Learn to read fiction like an English professor! This course provides an introduction to the study of narrative, and, while geared to potential English majors, it is suitable for any student interested in learning how fiction works. We start with the premise that novels and short stories are modes of thought with which writers and readers have engaged with the world for centuries. Works of fiction tell stories that are continuously being rewritten; as readers, and especially as literary critics, we are continuously engaged in the project of that rewriting, finding new ways to relate fiction to our lives, connect with it, and make it meaningful to ourselves and others. Students will come away from this course with a solid understanding of a few key ideas about how narrative works and a vocabulary for describing it with technical precision. The course will help you develop a sense for the historical range of interpretative strategies critics have brought to the study of fiction, as well as for the open-endedness of narrative interpretation. Lectures and discussion will thus attend not only to close readings of selected works of fiction, but also to some big questions about what literature is and what we do when we read and write about it.
The course is part of the Rutgers SAS Core (for AHp, “analyze arts and/or literatures in themselves and in relation to specific histories, values, languages, cultures, and technologies” and WCD, “communicate effectively in modes appropriate to a discipline or area of inquiry”). By the end of the course, students will also have developed grounding in research resources available to students in the humanities and the conventions of the literary essay.