Background: After an introduction to literature, poetry, and the evolving genre of romance, we began following the development of mystery from the folktale “Three Princes of Seredip” and Voltaire’s Zadig, or the Book of Fate through Edgar Allan Poe’s crystallization of the detective story in his tales of rationcination, exemplified by “The Purloined Letter.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle further developed and popularized detective fiction in his Sherlock Holmes stories, such as “A Scandal in Bohemia.” We saw the gentleman detective turn into tough, morally complex character in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, then lost ourselves in the many twists of Ira Levin’s play Deathtrap. Throughout this unit, we have explored the connection between detective work and close reading, namely looking for clues and constructing meaning from those clues. Now it’s your turn to practice a bit of detective work on the mystery of your choice.
Goal: To interpret a mystery using techniques of close reading, exploring social issues of morality, class, gender, sexuality, and so on.
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Background: After an introduction to writing, literature and poetry, we turned to the genre of romance, whose definition has morphed from chivalric romance (such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) through Gothic romance (as in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte) to modern romance (as represented by the short stories we have read). In “The History of Genre,” Ralph Cohen explains that genres are open categories, which change over time as new texts are added to the set. Genre set up expectations, which individual texts may satisfy or alter. Knowing the conventions of a genre aids readers in understanding and interpreting the work.
Goal: The purpose of the paper is to explore the relationships between individual works of literature and the changing genre of romance.
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Steer your students away from the question “What does The Waste Land mean?”, a question that still baffles literary critics. Instead, get them to ask “What does The Waste Land express?” Rather than getting them to interpret the poem; have them experience it. A four day course of 90 minute classes, for high school and undergraduates, based on a theoretical framework laid out in my essay “What The Waste Land Expresses: An Experiential Approach to T. S. Eliot’s Poem.”
Forests have fallen to explain The Waste Land. And yet, many readers express frustration, which never fully goes away, no matter how many papers and books they read. Once someone begins to read the poem, it is difficult to know where to stop: the preface, the note on the text, the poem itself, the author’s footnotes, the editor’s footnotes, the sources alluded to, the literary criticism, the guides, the biographies, the bibliographies, the early drafts? There is no back cover to this book. One could go on reading The Waste Land until the Holy Grail was found.
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