Tao of the Scholar-Writer

The Tao of the Scholar-Writer

Graduate Courses: Class One

unedited draft of lecture notes,

cant be fully understood unless you come to the lecture.

The Tao of the Scholar-Writer:

A Lifetime of Self-education.

Where to Start.

(Including: Why we have these books.)

I am going to start by taking you very seriously.

People who have signed up for this program have often been people who are ready to make a change in their lives. They are usually-- in this university, in this city-- not traditional beginning graduates, but older, more experienced and more serious.

Also more intellectual. Few have chosen this as a road to riches or even to employment.

Rather, they are taking stock of themselves, and they want to free their creativity, so they can do things in life which fulfill them, things they are proud of having done.

They are particularly attracted by the whole way of life-- the Tao of life, the path of life-- involved in being a writer, a person who uses writing as a way to metabolize his or her life experience.

In this course we try to free your creativity, partly by just doing it, but also by making inquiry into creativity itself. You'll find it's a topic bound up with the idea of "history,"-- whether there's a pattern to what happens-- and therefore whether creative individuals of all kinds help it all happen by solving problems.

You want a coach, and some direction, some methods. No point doing it all yourself and inventing the wheel once again.

Here are some familiar steps toward discovering one's personal Tao, and we'll follow them.

1. Stopping.

And I really just mean stopping. When you meditate, you start by stopping. Meditating itself is pretty much stopping: stopping acting, stopping thinking, trying to simply be alive.

2. Discovering one's goals. Theyre not apparent. They have to be discovered.

3. Matching them to one's means.

4. Taking the first steps to doing them.

The first step, the stopping, can be as simple as, enrolling in a class with someone more experienced. Coming to class is a way of stopping normal life. Youve made a start. Just stopping rote behavior is a start.

You have already been thinking about your goals, or you wouldnt be here. You decided to

set aside 2hr 45 min once a week for this goal. Another good start.

Youre buying the tools you will need, starting with the books. My reading list helps there.

Now, practicing planning. There's always time to plan: youll always save so much time back, that the time you spend planning is free.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed in these first months, and want to quit,




Learning how to learn.

You are choosing to spend the rest of your life learning and revising and growing.

A culture is actually a long debate. Western culture starts with Plato, who is immediately followed by Aristotle taking the opposite position on everything Plato said. Right from the first, in the West, there is no monolithic Tradition.

Writers usually gain a place in the debate not by being disciples, but by overturning as much as possible that has gone before. The only tradition is Rebellion. Creativity, James Joyce and many others think, is Rebellion itself.

Your best shot at creatively overturning the applecart, however, is to know as much of the tradition as possible. True, most people get sidetracked into mere discipleship, but others say with Joyce, Non serviam! I will not serve!

You can see that historical process, in miniature, in the forty five year history of Rock and Roll. People don't just politely add something new, they rise up screaming "Disco sucks" or whatever, and claiming to be God. Then someone else rises up.

But if anyone were to claim their best shot at Rock originality was to avoid ever hearing Chuck Berry or the Beatles or Springsteen, you'd think they were nuts. The way to be new is to learn everything you can, and digest it, gain its strength, like a cannibal eating his enemy to gain his power.

(That reference you just heard was the only time popular music will be mentioned here, by the way, because you don't need my help there, you can do it better than I can.)

To understand the debate, start at the beginning of the argument. That's the simplest way in.

A Lifetime Reading List

for busy working people

This course will launch you, but let me give you some further ideas.

There are countless reading lists, but my students typically work, thirty, forty, in one case fifty-five hours a week, and theyre pressed for time. They're parents, theyre caretakers of elderly parents.

So Ive picked a reading list that gives a person, quickly, the most literacy in the least amount of time.

Many of these selections are incredibly short. A Shakespearian play will take 20 minutes to read. Isnt it interesting to realize that you puzzled over references to King Lear all your life, and you could have read it in twenty minutes?

All you have to do is know your goal; plan ahead; buy the volume; put it next to your bed. But without that planning, its Saturday Night Live for you again. Chris Kattan acts like a monkey during Tina Feys News of the Week tonight.

Don't over look films. A few are legitimate shortcuts (but let a professor guide you.) It is certainly wonderful to read Fielding's Tom Jones and it should make a wonderful breakfast book (see below) because it is very episodic. But, you could start with the Albert Finney classic Tom Jones, which is excellent and quit faithful.

Before you start reading Jane Austen you should see "Sense and Sensibility", Emma Thompson ... it will give you the Austen mood. You have to read A Christmas Carol, buit the Alistair Sim 1949 version is a great classic itself. There's a surprisingly good movie of Joyces Ulysses that was made back around 1970, a good introduction, and it helps you picture that world. Amazon will have Laurence Olivier's Henry V, and perhaps you can even find the BBC Derek Jacoby's Hamlet, or Olivier's Lear, these are great experiences.

Here then, is a reading list which builds literacy, for time starved people:

The University of Chicago Press translations of Greek Tragedies... for instance,

Sophocles One which contains, Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone.

Aeschylus One The Orestia.

Euripides the Bacchae,

Suetonius, The twelve caesars, picked the craziest ones.

The Oxford Study Edition Bible, modern translated.

The Divine Comedy-- just the Inferno. John D. Sinclairs paraphrase is excellent.

