First-Year Preceptorial

Course Description Archive 03 - 04

First-Year Seminar Descriptions, 2003-2004

1.The Radical Challenge

“Our age,” said Immanuel Kant, “is an age of criticism, and to criticism everything must submit.” That’s as true now as it was in 1781; and so this course will survey some of the most powerful radical ideas put forth in recent years by scientists, philosophers, and social critics of every sort. In The spirit in the Gene Reg Morrison argues that humanity’s proud illusions have turned it into the ultimate “plague species” that is now destroying the planet. In Writings on an Ethical Life Peter Singer calls for scrapping the “old commandments,” animal liberation, rethinking life and death, and dismantling bourgeois consumerism. In Miriam Schneir’s Feminism in Our Time the major feminist voices of the last half-century become a chorus condemning male oppression and affirming downtrodden female values. In How We DieSherwin Nuland debunks the myth of “death with dignity” and shows how the processes of physical disintegration strongly suggest that the soul dies (forever) with the body. In Faded Mosaic Christopher Clausen claims that we are living in a “post-cultural” America, where most of the talk about “multiculturalism” and getting back to ethnic roots makes no sense. These readings will be supplemented by brief excerpts from other, earlier radical thinkers; and students will be encouraged to measure their own beliefs and assumptions against those of our determined troublemakers.

2.The Other: A Stranger Among Us ?

In this course we will discuss the concept of the "other" by examining several narratives centered upon the protagonist's search for identity. Invariably authors introduce these quests through the rhetorical device of the stranger. We will consider the image of the stranger in order to confront the estrangement inherent in family origins, gender and literary acceptance, and the author's unresolved feelings about him(her)self. Frequently the associations of a sense of place are bound together with memory, stasis and nostalgia. What gives a place a unique flavor is the fact that it is constructed out of a specific arrangement of social and physical relations that intersect at a particular point. The works selected center on the theme of alienation seen through the eyes of the stranger. We will discuss the function of this trope on three levels - the spatial, temporal and psychological. Of particular interest will be the disturbing 'falling away' from the family or group, and the movement from unity and acceptance to individuality and denial. Through a close reading of works including, but not limited to: Balzac's The Unknown Masterpiece, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Woolf's A Room of One's Own, Camus' The Stranger, Morrison's Song of Solomon and Petrushevskaia's The Time Night, we will seek to understand the way one is able to construct and manipulate his/her own sense of place.

3. Initiations: Discoveries of the Self, Society and the Sacred

How do we come to know who we are and what we believe? How do our families affect our boundaries--what we will and will not do? What does "family" mean? What are the events, both subtle and ritualized, that initiate us into the many societies into which we are born or with which we eventually have significant contact? What does "reality" mean, and how do we construct and determine our own realities based on perceptions of self, society and the sacred (and/or the profane)?

We will explore the development of selfhood and of familial and social relationships in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, sacred texts, and film. Approximately three weeks of the course will be devoted to exploring relationships between the human and the spiritual/divine, as seen in the Bible, sacred Native American texts, and other works. Buddhist and Judeo-Christian influences on The Matrix will be explored. Readings may include poetry, Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown", Kafka, "The Metamorphosis", O'Brien, The Things They Carried, Oufkir, Stolen Lives ,Morrison, Song of Solomon or The Bluest Eye, Sophocles, Oedipus the King (trans. Robert Fagles, Penguin Classics), Kincaid, Annie John,Shelley, Frankenstein, and Alter, ed., Genesis (Norton)

4. Science, Culture and Religion

Science, religion, and culture represent three of the many tools we have available to give meaning to our existence and to understand the purpose of existence. Often these three different ways of knowing stand in apparent contradiction to each other and raise interesting questions. For example, are science and religion necessarily incompatible? Does a belief in evolution imply the absence of a transcendent creative force (e.g., a God)? To what extent are religious beliefs shaped and influenced by our culture and those around us? Are religious beliefs simply psychological illusions? These are some of the many questions we will address in this course as we explore the dynamic interplay among scientific theory and findings, religious doctrine and beliefs, and pertinent cultural forces. Drawing from readings in diverse fields such as biology, theology, physics, psychology, literature, and philosophy, we will seek to identify, investigate, and understand sources of tension between and among these disparate modes of inquiry and address whether such conflict and tension can reasonably be resolved. Readings will likely include, among others, Finding Darwin's God, by K. Miller,Darwin on Trial, by Phillip Johnson, The Origin of the Species, by C. Darwin, The Future of an Illusion, by S. Freud, The Red Tent, by A. Diamant, and Summer for the Gods, by Edward Larson.

