College Seminar I
Bryn Mawr College
Fall 2004

Sharon Burgmayer, "Numb Play"

Memory and Imagination:
The Self in Story and Society

Jody Cohen
(Bettws-y-Coed 302, ext. 5396;

How do our human memories and imaginations give rise to the stories we tell and to the selves that we are becoming? In this course we consider the nature of memory and its relationship to imagination, both in the evolving life of the individual and in the development of the larger group or culture. We regard the self, then, as both singular and collective, fixed and in flux, determined inwardly and shaped by external forces. We look at the relationship of identity to power, and address the question of how re-considering memory and identity might open up new imaginative spaces in global contexts. Our inquiry will include novels or memoirs by authors Louise Erdrich, Oscar Wilde and Maxine Hong Kingston and essays by anthropologists and poets as well as shared photographs and other artwork; films may include Memento and Bamboozled. We will write descriptively and critically, drawing on memory and imagination as well as analysis to develop and revise our understandings. In this process we will employ on a range of sources, including texts, visual images and observations.

Reading/Viewing Assignments include books, articles, and videos that you will be expected to read/view thoroughly and be prepared to discuss and/or write about. These 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 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 the box outside my office (Bettws-y-Coed 302) Monday morning and/or in class, as noted below; and the submission of two portfolios of work submitted 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
Writing is 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; and regular small group meetings with each other in class, to offer constructive responses to one another's writing. I 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 bulkpack (BP) of articles and book chapters is available for purchase in Thomas 103. These texts are available in the Bryn Mawr College Bookshop and on reserve in Canaday:

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Maxine Hong Kingston, Woman Warrior

Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine

Class Meetings & Assignments

I. Memoir, memory and imagination

Week 1

Mon. Aug. 30

Overview of the course

Getting started

Wed. Sept. 2

Reading due:

Walker, "Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self"

Week 2

Due Monday @ 9 am in my box:

DRAFT 1: Use a journal piece, a photo or any other mode of triggering memory to create a "moment" (as Hampl defines it) or develop a scene in a genre ( e.g. play, memoir, personal essay) of your choice.

Mon. Sept. 6

Reading due:

Hampl, "Memory and Imagination" (BP)

LaMott, Bird by Bird (BP)

Slater, Lying (BP)

Wed. Sept. 8

Reading due:

Selzer, Raising the Dead (BP)

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

Week 3

Due Monday @ 9 am:

DRAFT 2: Write an essay about the relationship of memory and imagination or truth and lies, drawing on your own previous writings and on our readings to illustrate, investigate and elaborate.

Mon. Sept. 13

Reading due:

Maxine Hong Kingston, Woman Warrior, "No Name Woman"

Wed. Sept. 15

Writing workshop: Bring 3 copies of your essay

Week 4

Mon. Sept. 20

Reading due:

Hong Kingston, "White Tigers"

Wed. Sept. 22

Hong Kingston, "Shaman"

Week 5

Reading due:

Hong Kingston, "Song of the Barbarian Reed Pipe

Due Monday @ 9 am:


Select a passage (no more than a paragraph) in Woman Warrior that invites a close reading. Examine the passage both in terms of its meanings, tone, style, language and so forth, and in terms of what it tells us about the meaning of this chapter and/or the book as a whole. Write a 2 page essay in which you elucidate the passage and shed light on what it suggests about the text.

Wed. Sept. 29

Writing Workshop: Bring 3 copies of your essay

II. Memory, imagination and the individual psyche

Week 6

Mon. Oct. 4

Reading due:

Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (BP)

Wed. Oct. 6

Reading due:

Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray


Week 7

Mon. Oct. 18

Reading due:

Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Wed. Oct. 20

DUE MON. OCT 25, 9 am

PORTFOLIO #1: review all your written work,

revise at least two pieces,

reflect on the whole

Week 8

Mon. Oct. 25

Reading due:

Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Wed. Oct. 27

Reading due:

Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Week 9

Mon. Nov. 1

Due Monday @ 9 am:


Paper on Dorian Gray — develop own topic? TBA?

Writing workshop: Bring 3 copies

III. Culture and identity

Wed. Nov. 3

Reading due:

Picturing Us, intro by Willis (BP)

Week 10

Mon. Nov. 8

Reading due:

Erdrich, Love Medicine

Wed. Nov. 10

Reading due:

Erdrich, Love Medicine

Week 11

Mon. Nov. 15

Reading due:

Erdrich, Love Medicine

Wed. Nov. 17

Reading due:

Erdrich, Love Medicine

Week 12

Mon. Nov. 22

Reading due:

Ray McDermott and Herve Varenne. "Culture as Disability."Anthropology and Education Quarterly 26, 3 (1995): 324-348.

Wed. Nov. 24

Reading due:

Picturing Us, photo-essay by Rogers (BP)

Ursula Le Guin, Bryn Mawr Commencement Address, 1986

Week 13

Mon. Nov. 29

Due Monday @ 9 am:


What is abling and dis-abling about your culture? About the cultures described by Erdrich, Willis, Rogers and/or Le Guin? How do these authors help us consider ways to render culture more abling, less dis-abling? Write a piece in which you draw on these authors’ ideas and also explore your own ideas about how we might re-imagine some part of our culture.

Wed. Dec. 1

Writing Workshop: Bring 3 copies.

Week 14

Mon. Dec. 6


Wed. Dec. 8

Celebration and portfolio workshop

Final portfolio due exam week:

This portfolio will include revisions of at least two papers as well as selections and reflections across the semester. We will discuss this further in class.

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