"Though reading novels is at times configured as a private and solitary activity, it may also be understood as a public and rhetorical enterprise, especially when readers assume the role of citizen critics, non-experts who argue publicly about the quality of certain texts. In the U.S., contemporary literary publics typically develop when some readers call for censoring or limiting the distribution of problematic novels, and other readers advocate for their cultural value. The course examines sites of public disagreement regarding the status of three novels: Twain's THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, Miller's TROPIC OF CANCER, and Ellis' AMERICAN PSYCHO. Students will analyze the arguments of non-professional readers, examining how their various topoi are supported by social ideals and shared assumptions about "literary merit."Then, students will carefully read the novels to discover where their own assessments coincide with and diverge from the claims made within previous literary publics. Here, the intention is for the seminar to become a protopublic space a site of deliberation and robust disagreement about the ways in which novels and the critical texts written in response to them and to each other catalyze social political, and aesthetic consequences."Van E. Hillard, Director, the University Writing Program
"Dear Dr. Hillard,Last year a "citizen critic" paraphrased some material from American Psycho in a satirical E-mail to friends. As a "non expert" reader, he did not understand that some "topoi" at the University are not to be quoted outside of the classroom, nor that President Brodhead and so many of the administration had never been in a "protopublic place" where they might engage in a "robust exchange" about this particular novel... hence, understanding the reference to that particular text. President Brodhead's opinion about the acceptability of the material seemed to diverge with claims made by you and Professor Yee, both of whom, this year again, have American Psycho as required reading. I do not want to catalyze any "social, political, or aesthetic consequences" to myself should I quote American Psycho in some lame attempt at humor outside of class. So, Professor Hillard, while I would like to take your class, could you send some copies of this particular "problematic" novel up to Brodhead's office and the Admin. building... just to ease my mind. Sometimes, you know, the stuff you guys teach us in class, does pop up in our "public and rhetorical enterprises" with guys we hang out with.Thank you,Casper LieStopperClass of 2008."