"Into the Wild"
The course focus is on American literature and landscapes and travels of many kinds—flight, escape, exile, relaxation, recreation, and refuge—physical and metaphysical, mental and spiritual. We will study a series of contemporary American “wilderness” narrative fictions and non-fictions set in realistic locales, mostly American, some not. Possible texts on this motif include Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, Callie Khouri’s Thelma and Louise, Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, Andre Dubus’ “In the Bedroom,” Walter Kirn’s Up in the Air, Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain,” and Sherman Alexie’s “This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona.” When possible, and within the time quarter limits, we will read and critically evaluate both narrative print and film texts. Requirements include an interest in serious literature reflecting realistic genre traditions (no country for happy fairy tale endings); openness to learning narrative theory and film techniques and applying them actively and critically to reading texts and cultural contexts; secondary research of texts using reliable scholarly databases; consistent in-person vocal and considerate participation in critical discussion of texts; reports, oral and written; a midterm and/or final exam. Please note that as this is a junior-level English course, student proficiency using standard literary critical terminology and writing coherent, analytical (not merely impressionistic) essays are essential necessary skills for course success. Please note as well that this is a discussion-based, in-person course, and thus weekly attendance and vocal participation are essential to course success.