5. The Other

From birth, we are taught to conform, not to be different. As a result, we distrust or are fearful of those who are different, who represent “the other.” This course will examine, through texts by Gide, Balzac, Virginia Woolf, Gogol, and others, some traditional examples of people considered to be different—the artist, the homosexual, women in a male dominated society. Since we are at Union, we are all the same. But obviously we were not all raised according to the same norms. What happens when we have to confront the different in our daily lives? What happens when we realize that we are different or are forced to be “the other”? Using texts by some social theorists such as Freud and Foucault, we will examine life at Union today both in terms of difference and conformity. Ramée’s campus presents a norm to which we should conform. Our terms abroad program forces us to be outsiders in another society. How do we exist in this deliberate tension?

6. What Do We Know ?

We ordinarily assume that we know a great many things about ourselves and about the world. But historical cultures, peoples, and civilizations have differed greatly in their interpretations of human physical, social, spiritual, and moral experience. Through intensive reading of a variety of important and representative texts from diverse points of view, students will be encouraged to evaluate critically not merely their own beliefs (and prejudices) but also those of other places and times. In general, the Preceptorial is intended to help students write and speak carefully and thoughtfully about important intellectual and moral issues. Readings will be from fiction as well as nonfiction, including works by Robert Sawyer, Bertrand Russell, John Dewey, Sigmund Freud, and Reinhold Niebuhr.

7. Utopia: What Is It, and How Do I Get There?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, utopia is “a place, state, or condition ideally perfect in respect of politics, laws, customs, and conditions.” In this class, we will examine utopian (and dystopian) projects across cultures and times, considering differences and similarities amongst them. We will pay attention to race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, and other types of diversity that are relevant to understanding our topic. From ancient Egyptian tombs to modern American advertising, we will ask what has driven people in literary fantasies and in actuality to search for utopia. Further, we will investigate how various groups went about constructing ideal societies and what obstacles utopianists face. Readings will include: parts of Plato’s Republic (5th c. B.C.), selections from philosopher Mo-tzu (5th c. B.C.), Sir Thomas More’s Utopia (1514), Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1946), and Suniti Namjoshi’s The Mothers of Maya Diip (1989). Films will include: On the Beach (1959), Japanimé classic Akira (1988), and the documentary Sex, Drugs, and Democracy (1994). Through this interdisciplinary and diverse sampling, the class will determine what the search for utopia reveals about universality and particularism in world cultures.

8. Ways of Understanding: The Stories Within Us

Humans have always used stories as a way of making sense of the world. Stories continue to guide the understanding of scientists, historians, creative writers and other professionals as well as each of us in our everyday life. In this Preceptorial seminar, we will critically examine stories that have influenced our understanding of the world, whether by enlarging our perspective or limiting it. We will look, for example, at myths and fairy tales as well as the stories used by several well-known scientists in their process of discovery. We will also look at ways that writers use stories to construct and reconstruct their understanding in both fiction and non-fiction. In doing so, we’ll become aware of some of the stories that influence us, both collectively and individually, and of our ability to use stories creatively and interpret them critically. Readings will be interdisciplinary and will include myths, fairy tales, urban legends, stories from science and social science, as well as O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Griffin’s Black Like Me, Gide’s The Immoralist, and Martel’s Life of Pi.

9. Ways of Knowing

In 1891 the French painter Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) abandoned his family and solid middle-class lifestyle, and moved to Tahiti. Gauguin had come to view modern Western society as irrevocably corrupt, and he sought in the South Seas new ways of life, more primitive, more real and more sincere. One of the masterpieces that Gauguin produced during this period is Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? (1897-98). The central themes that we will explore in this class are those represented in the title of this work and those suggested by Gauguin’s own flight from civilization. We will consider the perspectives of some of the world’s most influential theologians, philosophers, scientists and artists in order to understand how humanity has struggled to comprehend its own nature.

