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Reading Order

dfishervan's picture

A few weeks ago, we discussed the criteria for selecting books for a course on the evolution of literature. Since then, I have been thinking about the elements of the stories we’ve read and watched that made them candidates for this course’s required readings. While reflecting on the books we’ve read and movie we watched this semester, I realized that their most advantageous traits were the ones that connected them to the stories read/watched and informed our reading of the next book. I suppose this makes sense in a class where we’ve learned that evolution in a biological and literature sense is endless. All of the aspects of a book that elevate our understanding of evolution are not confined to the individual book and our reading of a book does not end once we move onto another book.

Of course, this means that the order of the required reading within the course plays an extremely important role. Once a professor selects the finalists for the course’s required reading list, he/she must then decide how to organize the novels in such a way that his/her students will get the most out of the class. Comin  up with a reading order in this course must be especially difficult since the professors shape a bulk of the course around student comments and responses. Personally, I feel that this semester’s reading order worked really well. Every time we moved onto a new book, it made more sense to me why we read the book that preceded it in the syllabus. However, now I’ve started to wonder if we could have completely reversed the order of our reading. I know that it makes sense when teaching about evolution and its literary applications to start with explaining biological evolution via Darwin. Yet, what would have happened if we started with the film “Adaptation,” and then moved towards biological evolution? Would we reach the same conclusions? Could we teach scientific evolution through literary applications of evolution? 


ckosarek's picture

I've been wondering the same thing

 It's interesting to think that we started with a "given" scientific theory and then slowly dismantled it as we moved from theory to theorizing to what would colloquially be called "fiction." What would have happened if we allowed the fiction to root our understanding of the course - if we took the fiction as theory and saw the science as an offshoot of possibility? 

As we've moved through this course, I've become increasingly aware of how well our education has conditioned us into accepting some stories as "the" stories. No one in our class refuted Darwin, yet the possibilities posed in Generosity met heated opposition (to say the least). But isn't Darwin the same as Generosity? Aren't they both stories used to explain something of life? Paul's been saying all semester that we accept and reject stories based upon how "good" they are, but if we evaluate the "goodness" of a story based on our educational and social conditioning, could we ever attest to the absolute "goodness" of a story?

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