“The cleanest expression is that which finds no sphere worthy of itself and makes one”
-Walt Whitman, “Preface” the the 1855 Edition of Leaves of Grass
All of your reading and writing and project deadlines are listed below. Note well that reading assignments and deadlines for writing may be adjusted in response to our work together. You are responsible for completing the reading and the writing, meeting deadlines, and reading the posts on this course blog. As the course develops, I will be updating the pages of this course blog as well–for example, adding materials to the Ephemera and Resources pages.
Week 1 Course Introduction
Tuesday January 17 Course introduction: premises, scope of inquiry, expectations, requirements
Thursday January 19 Digital tools, blogs and blogging, rhetoric and the public domain
Writing prompt for next week: write a 500-word commentary on Alexis de Tocqueville’s consideration of democracy and its influence on intellectual life in the United States. The Projects page explains in detail what this brief piece of writing will do. The commentary is due no later than 10 AM on Tuesday, January 24.
Week 2 The Question of Democratic Culture
“We have gotten a democracy, but without the conditions which lessen its vices, and render its natural advantages more prominent; and although we already perceive the evil it brings, we are ignorant of the benefits it may confer.”
—Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Tuesday January 24 Alexis de Tocqueville, De La Démocratie en Amérique or Democracy in America (vol. 1 1835 and vol. 2 1840). Read in Volume 2: Section I: Influence of Democracy on the Action of Intellect in The United States, Chapter XI “In What Spirit the Americans Cultivate the Arts” and in Chapter XIII “Literary Characteristics of Democratic Times”
Due: Essay #1. Post on blog by 10 AM Tuesday. Rework and Revise and post revised version no later than Sunday
Sunday: Due revised version of essay #1
Week 3 The Idea (and Ideal) of Democracy
“My utmost pretension is probably but to offset that old claim of the exclusively curative power of first-class individual men, as leaders and rulers, by the claims and general movement and result of ideas. Something of the latter kind seems to me to be the distinctive theory of America, of democracy, and of the modern—or rather, I should say, it is democracy, and is the modern.”
—Walt Whitman, “Carlyle from American Points of View” (1881)
In preparation for this week, and in addition to the essays by Whitman and Carlyle below, read Part I and Part II in Robert A. Dahl, On Democracy. 1-80.
Tuesday January 31 Walt Whitman, “Democratic Vistas” (1871). Also read the essay that incited Whitman, Thomas Carlyle, “Shooting Niagara—And After?” (1867)
Due: Essay #2 on Whitman’s essay Democratic Vistas. See the blog post “The Idea of Democratic Culture” for this week’s writing prompt and suggestions. Post on blog by 10 AM Tuesday. Rework and Revise and post final version no later than Sunday
Thursday February 2 Walt Whitman, “Democratic Vistas”
Sunday: Due revised version of essay #2
Week Four Beginning, Rising, Coming Together: Commencements and Convocations
“This revolution is to be wrought by the gradual domestication of the idea of Culture. The main enterprise of the world for splendor, for extent, is the upbuilding of a man. Here are the materials strown along the ground.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”
Tuesday February 7 Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar” (1837); Adrienne Rich, “Claiming an Education” (1977), published in On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose (1979); Terry Tempest Williams, “The Open Space of Democracy” (2003), published in The Open Space of Democracy (2004) as “Commencement.” Interested in the genre of the commencement? Have a look at the Resources and the link to a selection of commencement addresses from 1774 to the present
Due: Essay #3. Essay on Commencement(s) and/or convocation(s). Post on blog by 10 AM Tuesday. Rework and Revise and post revised version no later than Sunday
Thursday February 9 Claude McKay, “America” (1921), Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again” (1936), Alan Ginsberg, “America” (1956); Ginsberg Reading “America”; Naomi Shihab Nye “United” (2016). Browse the Poems and Essays on Democracy at the Poetry Foundation web site. Bring to class Adrienne Rich, An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988-1991
Sunday: Due revised version of essay #3
Week Five Poetry and Democracy: The Logic Of Equality, The Fact of Inequality
“A great poem is no finish to a man or woman but rather a beginning”
-Walt Whitman, “Preface” the the 1855 Edition of Leaves of Grass
This week: Individual conferences and feedback. Mark will distribute a schedule for meetings
Tuesday February 14 Adrienne Rich, An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988-1991, “Blood, Bread, And Poetry: The Location of a Poet” and “Notes Toward a Politics of Location,” from Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose: 1979-1985 (1986)
Due: Essay #4. Essay on poem(s) and/or essay(s) concerned with democracy. Post on blog by 10 AM Tuesday. Rework and Revise and post revised version no later than Sunday
Thursday February 16 Adrienne Rich, An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988-1991
Sunday: Due revised version of essay #4
Week Six Creative Democracy: Human Development and Moral Responsibility
“Not words of routine this song of mine,
But abruptly to question, to leap beyond yet nearer bring”
-Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
Tuesday February 21 John Dewey, “Having an Experience,” Art as Experience (1934), “Creative Democracy” (1939), originally delivered by Horace Kallen and published in John Dewey and the Promise of America (1939); and “Democracy is Radical” (1936). Walter Lippman, “The World Outside And The Pictures In Our Heads,” from Public Opinion (1922)
Due: Essay #5. Essay on writing by John Dewey, Walter Lippman, and/or James Baldwin. Post on blog by 10 AM Tuesday. Rework and Revise and post revised version no later than Sunday
Thursday February 23 Listen to James Baldwin, The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity, recorded at the Community Church, New York City. Broadcast by WBAI, 29 Nov. 1962. A transcript of the recording is available at Vox Populi. Also read The Creative Process, by James Baldwin from Creative America. New York: Ridge Press, 1962.
