School of Athen by Raphael

LBST 231/331 Strangers and Friends in Western Culture Spring 2013

Instructor : Janina Hornosty (email: ; phone local 2169)

Class : Fridays 11:30-2:00 (355-108)

Office Hours : M/W 1:00-2:30 (355-324)

This year's version of Strangers and Friends in Western Culture will focus on the concept of home. We often try to put at ease those who are new to our dwellings by encouraging them to make themselves " at home". Once we are friends with someone, we may say we are "at home" with him or her, no matter where we may be dwelling in physical space. When we are away from our homes, whether literal or metaphorical ones, we may say that we feel like "strangers in a strange land". Not surprisingly, depictions of home often involve nourishing and pleasant food; it is interesting to remember that we caution people not to take "candy from strangers"--no matter how good it looks. Sometimes we refer to those that seem particularly at ease as being "at home in their own skins"; are these people in some important way friends with themselves no matter where or among whom they dwell?

What is it to be truly at home? If homes are where friends are, what does it mean to be friends? If strangers are those with whom we are not at home—or not yet at home, how do we find common ground? Should we? In sum, this course is about home and who is there with us and not with us. This theme has preoccupied writers for a very long time. We will read a variety of written texts including the ancient Greek Homer's Odyssey , in which a man journeys far and meets many strangers in order, perhaps, to inhabit more fully the home he shares with his wife; during his twenty-year journey away, his wife struggles with strangers in that very home, as if her home has itself become strange. In the modernist novel To the Lighthouse , Virginia Woolf explores the idea that even one's social self is a kind of stranger to one's real self—the former is "expansive, glittering, vocal", while the latter is "a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others". As we think about friends, strangers, and home, we will also consider texts other than written ones—pieces of art, film, and, music.

Course Texts

(Note that the following should be purchased from the Bookstore; other items mentioned in the course outline will be made available in class.)

Custom Courseware Package. (LBST 231/331: Strangers and Friends in Western Culture)

Homer (trans. Robert Fitzgerald), The Odyssey

Anonymous (trans. Seamus Heaney), Beowulf

Emerson, "Friendship" (from Self-Reliance and Other Essays )

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Grading *

Seminar Participation 30%

Art Project (with write-up) 25%

Essay 25%

Final Exam 20%

*Please note that expectations for students taking this course at the third-year level will be higher than for those taking it at the second-year level. We will discuss these expectations more fully in class.

Course Schedule:

Week One (Jan. 11): Introduction to Course

Week Two (Jan. 18): Homer, The Odyssey

Week Three (Jan. 25): Theano Terkenli, "Home as a Region"

Week Four (Feb. 1): Beowulf

Week Five (Feb.8): Images of Foreign Beasts and Away (including Cyclops and Grendel); Images of Family and Home (Art pieces t.b.a.)

Week Six (Feb. 15): Robert Herrick, "His Return to London"; Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Ulysses"; Emily Dickinson, "I'm nobody, who are you?"; ASSIGNMENT ONE DUE (Essay or Art Project)

Week Seven (Feb. 22): Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Friendship"


Week Eight (March 8): Virginia Woolf: To the Lighthouse

Week Nine (March 15):D.H. Lawrence, "Snake"; Earle Birney, "Bushed"; Beasts of the Southern Wild (film)

Week Ten: (March 22):C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce ; ASSIGNMNENT TWO DUE (Essay or Art Project, whichever you have not yet completed)


Week 11 (April 5):"The Wayfaring Stranger" (several versions t.b.a.)

Week 12 (April 12): Exam preparation


Essay : Write an essay in which you carefully identify within one of our course texts an idea about or approach to the themes of the course (strangers, friends, and home) that is in some way surprising or new to you. Be sure to refer to very specific passages or elements in the work about which you are writing.


LBST 231 students: 1,000-1,500 wds.

LBST 331 students: 1,500-2,000 wds.

Due Date: see Course Schedule

Art Project : Create a piece of art in which you explore some aspect of the themes of our course (strangers, friends, and home). (Types of art might include painting, drawing, sculpture, graphic novel, film, photography, etc.) Include a write-up in which you carefully explain how the visual language of your piece expresses your ideas.

Length of Write-Up:

LBST 231 students: 500-750 wds.

LBST 331 students: 750-1,000 wds.

Due Date: see Course Schedule

Final Exam : The exam will require you to write a series of short answers (approx. 100 words each) to questions that deal with specific comparisons among our course texts. (There will be some choice involved.)


LBST 231 students: 2 hours (6 questions)

LBST 331 students: 3 hours (9 questions)