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University Honors Program

ENGL 210-Honors English

Close Encounters of the Literary Kind
The literary critic Edward Said defines education in the Humanities as “a sustained encounter with the actualities of reading and interpretation.” This course asks students to question what it means to be a reader encountering a text. What kind of expectations do we carry? How do texts reinforce or subvert these expectations? And, paraphrasing the Renaissance poet, Ben Jonson, how do we “read [texts] well: that is, to understand”?

In this course, we will focus on literary classics continually referenced by popular culture, from Jack Black’s 2010 cinematic romp through Gulliver’s Travels, to Homer Simpson’s misquotation of a line from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (“Water, water everywhere, now let’s have a drink”), to the countless adaptations of Frankenstein in film, TV, and theater. How are our encounters with texts shaped, for better or worse, by the cultural consciousness? What is it about these texts that make them popular and relevant? How do allusions to other works operate meaningfully within the texts we encounter? In addition, we will consider how these texts portray encounters in the more traditional sense. These works not only chronicle travel to foreign lands and contact with the “other,” but also attempt to destabilize the familiar, blurring the boundaries between the natural and supernatural, ancient and modern, moral and immoral, society and self, and calling into question what it means to be human. Students will be expected to submit three essays and several short writing assignments, as well as keep a blog on reading and writing practices.