10. From Wilderness to Community

In the deserts, forests and mountains of the earth, people have lived close to nature, far from the pressures of civilization. Expressing their experiences in religious writings, poetry, art and philosophy, some thinkers have found wilderness to be challenging, yet also the source of insights unattainable in urban life. How can such insights be used to shape communities that respect nature while they build cultural forms such as hospitals, schools and art? Can the wisdom won in the wilderness be translated into shared, humanistic knowledge? This course includes the following readings: Desert Wisdom: Sacred Middle Eastern Writings by Neil Douglas, The Practice of the Wild by Gary Snyder, The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, The Search for Common Ground by Howard Thurman, Civilization and its Discontents by Sigmund Freud, and Culture and Commitment by Margaret Mead.

11. Goodness, Happiness and Truth

We will spend the term looking at several different ways of thinking about three central ideals toward which (I propose) human beings strive: goodness, happiness, and truth. Presumably, we all want to be good, happy, and believe what is true --- and avoid being bad, unhappy, and believing in falsities. Different people, and different cultures, however, give quite different understandings of the nature of goodness, happiness and truth, and different advice on how to achieve them. Does being good make you

happy, or is it easier to reach happiness by throwing off moral restrictions? Is there any objective moral truth, and, if not, why be moral? Are these ideals real or, as some claim, are they illusions, which serve only to enslave us. We will examine how some key philosophers, political theorists, and psychologists have answered these questions (e.g., Freud, Plato, postmodernists, Buddhism, evolutionary psychology). For each ideal, we will examine what might be built into our biology (human nature) and also the influence of social organization (culture) on our conceptions of goodness, happiness and truth.

12. The Individual

The course will focus on the individual. The first part, which is more personal in nature, will explore one’s progress through life and its stages: the discovery of the self in childhood and through its memories, the family unit, relationships, love, sex, marriage, and finally death. The second will address the confrontation between the individual and the universe as manifested by the Big Bang, faith, reason, randomness, and freedom. These topics will be viewed from several points of reference. Readings include

Annie Dillard, An American Childhood, James Baldwin, Go Tell it on the Mountain, Jane Smiley, The Age of Grief, as well as Freud, the Tao Te Ching, and the Koran.

13. Intoxication: Drugs, Alcohol, and Culture

In this course, students will explore the phenomenon of intoxication and the ways in which various societies responded to the positive and negative effects of drugs and alcohol. What do drugs and alcohol do to our brains and our bodies, and why do some societies interpret those effects as negative, while others remain sanguine? For example, why was it that Chinese opium smoking was condemned as social deviance, while Great Britain’s massive consumption of opium at the same time was excused as medically necessary? How did alcohol consumption come to define certain groups as civilized or savage? When intoxication became addiction, how did attitudes change? Why have so many societies attempted to control alcohol and drug use, and why have most of those efforts ended in failure? Students will examine a number of readings as they grapple with these and many other important questions.
Moving from science and history to the less tangible, we will then examine how intoxication and addiction have become metaphors for passion, obsession, the inability to cope with reality, the need to escape the mundane, and all of the compulsions we cannot control, from love to self-destruction. Students will delve into the many metaphorical meanings of intoxication in films (like Reefer Madness, Days of Wine and Roses, and Trainspotting), music, literature (from DeQuincey to Arthur Conan Doyle to Hunter S. Thompson), and poetry from different times and places. Anyone intoxicated by the idea of analyzing this compelling concept is welcome!

14. Globalization and Culture

Globalization -- the spread and intensification of worldwide social, political and economic relationships -- has generated unprecedented interdependence among citizens, governments and economies throughout our world. The disparate impact of globalization’s forces on whole cultures as well as individual citizens is the focus of this course. As Benjamin Barber writes in Jihad vs. McWorld, one of the books we will read in the course, a critical examination of how cultures and citizens outside capitalist markets view globalization as an intrusion into their way of life is crucial in understanding the violent resistance in some parts of the world we see today. Just as important is a critical look at how globalization has impacted the goals and priorities of western cultures as well as individual citizens within them in profoundly social and psychological ways. In addition to Jihad vs. McWorld, we will read McDonaldization of American Society, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents as well as a number of contemporary articles and essays.

