College Seminar I
Bryn Mawr College
Fall 2002

Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-Telling Stories About Ourselves In the World

Anne Dalke (English House, ext. 5308,
Paul Grobstein (Park, ext. 5098,
Hayley Thomas (Taylor, ext. 5369,

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
Jallaludin Rumi

All images in this syllabus were created by Sharon Burgmayer,
Department of Chemistry, Bryn Mawr College. For an exhibit of her work see

This course was co-designed by teachers of Biology, English and Folklore to explore the variety of ways in which we are all continually reaching for new understandings. Materials to be handled in the class include fairy tales, the nineteenth-century satire Flatland, Bertold Brecht’s play The Life of Galileo, Octavia Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower and reflections on topics ranging from linguistics and neurobiology to the culture of Bryn Mawr. In addition to long-established elements of inquiry--acting, enacting, observing, experimenting, reading, talking and writing--we will explore visual culture, the new potentials of the web and other aspects of developing information technology. Together, we will apprehend this wide range of literary, cultural and scientific stories, intuiting, imagining and revising what they might mean, continuously telling and re-telling them in an attempt to "get it less wrong."

I. Reading and writing ourselves

"The stories we tell ourselves, particularly the silent or barely audible ones,
are very powerful. They become invisible enclosures. Rooms with no air.
One must open the window to see further, the door to possibility….
How to tell a story without fashioning it along the prefabricated lines? . . . .
we are immersed in an old story and cannot see what is happening."
Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War.
New York: Anchor, 1992. 284, 324.

"I wrote the story first. It was a true story. But it seemed too simple.
So then I wrote the counter narrative: a second voice, second thoughts."
Griffin, Reading at Bryn Mawr. February 2, 1999.

Week One
(one of our sections meet MW, two on TTh, hence the double dates….)

Introduction to the course
Reading an image

Chapman, Tracy. "Telling Stories."
Tuan, Yi-Fu. "A Life of Learning." Charles Homer Haskins Lecture for 1998. American Council of Learned Societies Occasional Paper, #42.
Bateson, Mary Catherine, Composing a Life, New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989. 1-34, 232-241.
Hempl, Patricia. "Memory and Imagination." I Could Tell You Stories. New York: Norton, 1999. 21-37.

Week Two
Selected excerpts by Charles Darwin, Soren Kierkegaard & Virginia Woolf from Nothing Begins with N: New Investigations of Freewriting. Ed. Pat Belanoff, Peter Elbow and Sheryl I. Fontaine. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.
Large group writing workshop
Draft A, 4-5pp: compose your own life of learning

Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm. "Little Briar Rose" and "Cinderella." The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Trans. Margaret Hunt. Revised James Stern. New York: Pantheon, 1972. 118-122, 64-71.
"Words Without End." Afro-American Folktales: Stories From the Black Tradition in the New World. Ed. Roger Abrahams. New York : Pantheon, 1985.
"Nourie Hadig." The Old Wives' Fairy Tale Book. Ed. Angela Carter. 1990.
"Crawling into the Elephant's Belly."
"Yeh-Shen." Myths, Legends and Folktales of America. Ed. David Leeming and Jack Page. New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.

Week Three
Small group writing workshops
Draft B, 4-5 pp: write a fairy tale
(maybe re-compose your life as a fairy tale?)

Sexton, Anne. Transformations. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971.
Smith, Mary Carter. "Cindy Ellie, A Modern Fairy Tale." Talk That Talk: An Anthology of African-American Storytelling. Eds. Linda Boss and Marian F. Barnes. New York: Simon and Schuster/Touchstone, 1989. 396-402.

Week Four
Large group writing workshop
Draft C, 4-5 pp: revise your life of learning and/or fairy tale

Bettelheim, Bruno. "Reflections: The Uses of Enchantment." The New Yorker (December 8, 1975): 50-114.

Sunday evening, 9/29: Conference on fairy tales

II.Ordering and Re-ordering the World

"Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind,
and are not, however it may seem,
uniquely determined by the external world."
Albert Einstein, in Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld.
The Evolution of Physics. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1938. 33.

