Colgate University

First-Year Course Offerings — Fall 2022

FSEM 147   Literary Analysis: Much Ado about Not[h]ing
RestrictionsNo 2025 2024 2023
DistributionHuman Thought and Expression
Core AreaNone

Faculty Profile for Professor Maurer

Focused on what's involved in reading and writing well about things classified as literature--novels, short stories, poems, plays. An automatic response to such things is to ask what they mean, to interpret them. Coursework promotes the value of postponing the impulse to interpret in favor of paying close attention to the thing itself, noting all its parts, even things that seem irrelevant or confusing. Students begin with reading and then rereading Agatha Christie's classic detective novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. What can we learn from Christie's account of how Hercule Poirot solves the crime? From there, students consider a range of literary texts including novels (e.g., Henry James's ghost story/psychological thriller The Turn of the Screw and E. L. Doctorow's work of historical fiction Ragtime), poems (e.g., William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience and Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works Billy the Kid), and, of course, the play by Shakespeare from which this course derives its name, Much Ado about Nothing. These texts have been chosen to offer students a wide range of topics on which they can focus to become better readers and writers and to practice some of the techniques of college-level research. One or more additional works will be added in consultation with the students who enroll in the course. Students who successfully complete this seminar will earn credit for ENGL 206 and satisfy one half of the human thought and expression areas of inquiry requirement.

Margaret Maurer teaches courses in Shakespeare and his contemporaries, with an emphasis on poetry; but try not to hold that against her. She also likes detective stories, especially when the authors of them play fair. (She's not entirely convinced that Agatha Christie always plays fair.)