Sunday: Due revised version of essay #5
Week Seven Ed Hogan’s Aspect Magazine: Archives and the Digital Humanities
“There can be no literature without democracy and no democracy without literature.”
—Jacques Derrida, Passions
Tuesday February 28 Class meets in Mason Library Archives: Aspect Magazine and an overview of materials in the Mason Library Social Justice Collection
Thursday March 2 Class meets in Mason Library Archives: Work on Aspect Magazine. For background and context read Leora Zeitlin, “Remembering Ed Hogan” (1998) as well as the blog posts (and, if you are curious, the links) on the Open Space of Democracy
Sunday Due Research Installment #1. Read all course blogs and annotate blogs using “Open Space of Democracy” group on Hypothes.is. Think about and begin curating your blog. To curate, used as a verb, names a process of organizing and pulling together parts into a whole, as an artist might curate an exhibit. Your work is to curate your sequence of short-form essays as a body of work—a sequence, collection, or anthology of writing that has consistency and integrity.
Week Eight Art, Cultural Work, and Social Engagement
Midterm assessment this week: make sure that are curated your blog so that your midterm grade reflects your best work. Please schedule an appointment with me if you need any support for Word Press customization ideas. By Friday, in addition to the work on your blog, you will have completed the Aspect Magazine work and the Reflective Essay on the readings and your thinking in the first half of the course.
Tuesday March 7 Due: Please send me your Aspect metadata by 10 AM. In class we will do a Blog Charrette. Come ready to talk about the blogs. We will also do some editing of the Aspect magazine descriptions.
Thursday March 9 Before class listen to John F. Kennedy’s Eulogy for Robert Frost delivered at Amherst College on October 26, 1963. Read Benjamin Barber, Serving Democracy by Serving the Arts and Humanities” (1997), an essay that was written for the Creative America Report by the President’s Committee on the Art and the Humanities describing the system of support for cultural life in the United States today, and Jaroslav Andel, Why Democracy Needs Arts and Culture (2015) World Policy Blog. We will use this material to begin a final Project Preview.
Friday Due Aspect Magazine work and the Reflective Essay on the readings and your thinking in the first half of the course. The idea for this blog post is for you to capture something of interest that you are thinking about-something that you might not have been able to think before you entered into conversation with the authors and texts we have studied together so far in the course.
Week Nine Spring break: no classes
In the “Preface” to the 1855 Edition of his book of poems Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman outlines a program for his participatory aesthetic and, perhaps, for any of “freedom’s athletes” on spring break from college:
This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
Another opportunity might be to pick up a copy of Leaves of Grass for your reading over break. Enjoy! Go forth! Come back to school rested, and refreshed!
Week Ten The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency
Tuesday March 21 Project Statement Workshop (1). Class will be dedicated to sorting ideas and fielding questions about the final project. We will draft a project description and a schedule and our outcomes for the project. Questions and Problems. Read the Blog Entry “Education for Socially Engaged Art” by Pablo Helguera and Interview with Pablo Helguera, and read Art and Citizenship
Thursday March 23 Project Statement Workshop (2): Theory and Method. Discussion of Doris Sommer, Prologue, “Welcome Back,” 1-13, and Chapter One: “From the Top: Government-Sponsored Creativity,” 15-48, in The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities (2014)
Week Eleven The Work of Art in the World: The Question of Democratic Literacy
Tuesday March 28 Richard Rorty, Education as Socialization and as Individuation, Philosophy and Social Hope (1999), Sommer, Chapter Two: “Press Here: Cultural Acupuncture and Civic Stimulation,” 49-79, and Chapter Three: “Art and Accountability,” 81-105
Thursday March 30 Sommer, Chapter Four: “Pre-Texts: The Arts Interpret,” 107-34
By Sunday on blog: Field Work post 1: in this instance, a Project Statement
Week Twelve Democratic Aesthetics: Reformers, artists, educators, citizens
Tuesday April 4 Open Space of Democracy Collaboratory. Reading: Sommer, Chapter Five: “Play Drive in the Hard Drive: Schiller’s Poetics of Politics,” 133-56
Thursday April 6 Open Space of Democracy Collaboratory. Literacy, Art, Civic Engagement: reformers, artists, educators, citizens
By Sunday on blog: Field Work post 2: what are you doing? What is interesting? What materials can you show us? What are the connections between the theory and the practice?
Tuesday April 11 Open Space of Democracy Collaboratory: Key Terms & Key Questions
Tuesday April 13 Open Space of Democracy Collaboratory: Key Questions & Methods of Inquiry
By Sunday on blog: Field Work post 3
Tuesday April 18 Open Space of Democracy Collaboratory: Project work. Bring your Materials. Meeting with Mark and Kerrin: 2:30 Omar and Stephanie, 2:50 Miles and Savannah, 3:15 Rachel and Mitchell
Tuesday April 20 Open Space of Democracy Collaboratory. Project work. Bring your Materials. Meeting with Mark and Kerrin: 2:30 Nick and Tyler, 3:00 Tori and Ben 3:30 Patrick
By Sunday on blog: Field Work post 4
Tuesday April 25 Project Charrette Stephanie 2-2:15 | Miles 2:15-2:30 | Omar 2:30-2:45 | Savannah 2:45-3:00 | Rachel 3:15-3:30 | Tori 3:30-3:45
Thursday April 27 Project Charrette: Nick 2-2:15 | Tyler 2:15-2:30 | Rachel 2:30-2:45 | Mitchell 2:45-3:00 | Ben 3:15-3:30 Ben | Patrick 3:30-3:45
By Sunday on blog: Field Work post 5 (optional)
Week Sixteen (Finals Week)
Monday May 1: Reading Day. Meetings with Mark and/or Kerrin, as necessary. Projects Due on Monday or Tuesday
Thursday May 4 Final Class Meeting