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Picking a Syllabus by Topic

Smacholdt's picture

Since all of the proposals from Tuesday are held together by one central theme, the best way to choose a syllabus would be to decide as a class what theme everyone is most interested in studying- history, science, personal identity, a compare/contrast approach to the reading, etc. I think that it will be easier to choose books to read if all of them fall under the same broad idea.

Personally, I like the idea of the construction of reality that one group suggested. The idea of what is reality seems to be a major theme of the course already, and it would be interesting to keep exploring this question. Also, “What is reality?” is a broad enough question that it could definitely take us until the end of the semester to discuss.



FatCatRex's picture

Yes, to the reference text idea!

Aya, I totally agree about the reference text idea...and I really think it would be interesting to "read around" or excerpt portions of the OED, and maybe Urban Dictionary--although does it matter that it isn't what some would consider a REAL dictionary? how might that kind of 'real' play into the discussion? I just want put one last shameless plug for Samuel Johnson. Perhaps people haven't heard of him, or how interesting his dictionary was, but part of what intrigues me about that idea is that its not just reading the dictionary. His dictionary is more a narrative of etymology, or a narrative of English culture as it develops and then becomes speech and language. From the mundane to the bizarre, he covers it all, and it reads not like a dictionary but like a dictionary with candid notes, slightly stream of consciousness but also charming in its honesty. Anyway, I'd vote for that to go up with the OED of today and Urban dictionary and perhaps other "reference text" non-fiction.

I also love the idea of some comparative reading, as featured in one of the syllabus options. Even though I want some of that, I worry that I may glaze over if we try to compare too much in too short an amount of time. Its quite a shame, because all of those texts seem really interesting, I just worry about committing to a syllabus that may be difficult to adhere to and thus, a little bit of a disappointment. That being said, I think this model of syllabus points us in a fantastic direction: lets continue our pattern or reading and considering texts in the light of other works, I think it really draws the course together (and is fun, of course).

Like others, I also feel the strong need for an exploration of other forms and mediums in addition to further text-based discussions. I think considering other forms can only help us consider texts more critically, and that it would be worthwhile to have one or two film options and one other electronic source. My personal vision of our next six weeks, after our class discussion and all of your wonderful suggestions of syllabi, is to work with a model much like the one themed around the construction/questioning of, reality. My small tweaks would include adding Samuel Johnson, and perhaps also including the MTV suggestion to the section on 'Distortion.' It helps my filing-cabinet brain to think in themes and comparisons, and furthermore, to have a variety of forms/examples to store in my cabinets and pull out under and compare as part of thematic categories.

Obviously that is just my preference, but it seems like we have done some of that thinking productively, and could perhaps stretch that further in the second half of the year.

AyaSeaver's picture

 Yes to Johnson! We

 Yes to Johnson! We definitely wanted him when we were brainstorming and it must have just gotten distracted. The OED and Johnson have such histories and concept of language, and since most of the texts suggested so far are English Lang ones I think that choosing some dictionary entries or even some dictionary articles (history, biography) if only to get a sense of English as the flexible system it is. 

19th century slang for example, is hysterical--maybe more hysterical than our own. 

I don't know what other references to suggest though?

FatCatRex's picture


...sorry this is now out of order. This comment was meant to be off of Aya's comment, not in front of it. Apologies.

AyaSeaver's picture

 "What is reality" also seems

 "What is reality" also seems like an underlying question that was already present in a lot of our reading and discussion.

At the same time, I think it's important to suggest texts that will also branch into different areas of conversation because 'what is reality' discussions sometimes fall to pieces after a while!  Most of the texts have that perspective waiting in them, I think its a question of what texts group together best. I am fond of the reality/identity proposal and interested in the books in it. 

What seems particularly necessary to me is to include some kind of reference text. When defining non-fiction it almost seems as though reference materials could be easily named the 'purest' form. I'm not saying I agree but I think it's an interesting idea to play with. 



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