These three letters represent a course I have been considering for some time: “Farms, Factories and Facebook.” In this course, students read literature, mostly fiction, that conveys the rhythms and mindsets of three ages in human history: agricultural, industrial and digital. We might call the third “informational,” but for now I am simply collecting titles and ideas. For the most part, this collecting has been happening privately. Feel free to comment with your thoughts. Feel free to launch such a course yourself. I trust we will acknowledge each other, when occasion calls for that.
Meanwhile, an article in yesterday’s New York Times profiles a Korean writer whose work fits my picture of this FFF course. Shin Kyung-Sook’s novel, Please Look After Mom, has made a lasting impression on my wife, since she read it about a year ago. When yesterday’s article appeared, we both said we want to read her other novels, I Will Be Right There and A Lone Room. The Times article describes the traumatic change in South Korea from an agrarian to industrial society–within just one generation. Ms. Kyung-Sook’s stories reveal what this dramatic disruption means to Korean families. The conflicts at the heart of the society reveal the distinct rhythms and mindsets of both eras. Therefore, one of these novels may suit the course I am imagining.
Other literature I have considered defines an era’s worldview from within–think Tess of the D’Urbevilles or Hard Times, for example–rather than across the “time zones.” Given my experience with home-grown courses like this, I want to find good stories– ones that engage students initially and years later, for their emotional and intellectual impact. Stories they carry with them. Analyzing the eras we humans have navigated is part of the course, but I have learned not to impose too much of my own historical ruminations on high school juniors and seniors. Those ideas provide a sturdy infrastructure, but individual students need to shape their own conclusions in their own way, largely through induction while reading these stories.
That’s it for now. Concerning this course, the time has apparently come to widen what Seamus Heaney calls the “circumference of understanding.” If you want to see and/or comment on the google doc of ideas and titles, complete the following form. Thank you.