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Transition and Location: 

On Leaving Home, In Search of a Place of Understanding



College Seminar I, Fall 2000

Jody Cohen (Thomas 223, ext. 5396;

Anne Dalke (English House 205; ext. 5308;


“Home is where one starts from. As we grow older

The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated . . . .”

T.S. Eliot, “East Coker,” Four Quartets (1935)


“It was only when I was off in college, away from my native surroundings, that I could see myself like somebody else and stand off and look at my garment.”

Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men (also 1935)


This course, which was co-designed by members of the Education and English Departments, explores the concept of transition, both as a characteristic of our lives and as a rich metaphor of our search for understanding.  We will begin by examining our own relocation from home to college, which we will set in the context of other contemporary and mythic accounts of individual passage.  We will end by considering various physical processes of metamorphosis and their implications for learning.  Betwixt and between, we will negotiate an interview, take a trip into an unfamiliar cultural setting, and reconsider what home’s got to do with it.  We will also read narratives of those who have been unhoused:  Dorothy Allison’s Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, Toni Morrison’s Beloved and William Shakespeare’s King Lear, asking what they are taught, and what we might learn, from the disruption of their settled habits.


We will take multiple guides on this exploration of what educational theorist Paulo Freire calls our “unfinishedness” as human beings.  Walker Percy, Edward Said and Cynthia Ozick will use the imagery of travel and exile to explain what it means to do academic work, while Maria Lugones, Adrienne Rich, bell hooks and Minnie Bruce Pratt will draw on their life narratives to argue for a politics of location.  Anthropologists Victor Turner, Clifford Geertz, Renaldo Rosaldo and Ruth Behar will explore the issues of methodology and ethics which arise in the endeavor to understand cultural “others.” Eleanor Duckworth will guide us in becoming fresh observers of everyday phenomena;  finally, Loren Eiseley will help us place these queries in a larger, evolutionary perspective that encompasses the non-human world.

Transition and Location, p.2


Reading Assignments include a number of books and articles that you will be expected to read thoroughly and be prepared to discuss and write about.  Readings should be completed by the due date in the syllabus.


Writing Assignments are designed to build on the reading, writing, and thinking skills you bring with you to college and to help you move you beyond them.  Assignments explore key issues in the course; they require creative, reflective, critical and analytical work and will ask you to draw on life experiences as well as on assigned readings and class discussions. Writing assignments include weekly drafts, due in typewritten form in the basket outside Anne’s office (second floor front, English House) by noon each Tuesday; and the submission of two portfolios of work revised for grading at the midpoint and end of the semester. Each assignment will be discussed in detail during class over the course of the semester.


Conferences and Class Meetings

We understand writing as both an individual and a collaborative activity, one which involves ongoing drafting and revising.  There will be two regular forums for conferences about your writing:  bi-monthly meetings with your professor, in her office; and regular small group meetings with each other in class,  to offer constructive responses to one another's writing.  We hope you’ll also talk informally with one another, share drafts of your work, and make use of the services offered by the Writing Center.


All members of the seminar are also expected to participate actively in class-wide discussions. The quality of our work together rests on our collective commitment to reading and writing, speaking and listening attentively with each other.


Course Readings

A collection of articles, book chapters, and other excerpts is available in class for purchase as a packet. Three texts are also available in the Bryn Mawr College Bookshop: 

Dorothy Allison, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure (Plume)

Toni Morrison, Beloved (Plume)

William Shakespeare, King Lear (Arden Edition)


I.  Transition and Transformation


1. Tuesday, Sept 5      Introduction and Overview of the Course

Reading “The Pomegranate,” After Ovid;

“The Rape of Proserpine” &

“The Doctrines of Pythagoras,” Metamorphoses;

“Briar Rose” (two versions, by Grimm and Sexton)


DRAFT 1A: WRITE 4-5 pp.--create a myth of transformation;  alternatively,

 tell your own story of a time of transition

2. Tuesday, Sept. 12   small group writing workshop on your myths and stories

reading Turner


DRAFT 1B: WRITE 4-5 pp.—keyword analysis of Turner

3. Tuesday, Sept. 19   large group writing workshop on your keyword assignments

                                    reading Two or Three Things I Know For Sure


DRAFT 1C: WRITE 4-5 pp.— locate the keyword in your own story;

      then either re-tell it from this perspective, or

      conduct a keyword analysis of your tale

4. Tuesday, Sept. 26   small group writing workshop on your retelling/analysis

reading Lugones and Said


II. “World”-Traveling


DRAFT 2A:    drawing on the model of the anthropologists,

                        WRITE 2 pp. proposal for who you’d like to interview, and why

5. Tuesday,Oct. 3       large group writing workshop on your proposals

                                    reading Geertz, Rosaldo, Behar

DRAFT 2B: WRITE 2pp. of practice interview

6. Tuesday, Oct. 10    small writing workshops on your interviews  

re-reading the anthropologists


Tuesday, Oct. 17 FALL VACATION


DRAFT 2C:   WRITE 5-6 pp. oral history

7. Tuesday, Oct. 24    large group writing workshop on your history

                                    reading hooks, Rich, Pratt


PORTFOLIO #1 DUE:         review all your written work,

revise essays 1&2 (D),

and evaluate the whole

III. Claiming Your Location:  “What’s Home Got to Do with It?”


8. Tuesday, Oct. 31    read Beloved


DRAFT 3A:   

WRITE 4 pp. of field notes, on a journey into a cultural setting not your own:

               what do you learn about “home” by leaving it?

