Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bread Loaf 2011

I've just realized that my course selection this summer seemingly defies the stated intention of this blog: "One woman's attempt to read more than picture books." You see, I've gone and signed up for two courses heavy on children's literature. But along with classics ranging from Goodnight Moon to Peter Pan, I'll also be reading some art theory, Romantic poetry, thoughts on early education, and I'll be doing a little creative writing of my own. It should be a very different summer, but highly challenging and enjoyable!

7019 Writing for Children/Ms. Stepto and Mr. Swope/

Stories for children, like stories for adults, come in many colors, from
dark to light, and the best have in common archetypal characters,
resonant plots, and concise, poetic language. Using classic texts as
inspiration, we will try our hands at a variety of forms, such as the fairy
tale, the fable, and fantasy. In the second half of the course, in the light
of critical reading and with an eye to shaping a final project, students
will begin to revise what they have written. Among the critical questions
considered will be: What is a children’s story and what is it for? What
sorts of stories do children themselves tell? What view of the child and
childhood do children’s stories take? How can the children’s story be
made new? Students should come to the first class having read The Light
Princess; they should also bring along a favorite children’s book.

Texts: George MacDonald, The Light Princess (Farrar, Straus and
Giroux); James Barrie, Peter Pan (Puffin); You Read to Me & I’ll Read
to You, ed. Janet Schulman (Random/Knopf); A.A. Milne, The House
at Pooh Corner (Puffin); Aesop, Fables (Dover); William Steig, Sylvester
and the Magic Pebble (Alladin); Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree (Harper
& Row); Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon (HarperCollins);
Molly Bang, The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher (Alladin); Vivian
Paley, Wally’s Stories (Harvard); Jean de Brunhoff, The Story of Babar
(Random); Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night
Kitchen (both HarperCollins); I.B. Singer, Zlateh the Goat and Other
Stories (HarperCollins); Dr. Seuss, Six by Seuss (Random); Nathaniel
Hawthorne, A Wonder Book (Dover/Evergreen); Carlo Collodi, The
Adventures of Pinocchio (Puffin); Natalie Babbitt, The Devil’s Storybook
(Farrar, Straus, Giroux).

7182 Describing the Imagination/Mr. Armstrong

In this course we examine the working of imagination from infancy to
adulthood. Our focus is on the creative work of children and young
adults: their writing, art, music, dance, drama, photography, and film.
We observe, describe, and interpret creative work in many different
ways, both verbally and visually. We study accounts of the imagination
by writers, artists, critics, and philosophers. We examine the place of
imagination in education, and we consider how to promote, support,
and document imaginative achievement, in and out of school. A
guiding text throughout the workshop will be John Dewey’s Art as
Experience. Class members are expected to bring with them examples
of the creative work of their students or of their own children. Of
particular interest is work that combines different art forms. We keep
a class journal in which we document our own imaginative journey
day by day. Class members are expected to contribute regularly to the
journal, to write reflections on class discussions, and to conduct their
own inquiry into some aspect of the class theme.

Texts: John Dewey, Art as Experience (Perigee); Vivian Paley, A Child’s
Work (Chicago); Project Zero and Reggio Children, Making Learning
Visible and Shoe and Meter ; John
Keats, The Complete Poems, ed. John Barnard (Penguin); John Keats,
Selected Letters, ed. Jon Mee (Oxford); Peter de Bolla, Art Matters
(Harvard); Adam Phillips, The Beast in the Nursery (Vintage);
Paul Harris, The Work of the Imagination (Wiley-Blackwell).

Monday, March 29, 2010


This novel by Harold Frederic, published as The Damnation of Theron Ware, was engaging enough, and certainly painted a vivid picture of the animosity between Protestants and Catholics in 19th century America. Although the main character, the Reverend Theron Ware, was a bit too much of a caricature of what happens when innocence meets ambition, there were other characters with more depth and shadows that made the novel move along nicely. My main complaint is that the author was a bit heavy handed in getting his point across - perhaps it was just his time period, or perhaps it was because he was a journalist first, but it did not seem that Frederic had heard the quip now incessantly repeated to writing students to "show, not tell" - anytime he did try to merely suggest, he would then go and muck it up by overtly explaining any imagery he had created.

