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What is literature, and what does it have to do with us today—especially those of us who are studying at a “technical” university? When many think of literature, they envision old, dusty, leather-bound books written about people in ages past who spoke strangely (“Hark! Who goest there?”) and wore corsets or top hats. But literature is arguably more relevant today in our bustling 21st century than ever before, and reading it can be a fun, meaningful endeavor. So open your textbook, your mind and your heart and experience the joy and inspiration of reading stories, poems and plays as never before.
Define literature in your own words.
In what ways do you suppose reading literature might benefit us personally and professionally? What are 3 of the best pieces of fiction you have ever read? (Fiction includes stories, novels or poems, and not biographies, factual accounts or how-to books.) What did you like about the 3 stories?
Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.
― Mahatma Gandhi
In this course we are studying literature, but we are also exploring human values. Woven throughout the fiction, poetry and drama we will be reading are considerations such as What is right? What is wrong? and What makes our lives meaningful? One way to think about values is to ask yourself, “What in my life is most important to me? Who or what do I value?”
5. In one or two paragraphs, list 5 of your core values (ex: family, work, health, creativity, honesty, fun, spirituality, freedom, beauty, loyalty, etc.—the list is endless) and explain how these values have shaped who you are now and how you feel they will continue to, as Gandhi says, shape your destiny.
Part B: Short story, “Carnal Knowledge”
This assignment begins the process of exposing you to various forms of short fiction. In Literature to Go read the short story, “Carnal Knowledge” by T.C. Boyle and in 3 to 5 paragraphs, discuss your reaction to the story by answering the following questions:
Put yourself in the position of Jim, the protagonist, whose values are dramatically different from Alena’s. Why do you think he is so easily swayed to compromise his beliefs in Alena’s presence? Now imagine that you are Alena; in what ways does she consistently live out her convictions? Can you empathize with her passion for justice? In your opinion, who has more integrity, Jim or Alena? Why?
What is the theme, or main message, of this piece?
Describe Boyle’s tone and use of irony as a means of reminding us that our assumptions about life and people are not always accurate.