9.  Tuesday, Nov. 7    small group workshops on your field notes

re-read Beloved


DRAFT 3B:     WRITE 4 pp. of field notes chronicling your responses

  to the novel or play

10. Tuesday, Nov.  14                        large group writing workshop on your comparisons

read King Lear


DRAFT 3C:  WRITE 4 pp. developing a conversation between

            your experience of dislocation and that in the novel

11. Tuesday, Nov. 21             small group writing workshops on your conversations

                                                re-read King Lear


Thursday,  Nov.23                 THANKSGIVING


IV.  Metaphor and Metamorphosis


DRAFT 4A:    WRITE 1-2 pp. describing your observations of/

experiment with a physical transition

12. Tuesday, Nov.  28                        large group writing workshop on your observations

reading Percy and Duckworth


DRAFT 4B:    WRITE 4-5 pp. field log of questions, observations and hypotheses

13. Tuesday, Dec. 5    small group writing workshops on your field logs                                                                 reading Ozick and Homer


DRAFT 4C:  WRITE 4-5 pp. exploring the implications of your observations

              as a metaphor for schooling in transition

14. Tuesday, Dec. 12  large group writing workshop on your explorations

                                    reading Auden and Eiseley                                         


PORTFOLIOS DUE: revise papers 3&4 (D), and write a self-evaluation





Transition and Location

The Readings


Day 1 (September 5):

Boland, Eavan.  “The Pomegranate.” After Ovid:  New Metamorphoses.  Ed. Michael             Hofmann and James Lasdun.  New York:  Noonday Press, 1994. 140-141.

Ovid. “The Rape of Proserpine” and “The Doctrines of Pythagorus.”  The             Metamorphosis.  1-8 A.C.E.;  rpt. and trans. A.D. Melville.  New York:  Oxford,             1986.   1-3, 109-116, 354-366, 381, 405-407, 460-463.

Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm. “Little Briar-Rose (The Sleeping Beauty).” German Fairy             Tales. Trans Margaret Hunt.  New York: Continuum, 1985. 118-122.

Sexton, Anne.  “Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty).”  Transformations.  Boston: Houghton             Mifflin, 1971. 107-112.


Day 2 (September 12):

Turner, Victor. “Betwixt and Between:  The Liminal Period in Rites of Passage.”   The

            Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press,             1967. 93-111.


Day 3 (September 19):

Allison, Dorothy.  Two or Three Things I Know for Sure.  New York: Plume, 1995.


Day 4 (September 26):

Lugones, Maria.  “Playfulness, ‘World’-Travelling and Loving Perception.”  Making                     Face, Making Soul=Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by             Women of Color.  Ed. Gloria Anzaldua.  San Francisco: Aunt Lute Foundation,             1990.  390-402.

Said, Edward. The World, the Text and the Critic. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard             University Press, 1983.  5-8, 28-30.


Days 5-6 (October 3 & 10):

Geertz, Clifford. “Thick Description:  Toward an Interpretative Theory of  Culture.”  The      Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays.  New York:  Basic, 1973.  3-30.

Rosaldo, Renato. “Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage.”  Culture and Truth: The Re-making             of Social Analysis. Boston: Beacon, 1989.  1-21.

Behar, Ruth.  “Introduction:  The Talking Serpent.”  Translated Woman: Crossing                        the Border with Esperanza's story.  Boston : Beacon Press, 1993. 1-20.


Transition and Location,

The Readings, p. 2


Day 7 (October 24):

hooks, bell.  “Homeplace:  A Site of Resistance.”  Yearning: Race, Gender and Cultural             Politics.  Boston: South End, 1990.  41-50.

Rich, Adrienne.  “Notes towards a Politics of Location.” Blood, Bread, and Poetry:             Selected Prose, 1979-1985.   New York: Norton, 1986.  210-231.

Pratt, Minnie Bruce. “Blood, Skin and Heart.” Yours in Struggle : Three Feminist             Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism. Elly Bulkin, Minnie Bruce Pratt and             Barbara Smith. New York : Long Haul Press, 1984. 9-63.


Days 8-9 (October 31 & November 7):

Morrison, Toni.  Beloved.  New York : Plume, 1988.


Days 10-11 (November 14 & 21):

Shakespeare, William.  King Lear.  1608; rpt. The Arden Edition.  New York: Metheun,             1972. 


Day 12 (November 28):

Percy, Walker. “The Loss of the Creature.”  The Message in the Bottle: How Queer             Man Is, How Queer Language Is, and What One Has to Do with the Other.  New             York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975.  46-63.

Duckworth, Eleanor. “The Having of Wonderful Ideas.” The Having of Wonderful Ideas             and Other Essays on Teaching and Learning.  New York: Teachers College Press,             1987.  1-14.


Day 13 (December 5):

Ozick, Cynthia.  “Metaphor and Memory.” Metaphor and Memory:  Essays. New York:             Alfred Knopf, 1989.  265-283.

Homer.  Book Seven. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Anchor, 1963.              111-116.


Day 14 (December 12):

Auden. W.H.  “Introduction:  Concerning the Unpredictable.” The Star Thrower.  By             Loren Eiseley.  New York:  Times, 1978.  15-24.

Eiseley, Loren.  “The Star Thrower.” The Star Thrower.   169-185.

-----.  “The Hidden Teacher.”  The Star Thrower.   116-128.