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Nuts and Bolts

Evol '09 Nuts and Bolts

Welcome to The Story of Evolution and the Evolution of Stories
as far as we know, the only course in the country
cross-listed for credit in both Biology and English

with relevant quotes/alternative possibilities
from the Inaugural Ceremony...

"History is your story, Lord"--Rick Warren

""We etch another line in the stone of history"--Diane Feinstein

"It's a big day..but there is no guarantee that
it will work out"--commentator

stumbling through the oath, to the address....

"We must transform our colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age....
Our patchwork heritage is a strength...
The world has changed and we must change with it...
God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny."

Pass out handouts....

I. Introduce selves

II. Both here for decades
a decade ago, we began teaching together a CSem we called
Questions, Intuitions, Revisions: Storytelling as Inquiry,
in which we looked @ the way people tell--and revise--
stories in order to make sense of their evolving sense of the world:

fairy tales and science stories and brain stories and
cultural stories and the story of bryn mawr....

5 years ago, decided to up the ante, build on that course to
think more systematically about ways in which biological and
literary methods of study might inform one another

4th time we've offered the course;
here's the pattern we've/will follow:
meet together in this large group every Tuesday--
until break, Paul will be talking w/ us,
as he will today, about the story of evolution;
after spring break, I'll be leading our Tuesday discussions
about the evolution of stories

on Thursday, I'm going to talk w/ you about the evolution of literature
@ the end of this week, when enrollment has settled,
we will divide the class into two smaller groups:
1/2 of you will be assigned to Paul, 1/2 to me

on all Thursdays thereafter, we will meet in those small groups--
Paul's here, mine upstairs in Classroom III--
to discuss these same questions seminar-style

I will be the writing teacher for those of you who
will be talking w/ me on Thursdays;
Paul will be the writing teacher for those of you meeting w/ him....

we expect you to come to class all the time (take attendance) and
to participate in our discussion in two ways--in person and on-line

as you decide whether you want to enroll in the course or not,
it's important that you think about this aspect our pedagogy,
which focuses on the implications and
obligations of engaging in a public arena:
we are asking you to be responsible not only
for your own education but for that of others--
not only your classmates, but other people in the world

course syllabus is up on the world-wide web @

@ the top of the page you'll see a link to our course forum area;
each week we'll post a question there for you to respond to;
we also invite you to say whatever else is relevant
that comes to your mind-->
in response to us, to one another, to the reading, to class conversation,
to things happening in the NYTimes or the world....

do this by Sunday evening each week

we will also ask you to write four more formal papers,
and to post them on-line;
in Feb, 3-pp. paper on some aspect of biological evolution;
in Mar, 3-pp. paper on some aspect of evolution
beyond the context of biology
in Apr, 3-pp. paper on some aspect of literary evolution
in May, 10-pp. paper in which you make use of the biological, philosophical and literary stories of the course to create a new, interesting, useful story of your own--one that might have a creative dimension

as part of the course finale, we will also ask you to prepare--along w/ several classmates-- a presentation reflecting on some dimension of your experiences in the course

two things to highlight about how we go about the
writing-that-is-thinking in this course:

first, we are asking you to make all of your writing public, to think of your audience as the world (or @ least that part of it that has access to the web): to write in a way that is accessible and interesting to people outside this course, and to think of your papers as windows through which they might look @ the world differently--through your eyes;

course forum and your blogs (where you will post your papers)
are moderated by Ann Dixon (co-founded Serendip w/ Paul);
BMC alum/former English major ; if you stay through Thursday,
she will send you a note that you have been
registered as a user on exchange
have more anonymity on the web by
choosing a username which is not your own

but the important point here is that you are not writing privately to Paul and me, for our validation or approval, but thinking out loud for your own benefit and for whatever use it might be to the thinking of others

second related important unusual dimension of the course is how we handle the matter of grading: we will not be grading any of the individual work you do during the semester;

@ semester's end, we will ask you to prepare a portfolio of all your work--all your postings, all your papers and our responses to them, an account of your final performance--and then to write a self-evaluation, describing how you have contributed, on-line and in-person, to this activity of our learning together about biology and literature

we will then of course give you a numerical grade
we don't overvalue that number, and suggest that you don't either--
it will not/cannot adequately reflect the various, distinctive efforts
you will be making in this class...

what else?
we have ordered three books in the Bookshop,
w/ a fourth forthcoming:

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection
(1859; rpt. and ed. Joseph Carroll, 2003)

Daniel Dennett's 1995 book of philosophical speculation:
Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

The Original 1855 Edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass
(rpt. Dover 2007)

Siri Hustvedt's 2008 novel, The Sorrows of an American--
due out in paperback on March 3, so are waiting to place that order;
Liz Morris in Bookshop assures us we'll have copies in time for you to read them....

other short readings, available on-line;
no readings for Thursday,
but please go to the bottom of the course homepage:
introduce yourself there, along w/ several questions
that you are bringing into this conversation....


So, Paul tell us about this "work in progress"?