Posted by: dougery | January 31, 2008

Invisible Syllabus

The teacher in me, that quiet voice that likes to kindle knowledge and mildly reprimand, often passes the time by inventing syllabuses for classes I will never teach. This is not because the classes themselves could never exist. Well, not really because of this. More because I can’t really see myself teaching, not at a university level at any rate. And my invisible syllabuses tend toward the college level.

The one I’ve spent the most time playing around with is an English Lit class based around the “Monstrous Novel.” It would be anchored by Moby Dick, which in and of itself would take most of the weeks of class to read in a satisfactory way. But I would then include other ‘takes’ on Moby Dick, in particular Dan Beachy-Quick’s book of poetry called Spell which is a reinterpretation of the novel. I heard Beachy-Quick (awesome last name, perhaps top ten in the history of last names) give a reading of this book when I was still slumming it at the U of C. It was neat to hear, if not a bit of a struggle to read. But rich in the poetry-esque multiple readings type sense. I think students would have fun with it.

I would then make my hypothetical students listen to Mastodon’s album Leviathan which is a metal concept album based around, you guessed it, Moby Dick. Or maybe I’d push them one step further and have them listen to Blood Mountain the album Mastodon released two years later which shares many of the same themes. I don’t know much about music theory so it’d have to be mostly a discussion on the lyrics, which are engaging enough on their own.

I’d end the course with an old favorite, Danielewski’s polarizing House of Leaves. A monstrous novel if their is any, it owes much to Melville but also pushes things even further, on what a novel can and can’t be. I think the course would be really fruitful, and in some alternate reality somewhere where I’ve gone on for a PhD, I’m teaching this to precocious college sophomores.

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