle Pineau, Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye, Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov, and Childhood by Nathalie Sarraute. We will be asking questions such as: what happens during these breakdowns in interpersonal communication, in which people are often speaking past each other and missing each other? How is language figured by these authors as doing something, rather than simply meaning something? Does this experience of language change with age? Does it change depending on the specific language, or is it a universal experience? The questions we will pose about the functions, capacities, and limits of language will enable students to think critically about their own linguistic practices, particularly in the context of improving their close reading and analytical skills. This French R1B course counts towards the second half of the university's Reading and Composition requirement. Knowledge of French is not required. We will be reading texts in translation.


Book order list:

Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (2000, Penguin Modern Classics)

Gisèle Pineau, Exile: According to Julia. Translated by Betty Wilson with an afterword by Marie-Agnès Sourieau (2003)

Nathalie Sarraute, Childhood. Translated by Barbara Wright, with a foreword by Alice Kaplan (2013)