Next up - Kipling's short stories. I'm really looking forward to reading beyond what I know of him from children's literature. (I'm also two-timing and reading Franny and Zooey while I put Whitman down for his naps - such a treat to steal away for 10 minutes in the morning and afternoon and dip into that book!)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time to get to work!

Used books are now showing up at my doorstep at a rate of two or three a day, meaning it's time to get cracking! I got my course assignments last week (got both classes that I'd hoped for), and now it's time to get organized and start reading! My hope is to work through these reading lists in order as best as I can, bumping books I've previously read to the bottom of the list - we'll see how much can be done before June! The only dilemma is when I'll allow myself the pleasure of re-reading A Passage to India . . .

So for, those of you keen on reading along, here are the marching orders:

7455 Fiction of Empire and the Breakup of Empire/Ms. Sabin/T, Th 2-4:45
Through close study of selected Victorian, modern, and contemporary texts, the seminar will examine continuities and ruptures between colonial and postcolonial fiction in English. Novels and short stories will be considered in relation to a variety of critical and theoretical controversies in current postcolonial studies. We will discuss the participation of the English novel in the construction and also the critique of imperialism, the ambiguous status of the English language in the turn against the colonialist mentality, and more recent questioning of the term “postcolonial” itself. This course moves fast, especially at the beginning. It will prove very important to have done a substantial amount of the primary reading before arrival, at least The Mystery of Edwin Drood, A Passage to India, The Inheritance of Loss, The Romantics, and A Bend in the River. Specific assignments in critical reading and a few films will accompany the primary texts during the course, along with photocopied extracts from some contemporary primary readings unavailable for purchase in print. (This course can be used to satisfy either a Group III or a Group V requirement; students should indicate their choice at the time of registration.)

Texts: Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Penguin); Rudyard Kipling, Selected Stories (Penguin); E.M. Forster, A Passage to India (Harvest); Pankaj Mishra, The Romantics (Anchor); Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss (Grove); Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Norton Critical Ed.); Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (Anchor); V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River (Vintage); Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Weep Not, Child (Heinemann); Wole Soyinka, Ak√©: The Years of Childhood (Vintage); Ama Ata Aidoo, Our Sister Killjoy (Longman).

7625 Religion and the Twentieth-Century American Novel/Ms. Hungerford/M-F 8:45-9:45
Beginning with Harold Frederic’s realist masterpiece The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896) and ending with the apocalyptic fiction of Cormac McCarthy (The Road [2006]), we will study a century’s worth of American novels for which religion is central to theme and narrative form. Our questions will include: How is literature imagined in religious terms? How does American religious history inflect the development of the American novel in the twentieth century? How is the Bible folded into fiction? How do Catholic and Jewish thought emerge in Protestant America? How is religious life imagined in the context of American pluralism? The course requires one short paper, one longer paper, and student presentations. The seminar will include brief introductions to a few authors not on the syllabus (Henry James, Flannery O’Connor, Jack Kerouac, Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo) to broaden the context and as a resource for further study.

Texts: Harold Frederic, The Damnation of Theron Ware, or Illumination (Penguin); William Faulkner, Light in August (Vintage); James Baldwin, Go Tell it on the Mountain (Dial); Saul Bellow, Seize the Day (Penguin); J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey (Back Bay); Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (HarperPerennial); Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (Picador); Cormac McCarthy, The Road (Vintage). A course reader including William James, Philip Roth, material from the Baldwin archive at Yale, and other prose and criticism will be available in Vermont. Please read Theron Ware and as much as possible of Light in August before you arrive.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Go back to high school.

Let me be clear. I am not someone who looks back on my high school days as the glory days; I didn't absolutely hate high school, but I certainly wouldn't call those years the best of my life. But the death of J.D. Salinger yesterday reinforced a recent realization for me - we could all benefit from going back and re-reading some of the books we had to read in high school.

