L: Reading Samuel Beckett
Required of students in Writing and Literature. Ways of Reading focuses on a particular canonical author or text(s), utlizing various critical perspectives and secondary sources to support a deeper understanding of the work. The course further develops and reinforces practical skills in close reading, historical contextualization, applied critical theory, and the use of discipline-specific research tools and resources, encouraging conscious reflection on critical presuppositions and practices. This course prepares students to emter the Critical Essay Workshop.
In this class, we'll undertake an intensive reading of one of the great American writers of the latter half of the twentieth century: Kurt Vonnegut. Our readings will span Vonnegut's career, both in terms of his fiction and nonfiction, and we'll also spend time constructing the historical and social developments to which Vonnegut's writings respond. How do some of the major developments of the twentieth century - from the mass insanity of World War II to an unending and unstoppable stream of commodities and celebrity - come into play in Vonnegut's work? How do strategies such as satire, science fiction and fragmented narration attempt to address these cultural developments? And where is that mean little creature, the human being, in all of this? What role does he or she play? Or perhaps the human being has done quite enough - from producing various forms of its own destruction to optimizing itself right out of meaningfulness and usefulness? Aside from primary Vonnegut texts, we'll undertake critical and theoretical readings that justify and/or elucidate postmodern responses to the world. And, as Vonnegut is a writer who relies, in part, on visual representations within his work, we'll spend time with these elements as well, both in terms of iconography within his texts and in terms of filmic responses to Vonnegut and the world he inhabits. When faced with a monstrous world, what is left for the writer or artist to do but to carry on in spite of it? So it goes.