Well, I’m back on campus. Returning to the dorm after a month away was weird, since it’s basically my home now, or my home away from home… yet I haven’t been here since mid-December. It reminded me a bit of coming home after a long vacation? Everything is so familiar, and yet everything feels just a little bit “off” because you haven’t seen it in a while.
But I digress.
I meant to write this post earlier, but our room was FREEZING so I turned the heat all the way up, put on an extra pair of pants and a hoodie, and snuggled under a blanket. And I was STILL cold. (It was 2°F/-17°C this afternoon, and the temperature dropped even further after sunset. UGH.) Soooooooooooooooooo… anyway, eventually I was so warm and cozy that I fell asleep!
And then I woke up, and now I’m here writing this post. I don’t have classes until Tuesday, because tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day which means we don’t have school, but in the meantime I thought I’d tell you about the courses I’m taking during the spring semester! I plan to do occasional (monthly?) updates about all these courses, as well, just as I did last fall.
The Art and Craft of Travel Writing
In his essay “Why We Travel,” Pico Iyer writes, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” It’s that mix of escape and self-awareness, observation and introspection, that makes travel writing one of the richest and most ubiquitous formats in creative nonfiction.
Essayists from Marco Polo to Rebecca West, from Herman Melville to Michael Paterniti, writing in classic books and mainstream American magazines, on subjects ranging from food and politics to art and the environment, have seen travel for the wonder that it is: A rarefied chance to challenge and enlarge our perception and experience of life in the world.
In this course, by way of writing assignments, deep reading, and wide-ranging discussions, we will cover the fundamentals of great travel writing in its various forms and learn how to turn an excursion – whether across the ocean or across town – into an engaging story, as well as how to avoid objectifying cultures and characters.
Last fall, one of my courses was a creative writing workshop – well, this one is just like that, but it focuses specifically on travel writing! I would love to be a travel writer someday, among many other things. I love creative nonfiction!
Bill Bryson, one of the authors whose work introduced me to the concept of creative nonfiction, has done a ton of travel writing since the eighties, and I’ve read almost all of his books. I greatly admire his sense of humor, and I would love to incorporate my sense of humor into my travel writing! I don’t want to copy him, obviously, but I love his knack for bringing out the weirdness in the places he visits and the people he meets, and I would like to do something similar.
(I don’t know if we’ll read any pieces written by Bryson, but he is from Iowa, so… maybe?)
Basically, I just think travel writing is a really cool genre and I can’t wait to write some of my own! I love how reading great travel writing allows you to travel, in a way, without ever leaving your chair. It exposes you to places and people you may not ever encounter in real life, and for this reason I’m very excited to begin this course! I only wish I had it more than once a week!
Introduction to the Short Story:
From Henry James to Flash Fiction
According to Edgar Allan Poe, the short story should develop a single effect and be consumed in a single sitting. However, the nature of that effect and the length of that sitting can vary widely. This course will explore the immense diversity of short fiction by moving from the realistic to the fantastic and from the novella to flash fiction. We will attend to elements of craft, like character, perspective, tone, mood, structure, and theme, as well as to the way that writers and critics describe and theorize short fiction.
Apart from creative nonfiction, short stories are my other great literary love. I have enormous respect for the authors of my favorite short stories, because I think writing one is incredibly difficult: Everything that would normally be developed over the course of a novel must be compressed into just a few pages!
This is a literature course, so we’ll focus mainly on reading, but I think we have a few writing assignments as well? I hope at least one of them focuses on flash fiction, because that’s a genre I haven’t experimented with before.
Media Uses and Effects
How do news and entertainment inform us? Does advertising persuade us? Does playing violent video games make people more aggressive? Do repeated images of very thin women and very muscular men shape our own body image? This course introduces students to mass communication theory as it relates to practical applications in today’s society.
Students need to understand how theories can explain the role of media in our lives as individuals and as a social group, especially if they want to study journalism or public relations. This knowledge is important to help guide and critique today’s changing media industries.