Paradise Lost,

The Beginning and all the parts with the Devil

Any of the major Shakespeare plays you haven't read

Lear, Macbeth, Midsummer Nights Dream, (see Olivier's Richard III, better than the play),

Proust, Swanns Way

Thomas Mann, Death in Venice

Joyce's Portrait of the Artist

Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Eliot, The Wasteland

Twain huckleberry finn and tom sawyer

If you want American literature,

Hemingway, In our Time

and The Sun Also Rises

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Updike, The Rabbit books, Bech, the story Bech enters heaven...

Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan all parts, the greatest American Novel....

Phillip Roth, Goodbye Columbus

Saul Bellow, Seize the Day

Capote, Breakfast at Tiffanys

Tennessee Williamss Streetcar Named Desire

Many of these are available in $1.00 editions from Dover press:

Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self Reliance

Wordsworth's Favorite Poems


Techniques for Lifetime Learning: identifying recurrent units of free time

Identifying recurrent units of free time lecture goes here

Dave Mozingo's back from lunch book

I noticed my waking up tv situation getting dressed

The breakfast book

should it be a language you want to learn

Recorded books for travel time

Tapes to listen to in your car:

at the library-- tons of them


you never know enough

Barbara W. Tuchman The guns of august

Wm Manchesters Churchill

The evening book


Magazine subscriptions/websites/mailing lists

these work on the Jesuit principle of small doses applied at a constant rate for a long time

you should read a weekly newsmazazine

Newsweek has a lot of pop culture, even teen culture-- halfway to People now

US News and World Report more serious

The Economist

subscribe to Lingua Franca and to The Atlantic Monthly... the Newyorker is out and Atlantic monthlye sets the aganedsa

Special interests: Biblical Archaelogy - special interests. Constant small dose so that you keep educating yourself

I use Yahoo to do searches on my favorite topics each day

I read a lot from the Hindu in New Dehli

and the Sydney Morning Herald

two of the world's great newspapers


And you should be always be studying a language,

Barzun said, you can never learn enough history

Manchesters Chuirchill and Tuchman's Guns of August'

you never know enough languages, you should study a little bit of a language every day by the time you are my age you will know 7 of them, ,

However, you must visist the place, until you visist the place, your study will never come together, if you diceid eyou are never going to that place, stop styduyiung... Going to that place after you have studied is like a whole year of studying.

Long Works to Read Slowly Over the Years:

Own these Indispensable long works. Youve got a lifetime to enjoy them. Using the techniques above, youll have the time to read them.

Homers Iliad

The Oxford Study Bible

Joyces Ulysses

and the most important religious works of East Asia,

Confuciuss Analects

The Tao te Ching

Cervantes Don Quixote,

Goethe's Faust Part One,

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain, translated H.T. Lowe-Porter,

Chaucer's Canterbury Tails, read Prologue, and the wife of Bath.

George Elliot, Middlemarch,

Tintern Abbey, Wordsworth, The immortality Ode, some early lyrics

Gerard manly Hopkins, Sonnets

To feel your way into Asia... these 3 from the great de Bary collections

de Bary, East Asian Civilizations

de bary and Bloom, Eastern Canons

Conrad Schirokauer, A brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations

de Bary, Chan and Watson Sources of Chinese tradition, volume I and II

The Way of Chinese Painting, Mai-mai Sze... it goes in and out of print, but you can sometimes find an old paperback

Sir Joshua Reynolds Discourses on Art, the Yale edition, tellyou everything you want to =know about classicism.

Nietzsche Genealogy of Morals

Schopenhauer Essays and Aphorisms in the Hollingdale translation

Philosophies of Art and Beauty, Sl

An Education in Art:

Visual Arts sources to start with:

Time Life books

Modern Art

Anything by Calvin Tomkins is an excellent introduction, for instance these are the standard histories,

The Bride and the Bachelors, Off the Wall, Post- to Neo-

Duchamp- Biography, which is standard, if you really want to know art history

Art History

The Documents of 20th Century Art, series, from Robert Motherwell, general editor, New York Viking Press

Futurism, Marcel Duchamp, Functions of Painting by Fernand Leger, the Dada painters and poets

MH Abrams, Natural Supernaturalism

Anything by Kenneth Clark but especially Landscape into Art

The Gothic Revival. see Kenneth Clark's Civilization BBC series.

For Art History if you are really interested, John Rewald, The History of Impressionism, the greatest researcher, and he can write like a novelist. It can be found used,


As an introduction, the story of philosophy by Will Durant

heilbroner, the worldly philosophers

the columbia history of the world


The Columbia History 0f The World, edited by John A. Garraty and Peter Gay, older editiuons before Politcal Correctness, reads like a novel. Great book. Widly available used, very cheap. You want the 1981 edition. Before any politcal correctness as censorship.

For your writing you use the Chicago Manual of style


A Note on Popular Culture:

Don't trust any rock n roll reference work , the seem to be written from press releases, and repeart each others mistakes, the only reliable material ever found was The Beatle's in their Generateion

It was so obvious and they would take it off, some guy would use a nom de plume and they thought it was a different guys, no scholarly standards there. Someday there will be real scholarship on rock and roll, it was written for 12 year olds, what a 12 year old would find exciting, at that time nobody cared,

But the one oddly acurate thing, this Rock Dreams

And as far as Time Life Series for Art books, quick introductions, from

Charles Scribners British Writers, George Stade General Editor, they are the highest standards. Good introductions.

My own books on Italian and Asian American Literature

Gilbert Highet, The Classiscal Tradition

Leo Rosten, The Joys of Yiddish

M.R. James, The Penguin Complete Ghost Stories