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2007 Fellows seminar notes

This page is an archive.

Fellows

Reading schedule

Papers and other requirements

Position papers

You will write a response to the readings every week (well, you may skip just one). These are informal "position papers." They are to be between 400 and 500 words in length and must be sent to the Fellows listserv any time before 6 AM on the Monday morning of the week's class. Four of these papers will be evaluated closely--at least one each on McPhee, Kincaid and Hall. Each week, bring a printed copy of your position paper to class. At the end of class you can decide if the paper you hold in your hands is one of the four you will turn in for evaluation.

Listserv responses

Each week you will be responding to one of the position papers sent to the listserv by your fellow Fellows seminarians. Send your response before noon. Your response should be sent to the listserv and should make a rejoinder to one point in one paper. These responses should be one short paragraph in length, about 100 words. Be sure, please, to make it clear which point in which person's position paper is the one to which your response is responding.

Projects

A special project will be randomly assigned to you. These, too, should be sent to the listserv--any time before 6 AM on the date indicated on the projects list above. Length: whatever is appropriate for fulfilling the purpose of the project but no less than 750 words. These need not be fancy or high-toned, but, rather, straightforward and lucid and, if apt, organized into short titled sections to make for easy reading. If you are not assigned a project, see Al or Jamie-Lee ASAP so that we can devise one.

Obligations during Fellows' visits

As an absolutely vital part of the Fellows seminar, you will be called upon to volunteer during the two-day visits of the Fellows. Fulfilling this (mostly pleasurable) function is as much a requirement as the others listed here. If Jamie-Lee Josselyn has not asked you to take on a role during the visits, be sure to ask her what you can do to help.

FINAL EXAM

There will be a wildly comprehensive, personalized final exam. It will be sent to you by email, to be written at your convenience ("take home") any time during the exam period.