15. Ways of Knowing and Understanding the World: How We Make Decisions

How does the world work? How is it ordered? Who's in charge? Is the world indifferent to us? On what basis should we make decisions and live our lives? What do we do when things don't go well? How valuable is religion in keeping us from doing wrong? How do we know what the right thing is? How much do reason, personality, and force of will influence our outlook and the decisions we make?

Equiano's Travels, Woody Allen's movie Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hamlet, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Tao Te Ching provide strikingly different answers to these questions. The 18th-century autobiography of the slave Equiano explores how luck, hard work, compromise and religious faith sustained the author through difficult times. Crimes and Misdemeanors follows the lives of characters who embrace either religious orthodoxy or religious skepticism. Hamlet shows what happens when the individual is cut free from the past and must function in a "modern" society that provides neither moral nor religious support. The Bhagavad-Gita teaches us how to discipline our desires and conform our will to divine will in order to become truly free and content. Taoism challenges our western belief that the more we know and the harder we work, the happier we will be. We will also draw on Benjamin Hoff's Tao of Pooh to understand how Winnie the Pooh resembles a Taoist sage while his friends Rabbit and Owl are more like the striving, goal-oriented westerner.

16. Knowing One’s Self

We will approach this theme by reading works that examine questions of self-perception, of self in relation to others and to society as whole. The groupings of the readings are artificial since most works approach more than one question and deal with complex issues. Nevertheless they will serve as a basis for class discussion.

We will begin with the poem by Emily Dickinson: “Much Madness is Divinest Sense…” and the assigned summer reading by Chinua Achebe, “Things Fall Apart.” This will be followed by a section on “Knowing Self”, which explores how individuals assert or come to grips with their own identities. Readings include the play “A Man for All Seasons” (with excerpts from the movie), as well as Freud, Maugham and Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” (with excerpts from the movie).

The section entitled “Knowing Self in Relation to Others” examines how roles define people and people define roles with readings including Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” and Shakespeare’s “King Lear” (again with video excerpts). Finally, the section “Knowing Self in Relation to Society” views different relationships between individuals and society through reading Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex”, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” and Camus’ “The Stranger”.

17. Vision and Revision

Does Western invention determine the ways in which the “other” is perceived? In this course we will discuss the concept of the “other” by comparing differing views pertaining to cultural groups and gender. Students will read a number of texts from the traditional Western perspective as “vision” and others by individuals from within the cultural or gender group as “revision.” I have selected three areas: the colonized, the border, and gender for the focus of this class. In addition to primary texts we will read information that provides a socio-historical background, and we will watch related films outside class.

“The Colonized” will focus on the Congo as a colony with readings including Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. We will view the film “The Red Dust”. “Borders” examines the border between Mexico and the United States with a focus on the Mexicans and Americans on both side of the border. Readings will include Tomás Rivera’s seminal chicano novel, And the Earth did Not Swallow Him (with the film version of the novel). “Gender” analyzes sexuality and gender with readings from Plato, Freud, de Beauvoir and a variety of plays and essays.

18. Science, Nature and Culture

The tools of modern science have had an impact on how we view ourselves, our attitudes towards one another and how we conduct our lives. This course will explore the ways we come to “know.” How do scientists understand? Is the ideal subject to distortion by culture? What misuses have we made of “scientific conclusions?” We will focus on how we view ourselves, our attitudes towards religion and our interaction with nature. In the first major theme of the course, Science and Man, we will discuss a common view of how science operates and ways in which it has shaped our understanding of free will. The second major theme, Science and Religion, will explore how the two interact in the debate over evolution. And finally, the course will conclude with Science and Nature, by looking at what science has to say about how our interaction with nature may have shaped the modern world. Readings will likely include, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Kuhn, The Mismeasure of Man, by Gould, Finding Darwin’s God, by Miller, The Blind Watchmaker, by Dawkins, Genome, by Ridley, Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Diamond, The Two-Mile Time Machine (Ice Cores and Abrupt Climate Change), by Alley.

