ENGL 301 (Schedule #25049)
Virginia Commonwealth University
Spring 2011
MW 4-5:15pm :: LFSCB 154
Prof. David Golumbia
Office: 324D Hibbs Hall
Spring 2011 Office Hours: m 2-3:30pm & 5:30-6pm; w 5:30-6:30pm

English Studies: Reading Literature:
Reading Today

Why read at all? Why speak? Why write? These questions come to us at all levels in the study of literature. In this class we will read and/or listen to a variety of fiction and poetry texts that ponder just these questions while placing them within larger social contexts. What is literature for? What does it mean to be "literate" or not? In this class we'll read, watch and listen to a number of stories, both true and not true, in which the relationship between stories, reading, and storytelling and the "rest of life" is made explicit. Some, including stories from Jorge Luis Borges, are puzzles about reading, but for the most part we will focus on good and/or meaningful stories in which these other issues happen to emerge around the edges. We will also listen to a variety of contemporary versions of "oral storytelling" from radio programs in which stories are told rather than read; and we will not only read written poetry on the page, but also listen to and watch poetry performed in live in an environment where improvisation is allowed or even encouraged. The class is taught primarily via discussion; students will write three short papers and do some in-class work as part of their participation grade, and we will also spend some time workshopping each other's papers on a volunteer basis.

Books: Fiction and Poetry (available at bookstore, but you are welcome to acquire used copies of any edition of these books)

  1. Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (novel, 2007)
  2. R. Zamora Linmark, Rolling the R's (experimental prose, 1997)
  3. Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths (short stories, 1940s)
  4. MT Anderson, Feed (novel, 2004)
  5. Frank Miller with Lynn Varley, Ronin (graphic novel, 1995)
  6. Haryette Mullen, Sleeping With the Dictionary (poetry, 2001)
  7. Edwidge Danticat, Krik? Krak! (short stories, 1996)
  8. George Ella Lyon, With a Hammer for My Heart (novel, 1997)
  9. Juliana Spahr, Well Then There Now (poetry/experimental prose, 2011)

Books: Non-Fiction

  1. Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain (Harper, 2008)

Audio (available online/in Blackboard)

  1. The Moth
  2. Storycorps
  3. Verbs on Asphalt: The History of Nuyorican Poetry Slam

Assignments and Evaluation

Evaluation will be based on written exercises and course participation as follows:

Honor System

Reasonable Accommodations

What to Know and Do to be Prepared for Emergencies at VCU

  1. Sign up to receive VCU text messaging alerts (www.vcu.edu/alert/notify). Keep your information up to date.
  2. Know the safe evacuation route from each of your classrooms. Emergency evacuation routes are posted in on-campus classrooms.
  3. Listen for and follow instructions from VCU or other designated authorities.
  4. Know where to go for additional emergency information (www.vcu.edu/alert).
  5. Know the emergency phone number fort the VCU police (827-1234). Report suspicious activities and objects"


Week-by-Week Syllabus

Week One. Introduction

Week Two. Short texts

Week Three. Stories from Labyrinths

Week Four. Rolling the Rs

Week Five. Stories from The Moth (all on Blackboard)

Week Six. Sleeping With the Dictionary

Week Seven. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Week Eight. Ronin

Spring Break

Week Nine. Feed

Week Ten. Krik? Krak!

Week Eleven. Well Then There Now

Week Twelve. Nuyorican Poets

Week Thirteen. Storycorps

Week Fourteen. Proust and the Squid

Week Fifteen. With a Hammer for My Heart

Final paper due in my English Dept mailbox (Hibbs Hall), or in Blackboard or via email, by 5:15pm, Thursday, May 12, 2011, per the registrar's exam schedule. There is no other final exam for the course.

Last updated February 7, 2011.