Projects

  1. due January 22: Research literary nonfiction/new journalism and write a report that gives us a sense of how McPhee has influenced the style. (Perhaps read Tom Wolfe's The New Journalism and note that McPhee teaches a course at Princeton called "The Literature of Fact.") How is McPhee similar to and different from his new journalist contemporaries such as Wolfe, Didion, Capote, Thompson, Mailer, et alia? BEN
  2. due January 29: Read A Sense of Where You Are and write a report that summarizes and characterizes this long essay for the rest of us (who presumably will not have read this book before meeting its author). Find a few ways of connecting this essay to the other works of McPhee that we are reading. WARREN
  3. due January 29: The person who takes on this project should have either a knowledge of Princeton or a close contact there. Research what McPhee has done at Princeton--what his role is or was there, what he has taught, what his reputation is as a teacher and as an advisor to young writers, etc. He connected with Bill Bradley in the 1960s. How did that come about? What was his original connection to the school? Why has he remained in and at Princeton all his life? Who are some of his former students? One of them was the editor of the New Yorker, David Remnick. What if anything can you find out about their relationship? McPhee is not an academic writer, although he is interested in scholarship, especially science scholarship. From what you learn, why do you think he remains at a university even though he is not a typical professor type? He has some close connections to Princeton geologists. Can you speak with any of them and learn more about his connection to the Princeton scientists? Amy Gutmann was at Princeton for many years and seems to know McPhee somewhat well; can you get a few minutes with her and ask her about him? Write a detailed report that goes under the heading, McPhee at Princeton. NOVA
  4. due January 29: Read The Survival of the Bark Canoe and write a report that summarizes and characterizes this long essay for the rest of us (who presumably will not have read this book before meeting its author). Find a few ways of connecting this essay to the other works of McPhee that we are reading. ELLIE
  5. due January 29: Read Oranges and write a report that summarizes and characterizes this long essay for the rest of us (who presumably will not have read this book before meeting its author). Find a few ways of connecting this essay to the other works of McPhee that we are reading. JEN
  6. due January 29: Read the essays collected in Giving Good Weight and write a report that summarizes and characterizes these essays for the rest of us (who presumably will not have read this book before meeting its author). Find a few ways of connecting these pieces to the other works of McPhee that we are reading. GABE
  7. due February 5: Read Annals of the Former World and write a report that summarizes and characterizes this book for the rest of us (who presumably will not have read this book before meeting its author). Find a few ways of connecting this book to the other works of McPhee that we are reading. JEFF
  8. due February 19: Read as many "Talk of the Town" pieces as you can from The New Yorker between 1975 and 1983. Describe and generally characterize these--format, topic, style, genre, tone, etc. Write a report for us that introduces us to the "Talk of the Town" piece in general and explain the context in which Kincaid's pieces collected in Talk Stories belong. How do her pieces compare with those of others who wrote for "Talk of the Town" during this period? MARA
  9. due February 26: Read Jamaica Kincaid: Writing Memory, Writing Back to the Mother by J. Brooks Bouson and report back to the group about how this book can further our understanding of Autobiography of my Mother and Lucy and Kincaid as a writer overall. LISA R.
  10. due February 26: Contact 2006 Fellow and former New Yorker staffer Ian "Sandy" Frazier and interview him about about his friendship with Jamaica. (Get contact info from Jamie-Lee.) What perspective can Frazier lend, as a fellow writer, a longtime friend of Jamaica's, and as someone familiar with the Fellows program? LISA T.
  11. due February 26: Read at least several books and several articles (critical/scholarly articles) about contemporary Caribbean women writers--in other words, get an overview of the field--and then write a report that will give us all a sense of where and how Jamaica Kincaid fits (and perhaps doesn't fit) in this literary category. So far as you can tell, how is Jamaica Kincaid viewed or received or understood in this context? AICHLEE
  12. due March 12: Read Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalaya and write a report that summarizes and characterizes this book for the rest of us (who presumably will not have read this book before meeting its author). Find a few ways of connecting this book to the other works of Kincaid that we are reading. JANE
  13. [for two people working together] due March 26: Donald Hall has published many, many book reviews and other sorts of short ("freelance") essays in various magazines. Find, copy and read as many of these as you possibly can. Divide them logically into two (perhaps reviews on one side and topical essays on the other; perhaps poetry one one and other kinds of writing on the other). Then creative an annotated bibliography for the rest of us. List the pieces in chronological order, give full citations and then write a short summary of each piece. STEVE, CARLY
  14. due March 26: Read Hall's Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball and write a report that describes the book and characterizes it. What connections do you find between this book and the essays in Fathers Playing Catch with Sons--what common themes and/or approaches? ERIC
  15. due March 26: Read as many of Donald Hall's children's books as you can find. Make sure Ox-Cart Man is among them. Write a report that summarizes and characterizes these books for the rest of us (who presumably will not have read them before meeting Hall). Find a few ways of connecting these to our overall understanding of Hall. PIA
  16. [for two people working together] due April 2: Where does Hall's poetry fit generally into the contemporary American poetry scene? The person who takes on this report should have at least a little working knowledge of modern and contemporary American poetry and poetics. Look at what others have had to say about Hall in print. Read some of Hall's reviews of others' poetry. Where, for instance, does Hall stand in relation to the "New American Poetry" associated with Donald Allen's groundbreaking anthology of that title published in 1960? Was he part of that scene? If not, does he have a relationship to these poets? Make arrangements to interview Bob Perelman in person and ask him to talk about how Hall fits (or doesn't fit) in the context of the postmodern verse that interests Perelman. Hall's poetry is not experimental at the level of the line. What then is the basis of his very good reputation among today's poets? Finally--and giving her plenty of time to do this--ask Jessica Lowenthal, Director of the Writers House, to read about 20 poems you select from Selected Poems and then meet with her to discuss them in detail. In your report, also give us a sense of how Jessica responds to Hall's poetry. BILL, ANNA
  17. due April 9: Contact 2006 Fellow Richard Ford and interview him about his long friendship/mentorship with Donald Hall. (Ask Al and Jamie-Lee for contact info and an overview of how Hall and Ford know one another.) What perspective can Richard lend, as a fellow writer, a longtime friend of Hall's, and as someone familiar with the Fellows program? RACHEL
  18. due April 9 but get started on it right away: A documentary film that was made on Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon called "A Life Together." Your job is to find the film and get us a copy to watch. Work with Jamie-Lee if you need help finding a copy, paying for the copy, and arranging a time for us to view it. Once you've gotten the film, view it yourself first, research to see if any reviews were written about it, and write a report conveying to us as much information and background as you can find. ANDY
  19. due April 9: Read Jane Kenyon's Collected Poems and write a report that summarizes and characterizes Kenyon's work for the rest of us (who presumably will not have read her before). Find a few ways of comparing/contrasting Kenyon's work to Hall's. Are there differences (and/or similarities) in their poetry that can relate to what we know about their differences (and similarities) in personality, working style (as outlined in Life Work) and what we know of their relationship overall? How does our knowledge of Hall expand through Kenyon? ARIELLE