19. Who Gets What and Why: How Nature, Religion, Brains, and Social Organization Matter

Inequality is a feature of all human societies, but its shape and form vary over time and place. Why? To some, inequality is a necessary condition to motivate individuals or the inevitable outcome of differences in talent or environment. To others it is an injustice that limits potential. It is justified and vilified by religion, philosophy, the natural and social sciences, and popular writers. We will look at the circumstances, ideas, and actions that reinforce and undermine equality (or at least are claimed to do so). We begin with Jared Diamond’s recent book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, which examines the development of different societies over long periods of time on all the continents. We look at how our perspectives on inequality have been shaped by the sacred texts of four of the world’s great religions by considering excerpts from the Bhagavad-Gita, the Bible, and the Koran. We consider more recent debates over intelligence in two radically different books, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, and The Mismeasure of Man, by Stephen Jay Gould. We examine the perspectives of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (The Communist Manifesto) and novelists John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath) and Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart) on inequality and social organization.

20. Ways of Knowing: The Spirit, the Self, and Society

If God is omnipotent and just, why is there evil in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? Can there be moral order in a world with no God? This course begins by exploring these and other questions about the search for spiritual understanding as we read such works as the Book of Job and Voltaire’s Candide and watch Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors. It then turns to the search for self among those whom society has historically considered outsiders. How do “outsiders” understand themselves and their relation to society? For this section we will read such works as Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and watch Spike Lee’sMalcolm X. Finally, we will explore attempts to understand the principles upon which society is best organized. Should society be organized to maximize the individual pursuit of happiness? Or should it be organized along principles of justice? Selections from Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose, Thomas More’s Utopia, and Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia will guide us through a discussion of this issue.

21. Against Method.

"'Truth eludes the methodical man,' says Gadamer. Thank God! That's why poets have a chance!" (Charles Simac). Despite a heavy lading of poems and prose about poetry, this is not a course about how to read poetry. It is about ways of understanding language that often seems strange and "almost resists intelligence" (Wallace Stevens). The clear, flowing prose essays of poets Seamus Heaney and Charles Simac will direct the readings and be models of choices one has in writing about elusive material. Simac remarks that "poetry attracts me because it makes trouble for thinkers." We'll enjoy and try to figure out how to write about the trouble.

22. Literature and Life (and how they correspond with each other)

In this course we will look at the profound interdependence between artifice (literature) and reality (life). Literature, obviously, is a product of reality -- but it also continually forms and shapes the reality that engenders it. Is literature, in its multifaceted relationship with the objective reality of one's existence, a magnifying glass -- or a faithful mirror? Or perhaps -- neither of the two? The discussion on this, rather eternal and inexhaustive topic, will be facilitated by the work of a wide variety of writers that we'll be reading: Shakespeare and Tolstoy, Lao Tsu and Bulgakov, Tim O'Brien and Flannery O'Connor, Chekhov and Gordimer, among many others.

23. Metapatterns

On the first day of this class, we will examine a metropolitan city, a bacterial colony, and a Shakespearean sonnet. With these as inspiration, we will introduce "metapatterns," which are similarities in form and function that appear across phenomena from the microscopic to the macroscopic. During the term, we will examine the metapatterns proposed by the most influential - and most radical - thinkers of our time. These scholars have variously compared blood circulation to traffic, the spread of culture to viral evolution, cellular organelles to economic markets, and atomic orbits to mother-child interactions. Are we on the verge of discovering life's true archetypes? Do the systems seen through a microscope really speak to the spirituality and drama of the human condition? Or are metapatterns just the new metaphors of science? Anticipate reading the non-fiction of E.O. Wilson, Lyn Margulis, Richard Dawkins, and Carl Jung and the fiction of Umberto Eco, Joseph Conrad, and Chinua Achebe.

24. Culture and Human Nature

Why do boys play with guns while girls prefer dolls? Why is ADD endemic in contemporary America but virtually unheard of in other societies and historical periods? What is the role of religion in human life? Do individuals need strong social roles to give their lives meaning or does happiness result from liberation from social conventions? These are a few of the questions that will be addressed in a wide-ranging consideration of the relationship between individuals and cultural communities. We will start by considering various Western and non-Western theories about individuals and communities. We will then look more specifically at: the impact of religious beliefs on individuals and on society; the ways culture shapes gender roles; and cultural influences on the experience of biological illness. We will examine such diverse topics as changing American gender roles, the influence of peers on children, suicide in turn-of-the-century France, voodoo among Haitians in New York City, the position of women in Islamic societies, and constructions of mental illness in American society. Readings will include: Suicide (Emile Durkheim), The Future of an Illusion (Freud), excerpts from Hindu and Taoist texts, The Nurture Assumption (Judith Harris), Mama Lola (Karen McCarthy Brown), The Gnostic Gospels (Elaine Pagels), and Asylums (Erving Goffman).

