30:387 Alternate Worlds
Instructor: Dr. Reinhold Kramer
109 Original Building/Clark Hall
Office hours: 2:40-3:30 p.m.
(Mon., Wed., Thur.)
Long before evolutionary literary theorists argued for the adaptive value of fictions cognitive mapping and scenario-spinning, writers experimented with imagined futures, alternate histories, and fragmented selves. The last 40 years, in particular, have seen a rich series of fictive worlds that are neither completely fantastic nor fully representative of the world we inhabit. Works to be studied could include OBrien, Going After Cacciato; Rushdie, Midnight’s Children; Bakis, Lives of the Monster Dogs; Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union; McCarthy, The Road. We will also study at least two films, possibly Wenders & Handke, Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin) and Jeunet & Laurant, Amélie (Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain). Titles may change with little notice.
1. Class Participation 10%
2. Reading Tests (on entire novels*) 10, 19 Sept.; 8 Oct.; 5, 26 Nov. 10%
3 Mid-term Test 24 October 20%
4. Essay (10-12 pages) 19 November 20%
5. Final Exam 16 December 2-4 p.m. 40%
Note: There may be penalties for lateness, depending upon circumstances. Reading tests cannot be postponed, and missed tests cannot be rewritten without a doctor’s note or other documentation. (*Each reading test covers the entire novel; the only exception is Cloud Atlas, for which the first reading test covers pp. 1-236 and the second reading test covers pp. 237-509.) Cite all your sources – assignments containing plagiarism will be graded “0” and will result in disciplinary action. See BU General Calendar 4.2.2 “Academic Integrity.” No cell phones in class.
For the very shy: in place of “class participation” you may hand in, 5 times during the course, short (1 page, double-spaced, typed) commentaries, not plot summaries, on the text under discussion that day. These commentaries must be handed in before the text is discussed in class and are worth 2% each. No commentaries will be accepted after class discussions for any reason.
It’s possible that a student may find readings and/or discussions of controversial matters troubling. If so, please contact the instructor immediately for alternative assignments or an alternative course.
Outstanding A+ 90 & up A 84-89 A- 80-83
Good B+ 77-79 B 74-76 B- 70-73
Satisfactory C+ 67-69 C 64-66 C- 60-63
Weak D+ 57-59 D 54-56 D- 50-53
Inadequate F 0-49
Chabon, Michael. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, 2007.
McCarthy, Cormac. The Road, 2006.
Mitchell, David. Cloud Atlas, 2004.
Norman, Colin. Writing Essays: A Short Guide. 2nd ed. Queen’s. (optional)
O’Brien, Tim. Going After Cacciato, 1978.
Sept. 5 Introduction
Sept. 10 – 26 David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (2004)
Sept. 10 Reading test p. 1 – 236
Sept. 19 Reading test p. 237 – 509
Oct. 1 – 3 Wim Wenders & Peter Handke, Wings of Desire
(Der Himmel über Berlin; 1987) (2:08)
*Oct. 1st class runs from 10:10 – 12:30
Oct. 8 – 22 Tim O’Brien, Going After Cacciato (1978)
Oct. 24 Mid-term Test
Oct. 29 – 31 Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Guillaume Laurant, Amélie
(Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain; 2001) (2:02)
*Oct. 29th class runs from 10:10 – 12:30
Nov. 5 – 7 Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (2007)
Nov. 12 Study break (no class)
Nov. 14 – 21 Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (cont.)
Nov. 19 Essay due
Nov. 26 – Dec. 5 Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2006); Review
Dec. 16, 2-4 p.m. Final Exam