Snacks

pieces to read from Kincaid's Talk Stories

foreward by Ian Frazier, Introduction, Daytime Dancing, A Commerical Party, Time with Pryor, Lunchtime, The Fourth, A Gathering, Notes and Comment (p. 66), Notes and Comment (p. 68), Nothing in Mind, Notes and Comment (p. 87), Notes and Comment (p. 94), Dinosaurs, Kenya, Cheese, Notes and Comment (p. 111), Collecting, Memorandum, The World of Letters, Cat, The Ages of Woman, Festival, Noon, Notes and Comment (p. 156), Mayor, Three Parties, Expense Account, Sara, Runner, Two Book Parties, Benefit, Cat Story, The Exercise, Notes and Comment (p. 218), Birthday Party at an East Side Town House.

poems to read from Hall's Selected Poems

Elegy for Wesley Wells, My Son My Executioner, The Sleeping Giant, Jui Suis une Table, The Hole The Foundations of American Industry, Cops and Robbers, Sestina, Waiting on the Corners, The Farm, The Poem, An Airstrip in England 1960, New Hampshire Self-Portrait as a Bear, Orange Knee Socks, Digging, The Pilot of 1918, In the Kitchen of the Old House, The Days, The Man in the Dead Machine, The Blue Wing, Woolworth's, The Repeated Shapes, Crewcuts, The Table, Mount Kearsage, The Young Watch Us, Gold, Waters, Nose, Stones, The Dump, The Green Shelf, Adultery at Forty, To a Waterfowl, Eleanor's Letters, The Raisin, White Apples, Maple Syrup, The Toy Bone, Kicking the Leaves, The Flies, Ox Cart Man, Stone Walls, Scenic View, Old Timer's Day, The Baseball Players, Granite and Grass, A Sister on the Tracks, A Sister by the Pond, The Day I Was Older, The Impossible Marriage, Merle Bascom's .22, Cider 5c a Glass, Edward's Anecdote, Persistence in 1937, The Coffee Cup, This Poem Speeches, The Night of the Day, all poems in "Baseball" from The First Inning to the Ninth Inning, Mount Kearsage Shines, When the Fine Days, When I Was Young, all poems in "Extra Innings" from the Tenth to the Thirteenth, Spring Glen Grammar School, The Hard Man, Blue, My Aunt Litz, Screenplay, Edit, The Girlfriend, The Giant Broom, Mr. Eliot, Just Married, Dread, The Fragments, Fame, What Counts, Moon Shot, 7 1/2, Elbows, Rain, Revisions, Routine, Barber, Folding Chair, Her Intent, After Life, Retriever, The Painted Bed, all poems under "Throwing Away" except "Weeds and Peonies," The Master, North South, Olives, After Horace, Tea, Tennis Ball, 1943, Usage, White Clapboard, Witness's House, We Bring Democracy to the Fish, Fishing for Cats 1944.