Tag Archives: 501

Conrad's Heart of Darkness


After four long weeks, we’re finally through with Conrad in EN/HU501! We spent quite a bit of time with the piece, using it as a tool to more fully explore the nature of literary analysis, close reading, generating good essay topics, brainstorming, and so on. One thing I’ve done differently in this iteration of the course is spending more time discussing how students read and take notes–literally–and I think it will prove helpful when we move on to the next portion of the class.

The first essay is in, and my students worked extraordinarily hard on their drafts–revising, revising again, meeting with me, commenting on peers’ work, revising, editing. In general, I’ve got a wide array of approaches and skills, which makes the class invigorating–but it can also be difficult to determine exactly where to pitch; the best meetings are the ones where I don’t have to lecture, but can let the discussion happen under supervision, a process that naturally bridges the spaces between skill levels and familiarity with the discipline.  What I find wonderful about this group is their ease with one another, their energy and committment to discussing their work and giving feedback. At the beginning of the term, we had some meetings that somehow became dominated by my voice, but after workshopping the first essay, I think we’ll really be able to explore the joys of the seminar environment. And, of course, the delicious food is an unadulterated plus.

On to Pope!

Building Textual Interpretation

Our first 501 course meets this evening, and I’m eager to get a sense of my student’s experience with literature, literary history, literary research, and literary analysis. I’ve asked everyone to read an essay from Falling into Theory on the history of the discipline, as well as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and a few other bits and bobs, including a fascinating and frightening documentary on the Belgian Congo.

We should have quite a bit to discuss, and I don’t want to over schedule the class, so I think we’ll start off by considering the history of the discipline–that should make for a good self-reflexive conversation about the class and its goals. I think a good segue from that into literary analysis will be the introduction to Conrad’s novella–it goes into some depth regarding the “Conrad Controversy,” voices of which we’ll be engaging later.

After the break, I want to model some of the technologies of analysis, like ManyEyes (perhaps also introduce them to a few other tools we’ll be learning over the term–Zotero, Omeka, and more), as a springboard for a discussion of the text and methods of approaching it. We will have to go over the literary terms assignment for next class, so I’ll model my illustration of irony.  And of course: signing up for food/drink!

Finally, homework for next class, The Craft of Research, and things to look forward to in the next 14 weeks!