with intense eagerness since 2012! a channel of the los angeles review of books

Our Deep Springs Syllabus


American Encounters

Drs. Sarahs
Office Hours: 9-midnight
Office Location: Cabin, fireside

Note on Class Policy: Never, ever email us. We will not respond.

September 7: Methods
Introduction: How to Do Things with Words
Herman Melville, “A Squeeze of the Hand,” Moby-Dick
Jacques Lacan, “The Signification of the Phallus”

September 14: Concepts
Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish
Donald Winnicott, on The Good Enough Mother

UNIT 1: American Soil

September 21: The Land
Willa Cather, My Antonia!
Emma Rathbone, “My Wedding Hair”
In-class Debate. Little House’s Pa Ingalls: asshole, or positive male role model?

September 28: Cycles and Blossoms
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, “A New England Nun”

UNIT 2: American Romance

October 5: Nineteenth-Century Boyfriends
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
In-class activity: Wood chopping, in silence.  Stack wood by the fire, but not too near the fire.

October 12: Seduction
No assigned reading. Bring brushes for horse grooming workshop.

October 19: Marriage Plots
Herman Melville, “The Rope,” Moby-Dick
Kate Chopin, The Awakening and “Story of an Hour”
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Assignment: Create a Pinterest wedding board as composed from the Ishmael’s point of view. A-level work will include possible wedding tattoos.

October 26: Genealogies
Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born
Special lab section: meet in barn’s lambing room; bring gloves.
Research Project: Pick one woman (famous or otherwise) born before 1960, and research how many, and of what kind, life-threatening reproductive experiences she had. Create a spreadsheet to track how many children she gave birth to, and how many hours she spent caring for those infants.

UNIT 3: American Jeremiads

November 2 You Will Never Come Close to Approximating this Amount of Justified Rage
Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”
Mary Rowlandson, Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

November 9: Repentance
Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God”
Rebecca Solnit, “Men Explain Things to Me”

UNIT 4: American Independence

November 16: Masculine Expressions
Melville, “The Counterpane,” Moby-Dick
Project: Craft an heirloom quilt/counterpane addressing the portrait of masculinity in Fugazi.

November 23: Wayward Women
Wendy and Lucy
Marilynn Robinson, Housekeeping
Thelma and Louise
Personal Essay: Consider the last solo road trip you took to discover yourself. Now, imagine if you had done so, while female. Structure your essay around the repeated, mournful sound of a train in the distance.

November 30: Harvest Ritual
***Clean-Up Volunteers needed for post-threshing grain-gathering and to remove any remaining honey from the cow’s horns; sign up in cabin.

UNIT 5: American Futures

December 7: Heartbreak and Betrayal
Henry James, Wings of the Dove
In-class activity: Keening

December 14: Sticky Things
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides
James Cameron, Aliens
Short Essay: Is the cervix a grave?

December 21: Go Forth!
Walt Whitman, entire corpus.
Final Lecture: On never (ever, ever, ever) reading the Beats.



Sarah Blackwood: Team Bella

Sarah Mesle: A Little Judgy

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  1. Brilliant … “Create a Pinterest wedding board as composed from the Ishmael’s point of view. A-level work will include possible wedding tattoos.”

  2. So I sent this to two people I team taught at Deep Springs with, and they were not sure whether it was a joke or actual syllabus…..You must be insiders….


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