Honors 1020: Imagination


Theme of the Course

One of the greatest paradoxes of contemporary culture is that at a time when the image reigns supreme the very notion of a creative human imagination seems under mounting threat.  We no longer appear to know who exactly produces or controls the images which condition our consciousness.”

– Richard Kearney

Imagination is not, as its etymology would suggest, the faculty of forming images of reality; it is rather the faculty of forming images which go beyond reality, which sing reality.  It is a superhuman quality.”

– Gaston Bachelard

The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together.  There are two ways to escape suffering it.  The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it.  The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who are what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, given them space. “

– Italo Calvino

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, each student will, through written and oral commutation:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of history of imagination in Western Culture.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the concept of aesthetics as it relates to nature across various cultures.
  3. Become aware of some of the arts and cultures active in the city of Chicago and how they contribute to our own imaginations of the city.
  4. Create original pieces of writing that integrate others’ ideas of the with our own.
  5. Contribute to the education of one’s fellow students and professor.
  6. become more nearly human.

Required Texts

* Kearney, Wake of the Imagination (needed first half of the semester)
* Calvino, Invisible Cities (needed second half of the semester)
one of a choice of other books.

In addition to these texts, students will also be required to read and comment on essays, works of art, and performances made available in the course.

Honors Book Groups for 2nd Half of Semester

Group 1: Einstein’s Dreams:  How do you imagine time?  How could you?

Aisha, Elena, Ethan, Hannah N, Isaiah, Kajsa, Kiersten, Maggie, Michael, Priscilla, Raymond

Group 2: On Photography: How do photographs shape how we imagine the world?

Anna, Erica,  Jacqeline, Lydia, Michelle, Payton, Rebecca P, Rylee, Sarah

Group 3: Teaching a Stone to Talk: Imagining the Natural World (with us in it)?

Cory, Estevan, Grace, Hannah L, Jack, Jennifer M, Joseph, Liam, Maddie, Sophie

Group 4: The World without Us:  Imagining the Natural World (without us in it)?

Caroline O, Caroline P, Elsie, Evangelina, Jake, Jennifer M, Rebecca C, Samantha

Schedule of Readings and Assignments

January 19:  Introduction to the Imagination
Readings Due before Class:
Assignment Due:  None
In-Class: Discussion of the variety of meanings of the Imagination

January 26: The Hebraic Imagination
Readings Due before ClassHON-Kearney Chapter 1 “Hebraic Imagination”
Assignment Due:  Assignment-1
In-Class: The Hebrew Yetser and what we mean by the Image of God

February 2:  The Hellenic Imagination
Readings Due before Class:Kearney, Chapter 2
Assignment Due: Assignment-2.  Also, each website group should decide upon a creative name for your website.  E-mail suggestions to each other, vote for one, and bring it to class on Thursday night.
In-Class: The Greek Phatasia and the Legacy of Platonism

February 9: The Medieval Imagination
Readings Due before Class:Kearney, Chapter 3; Joe Malham website
Assignment Due: assignment-3
In-Class: Excursion to St. Gregory the Great Church

February 16: The Early Modern Imagination
Readings: Kearney, Chapter 4.  Here is a resource for reading the section on Kant: How to Read Kant
Assignment Due:  assignment-4
In-Class: Summary of the history so far:  Reviewing Kant the idea of a creative imagination

March 23 :  The Late Modern Imagination
Readings: Kearney, Chapter 5; Section #3 of Chapter 6
Assignment Due: Assignment-5

In-Class: Note the transition from a culture seeking beauty to one critical of such idealism.

March 1 :  The Post Modern Imagination
Readings: Read this interview   (Imagination, Ethics and Evil) and watch this video  (Imagination’s Truths).
Assignment Due:  Assignment-6

In-Class: Project Work on Mid-term Website

March 9:  What is Imagination?
Assignment Due: Presentation of Blogs


March 23:  The Aesthetic in Theatre
ReadingsGadamer-Festive TheaterImagining Square Roots
Assignment Due: TBA
In-Class:  Field Trip to Theater

March 30:  The Aesthetic in Music
Class will meet in Hamming Hall at 7:30 for a music concert on the Intercultural Imagination.  

April 6:  Imagining Time and its Instantaneous Present
Readings: Please read these short sections from:  Lightman – Einstein’s Dreams and Sontag-On Photography
Assignment Due:  Read and think!
In-Class: Group Presentations – 45minutes each

April 13: Imagining Suffering, Imagining Peace
Readings: Gospel of John chapters 13, 18, 19, 20, 21. and this article:  http://covenantcompanion.com/2016/11/07/letters-from-stateville/.  You might also consider listening to some of this great interview with internatonal peace activist John Paul Lederach.  https://onbeing.org/programs/john-paul-lederach-the-art-of-peace/.  There is a “Play Episode” button where you can listen to it.
Assignment Due: Before reading either of the above readings, write a 200-250 word creative description of what you imagine a day in the life of a prisoner of a maximum security prison is like.  Be succinct with your words, intense in your images, poetic in your descriptions.
In-Class: Discussion with Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom and Mary Trujillo.

April 20:Imagining Nature and its Future
ReadingsAnnie Dillard and World without Us
Assignment Due:  Read the selections and consider how we imagine our relationship to the natural world.  Is it our friend?  Our home?  Our mother?  or is it a Foreign land? An enemy that must be tamed?  A inhospitable wilderness?  Is the purpose of the earth or creation for us to exist?  Or does nature go about its beautiful business without a concern for us at all?  
In-Class: Group Presentations – 45minutes each

April 27: Imagining Cities
Readings: Calvino, Invisible Cities,  1st Half
Assignment Due: Choose your favorite city, your favorite sentences, your favorite three new words.
In-Class: Readings of the City

May 4 :  Imagining our City
Readings: Finishing Calvino
Assignment Due:  Final Assignment given in Class

In-Class: Discussion of the Final few pages of Invisible Cities.

May 11:  Final Dinner and Celebration
Readings: Tuan, Chapter 10
Assignment Due: Final Reflection, Final Edits to Previous Assignments
In-Class: Dinner and Celebration