2015 Summer Seminars

Common Ground 2015

June 26-July 10

10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Teachers who submit a reservation by May 31st will be offered a place in one of this summer's Common Ground seminars. After May 31st, participants will be added on a first-come, first-served basis until each seminar is filled. The reservation form for 2015 will be available soon. Please contact Keri Myrick with any questions.

The seminar list for 2015 will be available soon. In the meantime, check out the 2014 seminars below:

Bending and Blending the Rules: A Workshop on Multigenre Writing

Sara Cooper

Poets teach us that the form a piece of writing takes can be as important as its content. We can reveal things about a person or experience through a letter, a list, an essay or a sonnet that we couldn’t by using any other form. Further, by blending multiple genres in a single work, we can create complex and multivocal texts that attempt to reach the more slippery, definition-resistant aspects of the self and world. In this Common Ground / WITS collaboration, participants will read and discuss works by writers who bend and blend genre boundaries toward saying, accurately and adequately, more of what there might be to say. We will then draw from our own personal and family histories to create multigenre texts that combine both traditional genres (poetry, essay memoir, fiction) and more vernacular ones (letters, recipes, journals, photo albums).

We will read and discuss some of the following works:

  • Michael Ondaatje, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid
  • Ali Smith, Artful
  • John D’Agata, The Next American Essay
  • Norma Elia Cantú, Canicula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera
  • A. Van Jordan, Macnolia: Poems
  • Marjane Satrapi, The Complete Persepolis
  • Nick Flynn, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: A Memoir
  • Phillip Lopate, The Art of the Personal Essay (intro)
  • Brenda Miller, “A Braided Heart: Shaping the Lyric Essay”
  • Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza (excerpts)
  • Elena Brower and Erica Jago, The Art of Attention; Baxter, The Art of Subtext; Mark Doty, The Art of Description (excerpts)

The Public School Experience

Merrilee Cunningham

The English say “public school” when they mean private; Americans say public when they mean no-cost schools and “prep” when they mean private. Marcus Aurelius brags that he was not sent any such schools but tutored at home by captured Greeks. This summer we will look at the differences and similarities between public and private schools, the potential for good preparations outside and inside the “prep” school and preparatory nature of public schools and early specialization in England and America. We will read and discuss some of the following works:

  • Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
  • Jean Anyon, “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work” (free online)
  • Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
  • Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief
  • Curtis Sittenfeld, Prep
  • J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
  • J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter
  • Cicero, On the Common Good
  • Jefferson and Adams, On General Education
  • Alan Sillatoe, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
  • Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (youtube)
  • Frances Hodson Burnett, A Little Princess
  • Libba Bray, Gamma Doyle Trilogy
  • John Knowles, A Separate Peace
  • Kazup Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
  • John Demos, The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Early Republic
  • Movie Clips: Stand and Deliver; The Breakfast Club; The Name of the Rose

Self and Other: The Stories that Bind Us

Robin Davidson

In The Fairytale as Art Form and Portrait of Man, Swiss folklorist Max Lüthi asserts that the erotic and the numinous are two poles of a single force – the human longing to go beyond the self. Literature is one of the greatest opportunities we as teachers have to fuel that longing, to cultivate empathy in ourselves and in our students. Whether in works that bear witness to diasporic conditions resulting from exile, slavery, war or works that engage spiritual questing, or those that explore love in its various forms – this Writers in the Schools/Common Ground seminar will reflect on poems, stories, and essays that hone our use of the empathetic imagination as a lens into the lives of others and those threads of the larger human narrative we share. We will try our hand at writing in three genres — poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction — and will read and discuss some of the following works as models for our experimentation:

Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux, The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry
Robin Davidson, Luminous Other: Poems
Carolyn Forché, Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English
J. Michael Martinez, Heredities: Poems
Robert Boswell, The Half-Known Word: On Writing Fiction
Bohumil Hrabal, Too Loud a Solitude. Trans. Michael Henry Heim
Anne Carson, The Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse
Creative Nonfiction
Carolyn Forché and Philip Gerard, Writing Creative Nonfiction
Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams: Essays

Adolescence and Alienation: Can Stories Heal the Wounds?

William Monroe

Erik Erikson’s work made “identity crisis” a household word, and adolescence seems to require at least a certain degree of alienation. Perhaps adolescence and alienation are inseparable; certainly some of the greatest works in world literature and especially in the American tradition have been about adolescence and alientation. This summer our readings and films will be selected from works such as the following:

  • Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn
  • J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
  • Franz Kafka, “The Metamorphosis”
  • Lorraine Hansberry, Raise in the Sun (film)
  • Hamlet (film)
  • Willa Cather, “Paul’s Case”
  • Flannery O’Connor, selected stories
  • Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
  • Lorrie Moore, selected stories

Money: The Root of Evil?

Romanus Muoneke

It is generally said that money is the root of all evil, a thought which carefully considered, seems true. The suggestion follows, of course, that money itself is evil. Yet it is not, for there is no doubt that the way money is used determines its moral value. Money is good and desirable, since it helps us stay alive and make ends meet. But, at the same time, so much injustice, destruction, and death have resulted from man's greed for money. Our seminar this year will examine works of literature where writers deal with the theme of money as a necessary or unnecessary evil.

  • Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
  • Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy
  • Arthur Miller, All My Sons
  • Chinua Achebe, No Longer at Ease
  • Henrik Ibsen, Hedda Gabler
  • Leo Tolstoy, "The Death of Ivan Ilych"