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Syllabus Ideas

EVD's picture

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I would like to spend the rest of the semester reading texts from new authors and apply our knowledge of the philosophy and history of non-fictional prose to these new texts in order to enhance our discussion on the genre. I would be particularly interested in reading scientific journalism or maybe internet-based sources. My suggestions don't have much of a common theme but these are the texts that I would find most interesting (based on the list of top non-fictional prose works posted in Towards Day 10)...

1) I looked up more info on "The Varieties of Religious Experience" by William James because we haven't really discussed how religion plays into the genre of non-fictional prose. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia on the text: "James posits that all of science is fundamentally detached from reality since the tools of science are merely pointers to some actual objective realm. He criticized his audience for the scientific tendency to ignore the unseen aspects of life and the universe. As an example, he discussed the way the notion of a lemon causes salivation in the mouth of an individual; while there is no lemon, there is clearly a process occurring worthy of academic inquiry." Sounds neat to me!

2) “The Double Helix” by James Watson also sounded appealing to me. It is described as an “intimate first-person account of scientific discovery was unusual for its time…hailed as a highly personal view of scientific work, with its author seemingly caring only about the glory of priority and willing to appropriate data from others surreptitiously in order to obtain it.” I definitely think we should read something science-based to contrast with the other works we’ve read and I also think it might be interesting to discuss “personal” science and that he supposedly took data from others (what would Shields say about that!)… And again that quote is from Wikipedia

3) Third title to catch my eye was “The Proper Study of Mankind” by Isaiah Berlin. How can someone define the “proper” way to study mankind? This text did not have a Wikipedia description but luckily I found a quote from the text on Amazon that I found interesting…This is from his first essay in his compilation of essays:  “Only barbarians are not curious about where they come from, how they came to be where they are, where they appear to be going, whether they wish to go there, and if so, why, and if not, why not."

4) I would LOVE to read “The Mismeasure of Man” by Stephen Jay Gould. In this book he discusses “biological determinism” and how society’s classifications of race, class and sex all have a biological basis.  After reading a description of this book I thought this might lead to really interesting discussion in class.

5) I found “Cadillac Desert” by Marc Reisner on the list as well…From Wikipedia: “The book's main conclusion is that development-driven policies, formed when settling the West was the country's main concern, are having serious long-term negative effects on the environment and water quantity” I thought this might be a completely different topic to apply to our discussion and there was also a documentary based on this book so maybe we could even watch that!

6) Finally…I thought we should consider “A Mathematician’s Apology” by G.H. Hardy. Wikipedia describes it as a text concerning “the aesthetics of mathematics with some personal content…gives the layman an insight into the mind of a working mathematician.” This might be neat because it is an autobiography, an “apology” (is it truthful??) and includes some scientific content.

Anyway, I hope some other people in the class share similar interests. I think this is a pretty good spread of topics which would give us a bunch of different angles to further discuss the genre of non-fictional prose. I hope I can trust Wikipedia’s descriptions of these texts! Is Wikipedia “the truth”???







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