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ENGL 3060 Modern and Contemporary Literature for Nonmajors


Instructor: Jessica Bornstein

Email: Jessica.Bornstein@


In this course we will be challenging established concepts of identity and normalcy. We will begin by looking at the definition of the “individual” in the face of a mass identity: what makes individuals stand out? How do we reconcile the idea of a plurality of “individuals”? We will explore this in conjunction with concepts of time and identity in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925), followed by similar questions presented in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925). We will move on to Nella Larsen’s The Women of Brewster Place (1982), which further examines these themes by questioning the definition of the individual in light of a larger racialized and gendered identification. We will be looking specifically at the work of systematic racism in both individual character formation, as well as in the creation of a communal identity. From race, we will inevitably move on to questions of gender construction with Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex. We will note how the text explores and exploits conventional representations of gender. We will look at how constructions of naming, movement, and categorization work together to create the main character, their family, and even the city of Detroit, bringing in what we have learned about race in Brewster Place, gender in Mrs. Dalloway, and memory in The Great Gatsby. The goal of this semester-long project is to have a better understanding of the way we categorize and compartmentalize the world around us, to learn how to read and analyze that world, and to better express those analyses to a broader audience.


In this course you will learn to identify the texts that surround you, and read and analyze those texts to understand their rhetorical motivations. You will analyze course texts for context, genre, narrative style, diction, dialect, and allusions, among other rhetorical strategies, in order to cull a larger argument from the readings. You will then work to develop your own arguments on the texts, expressing them in a clear, concise, and analytical manner in two papers for the course. In doing so, you will work on your writing skills, including grammar, concision, and drafting techniques.


Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex. ISBN: 978-0312427733

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. ISBN: 978-0156628709

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. ISBN: 978-0743273565

Harvey, Michael. Nuts & Bolts of College Writing. ISBN: 978-1603848985

Larsen, Nella. The Women of Brewster Place. ISBN: 978-0140066906


Discussion Posts 20%
Reading Quizzes 15%
Close Reading Assignment 10%
Midterm Paper 20%
Final Paper 20%
Final Exam 15%

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