ENGLISH 124 is a writing-intensive course focused on the development of college-level academic writing skills through reading and analyzing literature.
The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) at Michigan has chosen as its central theme for the Fall 2010 academic term the question “What makes life worth living?
” In Fall 2010, LSA “invites the campus and community to consider this question, which has been central to philosophical, religious, and political thought for millennia.” (For more on the Fall 2010 Theme Semester, go here.)
As scholars of literature and the humanities, we will use the theme academic term question as our guiding question for this course. We will examine how the question "What makes life worth living? " has been taken up and considered in literature, through a wide variety of works which engage the moral and spiritual inquiry that is at the heart of the question.
An eclectic group of authors will be our guides, including Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, Jack London, Leo Tolstoy, Flannery O’Connor, Norman Mailer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Wendell Berry, and P.D. James. We’ll also critically examine the question itself and the topics it brings to our discussion and to our writing.
Our approaches to this material will involve the following three frames:
Literary Genres our readings will be drawn from the traditional literary genres of short stories, novels, poems, and plays, and we will discuss the role of genres in our understanding of what literature is. We’ll also explore writings on the border of what is defined as “literature,” including contemporary writings of “literary nonfiction,” folk-based literature such as myths and fairy tales, the Wisdom literature of the Bible, and a couple of films as well.
Style and Stylistics — As part of our analysis of literature, and of our own writing, we’ll examine how the specific language choices made by authors contribute to the effects of their work. We’ll take a fine-grained, linguistic approach to the texts, looking closely at things such as grammar, syntax, diction, and punctuation, and we’ll turn that same analytical eye to our own writing to explore how we can learn to write with power, clarity, and grace.
Rhetoric and Writing — We’ll also approach both the literature that we read and our own writing through the lens of Rhetoric — the classical art of crafting our writing and choosing the most appropriate ways to express ideas for a given audience. We’ll do some short readings from historical and contemporary rhetorical theory, and work on rhetorical awareness in our writing.
This will be a writing-intensive, discussion-heavy, serious study of literature and writing, perhaps best suited to students who want to learn more about ways to approach literature, and who want to learn the specific genre of writing about literature.
However, anyone who loves books, who enjoys writing, or who appreciates a good challenge, will find a place here.