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ENGLISH 5D: WISE: Bad Reading: Pleasure and Politics in Literary Value

As students of literature, we aspire to be good readers of the texts we encounter. But to see ourselves as good readers is implicitly(perhaps even complicitly)to set ourselves against another form of literary consumption: bad reading, and, by association, bad readers. Yet what makes reading "bad" or "good"? And who decides? The more we look, the less self-evident or definitive the distinction becomes,our footing precipitously dropping away into questions about our own reading practices and how society values them. The precarious label "bad reading" comes into even sharper relief when we consider that the term has long been associated not just with certain modes of reading, but also with certain classes of readers and certain kinds of books, from gory gothic thrillers and racy romances to sci-fi and comics. In this course, we will trace the definitions and stakes of bad reading from the nineteenth century to the present day, through sources ranging from Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf to more »
As students of literature, we aspire to be good readers of the texts we encounter. But to see ourselves as good readers is implicitly(perhaps even complicitly)to set ourselves against another form of literary consumption: bad reading, and, by association, bad readers. Yet what makes reading "bad" or "good"? And who decides? The more we look, the less self-evident or definitive the distinction becomes,our footing precipitously dropping away into questions about our own reading practices and how society values them. The precarious label "bad reading" comes into even sharper relief when we consider that the term has long been associated not just with certain modes of reading, but also with certain classes of readers and certain kinds of books, from gory gothic thrillers and racy romances to sci-fi and comics. In this course, we will trace the definitions and stakes of bad reading from the nineteenth century to the present day, through sources ranging from Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf to contemporary think-pieces on young adult literature and race in publishing. Along the way, we will aim both to discover whether bad reading is really so bad after all, and to understand how ideologies of gender, class, and race have shaped our conceptions of literary value.nNote: This Writing-Intensive Seminar in English (WISE) course fulfills WIM for English majors. Non-majors are welcome, space permitting. Enrollment is by permission (contact vbeebe@stanford.edu). For more information go to https://english.stanford.edu/writing-intensive-seminars-english-wise.
Terms: Win | Units: 5 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II | Repeatable 2 times (up to 10 units total)
Instructors: Jordan, J. (PI)
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