2018: An Entangled World
Voices of the Inseparable
- Does literature bring us together, or is reading a fundamentally solo act?
- Consider different types of literature: does enjoying poetry separate a person from broader culture, or does reading popular novels connect us? Are there forms of literature that can travel between high and low culture?
- Many of this year’s selection were written by authors who “belong” to two cultures. How do these selections, and perhaps literature in general, bridge (or reinforce) separations between people?
- To what extent is a writer entangled in his or her culture, and can he or she get outside of it? Can any works of literature truly be considered universal?
- Why do so many people turn to poetry to express the pain and pleasure of love? Is there a reason poetry is particularly associated with intimate feelings?
- How does literature help us remember the past (or speak to the future)? Can we trust fictional accounts of the past, or are written accounts inevitably biased?
- What causes a work of literature to last? How does the presence of a literary canon—that is, a body of work agreed to be “important”—connect us to the past?
- Does the “Western canon” still serve a purpose in our contemporary, entangled word? Did it ever?
Love and Friendship
- I Gave Myself to Him | Emily Dickinson
- [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] | e.e. cummings
- Supple Cord | Naomi Shihab Nye
- What My Grandmother Meant to Say Was | Aja Monet
- A Dog Has Died | Pablo Neruda
- Look Up | Gary Turk
- Kinship | Margarita Engle
- Wild Geese | Mary Oliver
- Valentine | Carol Ann Duffy
- To Have Without Holding | Marge Piercy
- Elegy for a Mother, Still Living | Elana Bell
- Head, Heart | Lydia Davis
Communities Large and Small
- Mending Wall | Robert Frost
- No Man is an Island | John Donne
- The Map of the World Confused with Its Territory | Susan Stewart
- Maps | Yesenia Montilla
- Yertle the Turtle | Dr Seuss
- From | Fatimah Asghar & Eve L. Ewing
- For Want of a Nail | Proverb
- Remember | Joy Harjo
- The Answer | Robinson Jeffers
- Encounter | Czeslaw Milosz
- Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles | Sally Wen Mao
Hauntings and The Haunted
- Abiku | Wole Soyinka
- “Dark House”, from In Memorium | Tennyson
- Sleeping With Ghosts | Stephen Dunn
- Try to Praise the Mutilated World | Adam Zagajewski
- Ghosts | Kiki Petrosino
- What the Living Do | Marie Howe
- self-portrait in case of disappearance | Safia Elhillo
- This Hour and What is Dead | Li-Young Lee
- Inventory | Richard Hoffman
Drama & Film
- Film | Your Name (Kimi No Na Wa)
- Film | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind*
- Drama | Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2; Act 3, Scene 5
- The Egg | Andy Weir
- Reunion | John Cheever
- The Rules of the Game | Amy Tan
- Marriage Is a Private Affair | Chinua Achebe
- Simple Recipes | Madeleine Thien
- The Perfect Match | Ken Liu
- Unwind (excerpt) | Neal Shusterman
- The Kite Runner (excerpt) | Khaled Hosseini
- Children of the Earth and Sky (chapter 1) | Guy Gavriel Kay
Guided Questions and Case Studies
- Poets and novelists often include a short quotation at the beginning of their work. These epigraphs—“writing above”—both set up the work’s thematic interests and also position the writer in a centuries-old conversation with other writers: an entangling of words and minds. Discuss with your team: Are epigraphs common in the writings of your culture? Which writers use epigraphs in this year’s selected works, and why?
- As we know from Google Translate, turning one language’s words into another is not always straightforward. Translators must consider not only the literal meaning of a word but also its implications; they have to have a deep familiarity with the cliches, idioms, and values of both cultures. With your team, consider the challenges and opportunities of translation. Does it matter who the translator is? How much freedom should a translator feel in adapting works to a new culture?
- Consider Dungeons and Dragons as an example of "entangled" storytelling - in which narrator and characters interact. Discuss with your team: is such interactive storytelling a form of literature, and is it growing more common in our Internet-enabled world? You may wish to consider other examples of collaborative, role-playing games.
- Speaking of entangled storytelling: although fanfic may date all the way back to the Bible, it is particularly associated with Internet communities. With your team, explore the relationship between fandoms and their source materials. How do readers help create imaginary worlds? In what way are the roles of reader, author, and character entangled? And is Hamilton the ultimate fanfic?
*Film contains mature language and should only be watched with teacher consent and adult guidance.