Christian Nagler's Actual Syllabus

English 100-03: English Composition A

Investigation and Writing

Spring 2014

Thursday 4:15-7pm, Room 20B

Course Description:

Yes, there is usefulness in imagination, in fantasy, but why do we have to restrict its operations to an internal abstract space that might not even exist? The material of this world is the world imagining itself, and us imagining with it (in it) as we conjure it with our senses. Don’t take it for granted that we use our senses. Of course they are always functioning, but we often keep them on the first or second setting, like the settings on a blender or a fan, when in fact there are maybe four or five thousand more settings. It takes patience and a weird endurance to keep turning the settings up, and of course we don’t need to be heroic and turn it way up all the time; but we might as well see what this baby can do. Get it to setting ten or eleven every now and then. Is it true that a fan with a thousand settings is actually a helicopter? Let’s imagine we’re babies that have all language at our disposal. It takes the whole range of what exists -- in time, in scale, in composition, in feeling -- to get our senses humming, aching, and trembling. For lack of a better word let’s call a lot of what exists nature. The huge part of the world that comes into being and grows and changes without much (intentional) interference on our part. An otter goes about its business on the bank of a river, and if we come close enough it might look over, direct its face at us, or it might just slip away. My whole life is the slightest of disturbances to most of what exists (that has a face). But my whole life is never present all at once; it’s just this strange body that shows up on the bank of the river, desperate for a glimpse of an otter. I search with my face. It’s hard to tell if what has no face cares at all. Maybe caring is best done without a face. Is a mountain even a thing? Does it have discrete objecthood? I do agree with the Zen people and the poets when they say there’s no nature. The patterns are not set. They change and really can be anything. Suddenly, the whole world might not even exist at all, right? It requires a fabulous, glamorous attention. We will be the Jennifer Lawrences and Beyoncé’s and otters of attention. Is there a Beyoncé of the otter-world? Is there an otter out there singing something like “I, look so good, tonight, god damn god damn…” Actually who cares about the Beyoncé otter. Don’t get it twisted, any old otter is crown enough for me. There is no nature. But let’s be naive for a little while about nature. Let’s be foundlings in the wilderness. Babies with astonishing powers of description. All ants are going about their business at this moment, right? They're queued up all over and through the earthcrust. We cannot deny that this is the case. Ants are not babies but they are small, relatively. There’s a storm on Jupiter that’s been going for like three hundred fifty years and it’s three times the size of this whole earth. The purpose of science is to make us insane in a beautiful way. It is entirely possible to get eaten by a shark. Just chewed up in a blaze of fear, or in a movie with an ominous soundtrack. Our senses can dream us if we sign a contract with them that allows it. They need to feel like it’s legit, you know?