Hi Gang. Do keep reading Jonathan Hsy's great post below on animal language, and also join Jeffrey in this lovely making of memory. As for me, I'm concocting classes, one an undergraduate medieval comparative literature course, and the other as yet unproposed, on what we can call the literature of collapse (typically called postapocalyptic, not quite to my satisfaction). I'd love to hear your suggestions for each.
The first, the comp lit course, will be a version of one I'm sure many of you have taught: focused on Companion Animals and Other Lives. It's happening next semester as a once-a-week 3-hour evening class. As you might guess from the title, I'm going to be de-emphasizing anxiety and paranoia in my approach to the material; I'll be more interested in affect, community (and immunity), mourning and mourning that goes awry. It'll be best to put a few canonical texts on, and best to do everything in translation, with the originals available for those who want them, and for me to demonstrate some close reading. Here's what I'm thinking for our primary texts:
- Liber monstrorum / Ratramnus of Corbie, "Letter on the Cynocephali"
- Voyage of Brendan
- Marie de France/Tyolet/Biclarel/Arthur and Gorlagon (possibly over two weeks)
- Gerald of Wales History and Topography of Ireland
- Stephen of Bourbon on Guinefort, and as many versions of the Canis Legend I can find
- Beroul, Tristan
- Song of Roland (?)
- Patience / Letaldus of Micy on the whale
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
We have space for a few more, or for stretching some things out over several classes. But if there's something obvious I'm missing that you think would teach like a charm to students with little or no knowledge of medieval literature, let me know, particularly if it's available for free on line or in a cheap edition. I'm considering including the Life of Christina the Astonishing as a kind of lark on saintly inhumanity. The Little Flowers of St. Francis might also be something worth swapping in (maybe instead of the "Canis" material). If anyone knows one in translation, I'd also love to have us do one of the wild-man John Chrysostom legends.
The other class, on the Literature of Collapse, is one I'm sure has been taught hundreds of times before. A quick google gets me this for example, and there's a good course on Post-Apocalyptic Fiction and Feminist Theory here. No surprise, Hurricane Sandy sent my mind rushing this direction, and while the election, and (for example) Germany's increasing use of solar power have given me some hope, I'm basically expecting collapse in the next few decades. Blame Reagan and MAD, Nuclear War: What's in it for You?, Threads, and The Day After. Blame my fundamentalist, Rapture-expecting upbringing, where I often crept to the church library to read our authorized science fiction, viz., Salem Kirban's 666 and Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth. I even owned a copy of Spire Christian Comics's There's a New World Coming (warning, pdf, but well worth it).
Some obvious texts include the medieval Fifteen Signs of the Apocalypse, The Road, Oryx and Crake (and/or Year of the Flood), and Blindness; zombies would have to be represented by Zone One: A Novel. Less obvious material would be inspired by the class's companion volume, Eugene Thacker's superb In the Dust of this Planet, namely, The Purple Cloud (a mind blowing, orientalist early last man novel, with much to say about the frozen north: read it!), short works like Lovecraft's "Nyarlathotep," and also Maureen F. McHugh's After the Apocalypse, which will definitely be on my grad lit theory course next semester as a text for us to practice on. Vin Nardizzi's essay in the forthcoming Prismatic Ecologies focuses on a lawn-collapse novel, Greener than You Think: this too maybe needs a place on my imagined, increasingly gigantic syllabus. Likewise P. K. Dick's "Second Variety" (which you might have met for the first time, as did I, as Screamers). Do not suggest The Dog Stars: I read it during the hurricane, and found it a boys'-own-adventure, macho and military, tangled in daddy issues. Unrecommended.
What else would you want on this?