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Syllabus Ideas

jaranda's picture

 I think an interesting idea that has come up a few times in the books we have read so far, is the idea that memory plays an important factor in determining what is real and what isn’t, according to the author. I would like to think about the question of “what is real?” is relation to memory and perceptions.  

A good place to start might be The Art of Memory by Frances A. Yates. This book studies how people remembered things before the invention of the printed page, and how the art of memory has progressed through time. 

I think Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa, would also be an interesting book to read.  According to a review on Amazon, “Out of Africa reads like a collection of stories in which [Dinesen] adheres to no strict chronology, gives no explanation of the facts of her life, and apologizes for nothing.” Since this is supposed to be a memoir, I think the portrayal of events will have the possibility of being skewed by the author’s memory. Reading this after The Art of Memory, will give us a chance to see how memory might affect an author’s writing. 

Going off of memory in a different way, would be to watch the movie Memento, which deals with a man lost his ability to make new memories after the murder of his wife. This is not a documentary, but I think it deals with some similar ideas to the ones we’ve already talked about in class. Because the main character cannot make new memories, he struggles to determine what has really happened in his life that has led him to that particular moment. 

I don’t really know how the next two books relate to this theme of reality and memory, but I thought they looked interesting in relation to the same questions of reality that we have looked at so far. 

Ronell’s The Telephone Book “raises fundamental questions about the constitution of self and other.” (Amazon) The book looks at the nature of communication and apparently investigates how early users of the telephone were interested in finding a link between the physical world and the spiritual world. I think this would be an interesting book for the idea of reality and science. 

Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson deals with the English language, and its development. What I think is interesting about this book, is that the editorial reviews on Amazon say that Bryson “displays an encyclopedic knowledge of his topic, … the facts do well enough by themselves”, but there are many reader reviews that his writing is filled with errors. I don’t know if the readers have more knowledge than the editorial reviewers, but it seems like there are different perceptions about how the English language and I think it would be interesting to look at why people might have such different ideas of how the language has changed. 



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