Maybe we can the mods to grade the final February 5, 2010 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Is anyone interested in working through a free class on American Literature since 1945 book club style?

Professor Amy Hungerford's class "The American Novel Since 1945" is one of those on Open Yale. That means that the syllabus and all the lectures are available for free online, in text, audio and video format. I would like to work through the books and accompanying lectures and would like some company.

There are 14 books and 26 lectures. For the sake of having something concrete to discuss, what I propose is to read a book a month and listen to the associated lectures before the first Wednesday of the month then discuss online. Perhaps the discussions could be on library thing or some other forum. I am actually open to meeting in person in NYC and can host a dozen people or so, though I should not commit to a years worth of meetings before talking to the long-suffering Mrs. HotBot.

This is not to take anything away from the other metafilter book club, but I thought this might attract a different audiance and I like the structure the class would provide.

The books are: Richard Wright, Black Boy (American Hunger) 1945; Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood, 1949; Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, 1955; Jack Kerouac, On the Road, 1957; J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey, 1961; John Barth, Lost in the Funhouse (selections) 1963-68 ; Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49, 1967; Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye, 1970; Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior , 1976 (selections); Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping, 1980; Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, 1985; Philip Roth, The Human Stain , 2000; Edward P. Jones, The Known World , 2003; Students' Choice Novel for Spring, 2008: Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated, 2002
posted by shothotbot to MetaFilter Gatherings at 1:24 PM (62 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

Fuck! I ain't read most of those. This is kind of tempting, especially if it's an in-person thing. I hesitate to commit just yet, but I would like to express at least moderate interest.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:13 PM on February 5, 2010


What if we made it every other month?
posted by shothotbot at 2:18 PM on February 5, 2010


Well, instead of committing to a year's worth, why don't we commit to doing the first three and see how it goes from there?
posted by milarepa at 2:25 PM on February 5, 2010


Well, instead of committing to a year's worth, why don't we commit to doing the first three and see how it goes from there?

That smacks of sensible, helpful suggestion milarepa.
posted by shothotbot at 2:29 PM on February 5, 2010


Consider me interested. And dusting off the 'ole English MA, I've actually read quite a few of those books, but I'm always keen for a re-read of classic and a roundtable discussion of how exciting it is to watch a bear in costumes dance before characters with no established names.
posted by banannafish at 2:34 PM on February 5, 2010


Irritates Joe Temple, his wife and their ever-suspicious daughter, Remy.
posted by tellurian at 2:35 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


how exciting it is to watch a bear in costumes dance before characters with no established names.

I think this is a bit of an oversimplification of Lolita.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:38 PM on February 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'd be interested. The civil engineering curriculum didn't leave much opportunity for english classes.
posted by electroboy at 2:42 PM on February 5, 2010


I'm interested as well, though could only be around for an online chat.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 2:56 PM on February 5, 2010


I'll participate in the online discussion. I can at least commit to the first 3 since I've already read them, ha. But this is a great idea!
posted by Juicy Avenger at 2:58 PM on February 5, 2010


I'm actually doing this with my boyfriend -- I printed the lectures to him in a binder and bought the first couple of books for him for Christmas, so that we could start reading them together after the New Year. (We're finishing up a stretch of time living in separate states and he's a big reader and I wanted something new to talk about other than bills and work and TV shows (that we never end up watching at the same time thanks to DVRs))

So if you guys end up having an online version of this, let me know -- I'll have read the books recently. And if not online, enjoy the books and the lectures. I really enjoyed Black Boy and now can't believe I hadn't read it before.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:12 PM on February 5, 2010


I'm interested. I like all of these books, and I'm interested in the lectures. I quite like erudite bookgroups. I'm curious as to how you see the discussions going. I haven't done much online discussion that isn't like MeFi, and I find IRC type discussions quite stressful.
posted by OmieWise at 3:28 PM on February 5, 2010


I'd love to do this. From afar, since I am decidedly not in NYC.
posted by mynameisluka at 3:49 PM on February 5, 2010


Consider me on board for this - I'm already working through Donald Barthelme's Syllabus and blogging as I go....

Great idea!
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:00 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am interested though anything by Pynchon has always defeated me, including Lot 49.
posted by bearwife at 4:07 PM on February 5, 2010


I have failed repeatedly at Lolita. I am interested, but wary.
posted by rtha at 4:11 PM on February 5, 2010


bearwife: I am interested though anything by Pynchon has always defeated me, including Lot 49.