Week Five
Rodriguez, Juana. Guidelines for Revisions.
Small group writing workshops
Paper #1: using Bettelheim’s methodology (or another), analyze your fairy tale. Submit both together for evaluation.

They Might be Giants. "Particle Man."
Abbott, Edwin. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. 1885; rpt. New York: New American Library, 1984.
Monastersky, Richard. "Recyling the Universe: New Theory Postis that Time Has No Beginning or End." The Chronicle of Higher Education. June 7, 2002. Foucault, Michel. Preface and Forward. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. 1966; rpt. and trans. New York: Vintage, 1973. ix-xxiv.

Week Six
Large group writing workshops
Draft A: drawing on Foucault and Flatland, reflect on our class website about on why we are both motivated and reluctant to re-tell stories. What provokes us to this activity? What prevents us from engaging in it? How does it profit us, and what are its costs?

Brecht, Bertolt. Galileo. 1952; rpt. New York: Grove, 1966.

10/15-10/17 FALL BREAK

Week Seven
Galileo, continued….
Small group writing workshops
Paper #2: Visit the various websites on evolution and creationism; on our class website, answer last week’s questions again, focusing this time on the contemporary debate about science education.

III. Telling and Re-telling Culture’s Story

All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

Is Change.

Earthseed: The Books of the Living
Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler

Silko, Leslie Marmon. "Language and Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective." Critical Fictions, ed. Philomena Mariani. Seattle: Bay Press, 1991. 83-93.
Geertz, Clifford. "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight." The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic, 1973. 195-240.
Theophano, Janet. "’I Gave Him a Cake’: An Interpretation of Two Italian-American Weddings." Creative Ethnicity: Symbols and Strategies ofContemporary Ethnic Life. Eds. Stephen Stern and John Allan Cicala. Logan, Utah: Utah State Universtiy Press, 1991. 44-54.

Week Eight
Large group writing workshop
Draft A: In the course forum area, tell the story of some aspect of a culture with which you are familiar.

Butler, Octavia. Parable of the Sower. New York: Warner, 1993.

MONDAY 11/4, 7:30 p.m.

Week Nine
Butler, continued…
Small group writing workshops
Draft B: In the course forum area, describe your initial reactions to Butler’s novel. What has the experience of reading the novel been like for you? Within the context of this class: what do you find most interesting & most problematic about the story she tells, and how she tells it?

Butler, continued…

Week Ten
Butler, continued …
Large group writing workshop
Paper #3: Bring to class an expanded version of your initial thoughts about what is accomplished in Butler’s telling and re-telling of this story.

IV. Apprehending and Absorbing the Storyteller

"The Brain--is wider than the Sky--
For--put them side by side--
The one the other will contain
With ease--and You--beside--

The Brain is deeper than the sea-- For--hold them--Blue to Blue--
The one the other will absorb--
As Sponges--Buckets--do

The Brain is just the weight of God--
For--Heft them--Pound for Pound--
And they will differ--if they do--
As Syllable from Sound–"

Emily Dickinson. 1896; rpt. The Complete Poems.
Ed. Thomas Johnson. Boston: Little, Brown, 1960.

Polanyi, Michael. The Tacit Dimension. New York: Anchor, 1967. 3-25.
Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. "Introduction: Who are We?" "The Cognitive Unconscious," "The Embodied Mind" and "Primary Metaphor and Subjective Experience." Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought. New York: Basic Books, 1999. 3-59.

Week Eleven
Small group writing workshops
Draft A: collect data on tacit understanding

Vygotskii, Lev Semenovich. Thought and Language. Trans. Eugenia Hanfmann and Gertrude Vakar. Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1962. 1-7, 119-153.
Pinker, Steven. "An Instinct to Acquire an Art," "Chatterboxes" and "Mentalese."The Language Instinct. New York: HarperPerennial, 1995. 15-82.
Language: A Conversation.

