Honors 202: Art, Artist, and Audience Course Overview This is the second in a three-course sequence that treats of Art, Literature, and Music. We will meet eight times over a four-week period—the last two weeks of fall quarter and the first two weeks of winter quarter. The grade for this portion of the class will constitute 1/3 of your grade for Honors 203. The course is designed to offer students the opportunity to explore the written word through intensive practice in reading, discussing, and writing fiction and non-fiction prose. The course provides opportunities to analyze your own work, as well as that of published writers and your peers, while you practice a variety of essay forms and write for an anticipated audience.
Throughout the term, you will discover an array of stylistic and structural possibilities available to you as a writer, and you will gain experiences in applying those principles to your own work.
By reading such writers as Cather, Byron, Wordsworth, and Rushdie, you will learn strategies that will enhance your own creative efforts.
Attendance Since this course meets only eight times, attendance is critical. Please notify me ahead of time if you plan to miss class. You will be assigned a brief presentation or essay in place of the class that you missed. Three or more absences will result in a failing grade for this course.
Your comments and insights are welcome. The success of this class depends upon them. Complete reading assignments on the days requested and be prepared to discuss them. Try to be as tactful as possible in reviewing the work of your peers; provide them with meaningful feedback on their writing. Participation is an important part of your grade in this course but it also reflects on your relationship with fellow students. Attending class sessions is one way of showing respect for your fellow students’ work.
Books and Materials The Troll Garden, Willa Cather (Vintage)
Lucy Gayheart, Willa Cather (Vintage)
Don Juan, by Lord Byron (Penguin)
Assignments Choose 2 of the 5 assignments to complete, revising one of them at some length; or choose 3 of the 5 and submit them all without revision, bringing them to the highest level of polish you can.
A Short Story—Write a short story that treats the subject of art. Model your work on Cather’s “Flavia and Her Artists” or “A Wagner Matinee.” Use a central symbol that manages to convey the meaning of the story you are writing. Write a page explaining what you learned from the experiment.
A Chapter of a Novel---Using Cather’s Lucy Gayheart as a model, write a chapter, or series of short chapters, that treat the growth of an artist in a city. Think of other examples of the genre, such as Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Describe the struggles unique to the discipline your character practices (artist, musician, actor). For example, Lucy Gayheart serves as an accompanist, which carries its own special burdens (playing “second-fiddle” to a performer, respecting his idiosyncrasies, becoming drawn into his personal life). Write a page explaining what you learned from the experiment.
A Canto of a Poem—Modeling your work on the first two cantos of Byron’s Don Juan, write a poem in ottava rima: a chatty account of the erotic history of a young 18 year old American winding his or her way through the world. Bring your character into contact with political events and use this interaction to provide digressions and social commentary. Include as much word-play and cleverness as you can manage. Do your best to imitate Byron’s narrative voice or to create your own comic version of it. See send-ups of the form such as Don Leon or Caroline Lamb’s response. For more modern examples of a long narrative poem, see John Berryman’s Dream Songs or William Carlos Williams’ Patterson, orEzra Pound’s Cantos. Write a page explaining what you learned from the experiment.
A Short Lyric Poem—Modeling your efforts on Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale,” Wordsworth’s “The Lucy Poems,” or Byron’s “When We Two Parted,” write a lyric poem that follows the rules of the genre. Write a one page analysis comparing your effort to the virtues of your model.
A Non-Fiction Essay—Write an essay, inspired by Salmon Rushdie’s commentary on The Wizard of Oz. Choose a work of art as a defining metaphor for your own life. I would encourage you to use a popular genre, such as an album, or a contemporary film, or even a television show. Situate the work in such a way that you explain how it became meaningful to you and your family.
In-Class Essays. VERY IMPORTANT. For each class session, you should prepare a typed response to the question posed for that day. Be prepared to read your response to the class (responses should be no more than one page in length). You will also be asked to write, distribute, and read aloud from a “work-in-progress,” i.e. one of the two creative works you are asked to compose. If you do not feel comfortable reading your own work aloud, please arrange to have the class read it ahead of time. We will discuss your work—not only in terms of its virtues (and we will stress the positive)—but in terms of the creative work that we read for that day.
Grade Distribution Short Story or Novel Chapter…………………………25%
Narrative or Non-Narrative Poem (Canto or Lyric Poem)……….………………………………………….25%
Non-Fiction Essay or Revision of Short Story or Poem………………………..………………………….25%
Participation and Attendance (in-class essays)…..…….25%
Calendar Week One
a. Tuesday, November 4, Willa Cather’s “Flavia and Her Artists” from
The Troll Garden. What is the relationship between art, patronage, and human feelings as portrayed in this story? Find out what you can about Cather’s own struggle to become a writer. Why was she ambivalent about the temptation of art?
Thursday, November 6 Willa Cather’s “A Wagner Matinee.” Susan Rosowski’s The Voyage Perilous. In what way is the heroine of “A Wagner Matinee” a suitable audience for the opera she hears? In what way does art debilitate her? How does this tension between art as ensnaring illusion and art as liberating work animate other stories in the collection?
a. Tuesday, November 11 Willa Cather’s Lucy Gayheart (Part One).
QUESTION: How is this decidedly American novel also about European
art and its influence? Describe how Cather portrays the tension between
rural life in America and the life offered to Lucy in Chicago. What devices
does Cather use to bring Lucy Gayheart’s experiences to life?
b. Thursday, November 13 Willa Cather’s Lucy Gayheart (Part Two);
Byron’s Don Juan, Canto I and “When We Two Parted”
QUESTION: How do Byron’s strategies in his mock-epic differ from his poetic style in his lyric? What do you make of this? At what different times of his life were these two different works written? Why is this important.
a. Tuesday, January 6 Willa Cather’s Lucy Gayheart, Part 3; Rosowski,
Lucy Gayheart chapter of Voyage PerilousQUESTION: compare Wordsworth and Cather’s use of reminiscence in the “Lucy” poems and in Cather’s novel. Find out what you can about Wordsworth’s theory of poetry and recollection as defined in Lyrical Ballads. Would you agree with is definition? Why or why not?
b. Thursday, January 8 Byron’s Don Juan, Canto 2;
QUESTION: How does Byron manage to sustain the reader’s interest throughout Canto 2 of his narrative poem? What was his audience’s response at John Murray publishers. See Leslie Marchand’s biography and critical essays on the subject to find this out. What did they object to about the poem? How was it reviewed?
a. Tuesday, January 13 Byron’s Don Juan, Canto 2
QUESTION: Compare and contrast Delacroix’s portrait of the shipwreck episode with Byron’s. How does a painter convey reality? What formal techniques does he or she use? How do they differ from Byron’s? See Andrew Cooper’s essay on the shipwreck scene in Don Juan.
b. Thursday, January 15 Rushdie essay
QUESTION: What does Rushdie do to make an all-too-familiar film fresh? What metaphor does he trace throughout the essay to make the apparent digressions hold together? Compare his use of digression with Byron’s.