Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Fall 2017 Syllabi! Tolkien! Utopia! Hamilton!

with 6 comments

I’ve put the syllabi for my fall classes up at my professional site:

HOPR 1953: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton

ENGLISH 4610: J.R.R. Tolkien

ENGLISH 6700: Utopia in America

The Hamilton class is new, a one-credit pass/fail seminar for the honors program. The Tolkien class and the Utopia class are both revised a lit from the last times around; for the grad class, I’ve swapped in two Kurt Vonnegut and two Octavia Butler books for Utopia, Sula, and Man in the High Castle, in part due to known student interest and in part because I have some ideas about sequelization and utopia that I want to start exploring. For the Tolkien class the changes were much more minor; by moving a few things around and not going on as many trips this semester I was able to squeeze out about an extra week, which I devoted to more time to discussing the ending(s) of Return of the King and more time on The Silmarillion (the second change strongly desired by some of the students last time!). I also changed some of the language I used around the final assignment, including adding a creative option, and added a bit more architecture to the syllabus regarding suspense and spoilers. I thought the class worked great last time around but this will give me a chance to structure the initial discussions in the class a little more inclusively than I did last time (I hope).

Really looking forward to the next couple months…

6 Responses

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  1. Have you read any William Hogeland? He’s a non-academic (I think) historian of the founding period, and has written some of the most historically interesting stuff critiquing the musical but more broadly Hamilton-admiration in general. The piece that got me started reading his work was his review of a few books including the Chernow biography that was the basis for the musical:
    …but I also recommend his book-length works, FOUNDING FINANCE and the WHISKEY REBELLION. (Try the former first: it’s an overview of the period, and covers the Whiskey Rebellion a bit.) And he’s blogged about it, although the blogging isn’t very persuasive without the more formal work to back it up.

    Anyway, I strongly recommend checking it out. A good presentation of the anti-Hamilton (the person, not the musical) case.

    Stephen Frug

    August 7, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    • He’s in some of the supplementary readings for sure. Thanks for the link to the Chernow review!


      August 7, 2017 at 1:43 pm

  2. Oh and Slaughterhouse-5, the Parable books & Pale Fire for a class on utopias: you are officially OFF the society planning board, my friend. OFF.

    Stephen Frug

    August 7, 2017 at 1:36 pm

  3. Hi Gerry — great course. It might be enriched by a glance at *actual* experiments in utopian living, which as I’m sure you know really flourished in the early 19th c US: Icaria, New Harmony, etc. On New Harmony, Marguerite Young’s Serpent in the Forest is worth reading. I’ve written on attempts at alternative currency (i.e. “labor notes”) and utopian socialism; there’s a fascinating and mostly subterranean history here to be disinterred…

    Ringo (Robert G)

    August 7, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    • Mark Bould’s piece opens that door for us, something we can return to when we talk about Butler’s parables. But thanks! I’ll pass along these sites for anyone who wants to focus a project on utopian living.


      August 7, 2017 at 4:50 pm

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