Monday, January 17, 2011

For Credit: 250 Years from Now

For your first regular post of the semester, do a thought experiment.  Project yourself 250 years in the future and imagine that UIUC is offering a 200-level course in the literature and culture of the time you are living in now, in 2011.  That is, imagine you are a student in the future looking back on the world of 2011, much in the way that we, in this course, will be looking back on the world of 1711.
  • What will the title of the course be?
  • How long a time period will the course cover?  What cultural or historical events will it use as a starting point?
  • What kinds of literary or artistic genres will it cover?
  • What key texts should be on the syllabus?
Your response doesn't need to answer all of those questions!  A couple of sentences offering a single specific idea are fine.  You can also respond by kindly and collegially taking issue with a classmate's projection of the future.

Deadline: Saturday (1/22), midnight


Shaun said...

If 'pop-culture' courses that examine Buffy or Sex and the City are folded into the more classical or canonical side of a literature department over time then I think a course on this time period would include those texts and the big money makers like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Twilight. If those pop-culture courses just keep rolling with the times then courses focussing on the end of the 20th, early 21st century might pick different texts that weren't (as) popular today.

Vivian said...

The course would probably reference the pop culture of today. Novels like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter would be showcased in order to allow the class to understand the culture of today. As well as novels that were recognized as bestsellers such as the Stieg Larsson Trilogy (the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, The Girl Who Played With Fire). The Syllabus should cover not only the "popular books" but it should extend over multiple genre's.

Sam said...

I would tend to disagree with the notion that pop lit would be heavily emphasized in any discussion of the modern era's literary canon. By its nature, pop culture relies on heavily used archetypes, with perhaps a different vehicle of conveyance but scarcely differing in content. Only few versions ever make it down the years. Grimm's Fairy Tales represent the distillation of the folklore of a handful of different ethnic traditions with differing versions of each story,some wildly different from one another. We never hear about those other versions, because the themes are the same and in the end only the strongest signal carried through.

To deal in the periodization of literature is to deal in that which separates a given time period from another. And as it relates to this prompt, I would argue that there is a case to be made for a canon emerging in the aftermath of the Vietnam and Watergate era, which saw American culture (as opposed to just the so-called "counterculture") embracing the notion of a corrupt world which individuals had little control over. This new ongoing era would include such authors as David Sedaris, Chuck Palahniuk, and Bret Easton Ellis who typify this detached sense of irony in place of earnestness.

SteveL said...

I feel it's impossible to examine 21st century literature and fiction without talking about the 20th century and the influence it's had on the world. My course title would be "Literature and Society in the Post World War era". The course would cover the 1920's to 2011, and include authors from various decades.

I would start the course off with earlier authors like Ernest Hemingway and maybe F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Then, to include the Eastern world a little bit the class would focus on Kazuo Ishiguro and post World War Japan, using novels like "Artist in a Floating World" and "Remains of the Day".
Shifting to more modern themes, I would include authors such as Ayn Rand (and her novel "The Fountainhead") and Ken Kesey (maybe Hunter S. Thompson as well).
I would finish the course with an author that tries to describe the "cyber era" that we now live in, like William Gibson (author of "Neuromancer").

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

Hmm, two-hundred and fifty years into the future is very very far away. Technology has been advancing very rapidly and is expected to even more quickly in the future. Considering this, I feel looking back to our era in human history 250 years in the future would be more akin to us examining Ancient Greek texts or even paintings of stick figures on cave walls. Anyways, I would think a good starting point for this course would be the advent of personal computers and the internet. We sit more towards the beginning of the time line.

In a course about our time period, a “genre” that might be discussed is self-expression on the internet. We currently live in a world where our minds are flooded with information that we often forget. We go see a movie and then go see another one. There are millions of people in the world and every once in a while we stop to think, “Where am I going and who am I? I watch this show and I go to this school. I have this job. I’m married to this person. I believe in this religion. Is this it?” These of course are timeless thoughts shared by both cavemen and aspiring young college students. However, today people can easily express themselves and have their thoughts read by others. All you have to do is find a computer, start a blog, and write your feelings away. There’s no need for editors and publishers. You just have to click a few icons and then done. I mean, we’re writing on a blog… for class! For sure the raw thoughts that people express online would be a topic examined in a course on our time.
Course Title: A More Open Era

Max said...

