So I’m teaching a new course next fall, and I’m thinking about what books I should put on the syllabus. I would prefer to think about this sort of thing during the summer, but my school requires that we submit our book orders sometime around March or April, so I don’t have that luxury. The course needs to do a number of things: it’s a “Great Books” course, so we are supposed to cover canonical works, mostly, although there is some room for other things as well. It’s also interdisciplinary. While my instinct would be to assign all literature, we are supposed to cover at least two or three different disciplines. Finally, each instructor picks a theme for the course, which is supposed to be phrased as a Socratic question, such as “What is justice?” This theme will organize the readings/assignments/discussions for the whole semester.
My idea is to use the question “What is a journey?” and to read books that deal with travel in some way. We’ll talk about various types of journeys (physical, mental, spiritual) and how they relate, and about what happens when people travel and when people from different cultures interact. I have some books in mind to teach, but I’m wondering if you all have other ideas. Books that come from a discipline other than English are especially welcome (although English departments end up “colonizing” texts from other disciplines for study all the time, so to me just about everything seems like a “literature” text). Here’s what I’m thinking about:
- Some basic Postcolonial theory such as Edward Said and Mary Louise Pratt,
- Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe,
- Some Montaigne essays, including possibly “Of Coaches,” “Of Cannibals,” and “Of Vanity,”
- Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative,
- Mary Wortley Montague’s Turkish Embassy Letters,
- E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India,
- Claude Levi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques,
- Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy (for something a little lighter and contemporary).
Any other ideas? I’ve thought about de Tocqueville, but I’m not sure I want to read him! (Maybe I should?)