English Department Faculty
E-Term Projects for January 2014
After Apartheid: South Africa
Sandra Sprayberry (English)
and David Smith (Music)
What better place to study human
rights issues than in South Africa?
Traveling to Cape Town and
Johannesburg and their townships, we
will study what Nelson Mandela called
the “long walk to freedom” from
apartheid, and, in particular, the
reconciliation efforts afterwards and
the current state of affairs in South
Africa. Our focus will be on this very
serious topic, with an excursion to
Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned, and with a few days in Johannesburg, where the
Apartheid Museum is located, and in the Jo’burg township of Soweto. We will also view, via
safari, the wildlife in Kruger National Park. The trip will also include an excursion to Seal
Island and Boulders Beach and (optional) great white shark cage diving.
Novels Right Now: Commodities or Future Masterpieces
In this project, we will read four very recent novels that have appeared on the best-seller lists and
have also achieved at least some literary acclaim. In class meetings, we will discuss the novels,
but we will also consider what makes books popular and what makes them “literature.” We will
explore best-seller lists from the past, as well as past winners of literary awards. We will
consider questions such as these:
Are contemporaries able to recognize a “masterpiece”?
How often does literary fiction achieve best-seller status?
What distinguishes literary fiction from commodity fiction?
We will meet three afternoons a week, and students will write four short (2-5 page) papers, one
about each of the four novels we will read and discuss. In addition, each student will select a
related topic to research and present to the class. For instance, one student might look up what
was on the best-seller lists when a novel that has entered the literary canon of “great works” was
first published. Another student might seek out reviews of best-selling novels from another
decade or another century to see if any were proclaimed important works of literature and
whether we agree with that judgment now.