2003: Big Books of American Literature

When Whoopi Goldberg came out at the 1999 Oscar Awards dressed in a costume from Beloved, she tried to make a joke about feeling like Topsy. She only heard one laugh, from choreographer Debbie Allen, to whom she said, "We're the only ones here who know who Topsy was." That may have been true....

Day 1: Tues, Jan. 21:
getting us started (in small groups),
by "Thinking Aloud"
and "getting the joke"--

Did you?
Have you heard of Topsy? Uncle Tom? Simon Legree?
Who were those characters/what are their characteristics?
What do you know, more generally, about Uncle Tom's Cabin?
What do you know about (any of) the other "big" books?
What do you want to know (or: why are you here)?
Which three of these books would you like to spend a month
getting to know better?
On which two will you be responsible for selecting
additional/contemporary versions to engage us in discussion?

Day 2: Thurs, Jan. 23
Read the first two selections in the course packet: the Fall 2002 Alumnae Bulletin account
of the first version of this course, and my draft of "The Grace of Revision, the Profit of
'Unconscious Cerebration,' or What Happened When Teaching the Canon Became Child's Play." Before coming to class, post in our course forum area your initial reactions to these texts and/or to Sharon Burgmayer's painting of "Grace."

Day 3: Tuesday, Jan. 28
Read as much of Uncle Tom's Cabin as you can manage (try to read 11 chapters, arriving @ p. 100, if you can) and post on our course forum an account of what the experience was like (i.e. how did it make you FEEL?).

Day 4: Thurs, Jan. 30
Read Baldwin's and Tompkins' essays on emotion & sentimentality,
pp. 495-522 in the Norton critical edition.

Day 5: Tues, Feb. 4
Keep on reading Uncle Tom's Cabin, aiming to finish chapter 19 (c. 200 pp.).

Day 6: Thurs, Feb. 6
Watch the video of The King and I, on reserve in Canaday.

Day 7: Tues, Feb. 11
Keep on reading (you got it); try to finish chapter 32 (about 300 pp.)

Day 8: Thurs, Feb. 13--Bernadette and Jillian
Watch the videos Dancing to the Promised Land and
(selected portions of) The Rodney King Case, both on reserve in Canaday.

Day 9: Tues, Feb. 18
Finish reading Uncle Tom's Cabin

For the next three weeks, we'll break into two reading groups:

Day 10: Thurs, Feb. 20
Phil and Sebastian--
Moby Dick,Chs. 1-40: Biblical allusions
Taka and Monica--The Scarlet Letter, Chs. I-IX: morality and guilt

Day 11 Tues, Feb. 25--Anne
(these essays are available on Bryn Mawr Library E-reserves)
[on Moby-Dick:]
D. H. Lawrence, "The Spirit of Place" and "Herman Melville's Moby-Dick." Studies in Classic American Literature. 1923; rpt. New York: Penguin, 1978. 7-14, 153-170.
Charles Olson, "First Fact is prologue," Call Me Ishmael" and "Fact #2 is dromenon." Call Me Ishmael. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. 3-15, 77-78.

[on The Scarlet Letter:]
Frederic Carpenter, "Scarlet A Minus." American Literature and the Dream. 1955; rpt. Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1968.
Jonathan Arac. "The Politics of The Scarlet Letter." Ideology and Classic American Literature. Ed. Sacvan Bercovitch and Myra Jehlen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
D. H. Lawrence, "Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Scarlet Letter." Studies in Classic American Literature. 1923; rpt. New York: Penguin, 1978. 89-107.

Day 12: Thurs, Feb. 27
Moby Dick,Chs. 41-81
Nicole and Jillian--The Scarlet Letter, Chs. X-XXIV

Day 13: Tues, Mar. 4
Bernadette and Kati--
Copies available at the Bryn Mawr Library Reserve Desk:
Sena Jeter Naslund, Ahab's Wife: or, The Star-Gazer. New York: Harper Collins, 2000.
Extracts, pp.1-3, 201-258, 359-365, 631-636, 640-654, 661-end.

