Introduction to the Advanced Study of Literature

L260 — Spring 2019

Richard Nash
Days and Times
9:30 - 10:45a TR
Course Description

Apologies upfront for oxymoronic title of this course; but the good news is that this course will help you develop your ability to deploy sophisticated terminology like “oxymoronic” appropriately, while simultaneously nurturing your capacity to appreciate the slyly ironic connotation that shadows that term’s denotative meaning.  All in grammatically correct sentences, like the one above (not this fragment—which Microsoft Word seems to think is okay).  In this class, you'll learn various approaches to studying a range of literary works including poetry, short fiction, novels, and drama. We will pay careful attention to the formal features of literary works and how meaning arises from their various deployments.  Arithmetic is a simple example of a rigorously formal logical axiomatic system: from a very few foundational axioms, one can generate a large number of propositions, and determine their truth or falsity.  Literary expression is vastly more complex and nuanced, capable of many more subtle and contradictory statements, but many of its important features are also open to formal classification: diction is one thing, metaphor another, theme something else.  We are not going to be interested in memorizing terms or labelling examples; instead we will be attending to how we develop both comfort and confidence in our ability to talk about what we find meaningful in formal ways that open the door to larger, more theoretically important claims about meaning and language.  If we do it right, it will be fun; and the tests and papers you write along the way will help you build skills that will pay off greatly in future courses.