ENGL 204: Books about Books

In this course, we consider the symbolic and literal value of books and how authors convey that value (in sometimes slippery, contradictory, and shifting ways) in a piece of literature.  We will engage in discussion of this object (the book) in terms of a “character” in the texts we’re reading in order to dig into its depth of meaning.  We will draw on new materialist theory for perspective in addition to traditional literary criticism, and this will help us rethink books as things caught in a liminal space between an object (a simple container for human-generated text) and a subject (with some agency and value of its own, both despite and because of the human connections).  We will also consider how our interpretation of the book in a given text is different when using different theoretical lenses.

Some of the books we have read in the past and that will inform the reading list of the future include:

  • Jorge Luis Borges, various short stories (“The Book of Sand,” “Garden of Forking Paths,” “Pierre Menard”)
  • Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
  • Geraldine Brooks, People of the Book: A Novel
  • Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
  • Thomas C. Foster, How to Read Literature Like a Professor (Revised)
  • Masha, Hamilton, The Camel Bookmobile: A Novel
  • Bohumil Hrabal, Too Loud a Solitude
  • Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night
  • Haruki Murakami, The Strange Library
  • Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
  • Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
  • Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
  • Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

If you are interested but want more detail, please email me at sfrances@svsu.edu. I would be so happy to talk with you!