by Harrison Runnels ’20
With a new school year comes new first year students and with them a brand new batch of First Year Courses. These courses are specifically designed for first years and are intended to give them an introduction to college level coursework and the liberal arts education while providing them with connections to students with similar interests and an academic advisor in the professor of the course. In the English Department this fall, we have two exciting new FYCs: Introduction to Creative Writing taught by Professor Peter Bognanni and Studies in Literature: Ecstasy and Apocalypse, Literature of the Extreme taught by Professor Daylanne English. The Words sat down with Professor English to talk about her aims for the course, her motivation for teaching this subject, and what exactly literature of the extreme means.
Studies in Literature: Ecstasy and Apocalypse, Literature of the Extreme is a course that focuses on how literature represents extreme human experiences, both real and imagined. Does literature need to stretch and change in order to represent the extremes of human existence? What exactly is representing the extreme, representing apocalypse? What does it mean for both individuals and our societies? And most importantly, what is its purpose and what do we gain by representing it? All these are the major questions the course hopes to pose to its students.
Professor English decided to make the course due to the demand for a literature class about dystopia. She found this interesting saying “New students today were more likely to have grown up with The Hunger Games than Harry Potter.”
Professor English is excited about much of the course but especially the field trips the students will be taking. Students in her class will be visiting the Macalester Observatory and the Hennepin County Recycling Center, a massive garbage incinerator that serves the city of Minneapolis. These are just a few of the ways that Professor English hopes to explore multiple disciplines through her class and expose students to many fields of study. In addition, the course hopes to analyze other art forms and see how they represent expressions of the extreme. One such opportunity involves a visit from a Macalester music professor, who will come to instruct the class.
Professor English also wanted to praise a few Macalester students for their help in the class. Specifically, Xavier Xin, a senior English Major who did a stellar presentation on their prize-winning essay about The Handmaid’s Tale, and the preceptor for the class, Nora Stewart, a talented writer who enriches class discussion every day.
Professor English hopes her students take away a lot from her class but most importantly she wishes them to have a broader understanding of the many areas and advantages of a liberal arts education, to have their boundaries, assumptions, and beliefs tested, and to learn to think critically about the art and media we consume. This involves the close reading of texts as well as film and musical analysis. By taking these things from her class, Professor English hopes that her students cannot only learn to better understand and appreciate certain art forms and our world at large, but themselves as well.