ENGL 200D -- Quarter 2009

READING LIT FORMS (Strange Things) Hansen M-Th 11:30-12:20 13171

“Strange things I have in head, that will to hand; / Which must be acted ere they may be scann’d” (Macbeth III.iv)

“…you reason well, and your wit is bold; but you are too prejudiced. You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things that others cannot?” (Dracula)

“CLOV: There are so many terrible things.
HAMM: No, no, there are not so many now.” (Endgame)

English 200 is designed to offer techniques and practice in the reading and enjoyment of literature as a source of both pleasure and knowledge about human experience; our specific course readings will focus on representations of strange things in literature—bloody murder, goblins, vampires, labyrinthine houses—and how these presences (and their modes of literary representation, including but not limited to the course description’s suggestions of imagery, characterization, narration, and patterning in sound and sense) affect our understanding and appreciation of texts.
There are several things that are of particular interest in the study of the literature of strangeness. One is the fascinating alchemy, described by theorists from Aristotle to Edmund Burke and beyond, whereby that which is terrifying or distressing in reality becomes pleasurable or delightful through the various processes of representation. Literature that deals with unusual things also tends to be an intriguing indicator of the particular anxieties of its context of production, so that reading Dracula shows us that while vampires are scary, many other things, such as technology, foreigners, and female sexuality and intellect, are as well in late Victorian England. These tendencies in our subject of study allow for an ideal convergence of the ideas of literature as pleasurable, and as representative of human experience. Our course readings will span four hundred years of strangeness, beginning with Macbeth and its climate of incessant unease, moving from there to the Romantic writers, for whom to be “unusual” was an aesthetic ideal, and eventually to the Victorians, who were as strange as the romantics longed to be. The course will close in the bleak landscape of modernity with Beckett, and the spiraling void of the postmodern House of Leaves. By covering this generically and temporally expansive range of works, we’ll trace the legacy of the strange into our own time, and give attention to the question of the specific ways literature works to offer pleasurable insight into (sometimes unnerving) human experience.
This course meets the university “W” requirement, which means that students must produce 10-15 pages of graded, out-of-class writing, which must be significantly revised. (For more specific W-course criteria, please see http://www.washington.edu/uaa/gateway/advising/degreeplanning/writreqs.php). Besides these papers (multiple shorter papers of 5-7 pages or fewer), course work may include discussion leading, electronic postings, reading quizzes and exams, response papers, research work, presentations, etc.

Course Readings:
Course pack, with both primary and secondary readings (including works by Shakespeare, Coleridge, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Freud, Christina Rossetti, Robert Browning, and others.)
Dracula, Bram Stoker - 978-0-141-43984-6
Endgame, Samuel Beckett. 0802150241
House of Leaves, 978-0375703768

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