Dionysus in Literature: Essays on Literary Madness

By Branimir M. Rieger | Go to book overview

The Class Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest:
A Theme Course on "Madness in Literature"

Branimir M. Rieger


Origin of Theme Courses at Lander University

When Lander University revised its general education curriculum in the early 1980s, the concept of a theme or idea course devised for sophomore literature was part of the overhaul. In addition to the already entrenched, traditional survey courses in English, American and World Literature, it was decided that a fourth option, a theme course, would be a welcome alternative for both students and teachers. This fourth course could also be used to satisfy the sophomore literature requirement, and would include a more non-traditional approach. It would give teachers a new and exciting idea course to prepare and teach. However, the course was still to contain a mixture of English, American and non-Western literature from different centuries. This was to prevent someone from teaching a course like "Anti-Serbian Metaphors in the Modern Croatian Novel." So, while the new course was an alternative course and contained a non-traditional approach to a survey course in literature, it nevertheless had boundaries and limitations and was meant to expose the student to important concepts from different countries and ages.

The course was called "Literature and Experience" and was described in the catalog as follows: "A thematic approach is used in exploring the continuity and development of human experience as reflected in significant works in both English and American literature and in other world literature in translation. Such various themes may be explored as the nature of man as expressed in literature, man's relationship to the natural world and his changing understanding of that relationship, or man's search for understanding of the supernatural." While faculty offered sporadic courses on the nature of the hero, man and nature, and man and animals, I was the only one who was "crazy" enough to offer the madness course on a regular basis.

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