Thursday, January 09, 2014

Hitting the Road

Welcome to the first installment of our new Friday Feature exploring the literature I'm teaching my sophomores in our Great American Road Trip course.  I'm so excited to be sharing some of my favorite books--stories that have inspired me and fed my sense of adventure and belief that anything at all is possible if you just set out and explore. Glad to have you along for the ride.

So the winter Olympics are almost upon us.  We’ll see amazing feats of strength, grace and beauty.  There will be action and adventure; hopes realized and dreams dashed and reborn.

But first?  Participants in sports such as figure skating have to go through the perfunctory steps of required elements: twists and turns revered by the governing powers.That’s sort of where we are now, here, at the threshold of our Great American Road Trip course.  The books on our agenda hold the promise of great happenings.  There will be discoveries and wonder, mishaps and breakdowns.  Hopes will be elevated and dashed and then reborn on wide ribbons of open road.

But first?  We have our own required element to tackle, in the form of a revered literary tome, prescribed by the powers above.  I actually had three pre-fabbed works from which to choose, two among the multitude I’ve missed in my time, and one shorter work with which I’ve had a passing acquaintance.  I went with that.

Plus, Song of Myself by Walt Whitman, does tie into our overarching theme of traversing “America’s iconic highways and footpaths as well as the lesser-traversed landscape of the inner self.”  So.  Song of Myself it is.

It’s not that I’m anti-SOM, but it’s just not the part of this adventure I’m the most excited about.   It was a tough call as to whether to start with SOM or save it for a later time (say, after getting everyone excited with one of the flashier texts) but I decided to just plunge in and move forward.So after introducing the course syllabus on Wednesday, I divided the class into thirds.  I assigned the first group with the task of gathering background information on SOM poem themes, another group with gathering information on Whitman himself, and the third group with the job of setting the stage with them time period of the piece.  We’re reconvening tomorrow and putting together the background for the work puzzle piece style.

After setting a firm foundation, I will send them on their way to listen to this wonderful bit from NPR where we learn that Whitman actually has some really good lines to offer.  My favorite so far?  “Blab of the pave,” –“blab” and in blabber, and “pave” as in pavement, or, in modern terms: the word on the street.  Kind of cool, really.  Maybe even the stuff of those fun, inside jokes that come from the very best of road trips.  Maybe Whitman’s the kind of guy we want to have along on this journey after all.  Time will tell.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where's the "like" button??
: )



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