Fall 2017

Engaging Literature:  Close Reading

Listed in: English, as ENGL-105


C. Rhonda Cobham-Sander (Section 01)
Francis M. Gachau (Section 01)
Karla Keyes (Section 01)


Why study literature?  In many contexts, including the contexts of most other academic disciplines, one reads in order to extract the gist of a text. By studying literature, we enable ourselves to do much more than that. Studying literature makes it possible to recover a relationship to language that we all once had, in which words and their interrelationships were new, strange, and rich with possibility. It makes it possible to develop a more acute awareness of the ongoing tension between language as units of meaning (words, phrases, sentences) and language as units of sound (the beat of syllables, the harmonization of one syllable with another). It even makes it possible for us to carry this sense of everything that is uncanny about language–the medium of our relationship to others and to ourselves–into our lives more generally, to recognize that in just about everything that we say, we mean more than we mean to mean. People who study literature are people who are capable of taking away from conversations, no less than from poems, much more than the gist, the summary, the bottom line. By dwelling on texts patiently, by slowing down the process of moving from mystery to certainty, by opening ourselves to the crosscurrents of potential meanings that are present at every moment in just about every sentence, it is possible for us to become more accurate and nuanced readers of just about everything that happens in our lives.

Open to first-year students. Admission with consent of the instructor.  Limited to 18 students.  Fall semester:  Professor Cobham-Sander.  Spring semester:  Professor Sanborn.

If Overenrolled: If over-enrolled, enrollment will be by permission of the instructor, on the basis of written account of need and desire for the class.


Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020