Nancy and Maggie--Episode from "Sex in the City" and Report by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr

Day 14: Thurs, Mar. 6
Orah and Melissa--
Moby-Dick,Chs. 82-Epilogue
Margaret and Ngoc--Hawthorne short stories

Mar. 7-16: Spring Vacation

Day 15: Tues, Mar. 18--Anne:
for the Moby-Dick group: Kevin Smith's film Dogma
for The Scarlet Letter group: Suzan Lori-Parks' play "In the Blood"

Day 16: Thurs, Mar. 20--Kathy and Samantha: Mark Twain (and Huck Finn)'s lying
Huckleberry Finn, Chs. 1-21
"On the Decay of The Art of Lying"

Day 17: Tues, Mar. 25--Julia and Barbara: readings in the controversy
(these essays are available on Bryn Mawr Library E-reserves)
Jane Smiley, "Say It Ain't So, Huck: Second Thoughts on Mark Twain's Masterpiece,'" Harper's Magazine (January 1996): 61-67.
Jonathan Arac, Huckleberry Finn as Idol and Target: The Functions of Criticism in Our Time. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1997.
Stacey Margolis, "Huckleberry Finn: or, Consequences." PMLA 2001: 329-343.

Day 18: Thurs, Mar. 27--Taka and Mia: racial humor in Huckleberry Finn, Ch. 22-Chapter the Last

Day 19: Tues, Apr. 1--Nicole, Eric and Ngoc:
South Park, Episode 408: "Chef Goes Nanners"
From "Spike Lee's Huckleberry Finn" by Ralph Wiley
In Praise of "Spike Lee's Huckleberry Finn"

Day 20: Thurs, Apr. 3--Emily and Philly:
Reading Spike Lee's Huckleberry Finn

Day 21: Tues, Apr. 8--Samantha and Monica: Little Women, Part I AND
three generations of criticism (these essays are available on Bryn Mawr Library E-reserves):
Nina Auerbach, Communities of Women: An Idea in Fiction. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1978.
Anne Dalke, "'The House-Band': The Education of Men in Little Women." College English 47, 6 (October 1985): 571-578.
Gus Stadler, "Louisa May Alcott's Queer Geniuses." American Literature 71, 4 (December 1999): 657-677.

Day 22: Thurs, Apr. 10--Emily and Barbara:

Day 23: Tues, Apr. 15--Margaret and Natalie: Little Women, Part II AND
Peggy McIntosh, "Interactive Phases of Curricular Re-vision: A Feminist Perspective." Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, 1983 (available on Bryn Mawr Library E-reserves)

Day 24: Thurs, Apr. 17--Maggie and Eric: The Awakening, Chs. 1-19
Day 25: Tues, Apr. 22--Melissa and Natalie:The Awakening, Chs. 20-end
Day 26: Thurs, Apr. 24--Kati and Nancy: Modern Awakenings:

Day 27: Tues, Apr. 29--Orah, Mia and Julia: Day 28: Thurs, May 1--Sebastian and Kathy: Saturday, May 10, 5 p.m.: Portfolios due

Sharon Burgmayer, "Diffraction"

Course Requirements

1/2 Talking

Read the assigned texts; view the assigned videos.
Attend class regularly (I don't expect you to miss more than two sessions) and
Contribute to our class discussion (this doesn't mean dominating discussion w/ your thoroughly-thought-through ideas; it means facilitating the learning of us all by being willing to think out loud each week in this playground of ideas).
Post on the class website weekly either your response to that week's query or another reflection related to our class discussion or reading.
Bring into our class conversation, or post on the course forum, at least once during the semester an account of some on- or off-campus event. Let us know both what you thought about/learned from this event, in relationship to our in-class discussions. I'll let you know of opportunities as I hear (or think) of them. I hope you'll let the rest of us know about those you hear-or-think of first....

Twice during the semester, you will work with another student to arrange the table for our class discussion. This might include

Sharon Burgmayer, "Light"

1/2 Writing

I will expect 25-pp. of formal written work (or equivalent) from you by May 10; I need to see @ least 10 pp. of writing (this can be in draft form) before you leave for spring break (this is non-negotiable!)

I expect you to make two appointments w/ me to discuss your written work. Our first meeting should take place by February 1, at which point we'll figure out together both what sorts of projects you'll be doing, and what pacing will work best for you this semester: do you want to submit 5 5-pp. papers to me equally spaced throughout the semester? A 10-p. paper before break, and 15-pp. @ semester's end? All 25-pp. after the semester ends (but w/ a draft due before break?)

Our second meeting should occur @ whatever point in this process seems to you most fruitful for gathering feedback from me: in brainstorming your projects, reviewing your proposals, guiding your research, responding to your first draft, or after the work is submitted . . . .

After the semester ends, we will celebrate w/ your final presentations,
which might take a variety of forms: