The recent discovery of Poet W.H. Auden’s college syllabus from a class he taught at the University of Michigan in the early 1940s, “Fate and the Individual in European Literature,” will make you think twice before complaining about how much reading YOU have to do in college.
Auden’s syllabus required over 6,000 pages of reading during a single semester.
Among the many required authors, Auden’s students had to read Dante, Dostoevsky, Melville, Shakespeare, Sophocles, Augustine, Pascal, Goethe, Kierkegaard, Ibsen, Kafka, and T.S. Eliot.
And that’s just scratching the surface.
From “More Than 95 Theses”:
W. H. Auden taught at the University of Michigan during the 1941-42 academic year.
Here’s a syllabus from one of his classes. Hey teachers: next time one of your students complains that your schedule is too demanding, show him or her this.
We wrote here about how far America’s education standards have declined over the past 100 years by comparing the assigned reading lists for middle school and high school students from 1908 and 2014.
Suffice it to say that there was a clear and noticeable drop in classroom expectations.
NY Daily News has more:
“What I find fascinating about the syllabus is how much it reflects Auden’s own overlapping interests in literature across genres – drama, lyric poetry, fiction – philosophy, and music,” [Professor Lisa] Goldfarb said. “He also includes so many of the figures he wrote about in his own prose and those to whom he refers in his poetry: especially “The Tempest” of Shakespeare; Kierkegaard, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Melville, Rilke, as well as the opera libretti on the syllabus.
“By including such texts across disciplines – classical and modern literature, philosophy, music, anthropology, criticism – Auden seems to have aimed to educate his students deeply and broadly. He probably would have enjoyed working with students on the texts he so dearly loved.”
Auden’t most famous academic post, perhaps, was at the New School, where he began teaching in 1946. The Shakespeare lectures he delivered there were published in a single volume in 1972.
I think it’s pretty clear that one class with Auden would make college today seem like a piece of cake.
What do you think?