Literary Rome: Reading and Writing the Eternal City
Students enrolling in the Literary Rome Spring Quarter abroad for the Spring of 2004 will take three courses. One of these courses will be Beginning, Intermediate, or Advanced Italian, and the other two will be as described below. More information is available from the English Advising Office, phone: 206-543-2634, or by e-mail from Sherry Laing, email@example.com
Rome is called “The Eternal City” for a reason—it’s been there so long that its buildings and ruins offer a virtual map of a large part of western culture. In this course we will read texts that reflect that map, all in English, though several in translation. Each will offer insight into the Rome students will be living amidst; each will also provide a way of enacting a kind of cultural history and anthropology of the city as well.
Accompanying these readings will be a set of walks and excursions to parts of Rome and Italy you wouldn’t want to miss—some obvious, like the Forum, some much less so, like the depths of San Clemente or the streets of Ostia Antiqua. (These walking tours and excursions will serve for our second course, Writing Rome (described below), as well.)
The first texts we’ll read, Cicero’s Catilinarian orations, document one of antiquity’s—and western civilization’s—great eras: the decline of the Roman Republic and its replacement by the Empire. Other texts will include Apuleius’ 2nd century comic novel The Golden Ass, Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, D.H. Lawrence’s Twilight in Italy and Etruscan Places, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice (not Rome, I grant, but we’ll find ways to connect it), and Ngaio Marsh’s mystery When in Rome.
Everybody knows that you ought to be writing when you’re living somewhere exotic—how else will you remember what it was you did as months turn to years? But there are other reasons for a writing course based on Rome. For writing is both a way of engaging with your surroundings, of developing active connections between what would otherwise remain disparate experiences, and of actively bringing your mind to reflect upon experience, to question, to search for answers, to create an understanding of your own for the otherwise clichéd or obvious. It’s one thing to visit the Roman Coliseum; every tourist does that. But writing can make that visit your own in a very particular way, make of it not just an experience, but a special moment in the full arc of a developing understanding of another place and culture.
During our weekly meetings we will read and work with the writing we do, talking about both its strengths and how we can make it stronger. This will not be a “let’s find everything that’s wrong with our writing” class. Rather it will be a class that will help us all (for I’ll be writing, too) find new and more effective ways of making sense of our Roman weeks. We’ll share texts and excursions in this course with the readings and touring we do for Reading Rome (described above).