SPRING 2002 MTWThF 3-5
GASSON 306 paul.doherty@bc.edu
617 552-3705

Together we will read four novels with some attention to details of language and rhetoric, and then some critical essays written about each of them. No single kind of criticism will be privileged; the reigning assumption will be pluralism. That is to say that each of the critical essays will be studied in regard to its particular intention. Literary interpretation is thus to be understood as a conversation of conflicting voices. To participate in this conversation requires listening to the several voices, discovering the assumptions behind each, and then drawing oneís own conclusions about the most significant and useful kinds of interpretation.

In order to become more confident critics we will try to answer certain questions about each critical essay that we read. Questions such as these: What assumptions have led to such divergent readings and values for the same text? What justification is claimed or implied for each of these assumptions? Why do these assumptions lead to consideration of certain parts of a text and not others? Larger questions. Is there an enduring type called "literature" or is it a cultural phenomenon? If it exists, can it be defined or described in any satisfactory way? Can a particular work of literature, a token of this type, be said to be good or bad, that is, to have aesthetic value? What is the purpose of criticism? These last questions are of the utmost importance, for they determine the motive, direction, and goal of any particular interpretation. As the semester moves along, and the same questions get raised over and over, you should become more com- fortable in understanding the assumptions that lie behind any interpretation. You should know better what to expect, and how to "place" an interpretation in relation to others.

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (Norton Critical Edition)
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin (Norton Critical Edition)
Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Bedford Case Studies)
Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (Bedford Case Studies)

(All of these books are in the McElroy bookstore. It is essential that you use--and bring to class--the assigned texts; the essays which follow each text are an important part of the course.)

There will be three written exercises on the novels and the assigned critical essays about them. Their due dates are indicated on the calendar on the reverse side of this sheet. Each student will also take part in a small-group presentation, during the last part of the course (The House of Mirth). The final examination will cover the four novels. The semester grade will be the better of these two averages: the three essays and the exam counting equally , or the essays counting 50% and the exam counting 50%. Stellar work in class can improve your grade.
Final Exam: Saturday, May 4: 12:30 (2nd day of exams)

January 14 x David Copperfield
January 21
January 28
February 4 Uncle Tom's Cabin
February 11
February 18 Huckleberry Finn
February 25
March 4 x x x
March 11 The House of Mirth
March 18
March 25 x
April 1 x
April 8
Aprtil 15 x
April 22
April 29 x x