Fall 2013

engl 10133: introduction to literature

“Literature as Equipment for Living”: Contemporary American Lit

Description from course syllabus:

Using the words of a rhetorical theorist as the overarching theme for a literature course might seem strange at first, but a look at Kenneth Burke’s lengthy career as a critic reveals an unceasing interest in the ways that our beliefs and behaviors are shaped by the ways that we think, speak, and write about them—in other words, how the language we use to describe the world around us changes the way we understand that world. In referring to literature as “equipment for living,” then, Burke wanted to suggest that the way an author presents a scene or a character to us implies a certain way of responding to that scene or character—and that, if we looked hard enough at a wide enough sample of novels, plays, poems, and short fiction, we might be able to surmise how people generally felt about the kinds of characters and situations those texts deal with.

Throughout this semester, we’ll be focusing on American literature published over the last three-plus years (2010-13) to see what it can tell us about how people living in the 2010s view the modern, postmillennial world. The strategies we explore and the (tentative) conclusions we draw from the course’s seven texts will, of course, not apply to everyone in every situation, but they should be able to give us at least a general idea of how authors in the 20th and 21st centuries attempt to “size things up” (Burke 298) in the texts they produce.

TCU Core Requirements: LT, HUM

Course Booklist

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