Academics: Courses and Intentions
Language, the medium of literature, is the main way our species notices the world. The senses press up against experience and come away with an impression; sooner or later, that’s cast in sentences. This observation is as true for science as it is for the arts and humanities, just as it’s true for virtually all our engagements in daily life and all our private thoughts: it’s all aswim in words. Culture is obviously language; nature, as we know it, is also language. Comprising the arts of reading, writing, and conversation, the writer’s practice comes to a question: how? All the disciplines follow.
Recruiting expert witness in many of those disciplines, including archaeology, art history, literary translation, and natural history, we’ll follow that question: How can sentences fit to experience? We’ll try to approach it from both humanistic and scientific angles, according to the classes described below. In practice—inside the prism, so to speak—the linked enterprises ought to feel like a single, integral conversation. On the transcript, that conversation will refract in numbered courses, listed below.
ENGL 283/383/483 or 493
5 credits, VLPA
Though no prior experience in creative writing is presumed and a wide range is anticipated, the class will scale to respective students’ abilities, and prove demanding at all levels. We’ll offer rigorous review of the technical elements of literary composition, prescribe practice, and experience for ten weeks what it means to carry one’s mind as an artist. The famous monuments and cultural treasury of the city will serve as laboratory benches. Our many experiments— writing to prompt— will throw light (if sometimes also inky smoke) back across the sights we’ve seen, and fill a portfolio you’ll find on your shelf a quarter-century from now.
ENGL 395: English Study Abroad
5 credits VLPA
We write, therefore we read; the practices are interdependent. In this class we’ll read from a writerly perspective. Taking inspiration from literary figures who’ve besieged the city before us, we’ll make acquaintance with Roman literati, citizens and expatriates alike. Our course packet includes excerpts (in translation) from the ancient and medieval worlds, including Ovid, Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Catullus, Petrarch, and Dante. Closer to home, we’ll dip our ladles into literary wells with Edith Wharton, Henry James, E.M. Forster, Eugenio Montale, Charles Wright, Richard Wilbur, among others. We’ll greet Keats near the Spanish steps at the beginning of our travels and at the Protestant cemetery near the end. We’ll practice his notion of “negative capability” throughout.
This course can be tailored to meet appropriate English and Creative Writing major requirements. See an English Adviser for more information and pre-approval.
Nature and Culture in Rome and Environs
ENGL 363: Literature of the Arts and Other Disciplines
5 credits VLPA
Richard Kenney, Carol Light, Adam Summers, and various other guest speakers
This course will begin with survival instruction in conversational Italian. It will feature guest experts in art, architecture, archaeology, history, literary translation, and other facets of Roman intellectual life and culture. It proposes several field trips, including a hill-town to the north, a city of the dead, and a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
What does it mean to think like a scientist? What are those little birds streaking against the ocher walls of that palazzo, nesting in its cornices? What is the natural history of a gryphon?
For hundreds of years before its archaeological excavation in modern times, the ruined Colosseum was a wilderness of exotic flora and fauna, residual of the African, European and Asian animal trades serving the Roman games. Those blood sports are long gone, but ecologies continue to flourish and change without them. Any environment, urban ones included, may be seen by the light of natural science. This class means to do so in Rome and the regions our field trips touch.