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Towards Day 11: Syllable->Syllabus->Syllabub->Syllaship

Anne Dalke's picture


Syllable: [a. AF. sillable = OF. sillabe (12th c.), mod.F. syllabe, ad. L. syllaba, a. Gr. to take, put, or bring together


Syllabub (n.): A traditional English dessert, popular from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, made from rich milk or cream seasoned with sugar and lightly curdled with wine or cider. [cf. the blogspot Syllabub: Words on Food]

Syllabus (n.):
A traditional piece of paper, popular the week before the semester begins, made from words seasoned by a lightly curdled brain (mine). --
Ellen Samuels, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Syllaship (because a bus isn't big enough)

"The role autobiography plays in fiction is like that of reality to a dream. As you dream your ship, you perhaps know the boat, but you're going toward a coast that is quite strange..." [John Cheever, via Chris Ware, via kgould]

I. coursekeeping:

* naming
one another and signing-in

* notetakers for today and Thursday (Aya and Pamela; Audrey and Julia) will be superseded by small group recorders; sign up elsewhere, please....

II. looking back for a moment to say thanks/no thanks to Arne Naess (and find a way forward!):

smacholdt: I read some more of Naess’s essays with the thought that he was writing with the idea that his environmental outlook was better than everyone else’s, or that he was trying to indoctrinate people into his way of thinking. However, while reading the essay about Tvergastein I found that he was simply expressing his own profound respect for nature and sharing his ideas about why this respect is important.

SandraG: If you “know” this then what can the other individual possibly contribute to the conversation? .... I shouldn't generalize based on my experiences.

ckosarek: Naess and pragmatism wouldn't get along--In many cultures, being fruitful and multiplying is expected and embraced. Even further, it is our biological instinct to propagate. In the face of biological and cultural instinct, how is it possible to get everyone on board to reducing the population?

I think that the 'problem' Naess highlighted for us is precisely this one of expressing a shared subjectivity: is it possible to speak of a 'truth' larger than your own experience? To make a viable claim not grounded only in what you know experientially? If so, how to do this well? What are the means?

Note that we generally "bought" the memoir
(although even there, several of us heartily resisted Bechdel's telling someone else's story in order to tell her own); but how to say something beyond "this is what I experienced"? And so...?
How to generalize?
How to abstract? 
How to...

be human in community? 

From this week's ESem reading, in Colin Renfrow's Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind:

"the capacity to use symbols is a defining quality of humankind .... Symbols are ... what we think with. The use of symbols involves two very radical procedures of abstraction: the formation of categories, and various processes of representation .... initially symbols were used for ..'brute facts.' But symbols can also be used to indicate realities that are not... facts of nature but rather are what can be termed 'social facts' ... 'institutional facts.'"

My own inclination is to say that's where we need to go next: drawing on the (acknowledged very) tricky constructions of the individual memoir, into larger spaces of shared subjectivity (for example, instead of Aya's suggestion of Virginia Woolf's Moments of Being, or maht91's of A Room of One's Own, her pacifist text Three Guineas; instead of individual testimonies of spiritual life, something like EVD's suggestion of William James's collection of them in his Varieties of Religious Experience).

You've Suggested Several Other Directions-->

ckosarek: scientific and psychological perspectives on reality, in different media
Mary Roach, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
Norah Vincent, Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin
MTV, "True Life: I Hate My Face"
Philip M. Tierno, The Secret Life of Germs: What They Are, Why We Need Tem, and How We Can Protect Ourselves Against Them
Irwin W. Sherman, Twelve Diseases that Changed Our World
Augusten Burroughs, A Wolf at the Table and John Elder Robinson, Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asberger’s

Mary Roach, Spook
Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
Orson Welles, F is for Fake
Richard Preston, The Hot Zone
Hight and Roscoe, Faking It: Mock-documentary and the Subversion of Factuality
Ames and Haspiel, The Alcoholic (graphic memoir)

EVD: new authors, scientific journalism, internet sources
William James, "The Varieties of Religious Experience"
James Watson, “The Double Helix”
Isaiah Berlin,  “The Proper Study of Mankind”
Stephen Jay Gould, “The Mismeasure of Man”
Marc Reisner, “Cadillac Desert”
G.H. Hardy, “A Mathematician’s Apology”

smacholdt: variety of biographies, autobiographies, memoirs
Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians
Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
Richard Wright, Black Boy
Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year 
Janette Walls, The Glass Castle

SandraG: more varied ways of writing non-fiction
Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery
Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions
Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
Ian Hacking, The Taming of Chance
Ron Hubbard, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health
Claire Wolfe, 101 Things to do 'Til the Revolution

mkarol:  different "types" of non fiction
biography/autobiography: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, Portrait of a Marriage
creative non-fiction: Sarah Boxer, Ultimate Blogs
Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
history: Vincent Varga, Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations
science writing: Colin Ellard, You Are Here

Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

maht91: feminist or conflict zone autobiographies, documentaries, journalism, science writing
James Watson, The Double Helix
W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery
Robert Coles, Children of Crisis
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
a documentary

Aya: narrow in on memoirs by fiction writers
Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being
Annie Dillard, An American Childhood
Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
Elie Wiesel, Night
Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory
Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
(and some science texts about memory?)

FatCatRex: truth & the real in several eras and genres
The Development of Language: Samuel Johnson, Dictionary
War: Winston Churchill, The Second World War
Civil Rights Movement: Martin Luther King Jr, Why We Can't Wait
20th c. cultural critiques: Susan Sontag, Under the Sign of Saturn or In America
Free speech protection and law: Aan Kors, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses
End of Non-Fiction: James Frey, A Million Little Pieces

jaranda: reality and memory
Frances Yates, The Art of Memory
Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa (a memoir skewed by memory)
Memento (film about lost ability to make new memories)
Ronell, The Telephone Book (on the nature of communication)
Bill Bryson, Mother Tongue (on the development of the English language)

rachelr: different mediums than the printed book:
Out of Africa (the book and movie), West With the Night; a children's book, 13, A Million Little Pieces.

Owl? pfischer? platano? TyL? veritatemdilexi?

Given this range of individual preferences,
how shall we order our study of nonfiction for the next 6 weeks?
What imaginative test cases shall we look @ in particular?
In what sequence? Why, and what might we learn?

Each group should step off from what have you said in your posts, asking how we can bring those claims together collaboratively, how we can enlarge our sphere of study.

Rather than responding or reacting to individual recommendations which please or trouble you, think more largely about the patterns, desires and problems you notice when you begin to imagine constructing a class out of our wide variety of interests and hopes.

V. Get into six groups of three, w/ maht91, smacholdt, owl, platano, jaranda, mkarol as notetakers

In 1/2 an hour: write your proposals on the board: not just individual texts, but an
organizing logic for reading them

VI. Thursday's assignment:

a) by this evening,
the recorder for each small group reports
on-line on the outcome of their deliberations

b) by tomorrow evening,
each of you posts individually suggestions for ways forward;
it's really important,  @ this stage,
(not yeah or nay, but thinking-along-with....)

Also, before you for leave for break:
post in the course forum a mid-semester evaluation: