English R1B

Reading and Composition: Mysticism & the Fragment

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Fall 2017 Stancek, Claire Marie
MW 5-6:30 80 Barrows Reading and Composition

Book List

Adnan, Etel: Night; Gluck, Robert: Margery Kempe; Kapil, Bhanu: Schizophrene; Notley, Alice: Descent of Alette

Other Readings and Media

a course reader including selections from Hildegard of Bingen, S. T. Coleridge, Mary Robinson, William Blake, and song lyrics by Drake.


For I am not taught in this vision to write as the philosophers write; and the words in this vision are not like those which sound from the mouth of man, but like a trembling flame, or like a cloud stirred by the clear air.

                        —Hildegard of Bingen

In this passage by the twelfth-century mystic, Hildegard of Bingen, visionary experience resists academic genres, and instead finds expression through ephemeral forms, partial and passing. We will spend time in this class thinking about the longstanding and continuing connection between mysticism and the fragment. Why and how do visions, locutions, dreams, trances, trips, and prophecies take shape without shape, in shards and ruins? We will consider an eclectic range of texts, from Hildegard’s Scivias, to Romantic poetry, to erotic novels, to recent music (what are the visions of Drake’s Views?), and contemporary poetry. Our semester-long project will be to write and revise a research essay—taking into consideration how the essay itself, which comes from the French word essayer, to try, can be understood as a fragmentary genre, never whole or final. But we will also write in genres and from experiences more explicitly fragmentary: students will keep a dream journal, and innovate their own forms.

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