On course: Bryn Mawr courses and their reading lists

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'Scenes of Reading' College Seminar 002: Lecturer in English Sarah Willburn

"Our readings pair one contemporary text (about childhood, young adulthood, middle age or old age in some central capacity) with a 19th or early 20th century novel on the same," says Lecturer in English Sarah Willburn. "It is interesting, then, to see how lives and lifestyles are constructed in terms of lifespan issues-and even whether a 55-year-old is considered in the middle or at the end of life!

"I designed the syllabus for students to have time not only to read but also to reread the novels on the list, with really juicy, entertaining and intriguing books (like Bridget Jones' Diary) counterpoised against 'thinking' books (like A Room of One's Own)," she says. "This 'intensive reading' design allows the space for carefully-considered critique to develop. All of the texts, though, share a welcoming feel, and we will analyze how this novelistic mechanism works. These books all provide ample space for thinking about how cultural constructions shape identity, feeling, and education of the self into prevalent models for subjectivity. They also showcase the different ways in which novels work upon the emotions of the reader-why do we identify with certain characters and not with others? Furthermore, what are the lessons we learn from fiction? Does reading influence who we are and how we analyze our own lives, communities, and actions?"

Writing assignments for the course are five essays that vary from two to seven pages each, revisions of three of these essays, and a research essay along with a revision. The course also requires engagement in class discussions, contributing to workshop activities, and actively listening to and learning from peers.

Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, Mary Wollstonecraft-Shelley
The Everlasting Story of Nory, Nicolson Baker

Emma, Jane Austen
Bridget Jones' Diary, Helen Fielding

A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf
Mapp and Lucia, E.F. Benson

Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

The College Seminars are discussion-oriented, reading- and writing-intensive courses for first and second year students. They replace Freshman English of earlier decades and are predisciplinary in intent. Topics vary from year to year, but all seminars are designed and taught by faculty from several different fields and are intended to engage broad, fundamental issues and questions.

Willburn is also teaching Victorian Material Culture: English 353 this semester. "Just as the nineteenth century is marked by an incredible increase and proliferation of printed text, it is also marked by commodity culture and the domain of things," she says. "We will explore innovative reading practices for understanding both texts and objects through units focused on museums; labor and commodities; houses; objects of desire; and electricity and ephemera (or immaterial culture)." Primary readings are: Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens; North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell; The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and F. Engles; from Capital, Karl Marx; The Spoils of Poynton, Henry James; The Eustace Diamonds, Anthony Trollope; The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde; The Sorrows of Satan, Marie Corelli.

Secondary articles and essays posted on e-reserves include:
        Michel de Certeau, "Walking in the City," The Practices of Everyday Life (Berkeley: UC Press, 1984) 91-110.
        Lisabeth Cohen, "Embellishing a Life of Labor," [1987] in Folklore, Culture, and the Immigrant Mind, ed. George E. Pozzetta (1991).
        Neil Harris, "Museums: The Hidden Agenda," Cultural Excursions: Marketing Appetites and Cultural Tastes in Modern America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990) 56-81.

Paleolithic Archaeology: Anthropology 225 Professor of Anthropology Richard S. Davis

"We try to cover quite a bit in one semester," says Davis. "Paleolithic study gives us an opportunity to look at the development of society, technology, and even cognition.
The Eskimos and Aleuts, Don E. Dumon, 1987, revised edition. London: Thames and Hudson

The Human Career, Richard G. Klein, 1999, second edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

After the Ice Age, E.C. Pielou, 1991, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Reindeer Moon, Elizabeth M. Thomas,.1991, New York: Pocket Books.

We study how a tropical primate adapted and evolved, culturally and biologically, to cover almost the entire planet by a point some 5000 years ago. Because I have been working in the Aleutian Island of Alaska for the last five years and in Siberia before that, we pay a fair amount of attention to the last phases of the Paleolithic when human populations reached northern latitude and spread quickly into the New World."

Two short papers (ca. five pages), are required in the course, the first a critique and analysis of a thematic journal article, and the second on a topic of the student's choice. There will also be a variety of lab sessions during the semester. "We will be doing some flint chipping-that's the best way to learn about stone tools," says Davis. "I got about 250 lbs of good quality flint originally from Brandon, England. I also bought a couple of Atlatls (spear throwers) over the summer. We will go down to the athletic field and have a go at the archery targets." (Precursor of the bow and arrow, the atlatl is a short, narrow throwing board with a spur on one end that launches a dart on a shaft.)

Course readings include Reindeer Moon by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, a superb piece of fiction as ethnography set in Siberia during the Paleolithic that has been described as "everything Clan of the Cave Bear tried to be." Thomas is also the author of The Animal Wife, another coming of age story in the same setting, as well as the popular The Hidden Life of Dogs and The Tribe of Tiger. In Reindeer Moon,Yanan, a headstrong young girl, survives alone with her younger sister when their parents die, then faces marriage, childbirth, and the struggle for position and status within her group. The story captures the complexities of kinship relationships and shamanic religious belief as well as the mechanics of day to day life in a hunter-gatherer community.

Reserve Readings:
        Bar Yosef, O. et al. ,1992, "The Excavations in Kebara Cave, Mt Carmel," Current Anthropology 33: 497-550.
        Brooks, Alison et al. 1995 "Dating and Context of Three Middle Stone Age Sites with Bone Points in the Upper Semliki Valley, Zaire," Science 268:548-553.
        Bunn, Henry et al. 1980 "FxJj50: an early Pleistocene site in northern Kenya," World Archaeology 12: 109-136.
        Clottes, Jean 1996 "Thematic changes in Upper Paleolithic Art: a view from Grotte Chauvet," Antiquity 70: 276-288.
        Davis, Richard and Vadim Ranov 1999 "Recent Work on the Paleolithic of Central Asia," Evolutionary Anthropology: 186-193.
        Goebel, Ted 1999 "Pleistocene human colonization of Siberia and peopling of the Americas: an ecological approach," Evolutionary Anthropology 8(6, 1999): 208-229.
        Heinzelin, Jean de, et al. 1999 "Environment and Behavior of 2.5-Million-Year-Old Bouri Hominids," Science 284: 625-629.
        Larick, Roy and Russell L. Ciochon 1996, "The African Emergence and Early Asian Dispersals of the Genus Homo," American Scientist 84: 538-51.
        McCartney, Alan P. 198,5 "Prehistory of the Aleutian Region," in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 5, ed. By David Damas, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. pp. 119- 135.
        McCorriston, Joy and Frank Hole 1991 "The Ecology of Seasonal Stress and the Origins of Agriculture in the Near East," American Anthropologist 93:46-69.
        Sackett, James (2000) "Human Antiquity and the Old Stone Age: The Nineteenth Century Background to Paleoanthropology," Evolutionary Anthropology 9: 37 - 49.
        Stiner, Mary. C., N. D. Munro, et al. 1999 "Paleolithic Population Growth Pulses Evidenced by Small Animal Exploitation," Science 283(5399): 190-194.
        Yellen, John E. et al. 1995 "A Middle Stone Age Worked Bone Industry from Katanda, Upper Semlike Valley, Zaire," Science 269: 553-556.

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