25. Vision and Revision: Race, Gender, Sexuality

What is at stake in the violent demarcation of racial, sexual and gender divisions, in varying historical times and regions of the world? We will explore not only the stakes in these "wars" of "nature" and "culture," but also what is at stake in studying and theorizing about them. Are characteristics of race, gender, and sexuality innate, learned, or constructed? Is it possible to decide? If we may not agree on answers, we may at least examine what is signified in a culture by the posing of questions and the ways that they are being and have been posed. Readings may include works by Chinua Achebe, Aphra Behn, Charlotte Brontë, Jean Rhys, Valerie Martin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jeannette Winterson and Virginia Woolf.

26. Ways of Understanding the Self

In this course we will explore the way thinkers from a wide array of disciplines have sought to understand the self. What, exactly, is the self and how should we go about knowing it? Is it something real or just a figment of the imagination? What role does memory, history, and society play in shaping our sense of selfhood? What is the impact of technology and science in our understanding of who we are? We will consider these questions and more by reading works of poetry (Dickinson, Whitman, Rich), philosophy (Plato, Descartes, Freud), fiction (Dostoevsky, Camus), science fiction (Gibson), autobiography (Spiegelman, Woolf), and science (Sacks, Gould). Above all, our focus will be on how these writers seek to convey the shared experience of consciousness into language.

27. Lost in The Americas

This section of First Year Preceptorial focuses on the roles of nature and culture in the formation of a political and social identity in the America’s. We will establish and then keep at bay a sense of the dominant, white culture of the west so that the class can focus on the lives of folklorist Zora Neale Hurston and the revolutionary Che Guevarra. We will view several films including Easy Rider and Lost in America.

Readings will include Wrapped in Rainbows, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Motorcycle Diaries and may also include Cultural Anthropologist Victor Turner, "In the Belly of the Beast," Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and a novel or book of short stories from Latin America.

28. Creativity and Culture

Contemporary artists often cultivate attitudes of detachment from and critique of society. A lingering cliche imagines an artist laboring in obscurity in a garret, but a few achieve the kind of celebrity and notoriety more typically associated with rock stars. This course will look at ways in which artists' roles reflect their times, and ways those roles are defined by different societies and the artists themselves. We will read historical and philosophical documents by Plato, Vasari and Michelangelo; literature reflecting on the experience of making art by the Romantic poets, Henry James, James Joyce and

Henry Miller. Journals and criticism by artists like Willelm de Kooning, David Smith and David Wojnarowicz will give a perspective from inside the creative process. By looking at Jackson Pollock's painting, listening to readings of William Burroughs and the music of John Coltrane, we'll explore links between literary, visual and performance arts. In the end we will draw some conclusions regarding creativity and the zeitgeist.

29. Ways of Knowing: Seeing, Hearing, Perceiving Thro’ the Art of the Illustrated Book

William Blake writes, “We are led to Believe a Lie/When we see With not Thro’ the eye.” Because we should want to live as direct, honest and worthwhile lives as we can, we’ll be eyeing a variety of books that touch on a variety of disciplines--- religion, philosophy, history, politics, natural science, poetry, myth, drama, song---to see how writers and interpreting illustrators work hand in hand to try to wake us up to what’s of real value as we make our ways. To echo Bob Dylan: “When We Gonna Wake Up?” By verbal and visual provocation, these illustrated, ‘illuminating’ books will, at best, enlighten us so that we come to know more surely and comfortably ourselves, our culture in relation to others, our world. The hope is that with clearer understanding, we’ll be able to distinguish more sharply between what’s genuine and truly significant and what’s thinly-disguised rubbish in the materialistic, consumer-satiated, spirit-depleted, high-tech, low-humane world we inhabit.