For Dummies: A Study of Accessible Literature
How many people have read Joyce's Ulysseus? How many understood it? Apparently, the latter number is much smaller than the former, if the number of reader's guides and abridged versions is any indication.
This course will study meta-literatures, the art of taking the complex and making it simpler and more accessible. Although our primary focus will be on classic literature made accessible through Cliffs Notes, Barron's Book Notes, Monarch Notes, and SparkNotes, we will also take a look at how-to helpers such as the For Dummies series and Idiot's Guides. Time permitting, we will also take a look at Readers Digest, condensed contemporary novels.
Some of the questions we will ask ourselves over the course of the semester:
- How much of the richness and texture of a novel can be transmitted through a summary?
- If the original is so difficult to understand that it requires a reader's guide, then is perhaps the simpler abridged version superior in terms of communicating meaning and message?
- What is the essential difference in writing style? Is it primarily a matter of vocabulary, or modernizing older texts?
- Who is the audience for this meta-literature and how do they differ from the audience for traditional literature?
You may find some of the answers surprising.
Updated 08-10-2005. Problems? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org