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C LIT 421 A: Studies in Connections: Literature and Other Disciplines

Meeting Time: 
TTh 12:30pm - 2:20pm
MGH 251
Joint Sections: 
C LIT 502 A, ENGL 363 A
Leroy Searle

Syllabus Description:

Comp Lit 421 A / English 363 A / CL 502 A:  


Class Meeting:  T & Th  12:30 -2:20 PM    MGH 241                   

Instructor: Leroy Searle                                              

Office hours:  M, T, 2:45 & appt

 Meet in the HUB, mezzanine                                                     

Course website: 

website for course materials:

After the first class, all materials, assignments, and announcements will be mediated through the website and by email.

Background and introduction

This course has been taught a number of times before, and was first introduced as part of a sequence of courses concerning innovation and creative processes.  It is a ‘W’ course (though the time schedule does not so indicate yet), and though it has no pre-requisites, it is designed to take you a far distance in the understanding of poetry, music, and the grounds for a theoretically detailed understanding of the relation between them.

In brief, the course is about systematic conceptions of art not as expression, neither as entertainment, nor as mimesis of something else.  It is a fundamental mode of thinking and experience, and is, as the course is designed to show in detail, fundamental to how people learn in a way that is not merely reception of facts, concepts, or opinions, but is literally creative.  If you never learn to think this way, you catastrophically limit yourself.

There will be a number of texts and related materials (including recorded music, music composition software (limited but usable), and other tools available on the website.  I have chosen in this case not to require a course reader, but will rely on your access to the internet to supplement the assigned works for the course.

TEXTS:  (all are available at the University Bookstore)  DO NOT substitute other editions

  1. William Carlos Williams: Spring and All , facsimile edition, 1923
  2. ____________________: Paterson
  3. Milan Kundera: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, trans Michael M. Heim.
  4. Johann Sebastian Bach: Two and Three Part Inventions, Schermer’s Library
  5. Ludwig van Beethoven: Complete String Quartets, Dover Publications, 1970.

Recordings of all these works are on the website. 

There are three fundamental rules for this course.

  1. When you come to class, turn off all your devices and put them away: phones, ipads, ipods, laptops, recording devices, and so on. If you cannot go 2 hours without looking at your phone, you will have trouble paying attention to what we will be doing.  All course sessions will be recorded, and posted after class on the course website.  If you miss something, you can go back and listen again.
  2. For all formal assignments (there are two; see below), you must make submissions that conform to professional standards for the preparation of manuscripts. The specifications are on the website, and they lay out the ground conditions for professional writing—that is, writing that is to be submitted for publication.   As college graduates, you should be very practiced in producing professional grade documents and manuscripts.
  3. This will be a safe place: anything that comes up in class discussions or reading materials that may make you uncomfortable can be discussed without fear on the condition that we proceed with mutual consideration and a willingness to entertain discussion of things that trouble us. If you think you need ‘trigger’ warnings, please consider selecting another class, or make an appointment to talk to me. We will be dealing with material that may very well be upsetting for many reasons, but there will be no prior restrictions on what can and cannot be discussed.

Assigned work:

PAPERS:  Two formal papers are required, one on a literary work (poetry or fiction)  and one on classical music.  The instructions will be detailed, and the papers are due about midterm (poetry) and the end of the quarter (music).  These papers will count for 60% of your grade.  Each will be technical; both will have very specific instructions.  You will be provided with everything you need to do these assignments.  The papers are not about you, but about the particular works you will be studying.   

WRITING LOG.   A separate page (on the website) will explain this requirement.  It is quite simple.  As we proceed through the syllabus, I will be asking you to write daily, with reference to course materials and class discussions.   This assignment will count for 20% of your grade, and if you do it, your grade for this part of the course requirements will be an A.  I will, if you request it, comment on what you write, but not otherwise.  You will, however, be asked to submit your Log three times in the first 6 weeks of the quarter.   The class will be arbitrarily divided (from the course list) into two groups, with submissions from you coming in every other week.  The point here is that we will be dealing with materials that will be, in most instances, interesting but by no means easy to grasp all at once.  There are no tests, though the next assignment, below, does involve a challenge.

PERFORMANCE.  All of you, at the end of the course, will perform.   The preferred mode is musical: for you to form, and practice with, a small ensemble, to learn and perform a piece of formal music.  You will get sufficient instruction to be able to do it, and it will be fully complementary with all the other assignments.  The second option is to work with a group of at 3-5 fellow class members, to select, rehearse, and read (professional standards here: no muttering, no slip-ups, no stumbling) a suite of poems that are connected to each other in multiple ways. This too will not be competitively graded.  20% for this too, with an A for everyone who does it.

Please note that this arrangement means that if you do all of the assignments, 40% of your grade is already assured.  The writing log, moreover, is likely to be the most useful tool you have to engage what I will describe as “deep practice,” (cf.:Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code (2009).

If you are taking this course for graduate credit (Comp Lit 502 A) assignments will be individually developed.

Catalog Description: 
Examines the links between literature and other disciplines or art forms. Literature and history, literature and philosophy, literature and music, literature and the visual arts are all appropriate topics. Selection of focus depends on instructor.
Department Requirements Met: 
Literature Elective
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:13pm