CL 48K

Weekly Topics

The detailed syllabus and copies of readings can be found on Moodle.

Course Description

From epigrams and emblems to telegrams and tweets, the literary micro-form has a long history spanning oral, graphic, mechanical, and electrical media. In the ancient world a concise statement of truth came from the gods and then later became collections of cultural knowledge. By the Enlightenment, short statements became a measure of genius. Today, however, the literary micro-form has become a fragmented symbol of accelerated lives, protests, and attention deficits. Often ignored are the material and medium through and by which brevity is communicated. Whether spoken under one’s breath or to an audience, etched on a statue or spray-painted on a wall, published in a book or tattooed on the skin, written on scrap paper or tweeted into cyberspace, this course will explore the relationships among media, relative length, and content of a compressed literary style. Divided in two parts, the semester will begin with a literary history of short forms and conclude with discussions of media through which short forms are materialized.

Part I: Literary Short Forms

Week 1 Introduction to Categorization

Readings: Definitions and Examples (reader/website); G. Lakoff, “Chapter 1: The Importance of Categorization,” Women, Fire, and Other Dangerous Things. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987, 5-11.

Week 2 Introduction to Short Forms

Readings: Ben Grant. “Introduction and Chapter 1,” The Aphorism and Other Short Forms. New York, Routledge, 2016.

Week 3 Aphorisms

Readings: Aphorisms (Reader); Gary Saul Morson, “The Aphorism: Fragments from the Breakdown of Reason.” New Literary History, Vol. 34/3, 2003, 409-429.

Week 4 Epigrams

Readings: from The Greek Anthology and other selected epigrams, past and present (Reader)

Week 5 Early Hybrid Short Forms

Readings: from Geoffrey Whitney, A Choice of Emblemes (1586)

Week 6 Contemporary Hybrid Short Forms (cont.)

Readings: Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage. Corte Madera, CA: Ginko Press, 1968/2005

Part II: Media Supplements

Week 7 Re-introduction to the Short Form

Readings: George Bornstein. “How to Read a Page: Modernism and Material Textuality,”

Studies in the Literary Imagination. Spring 1999; 29-47

Week 8 Speech, Writing, and Books: from Memory to Anthology

Readings: Gary Saul Morson, “What is an Anthology?” and “What is a Quotation?” The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011, 23-36; 71-75.

Week 9 Graffiti

Readings: Revisit Aphorisms and Epigrams (Reader); Nick Haslam, “Toilette Graffiti,” Psychology in the Bathroom. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 114-135.

Week 10 Skin: Parchment and Tattoos

Readings: Revisit Aphorisms and Epigrams (Reader); Bruce Holsinger, “Of Pigs and Parchment: Medieval Studies and the Coming of the Animal.” PMLA, Vol. 124, No. 2 (March 2009): 616-623; Wendy Lynne Lee, “Never Merely ‘There’: Tattooing as Practice of Writing and a Telling of Stories,” in Tattoos-A Philosophy for Everyone, ed. Robert Arp. John Wiley & Sons, ProQuest Ebook, 2012. 151-164.

Week 11 Electrical: Texting, Twitter, & Other Digital Short Forms

Readings: Student text messages (or Twitter). David Crystal, “The Hype about Texting” and “Why do they Do it?” Txtng_ The Gr8 Db8. Oxford University Press, 2008. 1-10; 63-86.

Week 12 Student Presentations

Week 13 Student Presentations