ENGL601 - Literary Research and Critical Contexts
0101 - Tita Chico

"Literary Research and Critical Contexts,” is one of two gateway courses for the graduate program(the other is ENGL 602), and it serves as an introduction to the skills, concepts, and tools used in advanced literary research. This course takes as its basic premise that theory is inextricable from practice, that the reading of literature is always the reading of literature in a certain manner. ENGL 601 is structured by a series of questions: 1) How do we identify and locate materials necessary for our research? 2) What is the nature of the text we are reading when we perform a “close reading”? What do we know about the object in our hands (or on the screen) when we read a particular edition of a literary work? For example, what are the differences between an early edition of a Shakespeare play and a modern one? For that matter, what is an edition? How do texts and works travel through time and space? How do their material conditions affect their reception? Why are these matters important? Who decides? 3) What kinds of knowledge are produced by literary research and how are they valued and used? 4) What are the ethics of literary research? Why does this work matter? Why should it matter? How does literary research engage with other forms of knowledge? 5) How do changing methods of access and delivery, especially electronic formats, affect reading and research?

Our work together throughout the course will train students to develop answers to these questions as a way of sharpening and deepening their critical reading and writing skills. Our readings will be wide-ranging, including theory, criticism, and history, and will attend to debates about texts and textuality, authorship, readership, archives, and so forth. The course will include meetings with reference librarians specializing in English studies. With guidance from the professor, students will select a literary work that will be the focus of research for at least part of the semester.  Requirements will likely include regular class participation, in-class presentations, two or three short assignments, and a final, longer paper growing out of the semester’s reading and research.