Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG499Y1Y L0101

ENG499Y1Y L0101 M3-5
Advanced Studies Group 5: Belles-lettres
Instructor: Prof. M. Cobb
Office Address: University College, Room 243

Brief Description of Course: The category of Belles-Lettres is vague and changing. Once it described literature in general. Now it often only includes fine essay writing, memoir, or any other forms of writing that aren't as easily classifiable as poetry, prose, or drama but are still elegant, full of literary qualities. This advanced research seminar, however, will fixate less on what counts as Belles Lettres or not (it is not a historical accounting of the category) and more on the beauty, style, fineness, elegance, or anything else that distinguishes writing as "belles." The seminar will be interested in how beautiful writing impacts the presentation of ideas, stories, feelings, and so forth. It will make an argument for how "the beautiful" is essential, and how research projects in literature departments can benefit from adopting some of the literariness, the "belles-ness," of the objects those departments study.

Required Reading: Nabokov, Lolita; Susan Sontag, Under the Sign of Saturn; Joan Didion, Slouching Toward Bethlehem and The Year of Magical Thinking; Lydia Davis' translation of Marcel Proust's Swann's Way; Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha; James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time; Anne Carson, Eros the Bittersweet; Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse: Fragments; Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern; among others.

First Three Authors/Texts: Sontag; Didion (Slouching); Proust.

Method of Evaluation: Participation (20 %); short essay (25%); seminar presentation (15%); final research paper (40%).

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