Evolution of an idea or a discipline central to the humanities. Content varies from year to year. For University Honors Program students only. Offered: Sp.
What is the specific power of narrative in structuring reality? What can narrative do that other structuring devices such as logics or archives cannot do? Why have various disciplines (such as history, the social sciences) experienced a "narrative turn"? In this course we will explore three different kinds of narrative in order to learn about "story logic" (David Herman): personal narratives (life writing), national narratives (national identity) and scientific narratives (explanations of "facts"). We will look at a number of written texts (Twain's Tom Sawyer, Eggers's What is the What, Hustvedt's The Shaking Woman, Hawking's A Briefer History of Time), a graphic novel (Bechdel's Fun Home), a number of movies (Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11) and some paintings to find out how narratives work. Alongside this source material we will read a number of essays on the theory of narrative. The goal of the class is to make participants aware (and critical) of the great power of narrative-for better or worse…
Student learning goals
Have a clearer notion of what "narrative/narration" means and implies.
Recognize various narrative strategies that have to do with plot, point of view, time management, presentation of space, imagery etc.
Know that narrative is not restricted to text alone.
Understand the use of narrative in various different endeavors, such as getting clearer about one's own identities (personal narrative), building a nation (national narrative), support a world picture (scientific narrative).
Reflect about the various different functions and implications of narratives.
Be familiar with some very interesting specific narratives.
General method of instruction
Instruction will mostly be conducted through discussions. At times I will lecture a little bit to explain theoretical texts and at times we will split up into groups to do group work. Students prepare questions, but we will not have lengthy in-class reports and no reading diaries.
Print: Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. 2006. Reprint. New York: Mariner Books, 2007. Eggers, Dave. What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng. New York: Vintage, 2007. Hawking, Stephen. A Briefer History of Time. 1988. Reprint. New York: Bantam, 2008. Hustvedt, Siri. The Shaking Woman: Or A History of My Nerves. New York: Picador, 2010. Twain, Mark. The Adventure of Tom Sawyer (Norton Critical Edition). Ed. Beverly Lyon Clark. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006.
Films: An Inconvenient Truth. Dir. Davis Guggenheim. Paramount, 2006. DVD Fahrenheit 9/11. Dir. Michael Moore. Sony, 2004. DVD
Class assignments and grading
1) Written narrative (due: May 1st): Please write a short narrative (scene) of about 4-5 pages. Your narrative can be personal (experience) or fictional and it should contain an idea or event which, you think, is of more than purely personal significance. 2) Prepare Discussion Questions: Please select one session in order to prepare 2 questions: one on the theoretical text and one on the narrative text. Your questions may be about a concept or may lead to a discussion about content or theory. 3) Final essay: (due June 5th): Please write a short essay (5-6 pages) on one of the narratives discussed in class, in which you engage one of the theoretical ideas/concepts which we have discussed in the classroom.
-do the readings/viewings for class [5% ] -be prepared for class discussion [5%] -Written narrative (4-5 pages) [25%] -preparation of discussion questions for a session [15%] -final essay: an analysis of a narrative of your choice (5-6 pages) [50%]