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Today's Nobel Prize Odds Update + The Coolest Class Ever

So, following on yesterday’s post on the forthcoming announcement of the Nobel Prize in Literature (supposed to happen on Thursday) and the current odds at Ladbrokes, I just want to point out that the big mover today is Bob Dylan, who shot up from 50/1 to 10/1. Interesting . . .

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More interesting though is this class, which Three Percent fan and University of Alabama employee Richard LeComte brought to my attention yesterday:

Students in English 411, Dr. Emily O. Wittman’s Advanced Studies in Comparative and Multicultural Literature class, don’t just sit and read. They judge.

Wittman has arranged her class of about 20 University of Alabama undergrads as a prize committee, mimicking the panels that select the Nobel, Booker or Pulitzer prizes in literature each year. Her class will pick the winner of the coveted Druid City Brick Award from among some of the great contemporary authors of world literature. In the process, the students will experience life as an awards judge and critic.

“I wanted to do something that would allow the students to understand the problems and the stakes of world literature as a contested field,” said Wittman, assistant professor of English at UA. “How do we describe what’s great?” [. . ]

“We talk about translation,” Wittman said. “We talk about gender. We talk about how politics figure into the awards.That doesn’t mean that in our community that’s how we want to honor our prize-winners. But we learn about what prize committees are and what they do.”

This semester, Wittman’s class started with Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. Other books on the class’s short list include Life and Times of Michael K. by South African writer J.M. Coetzee; Changeling by Japanese author Kenzaburō Ōe; The Bad Girl by recent Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa; and The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick by Austrian author Peter Handke. One of the goals of the class is to expand students’ knowledge of 20th century world literature, an area many members of the American reading public tend to overlook. [. . .]

When the votes are in – Wittman stresses that she’s a nonvoting member of this awards panel – the class will enshrine the name of the winning author on a brick outside UA’s Ferguson Student Center. And Wittman’s students will be much more aware of how to think critically about the quality of the literature they read.

This is a fantastic idea, one that would be a lot of fun for everyone involved, would draw out a lot of interesting themes, and would probably spark really good in class conversation. Half-tempted to adopt some aspects of this for my spring World Literature & Translation class. Maybe use some of the titles from this year’s BTBA longlist . . .



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