I thought the first third or so was really terrible but then it switches gears and becomes something amazing.
posted by Kattullus at 4:17 PM on February 5, 2010


I am interested though anything by Pynchon has always defeated me, including Lot 49.

I didn't expect saying it when I first put that brick on my lap, but Mason & Dixon turned out quite the page turner. ymmv etc.
posted by ersatz at 4:58 PM on February 5, 2010


I'm in.
posted by cjets at 4:58 PM on February 5, 2010


I think a three book trial sounds like a winning idea.

Does anyone know if it would be OK to do this on MetaChat? I am not really familiar with the mores over there. Also, I don't see any reason that we could not do real and virtual discussions.
posted by shothotbot at 6:09 PM on February 5, 2010


I'm in. I can really only discuss online, unless I decide to drive in from Ohio one day.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:14 PM on February 5, 2010


I'm in for the reading, but based on my comment history, I'll probably just lurk in the discussions.
posted by Edward L at 6:25 PM on February 5, 2010


I am interested and could most likely show up for any NYC discussing.
posted by Jeanne at 6:27 PM on February 5, 2010


I'm interested, too.
posted by scody at 6:31 PM on February 5, 2010


In. I love structure, and I haven't read a bunch of these.
posted by hazyspring at 6:53 PM on February 5, 2010


Count me in, for virtual or NYC-based discussion.
posted by dogrose at 7:19 PM on February 5, 2010


Oo, yes -- only online, though.
posted by palliser at 7:53 PM on February 5, 2010


I'm in for the online portion.
posted by sallybrown at 8:11 PM on February 5, 2010


I'm in! This seems like a great idea.

This is not to take anything away from the other metafilter book club, but I thought this might attract a different audience and I like the structure the class would provide.

I think we can just put the other MetaFilter book club on hiatus for a while. My advice would be to try to hold the discussions on MetaTalk or Metachat; the LibraryThing metafilter group doesn't get enough eyeballs.
posted by russilwvong at 9:19 PM on February 5, 2010


I would definitely be interested in participating in this (Online only, I'm afraid). I've read a goodly chunk of the list, but I think my lack of fermal edumacation probably got in the way of really grokking them, so it'd be awesome to work through it with swell MeFites. I'll eat my hat if someone can convince me that On The Road isn't a pile of dung, though.

And plus I can start telling people at dinner parties "Me? Oh, I went to Yale.edu."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:07 PM on February 5, 2010


I'm interested in an online discussion.
posted by maurice at 4:38 AM on February 6, 2010


I'm interested. I could use a project or something, that's for sure.
posted by JanetLand at 5:18 AM on February 6, 2010


ME ME ME
posted by availablelight at 5:43 AM on February 6, 2010


I'm interested in the online part.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 5:51 AM on February 6, 2010


I've been meaning to read some of those anyway. I'd be interested.
posted by k. at 7:43 AM on February 6, 2010


Also I like the idea of making it every other month.
posted by k. at 7:44 AM on February 6, 2010


I'm interested. Every other month makes sense to me, since I'm in the middle of two other reading-intensive courses right now. But we may have to get pestery with each other to keep ourselves on track. Online for sure, but I could also make it down to NYC assuming dates worked and everything.
posted by cocoagirl at 8:20 AM on February 6, 2010


I'm interested but have a horrible track record of abandoning projects mid-stream. I would at least like to observe, though.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 8:40 AM on February 6, 2010


I (non-Yaley, non-student) watched this videocast last year, and it's frakkin' great. At one point mid-semester I emailed Dr. Hungerford with a couple of questions about a particular lecture, without the expectation that she'd have the time to write back (pretty sure they keep her busy up at Yale); within 12 hours she sent back a very gracious and thorough reply, and she even thanked me for making the effort to videocast the course worth it. So although YMMV, there's that if your group feels moved to contact her with questions.

Although I am not able to participate in this group, I so wish I could... I really hope it works out!
posted by Rykey at 10:12 AM on February 6, 2010


yes, please!
posted by radiomayonnaise at 10:23 AM on February 6, 2010


I think we have a critical mass. Let's work out the details.
posted by hazyspring at 12:11 PM on February 6, 2010


Heh. From Black Boy through Woman Warrior, this is the exact same selection that I read in American Lit in high school, and some were in the Other Voices and American Lit II too.

