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Archived Versions


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The required texts for the class are listed here, and a series of questions based on the readings are outlined in the table below.

Required Texts

Amazon logo Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. New York, NY: Washington Square, 2004. ISBN: 9780743482776.

Amazon logo Melville, Herman. Tales, Poems, and Other Writings. Edited by John Bryant. New York, NY: Modern Library, 2002. ISBN: 9780375757129.

Amazon logo James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw. New York, NY: Penguin, 1998. ISBN: 9780140620610.

Amazon logo Frayn, Michael. Copenhagen. New York, NY: Anchor, 2000. ISBN: 9780385720793.

Amazon logo Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies. Boston, MA: Mariner, 1999. ISBN: 9780395927205.

Schedule of Reading and Writing

SES # TOPICS reading questions
1 Introduction  
What Should I Do in Illyria? Shakespeare and the Comedy of Being Out of Your Mind
2 Twelfth Night Read the whole play and be prepared to talk about Viola's situation in Acts I and II, as she sorts out her relationships with Olivia and Orsino. Pay particular attention to the way Shakespeare sets up those opening scenes to give Viola an advantage.
3 Twelfth Night (cont.) Reread the play and be thinking about the roles of secondary actors: Sir Toby Belch, Malvolio, the Fool, Sebastian and Antonio in Acts III and IV. Note the violence and cruelty in these subplots and the ways they complicate the romantic love stories.
4 Twelfth Night (cont.) Be prepared to discuss language in the longer speeches in Act V. We'll talk about techniques for close reading.
5 Shakespeare on Film View the 1996 Twelfth Night (directed by Trevor Nunn, starring Imogen Stubbs and Helena Bonham Carter: copies available in the Film Office). Scene analysis in class.
6 Discuss First Essay Be prepared to talk about your essay in class and to conclude our discussion of the play.
Inside Narratives: Getting to Know Herman Melville
7 Bartleby, the Scrivener All Melville readings in Bryant: Don't even try to understand or explain the main character. Do think about how the narrator wrestles with the problem of Bartleby's poverty and isolation. Does Melville make his arguments and conclusions seem valid?
8 Benito Cereno Read the whole story (be patient with the slow rhythms and imagine that you are at sea with not much to do). Pay attention to Melville's narrator and the ways (as in "Bartleby") he manipulates what information you have about the characters.
9 Benito Cereno (cont.) We'll continue talking about characters but also about the plot structure and language and details of "Benito Cereno." What do you notice on a second reading? Think about Melville's use of documents and history. What is the effect of the ending? What would Babo's story be?
10 Melville's Poems We'll read a selection in Bryant (see handout). Do these seem "hard" to you? See if you can identify what makes them hard, and we'll talk about difficulty.
11 Writing Workshop  
12 Billy Budd Read the whole narrative and outline the plot structure. What parts of the story get the most space in the text, which the least?
13 Billy Budd (cont.) We'll talk about character and questions about masculinity and identity during a time of war. Reread Melville's descriptions of Billy, Claggart, and Vere.
14 Billy Budd (cont.) Reread the courtroom scene, paying particular attention to the way Melville handles Vere's arguments. How do politics, ethics, and religion enter into his rhetoric?
15 Billy Budd (cont.) Think about the final ballad, "Billy in the Darbies," and Melville's reflections throughout the story on poetry and prose, writing and action, fiction and fact, and truth and lies.
16 Writing Workshop  
What Are We Really Scared of Here? Henry James's Ghost Story
17 The Turn of the Screw Read the whole story but pay particular attention to the opening(s). How does James get his story started? Do you trust the narrator(s)? We'll talk about the way the narrator positions the text and moves the story forward.
18 The Turn of the Screw (cont.) Let's figure out what makes Peter Quint and Miss Jessel so horrible. Then we can tackle what makes Miles and Flora so disturbing. And the governess? How does she appear at the end, in relation to the way she appeared at the beginning?
Uncertainty in Michael Frayn's Copenhagen
19 Copenhagen What historical context do you need to appreciate this play? Read the play with particular attention to the historical events, and look up the details that are unfamiliar to you.
20 Copenhagen (cont.) How does Frayn explain the science of his play and use it to advance ideas about war, friendship, and knowledge? We'll discuss the concept of uncertainty and its relationship to the kinds of literary ambiguity and difficulty we've encountered elsewhere in the class.
Interpreters All: Reading Lahiri
21 Interpreter of Maladies "A Temporary Matter," "When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine," "Interpreter of Maladies," "A Real Durwan," "Sexy." We'll focus on Lahiri's idea of interpretation and its challenges and consequences for her characters.
22 Interpreter of Maladies (cont.) "Mrs. Sen's," "This Blessed House," "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar," "The Third and Final Continent." Notice the way Lahiri departs from strict realism in her last stories, suggesting something more like a fable. What do you make of the altered perspective in the later part of the collection?
23 Interpreter of Maladies (cont.) Discuss Interpreter of Maladies as a collection. Does it seem to have a design?
Speaking of Collections: Melville's The Piazza Tales
24 The Piazza

Bartleby, the Scrivener

Benito Cereno

The Lightning-Rod Man
The stories you read earlier in the course come from a collection, like Lahiri's, called The Piazza Tales. What do the other stories tell us about Melville's intentions for his tales?
25 The Encantadas

The Bell-Tower
We'll continue our discussion of tales as parts of a story collection.
26 Conclusion