J. Ramey & N. Pick
How do modern writers imaginatively map ancient civilizations? And how did the ancients, who did not know they were “ancients,” imaginatively map themselves? These questions will inform our own imaginative mapping of two ancient literary loci—Egypt and Mesoamerica. We will then trace a spatiotemporal cartography of later writers imagining those ancient worlds and ask what role the literary imagining of such ancientness has in convincing writers and readers that they themselves are “modern.” We will also ask what it means for a writer’s idea to remain dormant for many centuries in a papyrus or carved stone glyph, only to be reawoken and retransmitted in the context of a radically different cultural “ecosystem.” Can such ideas be said to possess a kind of “borrowed life”? If so, does such life parallel other life-forms in the natural world? In other words, can the Book of the Dead reveal its place in the Tree of Life?
Students must attend classes, participate in class discussions, work on group projects, and demonstrate thoughtful readings of the assigned texts. A total of about 32 pages of prose will be turned in throughout the semester divided among several short essays each of which will be subject to extensive revision. Students will be asked to participate in an ongoing web-based dialogue and to give an oral presentation.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead – (trans. Raymond Faulkner and James Allen)
Helen in Egypt – H. D. (Hilda Doolittle)
Dew Breaker – Edwidge Danticat
Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Maya (trans. Allen Christensen)
Poems, Protests and a Dream – Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Bless Me, Ultima – Rudolfo Anaya
The Random House Handbook – Frederick Crews
Cabeza de Vaca – Nicolas Echeverria
Course Reader: Will include poetry from Ezra Pound’s Cantos, Derek Walcott’s Omeros, Octavio Paz’s “Sun Stone,” translations of Aztec writing, and critical approaches to the texts.
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