Like all tribal people, Americans initiate their members—maybe you didn’t go on a quest into the wilderness for a mystic bear claw, but you still grew up in a culture full of private histories, bizarre rituals, and rites of passage that asked you to prove yourself a member of society and its subcultures. This course will identify and examine historical and contemporary modes of societal induction and what it takes to become a respected member, including sex, baptism, tattoos, education, politics, body types, marriage, citizenship, and many others. Through various essay forms, class participants will interrogate historical and contemporary rites of passage and create their own tribes based on what they’re learning, complete with vestments and rituals.
Relevant questions: What tribes are we a part of? When and how did we enter them? How was wilderness (wildness) once used as a rite of passage? How is it used now? Have you been apprenticed into a craft, trade, language, or family tradition? Are these induction rituals valuable or harmful? How did we arrive at these conclusions and how might we best present our findings and beliefs? Our readings will include articles, literary essays, short stories, and poems by various authors including Arnold Van Gennep, Joseph Campbell, Richard Wright, Robert Bly, Shann Ray, Vievee Francis, Sharon Olds, Dylan Thomas, Annie Proulx, Mary Oliver, and Ernest Hemingway.
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