A good half those books are absolutely terrible. I'll try to keep an eye out for when you read Lolita and Lost in the Funhouse, as I really dug those two and I'd like to do them again. But there's no way that I'm reading Black Boy for the fifth time (why did every high school English class I took assign that? At least it's not fucking Native Son).
posted by klangklangston at 12:54 PM on February 6, 2010


I'd love to revisit some classics, and would love a sort of livechat thingy for discussion.
posted by desuetude at 2:39 PM on February 6, 2010


I could be interested in the online component.
posted by mosessis at 2:54 PM on February 6, 2010


I would love to participate in this from London. My BA course was particularly focussed on English, American and Italian lit post 1945 (thank you York), but somehow I studied not a single one of these books (my essay on And Their Eyes Were Watching God was a doozy though). I'm an LT user, so would be happy to do it there or indeed elsewhere.
posted by featherboa at 3:54 PM on February 6, 2010


But there's no way that I'm reading Black Boy for the fifth time (why did every high school English class I took assign that? At least it's not fucking Native Son).

Man, youre nuts. Have you read those books as an adult. Theyre both really very good. Their Eyes Were Watching God still sucks, but Richard Wright is the real deal.
posted by OmieWise at 4:30 PM on February 6, 2010


I'm interested. From Kansas City, so online only. I've only read about half of them (even with the English degree), and those I have are definitely worth it, and the others are ones I'd like to read, so I think it'll be a great class.
posted by questionsandanchors at 7:11 PM on February 6, 2010


Me too yes please
posted by clockzero at 7:23 PM on February 6, 2010


I would be interested too, but would have to be online (from Australia). I've read a few of them already, but for some time I've been wanting to get a better grip on American literature and this seems like a good way to do it.
posted by girlgenius at 8:42 PM on February 6, 2010


Unless I get shouted down with hoots of derision I am going to say that we are starting a three month trial, first book due on Tuesday March 9. Online discussion to be on MetaChat, unless they have bad feelings about that and unless anyone has a better idea. I put a note in my diary to post a reminder on March 2nd and we can work out any IRL meeting then.

I went out and bought Black Boy today and am looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say.
posted by shothotbot at 10:10 PM on February 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


We will save the hoots of derision for when we discuss the books. :)
posted by JanetLand at 5:12 AM on February 7, 2010


I am still open to NYC in-person meetings. Anyone else?
posted by milarepa at 5:37 AM on February 7, 2010


I am still open to NYC in-person meetings. Anyone else?

Me too and I count several more in this thread. I was thinking we could try to get an actual plan together closer to the date.
posted by shothotbot at 6:06 AM on February 7, 2010


I cannot attend in-person meetings (unless I happen to be in NYC) , but I'm getting the first book at the library tomorrow.
posted by hazyspring at 8:29 AM on February 7, 2010



Unless I get shouted down with hoots of derision I am going to say that we are starting a three month trial, first book due on Tuesday March 9. Online discussion to be on MetaChat, unless they have bad feelings about that and unless anyone has a better idea. I put a note in my diary to post a reminder on March 2nd and we can work out any IRL meeting then.

I went out and bought Black Boy today and am looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say.


So, first book is Black Boy?? Just making sure. Must get in gear and start reading, preferably the correct book.
posted by bearwife at 1:00 PM on February 7, 2010


First book is black boy. The class sessions are listed here.
posted by shothotbot at 1:23 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Man, youre nuts. Have you read those books as an adult. Theyre both really very good. Their Eyes Were Watching God still sucks, but Richard Wright is the real deal."

Were you anyone else, I'd make a snarky comment about your punctuation ironically echoing Wright's turgid prose. I'm sure you mean well, but no, there is no fucking way I'm reading any of it again. It was so damn ham-fisted, so preachy and unrelentingly obvious that even as a high schooler it was too much.
posted by klangklangston at 1:31 PM on February 7, 2010


Actually, klangklangston, are you sure you can't stand to reread it and participate? I always think it's fun to have someone in class who really hates the book in question and can point to specific problems. I don't always agree, but it livens things up and makes people really *think* about what they're reading. One of the best conversations I ever had about art was over a painting that everyone in my office absolutely hated.
posted by JanetLand at 2:43 PM on February 7, 2010


I'm interested in at least some of this.
posted by matildaben at 5:36 PM on February 7, 2010


I'm in for an online version please.
posted by bilabial at 7:07 AM on February 10, 2010


This is just a suggestion, but it appears there is a Metafilter group on LibraryThing. I know it may be a hassle for some people to set up an account there, but would it make more sense for us to do the chat there?

It's possible some people in the group didn't even see this post (if they don't read Metatalk) and we may get a few more people to join.
posted by hazyspring at 12:57 PM on February 13, 2010


Planning thread here.
posted by shothotbot at 5:07 AM on March 2, 2010


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