Week Twelve
Large writing group workshop
Draft B: interpret the observations you have made


Week Thirteen
Sacks, Oliver. "The Last Hippie" and "A Surgeon’s Life." An Anthropologist on Mars. New York: Vintage, 1995. 42-107.
Small group writing workshops
Paper #4: What new questions does your explanatory theory raise?
What new experiment need you now design, to elicit a further set of observations?

V. Re-vising and re-visioning Bryn Mawr

"If resistance is always the sign of a counter-story, ambivalence
is perhaps the state of holding on to more than one story at a time."
Barbara Johnson, The Feminist Difference: Literature, Psychoanalysis, Race, and Gender.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998. 2

Horowitz, Helen. "A Certain Style of ‘Quaker Lady’ Dress" and "Behold They Are Women!" Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s. New York: Knopf, 1984. 105-133.
The Women of Summer:
The Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers, 1921-1938 (videorecording). Dir. Suzanne Bauman. New York: Filmakers Library, 1985. (55 mins.)
Heller, Rita Rubinstein. "An ‘Unnatural’ Institution." "The Women of Summer: The Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers, 1921-1938." Dss. Rutgers University, 1986. 1-36.
Grumman, Anne. "The Summer School as Seen by a Tutor." Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin 1, 8 (October 1921). 19-23.
Saunders, Louise Brownell. "Four Weeks’ Experience in the Bryn Mawr Summer School forLabor." Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin. 1, 9 (November 1921).
The Future of the Summer School." Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin 1, 9 (November 1921). 17-19.
Smith, Hilda Worthington. "The Summer School of 1924." Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin 4, 8 (October 1924). 9-11.
-----. "The National Experiment in Adult Education." Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin 13, 9 (December 1933). 8-10. "Open Letters About the Summer School." Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin 15, 5 (May 1935). 4-8.

Week Fourteen
Large group writing workshop
Draft A: write the story of Bryn Mawr, as you now understand it.

McDermott, Ray and Herve Vareene. "Culture as Disability." Anthropology and Education Quarterly 26, 3 (1995): 324-348.
Osborne, Lawrence. "Regional Disturbances." The New York Times. May 6, 2001.
Small group writing workshops, in which we re-write our stories of Bryn Mawr: what disabilities are generated by what we see being taught here?

Reading week: Paper #5, to conclude: how might we revise the Bryn Mawr Story? (This might take the form of a fairy tale, or a montage, or a poem; it could also be collaboratively written or performed….)

Sunday evening, 12/15: Final Celebration

Expectations for the Course

Reading Assignments are listed above; you will be expected to read these books and articles thoroughly, and come to class prepared to discuss and write about them. Readings should be completed by the due date in the syllabus. A collection of the excerpts and articles are available for purchase as a packet. Four texts are also available in the Bryn Mawr College Bookshop:

Anne Sexton, Transformations
Edwin Abbott, Flatland
Bertolt Brecht, Galileo
Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

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 bi-monthly web postings in response to the course’s "images"; weekly drafts of papers, due sometimes as web postings, sometimes due in typewritten form in your professor’s mailbox by 9 a.m. each Monday or Tuesday (depending on when your section meets); and the submission of a final portfolio in which you review your semester’s work. 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 three regular forums for conferences about your writing: postings on our class website; bi-monthly meetings with your professors, in their offices; and regular 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.

Individual classes will meet regularly twice a week. All members of the seminar are 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.

We will also hold several cluster-wide gatherings during the course of the semester–stay tuned for details on those events!


Paper Assignment #4

Our sequence of drafts for Paper #4 derives from Michael Polyani’s claim in The Tacit Dimension that

Tacit knowing is shown to account (1) for a valid knowledge of a problem, (2) for the scientist’s capacity to pursue it, guided by [her] sense of approaching its solution, and (3) for a valid anticipation of the yet indeterminate implications of the discovery arrived at in the end. (24)

Each of Polyani’s stages marks a draft in your writing process.