I'm assuming that all of us have at least one text that we resented having to read during our school days. Heck, I was the girl who fell for William Wordsworth instead of the quarterback of the football team (who WAS the quarterback of the football team?), and even I felt this way about many assignments.

All I remembered from my American literature survey course's treatment of The Scarlet Letter was my teacher's little wind-up doll that we pretended was the Reverend Dimsdale by putting a little whip in his hand. (What could be more interesting to a 15 year old than self-flagellation? Don't answer that . . .) I re-read The Scarlet Letter at Bread Loaf two summers ago, and was astonished by what a tidy, perfectly crafted little novel it was. (And I promise I'm not just promoting Nathaniel Hawthorne because he went to Bowdoin . . .)

Similarly, I've forced myself to sit down and re-read Heart of Darkness this month in preparation for a course I hope to take this summer - again, I've been pleasantly surprised to find this an enjoyable undertaking. Not only do I have a greater appreciation for the influence this book had on colonial criticism, but I'm also truly enjoying the story and the language - Joseph Conrad, I owe you an apology.

But Salinger, Salinger is different. You'll of course find cranks that claim they didn't like ANYTHING they read in high school (I question whether they actually read any of it), but I would wager that the majority of us that were taught Catcher in the Rye enjoyed Catcher in the Rye. If enjoy is too strong a word, then I would hope folks would at least admit that something in the novel (likely the snarky adolescent voice of Holden Caufield on the very first page) resonated with them. This book provided us with a shared experience, a shared window for looking at another's painfully earnest high school experience and a mirror for thinking about our own.

And so I have homework for anyone reading this. Take the time this weekend to dip into something you may have felt was shoved down your throat in high school, or even something you may have liked and deserves another look. If you don't have anything handy, try some of these Salinger stories originally published by the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/backissues/2010/01/postscript-j-d-salinger.html Curl up with a cup of coffee, an open mind, and give it an hour. You may find there was something to your high school curriculum after all.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Let the reading begin!

I can't help but make resolutions with each new year, but, happily, I've come to my senses and given up making any that have to do with exercise. (I'm burning enough calories chasing these babies around.)

Every year I resolve to read more, but I know it will happen this year, as I'm Bread Loaf bound once again. I don't have my courses yet, but am still spending plenty of time pouring over last year's course catalog and dreaming of what I will be reading in the next few months.

I'm also taking this time to ramp up my personal reading and get in the habit again, now that Whitman is 6 months old and my brain is sufficiently recovered from - or simply used to - the lack of sleep. I recently finished Beloved (don't know how that one had eluded me for so many years) and last night polished off Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri's second collection of stories. One was pure pleasure, the other was mostly work (I'll let you guess which was which), but both were, at times, breathtakingly beautiful.

I'll leave you with a picture of our newest addition, Whitman, the reason I missed Lit Nerd Camp last summer - we can only pray he'll love books as much as his big sister does!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Live from Bread Loaf

Greetings from Bread Loaf, where I sit, wishing I'd had time to read all of the books they told me to read before I got up here - they weren't kidding! Now that the secondary sources have been assigned and papers are coming due, there is not a moment to spare. It's extremely rigorous, my peers are intelligent and intense, and I am loving it.

Yes, it's hard to completely throw myself into the program with a 10 month old at home, but she's probably also a good break from the hard thinking. As with most things in life, this is an exercise in time management.

And speaking of, I should get back to my essay on Emerson and Wordsworth . . .

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bah, Balzac

I decided to forgo Balzac for now and jump into The House of Mirth as my next novel - it's been immediately gratifying from page one. In Lily Bart, I've finally found a character I am interested in and sympathize with from page one (not page 200!) - I actually had to force myself to turn out the light last night (usually I'm forcing myself to keep it on). What a treat. In the meantime, I'm going to try to crank through the Emerson essays and The Scarlet Letter, as I've already read them in my younger days.