Language and Literature A


Language and Lit A is designed to offer a wide, intuitive, lyrical, and dissonant survey of literature that’s meant to initiate a lasting practice of engagement that will highlight the connection between discourse, texts, and our larger life experiences.

This semester our class will features two interlocking units: 1) Childhood: Origins & Myth Stories and 2) Walking & Transformational Experience. We will begin by considering Gary Snyder’s sense that our childhoods are often grounded “home-place” (central locale and culture) that we explore tentatively, initially afoot, and begin to branch away from as we get older, moving further and further into uncharted territories that Snyder and Henry David Thoreau associate with wilderness/ the wild. As the unknown territories we walk into, and the discoveries that lie therein, overwhelm, transgressing categorical boundaries we cleave to for self-definition, they also teach us a lot about ourselves quickly because they require us to ask complicated questions and learn to thrive outside of our comfort zones. Above all, the experience of walking into the wild reveals the fact that contact with the world is transformational. It forces us to acknowledge that identity is as fluid and dynamic as nature, not static. Our imaginations are constantly unsettled by our various processes of becoming.

We will be dealing with challenging materials and working to carve out specific paths, angles, etc. into their subject matter. Our conversations will also stem from a deep conviction that learning is equally about what is experienced outside the classroom: making new friends and opening up to new ideas, learning to be mindful of others and live well (to “see well and be well” as Dorothy Wordsworth will say in her Journals), navigating home/ family lives, romances and (maybe) breakups; staying up too late and getting up early; homework; music; walking through the rain, leaves, etc. Class is patterned to honor and help begin to further our understanding of these circumstances too.

Key texts:

Unit 1

Gary Snyder’s The Practice of the Wild (excerpt), Annie Dillard’s American Childhood (exerpt), Joe Brainard’s I Remember,Larry Rivers’ The History of Hollywood, Modern Times paintings, Lyn Hejinian’s My Life (excerpt), and Wes Anderson’sRushmore (1998)

Unit 2

Matsuo Basho’s Narrow Road to the Deep North (excerpt), Arthur Rimbaud’s letters about cultivating a “visionary” poetic/ “Childhood,” Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” William Wordsworth’s “Nutting,” Dorothy Wordsworth’sJournals, Henry David Thoreau’s “Walking” and excerpts from his Journal, Gary Snyder’s The Practice of the Wild (excerpts), Jen Tynes’ Theda Barameter blog, Shannon Tharp’s The Cost of Walking (exceprt), Chris Schlarb’s Twilight & Ghost Stories(Asthmatic Kitty Records, 2007), James Wright’s “Twilights” and “Late November in a Field,” David Hinton’s Hunger Mountain(excerpt)