  1. The week of November 18-19, please bring to class a written record of data you have collected on tacit understanding; we will conduct small-group workshops on the material you have gathered. There are a wide range of forums where you can make these observations. For instance, three exhibits on Serendip invite you to do precisely that:

You’ll find "Time to Think" @

"Seeing More than your Eye Does" @

and "The Three Doors of Serendip @

Alternatively, you may want to conduct your own experiment, making observations of how you see yourself--or preferably, others--using tacit knowledge; you might also find it very productive to conduct two different experiments/gather two different sets of comparable data in which you have observed tacit knowledge being used.

(2) The week of November 25-26, please deliver to our offices by 9 a.m. a draft in which you interpret the observations you have made: what story, what theory most fruitfully describes the data you have collected? We will conduct a large-group writing workshop on these drafts.

(3) The week of December 2-3, please bring to class a final version of this paper, in which you not only present and interpret your data, but also identify what new questions your explanatory theory raises. What new experiment need you now design, to elicit a further set of observations?


Instructions for Paper #5
(following a pattern which may be wearyingly familiar to you by now: a sequence of 3 steps)

1. Read through all the materials in the course packet on Bryn Mawr history: Horowitz's two chapters, Heller's introduction, and the 6 short essays from the 1920s-30s Alumnae Bulletin. We will also watch The Women of Summer video in class early next week. Then during the week of December 9-10, write, and post on our course forum, a short draft of "the history of Bryn Mawr" as you now understand it. In this essay, draw on your own campus experiences as well as your reading and viewing of the assigned materials. What is most striking to you about this slice of Bryn Mawr history? What surprises you, pleases you, distresses you? What would you like to know more about?

2. Read the McDermott and Vareene essay on "Culture as Disability" and the Osborne NYTimes piece. Come to class during the week of December 11-12 with notes and thoughts about ways in which you might re-write your above story of Bryn Mawr, focusing on the disabilities that may be generated by the abilities you see being taught here.

3. In your final draft, revise this Bryn Mawr story a third time. This might take the form of an essay, a futuristic short story, fairy tale, a montage, a poem or an illustration; it could be a riff on Sharon Bergmeyer's production of "Understanding is ???"; it could be collaboratively written or performed at our final celebration on Sunday evening, 12/15.


Instructions for Preparing your Final Portfolio

In this portfolio, due by noon on Saturday, December 22nd, we are asking you to collect and reflect on the written work you have done for this course. This portfolio project invites you to chronicle what has happened in your evolution both as a writer and a speaker in class, and to contribute to and assist us with the evaluation of your work. So--

  • Gather together everything you’ve written for this class: copies of what you’ve posted on the course website, all your paper drafts, as well as all the responses (you’ve saved) from both your classmates and your instructor. Arrange the material in a folder, chronologically, back to front.
  • You are free to omit altogether from the packet one of the papers (in all its versions).
  • You are also invited to revise one of the papers. Be willing, in this process, to engage in major re-thinkings of what you have done already (although you may also find it satisfying to edit merely for stylistics and technicalities–and so are more than welcome to submit a clean and corrected copy as finale for a sequence of drafts.)
  • You are also warmly invited to post another one of your papers on our course website, as your public finale to the course.
  • Review all you’ve gathered together in the portfolio; ruminate for a while on what you’re seeing as you do so. Then write a short (2 pp.) essay tracing where you were when we began this process, where you are now, and what’s been happening in between. Be specific and descriptive, but also evaluative: how much effort have you put into each of these drafts and their revisions, and what can you say about the quality of the final products?
  • Review as well your participation in our group work: how frequently have you come to class, how present-and-contributing have you been in our discussions, both large and small, what role have you assumed in our group dynamics? (Are you an organizer, devil’s advocate, includer, clarifier, withdrawer? This idea is from a book called Freire for the Classroom: A Sourcebook for Liberatory Teaching, which calls attention to the roles people play in groups.)

    In our responses to your portfolio, we’ll be giving you a grade not just for the quality of your written work, but also for class participation and process. Your self-evaluation will assist us with our own.

    We very much look forward to seeing what you come up with, as well as what you have to say about it.

    In gratitude for the pleasure we have found in the hard work we have all been doing together,

    Anne, Hayley and Paul

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