Spring 2021 Undergraduate English Courses

090:296:H1 Reading in Slow Motion

01  07588   MILLER, R.  MW 1:10-2:30 PM

Will Count Towards SAS - English Major and Minor

In this course, we will focus our attention on one novel: William Faulkner’s Absolom, Absolom!

Why one book? We learn how to read critically not by reading, but by re-reading. And yet, you could scan university syllabi the world over and you would find few, if any, courses where students are given the time necessary to reread a text that has already been covered. In this seminar, we will be learning about how we read by moving slowly through a text that is rich, challenging, and unsettling.

Why this book? We are living at a moment when the country’s roots in slavery and racism have become central to the country’s politics. Faulkner spent much of his writing life spinning tales about fictional characters who lived in a fictional county in Mississippi. The characters in Absolom, Absolom! are, at most, two generations removed from the Civil War, the fall of the South, and Reconstruction. As we read the novel 85 years after it was published, we will find ourselves contending with Faulkner’s assertion (in another novel) that “[t]he Past isn’t dead. It isn’t even over.”

What else will we read? We will build the rest of the reading list together as we move through Faulkner's text, following his lead. (Depending on where our discussions take us, we may well read works by two novelists who have publicly stated their indebtedness to Faulkner’s work: Toni Morrison and Jesmyn Ward.)

What will you do besides read? This is a course in essayistic thinking. As such, it is a course designed to cultivate curiosity and original, research-based writing. There will be regular, in-class responses to the day’s reading; there will be brief formal submissions along the way, as we make our way through Faulkner’s novel; and there will be a final, research-based paper that explores a question that you have chosen.

Who should take this course? Anyone who wants to be a better reader. Anyone who wants to learn how to write creatively about the real world. Anyone who wants to acquire the habits of the creative mind. STEM students, students in the social sciences, and students in the humanities all will find much of interest in Faulkner’s work.

Please note: admission to this course is by permission only. Interested students (whether honors students or not) should fill out the application form, which may be found here. Applications will be read in the order received. Admitted students will receive a special permission number.