Week 1Materials and Procedures
- Look through the whole textbook to find out how it is laid out. Those who have already done English Literature should find it at least relatively familiar. Come to class with any questions you have about the materials, methods, or procedures for the course. We will begin by discussing some general principles of literary reading and discussion.
- Begin reading The Scarlet Letter. Please recall that, though it is set in Puritan times, it is emphatically not a product of those times. I am beginning with it because it is relevant to the period, and because it is one of the greatest products of American literature.
In general, as you read, cover everything you come across. Consider and prepare the questions in the "Think and Discuss" sections. Some of these are quite good, and will form the backbone of our in-class discussions. You should look over the composition topics as well -- but it is unlikely that we will use many of these. In particular, when the discussion section refers you to the "Handbook of Literary Terms" in the back, look it up. These are focused, clear definitions of a variety of terms that I will expect you to know and to be able to use. I will also expect you to be familiar with any of the sidebars that come along the way, though I am not going to list each one of these in the assignments that follow. All these will add considerably to your enjoyment of the work, and will help provide a context for the rest of the material.
I should also mention here the place of the readings that are not in your textbooks. These will be assigned on the weekly assignment pages alongside the main matter, and I will expect you to cover them in a reasonable time. I am not setting a breakneck pace. These readings are not as extensive as they might be -- a fact that will doubtless disappoint some (though you should feel quite free to branch out on your own) -- but I will expect you to complete them carefully and thoroughly. We will be going through several novels and plays this way, and we will be taking the time out to discuss them. I would ask you to pay attention as you read -- not merely to the flow of the story, but to how the themes and ideas shape up in respect to those themes and ideas you have already (probably) encountered in English Literature and/or Western Literature to Dante. The great writers of America are, no less than any other, writing from a tradition, and you will understand them far better if you see how they fit into context.
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