I think the course would focus on the triviality that dominates the kind of information we all consume today. As our world has become more complex, it has ironically fostered a desire among people for increasingly simple, shallow means of representing that world through words. People now want news through brief, instant updates that fail to explore issue or provide context; if they want depth, they turn to blogs which are strong on opinion and short on fact. Culture falls victim to the same simplification, its rich, complex parts reduced to marketable labels in pop culture. It is undeniable that our methods of communication have become extraordinary, but the class will have to ask if we used that potential to convey worthwhile content. Sure, things like provoking online content and real literature that examine deep, difficult issues are still created and will need to be addressed, but they have undeniably been drowned out by the superficial sensationalism that now dominates our attention, its framing incapable of eliciting the kind of curiosity, understanding, and genuine sentiment as more complex, less indulgent outlets. So, ultimately the course would have to survey how and why our society, consciously or not, yearned for this ever-greater triviality, the lens of time revealing to them some truth about ourselves that we can't see.

katiebug5 said...

I agree with Shaun that a class over our era would definitely include popular series like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Twilight, which all contain elements of fantasy and show our society’s increasing trend toward escapism. Similar to how SteveL mentioned Hemingway earlier, popular literature has grown even more escapist by including impossible and imaginary elements – wizards, vampires, Middle Earth, etc. The importance of these series lies with the crazed cult-like followers (which dates back to Star Trek), and their influence on today’s pop culture. I think a specific class could be created for this fantastical escapist genre, or they could be included in a class that also includes new digital forms of writing – online newspapers, blogs, etc. – and addresses the increase in nationalism in literary responses to events like the terrorism of 9-11. Possibly even how the escapist genre has exploded because of catalysts like 9-11, and how the more terror people see in the world, the more unrealistic methods they need to witness or experience to temporarily escape.

Rachel said...

I was thinking that there would be a class that covers literature to motion picture works. 21st century is all about the media, and with today's economy and resources, there have been so many opportunities for writers to be able to see their novels on the big screen. I'm sure Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings could be potential pieces of literature to be discussed and seen in class. And if the class wanted to bump down a level, Twilight could be included, but I wouldn't really bet on that because I wouldn't find myself in a class that studies offense to anyone who enjoys Twilight. I respect them wholeheartedly.

Other works that can be studied are Memoirs of a Geisha, Bridget Jones' Diary, Eat, Pray Love (I've never read this actually), Revolutionary Road, Kazuo Ishiguro novels, Dan Brown novels, Nicholas Sparks (although I really don't enjoy him) etc.

It could be a fun class which studies both the elements of modern literature and cinematography. Students can learn about how the appeal of 20th and 21st century literature have shaped filmmaking or film-watching by the masses.

JeTara said...

Projecting myself 250 years into the future I would name a 200 level literature UIUC course as: Hate, Power & Politics. As previously stated by Shaun and Katie I would include the books and movies of "Sex and the City," "Harry Potter," and "Lord of the Rings" and "Twilight." If I was a student enrolled in this course I would be interested in learning the many different literary devices the writers used to create such amazing storylines. I would like to analyze the significance and meaning of the terminology used during this time period. I would also include the history of events occuring when these "storylines" were created and how it influenced us to live the lives we did. Hence, this time period would include the late 20th century and early 21st century literature. I would include events during the late 20th Century and early 21st Century such as 911 incident as Katie stated, Gulf War, Death of Princess Diana, beginning of the established World Wide Web and how social network and relationships are connected with and highly correlated to fashion, sex, and love. This course have lesson covered in both modern goth and contemporary literature to it as well. I would the syllabus to include more serious in depth understanding to writers in the late 20th century and those of the early 21st and students would have a final exam assignment of making a comparison between the two periods and writers in each time period. This final exam would involve both a presentation and a paper.

Kim said...

I think the course would cover the pop culture of today. The books covered would be Harry Potter, Twlight, and any other popular books of today. The class would cover the different trends of music. It would cover rap, techno, country, and rock and the popular artists of today. The course would have to mention the different social networks that Americans use today: facebook, twitter, myspace, tumbler, and more. The course would cover what Americans watch on televsion today: sports, reality televsion, game shows, and drama. The course would have to cover how Americans communicate today. The course would have to mention the impact of cell phones.