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current students > seminars > fall 2011 schedule > seminar: Inquiry, Discovery, and Literature


Honors Seminars Fall 2011

Inquiry, Discovery, and Literature

HON 202 Sec:007  
3 hours  
GER Cat:
Humanities: Literature  
Winston Hall 00020  
Dr. Jennifer A. Nolan-Stinson
Teaching Assistant Professor

This course will explore the multifaceted relationships between literature and society through examining the intersections between several key works of twentieth-century American literature and the historical and social contexts that surround their production and reception. Our investigations will include considerations both of how literature reflects and critiques social issues of its time, and how the reception, interpretation, and meaning ascribed to individual works shifts throughout the course of the twentieth century. Among topics that will be considered are the following:

(a) F. Scott Fitzgerald's conflicted relationship with the Roaring Twenties and how his work has come both to represent and to transcend this era;

(b) the translation and transformation of the social critiques and literary techniques contained in Ray Bradbury's "Marionettes, Inc." and Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest from the page to the screen; and

(c) thematic emphases such as constructions of class, race, and gender, uneasiness with an increasingly technological society, and disillusionment with one's society or sectors of it (such as the mental health system) evident within works by the authors above, as well by T.S. Eliot, Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Joyce Carol Oates.

In order to understand how society frames and influences the interpretation of literature, we will also explore a variety of scholarly and popular interpretations of and responses to literature, including contemporary reviews in the popular press and scholarly articles. We'll also go against the old adage "don't judge a book by its cover" by investigating how different versions of these works call for different interpretations. Through combining literary, historical, and cultural approaches, students will gain a nuanced understanding of the complex relationships between twentieth-century American literature and society.