Reading and Writing about Texts | Eng 201 | George Mason University

Course Description:

This course will help you practice and develop skills in close and attentive reading and writing using textual analysis of primary texts (there is no research component for this course). We will consider both content (what happens, who is involved, what issues are at stake, etc.), as well as how the text does what it does (how the author delivers the content, how we interpret authorial choices, etc.). In order to focus and facilitate our learning, this version of English 201 will be focused around texts in various genres where the author him or herself is a central character. What happens when an author is represented as a character in a text, or moreover, when they write themselves into their own work? How is the self, the “I,” like, or unlike, the first-person narrators in fictionalized stories or poems? Is what we experience any less “truthful,” or just “truthful” in a different sense?

Sample Readings:

  • Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
  • Marjane Satrapi, The Complete Persepolis
  • The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession, Susan Orlean
  • Adaptation (film), Screenplay by Charlie and Donald Kaufman, Dir. by Spike Jones

Sample Project Prompt Excerpt:

As we’ve seen, Persepolis is a mixed media, mixed genre work. It is both memoir and graphic novel. It incorporates textual and visual rhetoric to propel the story forward and deliver an aesthetic representation of Marjane Satrapi’s life. How is visual representation difference than the other forms of representation we’ve witnessed so far? How do the illustrations affect our understanding of “character” and how do we “read” Satrapi’s life?

In order to investigate and expand upon your knowledge of self and character you will create a visual and text-based interpretation of a significant moment (or scene) from your own life. The focus of your project should be a moment in your life where a change happened and a moment you feel a reader might benefit from experiencing. You may use whatever materials you like to represent your story (magazines, photographs, drawings, other materials), though employ your visualization in the spirit of the genre of the graphic novel or comic and include a mix of both text and image.

Include with your scene a one-page rationale with an analysis of the choices you made as an author of this project, your choices for representing yourself in the mode and materials you employed. Is the representation “factual?” What liberties did you take with the narrative and why? What do you hope this project will reveal to your reader? Include evidence from texts you have read thus far to support your decisions.




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