Spring 2020

From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Literature of Everyday

Listed in: English, as ENGL-119


Anna J. Abramson (Section 01)


This is a class all about the art of noticing. Our primary texts fixate on what Amit Chaudhuri calls “the moment of noticing”: heightened attention to the small, the ordinary, the routine. Many readings will be “day-in-the-life” novels set over a 24-hour period; others dwell on single moments, fleeting impressions, or routine rhythms of daily life. And just as our primary authors practice the art of noticing, so will we adopt a similar stance of scrutiny and attention to detail in this course.

We will also discuss questions such as: How does the ordinary become extraordinary? How does the seemingly mundane or quotidian become infused with meaning? How does art make the familiar newly strange or fascinating? What happens to narrative conventions of plot and the event when writers are more interested in capturing the textures, rhythms, and background environments of everyday life? How does one narrate history in the making, as it unfolds in everyday life? How are major historical events and political structures felt over the course of a typical day? What happens when the ordinary and extraordinary change places?

We will look at short stories, novels, photography, and memoir. Possible authors include Mulk Raj Anand, Amit Chaudhuri, Teju Cole, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Henry James, Ian McEwan, Kathleen Stewart, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Abramson.

If Overenrolled: Preference will be given to first year students and English majors who still need to complete their 100-level requirement.


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Writing


2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020