FPR 100H-01. The other: a stranger among us?
In this course we will discuss the concept of the “other” by examining several narratives centered upon the protagonist's search for identity. Invariably authors introduce these quests through the rhetorical device of the stranger. We will consider the image of the stranger in order to confront the estrangement inherent in family origins, gender and literary acceptance, and the author’s unresolved feelings about him(her)self. Frequently the associations of a sense of place are bound together with memory, stasis and nostalgia. What gives a place a unique flavor is the fact that it is constructed out of a specific arrangement of social and physical relations that intersect at a particular point. The works selected center on the theme of alienation seen through the eyes of the stranger. We will discuss the function of this trope on three levels - the spatial, temporal and psychological. Of particular interest will be the disturbing 'falling away' from the family or group, and the movement from unity and acceptance to individuality and denial. Through a close reading of works including, but not limited to: Balzac’s The Unknown Masterpiece, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Camus’ The Stranger, Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Petrushevskaia's The Time Night, we will seek to understand the way one is able to construct and manipulate his/her own sense of place.
FPR 100H-02. Living (Critical) Theory
Living (critical) Theory is an intensive “species” of Freshmen Preceptorial designed to promote critical literacy—critical reading and analysis of a selective variety of cultural expressions through the use of what we have come to know (and by many also misunderstand, malign, fear, and also mistrust!) as “theory.” In Living (Critical) Theory we will take on multidisciplinary terms and information as thoroughly as possible and will become knowledgeable of their uses and power both to construct what we feel is reality and to modulate or prescribe what—to us—eventually becomes meaningful or “real.” The course will develop and hone skills in close reading and analysis of cultural expressions that include, among others, popular culture, philosophy, media studies, film, mass culture, literature, etc. We will explore some key theories and concepts deriving from philosophical, literary and cultural interpretations with the intent of making this complex world a little more transparent and our engagement of it more full of agency and therefore—and hopefully—more significant.
FPR 100H-03. Monstrous Kinships: Attachment and Loss in Literature
Since its inception, the field of psychoanalysis has relied on the art of story-telling to describe the disturbing and traumatic experiences of humankind. In many ways, psychoanalytic research provides insight into the universal and singular way that fiction writers, dramatists, and poets tell their stories. Literature has the ability to pierce the deepest recesses of human experience, enabling readers to discover their own truths. Twentieth century British psychoanalyst John Bowlby developed a psychoanalytic approach known as Attachment Theory to help conceptualize the proclivity human beings have to create deep-rooted affectional bonds with others. One of the most important bonds most human beings develop is with parents or primary caregivers, since they are among the very first individuals with whom children come into contact when they enter the world. In this course we will use Attachment Theory as a psychoanalytic paradigm from which to examine several works of fiction, poetry, and drama. In most of the literary works we will read, the parental figures tend not to offer stability or a secure environment for their children. Alongside our reading of various classic and contemporary essays in the fields of psychoanalysis, cognitive neuroscience, ethology, and sociology, several literary works will be chosen from the following list: Euripides' Medea, Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, Herman Melville's Pierre: Or the Ambiguities, Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure, Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Shelley's Mathilda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Innocent Erendira, Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Sport of the Gods, Lydia Sigourney's "The Father," Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter," and selections from the poetry of William Blake.
FPR 100H-04. Recreating the Past
This course will examine how history and literature are recreated/reinterpreted by artists in later periods. It will question how and more importantly, why people recreate the past the way they do. For example, how and why does the story of the death of Julius Caesar get retold again and again, in art, film, and other genres? What does it represent and how is it manipulated for new purposes? In order to answer these questions, we will consider issues of historical significance, genre, artistic license, audience reception, and marketing. We will consider “original” works alongside their new versions. The course will include examples from history, literature, film, dance, and art. Texts may include Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad, Euripides’ Medea, Homer’s Odyssey, Mark Morris’ Dido and Aeneas (dance), Mankiewicz’s Julius Caesar (film), Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Vergil’s Aeneid, and Christa Wolf’s Medea.
FPR 100H-05. The Role of the Reader (Why Do We Read?)
If a book is a request to you to read it, what do you ask of a book? I maintain that what you ask of a book is the possibility of learning – of knowing, in thought or feeling, something new. Harry Mathews
Literature is the question minus the answer. Roland Barthes
This section of Scholars Preceptorial is for those of you who like to read a wide variety of fiction. We will interrogate ourselves as to why we read and question our role as a reader. Is the reader a consumer, a creator, or an admixture of both? We will begin with the classic The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol. We will also read the short stories of two American masters, Joyce Carol Oates and Don deLillo, the one-act play The Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy, Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago’s Death with Interruptions (what if people stopped dying, perhaps not such a good thing?), the Booker Prize winning novel The Sea by John Banville, short pieces by two other Nobelists, Samuel Beckett and Claude Simon, and more.
You should also be interested in trying your hand at a variety of writing - short reaction pieces, traditional essays, writing under constraints, and creative writing (you will have a chance to write an epilogue to one of the stories we read).
FPR 100H-06. Meanings of Life
Taking for granted that we all live in a real world governed by universal natural laws, we can nonetheless agree that human beings have often differed over how to understand what our senses tell us about that world. Explanations for the way the world works and the meaning of life have differed over time and by place, depending on cultural values and technological abilities to extend our senses. This section of First Year Precept will explore a variety of perspectives that have been found useful in giving meaning to life, looking first at faith as a source of understanding. We will then examine "truths" to be gained from art and fiction via written, visual, and aural sources. The course will conclude with the insights of reason and science that have transformed the ways we think about life since c. 1600. Readings will include the the Bible, the Tao Te Ching, Freud on religion, Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughter House Five, Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Joseph Amato, Dust: a History of the Small & the Invisible, James Watson, The Double Helix, and Albert Camus, The Plague. We will also make use of visual and aural sources.