R5A, Section 1: Empathy and the Written Word

TuTh 8-9:30 | 75 Evans | Instructor: Stanley Levers

Units: 4

All Reading & Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the first half or the “A” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement. 

In this course we will discuss empathy and intersubjectivity: the experience of standing in someone else’s shoes, occupying another person’s perspective, recognizing the commonalities and differences between ourselves and “other minds.” We will discuss these phenomena in various forms, but at the center of our discussions will be an analogy between reading and empathy: interpreting written words as the closest approximation (or, perhaps, the best “training”) for experiencing “other minds.” This will, in turn, guide and motivate the practical side of the class: our daily work to develop strategies for college essay writing, from the rules of argumentation (how to use evidence to convince readers of your interpretations) to the basics of improving your prose on all levels (from an essay’s overall structure to the sound of the individual sentence). We will read short works from the Italian tradition—Dante, Boccaccio, Calvino, Maraini—and also from several modern, non-Italian authors like Borges, James Baldwin, and Nabokov.

Required texts (available at the Student Store, 2480 Bancroft): Strunk and White, The Elements of Style; Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Fictions; Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire. (Other texts will be compiled in a small reader—location TBA).

Prerequisite:  Successful completion of the UC Entry Level Writing Requirement.  Students may not enroll in nor attend R1A/R5A courses without completing this prerequisite.