Intro to Lit: Culture & Lit (Seeing the Unseen in Novels and Film)

Seeing the Unseen in Novels and Films

DESCRIPTION: This course will look at looking by focusing on how systems of representation (i.e., the novel and film) structure what we see, what we don’t see, and, ultimately, how we see.

The novel, a print literary genre, is a form of narrative that uniquely relies on point of view. Film, a visual genre, also relies on perspective (the camera lens or apparatus), but presents a very different concept of point of view, because of its seeming objectivity. While our culture maintains a firm belief in the objectivity of the real world (and in our own ability to see what’s there), other cultures recognize the reality of invisible worlds. For comparison, we will be focusing on West African “ways of seeing” in novels and popular film.

The works we will be examining all deal with—directly or indirectly—various aspects of seeing, looking, being seen, visualization, and the unseen. They do so by incorporating these as themes or narrative strategies, and/or by unconsciously omitting various other perspectives. We will also be looking at how the various conventions of these two genres develop those ideas and concerns. Finally, this course will direct your attention toward how to write effectively about literature and film.

Learning Objectives (Established by the UHM Department of English May 2013) Students will improve their ability to ask questions of and to read, analyze, and interpret complex literary texts, using relevant literary terminology critically and creatively. Students will augment their knowledge of how literature is organized by historical periods, genres, cultures, and cultural formations. Students will improve their ability to express ideas by organizing, developing and supporting a description, analysis, or argument in written formats, within the conventions of academic writing. Students will produce a significant amount of writing such that the course fulfills the requirements of its mandatory W Focus designation (i.e., 4000 words).

Course Requirements: attendance, response papers; quizzes; two formal literary essays; a mid-term; a final exam; participation in class discussions; presentations.

Major Texts (with the exception of Wide Sargasso Sea, all texts are available online)
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart