In this program introduced in 2010-2011 for its ENGL 121 introductory core literature and writing course, the department selects a context for the academic year that has strong contemporary resonance for our lives and the potential to promote interdisciplinary learning and conversation around campus from a variety of cultural, historical, and political perspectives. Sample contexts might include Water, Beauty, Work, Exploration, War and Peace, The City, Happiness, Family, Atonement, or Sanctuary.
The context will be viewed through various thematic lenses that have been articulated in the mission statements of the department and the University. These will necessarily include “empathy” and an “appreciation for the variety of human experience.” The emphasis on diversity and variety of experience are still retained from our former Common Text program, but in a more comprehensive way by allowing each faculty member teaching ENGL 121 Critical Thinking: Literature and Writing to select a text of their choice that explores the context theme for that academic year in a primary way. This will allow the department to compress the discourse surrounding the chosen context, if you will, to both ensure the persistence of commonality despite the use of different texts, and to address issues of inclusion and social justice on a more extended historical basis. Every ENGL 121 course will offer one or more texts that focus on the theme for that academic year, whether the course is taught in the fall or spring semester. A common context book is optional for ENGL 201-204 Texts in Conversation courses, though instructors are encouraged to adopt a book that may fit into that year's common context theme if their particular course topic allows for it.
It’s useful to think of wonder as both an action and an emotion. For example, to wonder is to ponder, be curious, explore, consider, and ruminate. To wonder is to fathom ideas and concepts that require time and contemplation to comprehend; wonder is the motivation that pushes us to examine and explore the world we live in. To quote Adam Smith: “Wonder, therefore, and not the expectation of advantage from its discoveries, is the first principle which prompts [human beings] to the study of Philosophy, of that science which pretends to lay open the concealed connections that unite the various appearance of nature” (The History of Astronomy, 1795). To experience “wonder,” then, as an emotion or state of being, is to be struck by the rare or unexpected, the vast and unexplained – to be enamored by the workings of that which we strive and struggle to understand. It is a condition that is characterized by pleasure and delight rather than fear or frustration; and thus, it is a state we should endeavor to find ourselves in as often as possible.
Poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil, our ACTC Visiting Writer from October 14-16, engages wonder often in her work through encounters with nature, but she also ponders the small, seemingly mundane daily parts of life with a sense of wonderment. Many poets do this – the act of making strange, of turning something we think we know into something we have not ever truly encountered before. This transformation can be wonderful, and can make us see our world in new and amazing ways. As the Romanticists have shown us in their work, this act of imaginative transformation echoes the unique perception of childhood, and thus, it would seem that children’s literature would be a fruitful realm to find wonder present. Other texts that could work with wonder might include those that depict the interface between human beings and nature, science, technology, or the divine.
Poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil read selections of poetry from her three most recently published collections: Miracle Fruit (2003), At the Drive-In Volcano (2007), and Lucky Fish (2011), all published by Tupelo Press. A book signing was held immediately following the reading.
ACTC Visiting Writer Aimee Nezhukumatathil lectured on the theme of wonder and discussed how she infuses her own sense of wonder into her poetry. Her lecture was recorded and can be seen here as a streaming video: https://stream.stthomas.edu/view?id=e022de2c3bca4d259b53bfeb2c00713d. We'd like to thank Nezhukumatathil for her permission to use this video on our website.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Film: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012, 93 minutes)
7:00pm, JRC 126 Auditorium
Directed by Benh Zeitlin and adapted from Lucy Alibar’s one-act play, Juicy and Delicious, this magically provocative and controversial film places the curiosity and wonder of a little girl amid violence, poverty, indifference, and the harrowing specter of the end of the world.