Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Readings in American Lit syllabus

The course syllabus for Readings in American Literature, §02 and §03, is available as a pdf here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Three weeks of Moby-Dick

Friends and Melville fans, I am teaching Moby-Dick this semester as part of a Readings in American Lit course.

My specialization centering some fifty years later, I am not one of those people who teaches this hoary beast (so to speak) every semester, so far from being bored by the prospect, I am thrilled.

I've mentioned this to a number of people, and many have replied that they've never read Moby-Dick. They've thought about it, but they've never had the occasion, or the time, or they've felt it was really the sort of thing you needed a course context within which to read it.

So I invite any interested parties to read Moby-Dick alongside me and my students, August 31 through September 19.

What would this entail?

1. The most important thing—really the only important thing—is reading the novel. A schedule is posted below.
2. My course blogs are sadly closed to the world, but I will post briefly here over the course of the three weeks; you're invited to read and comment. [UPDATE: it's possible my course blogs can become public. More soon.]
3. If you like, blog your own responses to the novel.
4. My course Twitter hashtag this semester is #f12ral (which stands for Fall 2012 Readings in American Lit). You are welcome to join in on any Twitter discussion, and if you blog about your reading, please tweet a link with the hashtag.

If you decide to read Moby-Dick with us, I'd very much like to hear from you about it. Drop me a line, leave a comment on this post, or tweet using the hashtag. If anyone decides to join us, I'll let my students know; I think they'll be tickled.

Most of the people who will encounter this post are not full-time students and will find the schedule a little onerous; it's 135 (short) chapters in just three weeks. You might fall behind in the reading, and that's no moral failing. All I can say is that it can be done (I think I had even less time to read it in college—maybe a week), and it will be done by my students, and maybe also by you.

The edition we are using is the Norton Critical. I will confess that I am not enormously a fan of this edition: neither the thin Bible-paper that makes the text bleed through from page to page, nor the distracting footnotes that turn out to be no more than dictionary definitions for relatively common words for, I suppose, potential readers with exceedingly narrow vocabularies. Nonetheless, this is the standard edition in my department and I did not have the choosing of it. Moreover, if you wish to read some contemporaries accusing Melville of lunacy, the Norton's got you covered. I see no reason to disdain the Penguin, however.


F 8/31Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, “Etymology,” “Extracts,” and chapters 1-15
M 9/03Labor Day; class will not meet.
W 9/05Moby-Dick, chapters 16-42
M 9/10Moby-Dick, chapters 43-78
W 9/12Moby-Dick, chapters 79-87
M 9/17Moby-Dick, chapters 88-126 [Rosh Hashanah]
W 9/19Moby-Dick, chapters 127-135 and epilogue

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hyde Park

The Seminary Co-op: the bookstore of my heart.
It's been a few years since I last visited Chicago. I'm in town for a wedding, and for some reason the weather decided to be perfect. I know that there are others who will understand that although Chicago is a large city, full of museums and restaurants and interesting neighborhoods, there is something that always pulls me back into the Hyde Park vortex. Could it be the books?

Random northside café. Evil RSI-aggravating mugs are a strike against them.
When I went to the Seminary Co-op, which hasn't yet moved, I was shocked to see that they didn't have Jen Fleissner's book on the shelf, and they only had one of Ian Hacking's books on statistics in the history of statistics section. These are, indeed, outrageous omissions (Women, Compulsion, Modernity is a Chicago title, for FSM's sake!), but it was wonderful to be in a place where I could have such expectations in the first place. And it's easy to imagine that they were probably gone because someone in the neighborhood had recently bought them.

Powell's. <3>

The Regenstein Library, plus
the new robot-operated underground stacks.