English 493.910 -- Academic Li(v)es:
Representing American Academics


Summer Session 1 (1995)
Monday / Wednesday, 6 P.M. - 9 P.M.

Instructor: Daniel Traister
Office: Special Collections, Van Pelt Library

Phone: 215 898 7088 (work)
E-mail: traister@pobox.upenn.edu


Occupants of the "real" world often distinguish it from the "academic" world. People with "real life" experiences may discount or be actively contemptuous of those whose views are based merely upon "academic" expertise (people who "never met a pay- roll"). Students may think (or have been told) that their student years are "the best years of their lives"; yet they are also often barely able to wait for graduation when they finally get out of school and encounter "reality." Faculty, no matter what their stature or status within the academic subculture, may feel marginalized by the larger society in which they live, anxious to be heard by it yet frustrated and, in their own turn, contemptuous of it, when they are not.

These and related constructions (academic vs. real life; "the best years of our lives"; how we envisage academics in society) are the subject of this course. We will read a number of texts that are traditionally "literary," as well as autobiographies of academics. These texts are written from different points of view and concern different aspects of academic life. All that unites them is that, in this course, all are the products of American writers.

Course mechanics

This course meets on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 6.00 to 9:00. The room to which we are assigned is Bennett Hall 219. If possible, we may move to the Lea Library (sixth floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library).

The instructor's office is in the Department of Special Collections, sixth floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. You can reach him by telephone (215 898 7088) or in person at that location. Call before showing up. You can also reach him by e-mail as traister@pobox.upenn.edu.

Members of the class must submit two "response" papers to readings, each 1 to 2 pages in length AND NO MORE. The syllabus for the second week calls for a response from every member of the class (it is due at the Wednesday session). The syllabus for some other weeks suggests other response topics. Choose ANY ONE of the additional topics OR ONE OF YOUR OWN and submit it at the class for which it is relevant. (Responses will not be accepted after the week when materials are discussed.) Responses are NOT graded, although they must be turned in.

In addition, every member of the class must write and submit

  1. a short paper on June 7 (see Week 3, below, for details); and

  2. a final paper of about 10 pages in length by June 28th (the last class). There is no final examination. This essay should consider some materials NOT otherwise read in this class and use primary materials of some sort in doing so. DO NOT CHOOSE A TOPIC FOR OR WRITE THIS PAPER WITHOUT FIRST DISCUSSING IT WITH THE INSTRUCTOR. Please follow MLA or Chicago rules in preparing this paper. Especially in view of the brevity of summer sessions, all work must be handed in promptly. Death (it had better be yours) is the acceptable excuse for lateness.

In general, the instructor appreciates good writing and looks with disfavor upon essays -- whether brief responses or full-fig final papers -- that are poorly written. Sloppy writing normally means sloppy thinking.

This class will work through discussion rather than lectures. Your attendance will make a difference in its success, and your attendance and participation will therefore also make a difference in your grade. Ground rules: talk; interrupt; open your mouths. Be polite, yes; but do not let politeness get in the way of making your points.

NOTE: This class has a very long list of readings for a short course. Most of these books, however, are both short and easy to read. Dare one add that they are even (at least now and again) fun to read?

Course books

NOTE: Some material will be distributed in photocopy ("bulkpack"). Books are available at the Pennsylvania Book Center, 3726 Walnut Street.

  1. Willa Cather, The Professor's House (Vintage)
  2. Howard Fast, Silas Timberman -- bulkpack
  3. F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise (Scribner's)
  4. Charles Macomb Flandrau, Harvard Episodes (Ayer)
  5. Randall Jarrell, Pictures from an Institution (Chicago)
  6. Owen Johnson, Stover at Yale -- bulkpack
  7. Alice Kaplan, French Lessons (Chicago)
  8. Mary McCarthy, The Groves of Academe (Harcourt)
  9. William Maxwell, The Folded Leaf (Godine)
  10. Mark Merlis, American Studies (Harcourt)
  11. May Sarton, Faithful Are the Wounds (Norton)
  12. Jonathan Strong, "Supperburger" -- bulkpack
  13. Marianna De Marco Torgovnick, Crossing Ocean Parkway (Chicago)
  14. Lionel Trilling, Of This Time, Of That Place (Scribner's)

    Schedule of Classes

    Week 1 -- Introduction
    Monday, May 22 / Wednesday, May 24

    Week 2 -- Bright College Days
    Monday, May 29 / Wednesday, May 31

    Week 3 -- Less Bright College Days
    Monday, June 5 / Wednesday, June 7

    Week 4 -- Target: American Higher Education
    Monday, June 12 / Wednesday, June 14

    Week 5 -- Duking It Out
    Monday, June 19 [Wednesday, June 21 class will NOT meet]

    Week 6 -- Academia as "Real World": Politics and the Classroom
    Monday, June 26 / Wednesday, June 28


    You can send Traister e-mail concerning this page at traister@pobox.upenn.edu.

    Return to Daniel Traister's Home Page.