This is the second of two courses needed for admittance into the school of journalism; the other is Media History & Culture. I chose to take MH&C this past fall because… well, if I’m honest, because this course has a boring title and I was intimidated by it. But when I looked at the course description as I was signing up for spring classes, I realized that I was wrong! This is EXACTLY the sort of thing I love… not that MH&C wasn’t fun, because it WAS.
It’s just that, well, this is the kind of thing I already read about for fun. As someone who wants to be an author and journalist, I’m fascinated by the ways in which the media affects us. It can really distort our ideas about the world around us, and… now I feel like a fool for thinking this course would be boring. Oh my god.
Imagine any of the following:
- You start school as a child are not taught in your home language, the only one you speak well.
- You are arrested by the police, but you don’t understand the language they speak.
- You go to the Department of Motor Vehicles or another government office, and the people speak to you in an unfamiliar language.
- You talk to your friends in public but can’t use the language you use with them in private.
- Your parents give you one name, but the government insists you be called something else.
How would your life be affected by this? All around the world these very things happen. In this course we examine issues of linguistic human rights: the fundamental right to use one’s language and the efforts made to secure those rights and deny them. We explore how language rights are integral to human rights in general and an individual’s definition of personal and cultural identity through studying a variety of case studies of the abrogation of language rights locally, nationally, and internationally.
I love that I get to study this kind of thing for school! Like the three courses before it, this course fulfills a requirement for my degree – it’s not an elective – but all these courses just sound so much FUN and I’m getting so excited already!
I loved learning Spanish, and would like to learn a few more languages some day, so I was super excited to enroll in this course. (Especially because my academic adviser told me that it was in very high demand – I would’ve been upset if I didn’t get in!) I love learning about cultures and human rights and stuff like that, so I AM EXCITED. I’m also excited that I didn’t have to buy a textbook for this course because the professor will print out handouts for us and bring them to class! [Wipes away a tear of joy] COLLEGE IS FREAKING EXPENSIVE EVEN BEFORE YOU BUY TEXTBOOKS, YOU GUYS.
Wonder Woman Unleashed: A Hero for Our Times
Wonder Woman comes to the silver screen on March 25, 2016 in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Created in 1941 right after Superman (1938) and Batman (1939), Wonder Woman deserves close examination and academic space of her own!
The course will offer an overview of the development of the woman warrior archetype in mythology, literature, and history. We will discuss the development of the heroic woman from the Amazons to the Valkyries, analyze the influence of historical women fighters such as Joan of Ark and Elizabeth I, and read excerpts about Artemisia from The Histories by Herodotus, Camilla from The Aeneid by Vergil and Minerva and Diana from The Metamorphoses by Ovid, allegorical women deities in The Tale of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizzan, Ariosto’s fictional Bradamante and Marfisa from Orlando Furioso, and Spencer’s Belphoebe and Britomart from The Faerie Queene. The course will contain a visual component that will allow the students to familiarize themselves with the evolution of the woman warrior image in both art and film.
KDFJHGDKJFSHGKDFG DGKGAJKHADSG DSAG DSG DSGJKDHSAGSD GSGDDSG. I AM EXCITED. This course is taught by the same professor who taught Superheroes Unleashed last fall, and she’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had! This is an elective course, and I don’t have much room for those in my schedule at any point in my college career because double-majoring in journalism and English with a certificate in creative writing is a humongous workload.
Buuuuut I do have room for some electives, and I enjoyed her teaching style and enthusiasm so much last year that I just had to sign up! I can’t wait to study both classic and modern heroines – this course is basically a semester-long expansion on our Superheroes Unleashed unit on heroines! I look forward to learning more about Wonder Woman, since I’m always happy to have more comics to read. Finally, I’m excited for the challenge of reading all this stuff for the course – it’s definitely not just about reading comic books all day. We’re reading a lot of old, old stories, and I always enjoy stretching my brain with those.
If you’re in college, tell me all about your current classes! And if you’re not, you can still chime in, too – what was your favorite class? Did you ever take any similar to mine?!