First-Year Studies in Literature


The intention of this course is to introduce the student to some of the critical approaches that can be made to a literary text—the questions that can be asked about language, style, structure, genre, historical background, archetypal pattern, and the connections that can be made among these approaches. The main emphasis of the course, however, will be on the relationship between literature and society. We will consider some of the ways in which imaginative works (and the ways they are interpreted) reflect problematic social realities and also present visions of alternative social possibility. The course will open with a study of a few Greek and Shakespearean plays, and much of the rest of the year will be given to readings in a group of 19th- and 20th-century novelists, poets, and dramatists in an attempt to see how different imaginative strategies deal with certain recurring themes and problems. Authors read will include Blake, Austen, Dickens, Dostoevski, Emily Brontë, Melville, Flaubert, James, T. S. Eliot, Kafka, Mann, Brecht, Pynchon, and Morrison.