Somehow [Bonnie] forced you to see yourself at your most amazing. Most precious. And believe in what you saw. She saw. A ll obstacles fell into shadow, disappeared, backlit by the blaze of what could be. Potentiality. The possible worlds.
—Diane di Prima, Recollections of My Life as a Woman
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver-white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things
—Julie Andrews, The Sound of Music
What the world needs is people who have come alive.
I look at each of you all, and see God.
—Nima Sheth, SLU Social Justice class, 2005
Appreciation is the sacrament.
—Allen Ginsberg, Photographs
In this course we get in touch with those experiences that have delighted and entranced us over the years. We will begin with some of the creative arts, and consider, for example, some of the most fun, inspiring, and goose-bump inducing music we have heard. We will make an initial list from our memory (Joe Brainard, anyone) , and then do free writing on whatever we want from that list. There will be time for one-on-one sharing after writing as well as an opportunity to engage in an open forum for the benefit of the whole class.
I will aim to connect people between class sessions through a class blog (unless people prefer to use email).
Obviously, if you have a friend in the class, you can touch base during the week and exchange about how things are coming.
A couple of times you can decide your own theme of the week for your writing and sharing.
I’d suggest participants aiming for a minimum of two hours a week to continue to generate their lists and appreciations. However, as you get into re-encountering your favorite things, you may lose track of time.
What we will be doing is to make explicit to ourselves (and others, if we wish) “Our Canon”; see the example below from Blair (who studied with me at SLU in 2005).
We meet by Zoom for 8 weeks on Tuesdays, starting on February 1 and concluding on March 22, from 7:00 pm to 8:30. Central Time.
If you want to talk about anything with me during the week between classes, we can Zoom at your convenience.
Tuition: $150, by check made out to me or Paypal.
My own engagement in this area has resulted in Dear Love of Comrades (2020), a mixed genre collaboration with umpteen friends and We Inter-Are (2021), a collection of poems from the last twelve years (if you are interested , I can send you a PDF).
Mark Chmiel told me about the concept of the syllabus (books you are required to read for a given literature class) and one’s personal canon (books that have been significant to you personally, regardless of their literary status). This list is my personal canon, in no particular order. These are books I have either read more than once, or that I find myself thinking of and making connections to long after the fact, in some cases years and years after my reading of the book.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace
Betsy’s Wedding by Maud Hart Lovelace
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Jekyll and Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Suicide Club by Robert Louis Stevenson
In Arabian Nights by Tahir Shah
The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah
“Eveline” by James Joyce (short story)
An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle
The Joys of Love by Madeleine L’Engle
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Emma by Jane Austen
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
“Don’t Look Now” by Daphne DuMaurier (short story)
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“The Birthday of the Infanta” by Oscar Wilde (short story)
“Antigone” by Sophocles (play)
A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott
Lois the Witch by Elizabeth Gaskell
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” by Edward Albee (play)
“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller (play)
The Monk by Matthew G. Lewis
The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler
In the Wake of the Plague by Norman Cantor
Claire d’Albe by Sophie Cottin
Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Wild Queen by Carolyn Meyer
In Mozart’s Shadow by Carolyn Meyer
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
The Last Day: Wrath, Ruin and Reason in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755
Here are a few writings from my web site on our theme—