College of DuPage
Introduction to Literature
When we sit in a theater, sip coffee at an open-mic night, or curl up on a couch with a best seller, we're primarily looking for immediate entertainment. We want to forget our jobs, school work, or family responsibilities momentarily and imagine being in a different place doing different things with different people. As we enjoy these experiences, we create new understandings of emotions, cultures, skills, landscapes, etc.
But do we remember what we come to understand through others' experiences in these texts and performances? After a couple of exciting hours or a few years, are we ready to apply what we've learned to our lives? Most likely not. We've enjoyed a story, and we're done. We usually take in new understandings when we read or watch performances for pleasure and then let them go, because we have not engaged critically with our texts or performances. What if we could apply the life lessons we learn during time spent reading and watching performances to the decisions we make each day? What if we could avoid mistakes, because we learned about their consequences in a story or play? The time we spend enjoying ourselves while we read literature may become even more valuable.
Critical thinking, reading, and writing assume we will go beyond being engaged in reading and writing purely for entertainment and start paying attention to how we can connect texts to our greater understanding of the nature of things. By connecting a character's behavior to a theme we learn about in this literature course to the way we see people behaving around us at work to a theory we may have learned in our required psychology or sociology course, we will then have a better understanding not only of the character, but also of the people we work with and what we're learning in school. Chances are, we will remember our new understanding longer, especially if we can take it and apply it again to something else. The skills we need to create these connections are cultivated by awareness and practice.
In this introductory literature course, we will investigate strategies that authors, poets, and playwrights use to manipulate texts to create unique contexts for ideas as well as the contents of their texts, so we can identify and explore ideas that we can apply elsewhere. We will accomplish this by strengthening our critical thinking, reading, and writing skills--all skills that once strengthened may also positively affect our performances in other courses. Our interpretations of texts will be different, and as we discuss our findings with each other, we will hopefully learn more about ourselves and the world we live in.