In this course, we will identify some of literary fiction’s defining characteristics, including its uses of narrative voices to tell stories, its manipulation of time to depict its subjects, and its emphasis on characters’ familial, sociopolitical, and erotic relationships. While we read and discuss some important, influential narratives about the supernatural – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight as well a few minor works – we will also explore how these texts, like much other fiction, try to create particular reading experiences, as they push us to consider the nature and importance of literary imagination and the way fiction’s seductiveness is tied to other potentially dangerous attractions. We will also cover some of English fiction’s history, which will allow us to consider the relationship between fiction and other imaginative forms, including poetry, television, and film, and fiction’s transformation from (around 1800) a low and somewhat marginal literary form to (today) our culture’s dominant literary mode. Finally, we will define some principles and strategies for writing critically about fiction.
Required texts (available at campus-area bookstores):
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Penguin)
Bram Stoker, Dracula (Penguin)
Henry James, Turn of the Screw and Other Stories (Bantam)
Stephenie Meyer, Twilight (Little, Brown)
So now you know! I don’t think any of that is particularly outlandish or dumb, honestly.
I disagree. Here is the standard course description in the OSU catalog:
Examination of the elements of fiction — plot, character, setting, narrative, perspective, theme, etc. — and their various interrelations; comparisons with nonfictional narrative may be included. 261H (honors) may be available.
My inference: Each professor who teaches the course chooses a reading list that they think will best illustrate the above topics and points. Which means that it was Dr. Garcha who had the bright idea of having an honors English literature course read Dracula and Twilight in order to teach honors students about literature.
Henry James was an excellent writer but Stephenie Meyer couldn’t write her way out of a paper bag and Bram Stoker, to be honest, wasn’t a whole lot better.
Courses where Twilight might have been an appropriate required text:
- Survey of YA Lit
- Development of the Modern Supernatural Novel, where Meyer’s Twilight (2005) could be located in a line of other supernatural novelists instead of tacked oddly onto the end after Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw” (1898)
- Literature and Feminism, as an example of a crypto-anti-feminist text
- YA Romance, because Twilight is really a sappy, twisted, upsetting, stalker romance book with supernatural trappings
Courses where Dracula might have been appropriate:
- Victorian Supernatural Fiction or Victorian Fiction
- Supernatural Fiction of the 19th Century
- Development of the Supernatural Novel
- Crappy Books That Are Called “Classics” because They Are Old (might also include The Three Musketeers and Great Expectations)
Courses where all four of these works should have been on the required reading list:
- Some sort of survey course that covers hundreds of books and fills all the weird gaps between them. Frankenstein is only supernatural literature in a kind of superficial sense; The Turn of the Screw is a fairly ambiguous ghost story; Dracula is a gothic horror novel; and Twilight is romantic bilge. They have very little in common, and yet I can’t see how they would be much good in a comparison/contrast sort of way, either.
In conclusion: Twilight wasn’t the only strange and inappropriate entry in Dr. Garcha’s list of required reading material; the whole thing should have been seriously reconsidered.