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Course Information

Instructor Info:Norman Holland
Office Extension x6206
TA Info:Everett Defieux
Zach Baker
Term: 2013F
Meeting Info: Monday Wednesday
04:00 PM - 05:20 PM Emily Dickinson Hall (EDH) 4
04:00 PM - 05:20 PM Emily Dickinson Hall (EDH) 4

This seminar focuses exclusively on the writings of the Argentine Jorge Luis Borges. Famous for his erudite "fictions" that speculate on time, history, knowledge, identity, reality, and the imagination, Borges taught us to think literature anew. He also delighted in spoofing erudition, in the conspiratorial wink against the purveyors of Culture. This playful side has its shadow, for much of his writings revolve around violence-iniquity, to cite one of his early titles. We will explore this duality of violence and pleasure selectively in his stories, poems, and essays. Students with a working knowledge of Argentine will be encouraged to read the original texts.

This course is supported by the CBD Program.  Throughout the course will also explore the interface between writing and certain basic mathematical concepts and the imagination and memory.

Course Objectives:

For Borges to take hold of you the way books are wont to do when you are a certain age. Borges, however, is not a hospitable text.  You have to dwell in his writing.  You cannot read him voraciously, in the crudest sense, in order to get rid of him as quickly as possible. If you do devour him, you will ignore his critical call, the challenge to read differently, to undo bad reading habits.  For some of you  reading him will be 24/7.  For most I expect you to spend 6 to 8 weekly in class preparation.

Pedagogically, the course will address the following cumulative skills:  Writing and Reserach, Multiple Cultural perspectives, Independent Work.  

Evaluation Criteria:

1. In-class participation:

You are expected to participate daily.  In order to facilitate informed participation, response papers will be due regularly.

2. Informal response papers (1-typed page) 

Before class, choose a quote or passage from the "assigned" story/stories and write about its relevance to the story’s structure and to the overall theme of reading.  No plot summaries!  Your responses will center the day’s class discussions.   No late responses.

3. Group presentation (20 minutes plus 10 minute Q & A)

            The class will be divided into small groups for in-depth presentations of a story from either Ficciones or El Aleph.  The group can address issues such as translation, rewritings, influences, critical responses, philosophical impact, cultural and political significance.

4. One formal essay.

A 7-10 page typed essay drawing on the primary text you presented and secondary sources (texts that serve to support your argument or discussions about the selected story).  We will be reading secondary sources as the course goes along.   A final revised essay is due at the end of the semester.

5. A final project.

For the final project you can create an “art piece” based on the readings.  This art piece can be in any media: essay, short story, poem, photography, video, collage, film, mixed media, art, clay, music, rap, dance, whatever you feel comfortable exploring.  In addition to the art piece, you will hand in a 2-page typed explanation of what connections this art piece has to a particular story or stories. The art piece can be collaborative, that is, a group undertaking.  However each member must turn in his/her own explanation.


To receive an evaluation the above requirements must be documented in your portfolio due the last day of class, Wednesday, December 11, 2013. Attendance will be kept; only three absences are allowed.

Additional Info:

Books:  The Collected Fictions translated by Andrew Hurley is available at the college bookstore. You can however use or refer to individual editions of Borges by different translators.  Students with even  basic reading comprehension of Spanish are highly encouraged to read Borges in his native Argentine.His essays and poems will be posted online along with secondary materials.

Plagarism: Plagiarism is the representation of someone else's work as one's own. Both deliberate and inadvertent misrepresentations of another's work as your own are considered plagiarism and are serious breaches of academic honesty and integrity. All sources used or consulted in the process of writing papers, examinations, preparing oral presentations, course assignments, artistic productions, and so on, must be cited. Sources include material from books, journals or any other printed source, the work of other students, faculty, or staff, information from the Internet, software programs and other electronic material, designs and ideas. All cases of suspected plagiarism or academic dishonesty will be referred to the Dean of Advising who will review documentation and meet with student and faculty member.

Incomplete:  If you request and and I agree that an incomplete is appropriate, that information must be recorded no later than the course completion summary deadline for the semester. To record an incomplete, both you and I will fill out the appropriate form to record the new negotiated deadline by which you will complete all remaining work for the course. Otherwise you will not receive an evaluation.