Fall 2022

The Value of Literature

Listed in: English, as ENGL-453


Geoffrey D. Sanborn (Section 01)


Why, Rita Felski asks, are people “willing to drive five hundred miles to hear a band playing a certain song, or spend years in graduate school puzzling over a single novel?” Concepts like “cultural capital,” “the hegemonic media industry,” or “interpretive communities” do not fully explain “why it is this particular tune that plays over and over in our heads, why it is Virginia Woolf alone who becomes an object of obsession.” Something else has to be involved, a “rogue something,” in the words of Toni Morrison’s narrator in Jazz, that you “have to figure in before you can figure it out.” In this seminar, students will first explore the phenomenon of aesthetic valuation, then turn to a consideration of when, why, and for whom literary experiences are valuable, and finally embark on independent research projects in which each of them studies a single author in depth and experiments with ways of articulating (in a class presentation and in a final essay) the kinds of value that that author may be said to have.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

How to handle overenrollment: Consent required. Priority will be given to the students who offer the most compelling written rationales for admission.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: emphasis on written work, readings.

ENGL 453 - LEC

Section 01
W 2:00 PM - 3:20 PM CHAP 103
F 2:00 PM - 3:20 PM CHAP 103


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022