Leaf Institute
 

To Make Heads Throb Heart-like: A Hopefully Fun Chat on What Fiction Is For

5-7PM Sundays • June 2-30, 2019 • $30

 
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Photograph by Janette Beckman

Photograph by Janette Beckman

About the Class

David Foster Wallace wrote a novel that is a challenge to read like Mt. Everest is to climb: Few people have actually done it; if they have, you'll hear about it. That novel, Infinite Jest, made him a literary rockstar. The circumstances of his death (his suicide at the age of 46) seemed to elevate him to an almost saint-like status. Lit-bros and That Guy in Your MFA have inevitably enshrined a crisp copy of Infinite Jest on their bookshelf—spine tight, the first page marked, unread.

This class isn't about Saint Wallace or those who've gravitated to an idealized image of him in the 11 years since his death. This class is about the man who believed that literature was good for something (certainly not everything) and who left us a few pages that might be quirky and enjoyable enough to help us pay better attention.

Specifically, we'll read selections from Wallace's last published volume of fiction—a collection of short stories called Oblivion (released in 2004). We'll also read a few essays that illuminate Wallace's views on literature, but we'll especially complement Oblivion with Wallace's 2005 commencement address, "This is Water."

In each class, we'll discuss one of Wallace's short stories, read a selection from an essay, and share some ways literature ignites awareness in daily life. Together, we'll learn the limits of empathy, the importance of attention, and how literature might help us to live more meaningfully.

 
 

Week 1 

Theme 1: How to find hope when it all burns down

In our first session together, we’ll explore theologies of exile explained by two important 20th century theologians: Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Barth. These will frame our discussion for the class. Then we’ll read read our first poems together, attempting to understand a central paradox of exile: you often find your way up by going down.


Week 2 

Theme 1: How to find hope when it all burns down

In our first session together, we’ll explore theologies of exile explained by two important 20th century theologians: Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Barth. These will frame our discussion for the class. Then we’ll read read our first poems together, attempting to understand a central paradox of exile: you often find your way up by going down.


Week 3 

Theme 1: How to find hope when it all burns down

In our first session together, we’ll explore theologies of exile explained by two important 20th century theologians: Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Barth. These will frame our discussion for the class. Then we’ll read read our first poems together, attempting to understand a central paradox of exile: you often find your way up by going down.


Week 4

Theme 1: How to find hope when it all burns down

In our first session together, we’ll explore theologies of exile explained by two important 20th century theologians: Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Barth. These will frame our discussion for the class. Then we’ll read read our first poems together, attempting to understand a central paradox of exile: you often find your way up by going down.


Week 5

Theme 1: How to find hope when it all burns down

In our first session together, we’ll explore theologies of exile explained by two important 20th century theologians: Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Barth. These will frame our discussion for the class. Then we’ll read read our first poems together, attempting to understand a central paradox of exile: you often find your way up by going down.

 
 
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ABOUT THE Instructor

Christian Shockley is a teacher who writes. He studied Christianity & the Arts at King’s College London and the National Gallery where he wrote his dissertation on the poetry of Osip Mandelstam and Christian Wiman.

He also works at Pathwright. There, he spends his time thinking about the future of education and designing online courses for people like Princeton Theological Seminary and the C.S. Lewis Institute.

He writes and speaks about the intersection of visual art, poetry, and theology.

 
 

Overview

FORMAT

Readings & Group Discussion

DATES & TIMES

5 Sessions
Sundays
5pm to 7pm
June 2, 9, 16, 23, 30

LOCATION

Leaf Institute of Art & Vocation
1278 Pendleton St, Greenville, SC 29611
(Map)

SUPPLIES NEEDED

None

Instructor

Christian Shockley

FEE

$30 (Recommended)

AGE / LEVEL

College age through professional career

 
 

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