“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
-Jorge Luis Borges
Introduction: The ancient Greeks called humans the “talking animal,” but in many respects it could be just as accurate to call us the “writing animal.” Paradoxically no activity is simultaneously so abstract and so concrete. On the one hand language is necessary for the practical business of everyday life, yet the very same set of words can also be used to create fictional alternate worlds that are radically different from our experience. Indeed the division between what is fictional and what is not is porous precisely because we use the same words in the creation of both. Humanity is seemingly unique in our ability to imagine hypothetical situations and language is the medium through which this is expressed. In many ways all writing expresses a possible alternate world. In this class we will examine the ways in which people have constructed alternate worlds through language and we will discuss their reasons for doing. The purpose of this course is to help you improve your own construction of your possible worlds that is to improve your writing. There are only two full-proof ways this has ever been done, through continually writing and through reading, reciprocal acts that can not be separated. In this class we will be doing both.
Arcadia by Lauren Groff
After the Apocalypse: Stories by Maureen F. McHugh
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
All Shall be Well, and All Shall be Well, and All Manner of Things Shall be Well by Tod Wodicka
Schedule of readings and assignments
All readings and assignments due on the date that is indicated
(Note: This is a tentative schedule, and it is subject to change).
Tuesday January 15th – Introduction to class, course expectations.
Thursday January 17th – Read Alberto Manguel’s Notes Toward a Definition of the Ideal Reader, Notes Toward the a Definition of the Ideal Library, and The End of Reading (to be supplied by me).
Unit One: Utopia – Envisioning A More Perfect World
Tuesday January 22nd –Read from Lauren Groff’s Arcadia (1-55).
Thursday January 24th – Read “A Joke” from J.C. Hallman’s In Utopia: Six Kinds of Eden and the Search for a Better Paradise to be supplied by the instructor as well as from Arcadia (56-81).
Tuesday January 29th – Arcadia (82-165).
Thursday January 31st – Arcadia (166-218).
Tuesday February 5th – Arcadia (219-289).
Thursday February 7th – Mandatory paper conferences with me.
Tuesday February 12th – Begin viewing of Robert Edwards’ film Land of the Blind (2006).
Thursday February 14th – Finish viewing of film, peer review of paper drafts.
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 15th – FIRST PAPER DUE IN MY MAILBOX BY NOON
Unit Two: Alternate History – Envisioning a World that Never Happened
Tuesday February 19th – Read from Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1-44).
Thursday February 21st – Read “Introduction” from Gavriel Rosenfeld’s The World Hitler Never Made: Alternate History and the Memory of Nazism to be supplied by me.
Tuesday February 26th – The Man in the High Castle (45-118).
Thursday February 28th – The Man in the High Castle (119-167) Begin viewing of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009).
Tuesday March 5th – The Man in the High Castle (168-220), continue watching of movie.
Thursday March 7th – The Man in the High Castle (221-259).
Tuesday March 12th – NO CLASS: SPRING BREAK
Thursday March 14th – NO CLASS: SPRING BREAK
MONDAY MARCH 18th – SECOND PAPER DUE IN MY MAILBOX BY NOON
Unit Three: Post-Apocalypse – Envisioning the World Not Existing
Tuesday March 19th – Read from Maureen F. McHugh’s After the Apocalypse (1-86).
Thursday March 21st – Read “The End of the World?” from Matthew Barrett Gross and Mel Gilles’ The Last Myth: What the Rise of Apocalyptic Thinking Tells Us About America (to be supplied by me).
Tuesday March 26th – After the Apocalypse (87-120).
Thursday March 28th – After the Apocalypse (121-146).
Tuesday April 2nd – After the Apocalypse (147-end). Begin watching John Hillcoat’s The Road (2009).
Thursday April 4th – Finish the film.
FRIDAY APRIL 5th – THIRD PAPER DUE IN MY MAILBOX BY NOON
Unit Four: Reenacting History – Envisioning a Past in the Present and Vice Versa
Tuesday April 9th – Read from Tod Wodicka’s All Shall be Well; and All Shall be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall be Well (1-59).
Thursday April 11th – Read from All Shall be Well (60-112) and Sarah Vowel’s “God Will Give You Blood to Drink in a Souvenir Shot Glass” (to be supplied by me).
Tuesday April 16th – Read from All Shall be Well (113-190).
Thursday April 18th – Read from All Shall be Well (191-223) and showing of Colin Trevorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed (2012).
Tuesday April 23rd – Read from All Shall be Well (224-264) and completion of movie.
Thursday April 25th – Wrapping things up.
FRIDAY APRIL 26th – FOURTH PAPER DUE IN MY MAILBOX BY NOON