Listen Up, This Senior Seminar Comes with a Theme Song

Senior Seminar, “A House is Not a Home,” derives its concept from a jazz song and is set to talk about literary construction of what we call home.

Before anything else, just press play. Listen. Close your eyes even. This is Sonny Rollin’s performance of Burt Bacharach’s “A House is not a Home” recorded when he played live at the Montreuz Jazz Festival in 1974.

“This is a space, lovely rendition of a song that has been recorded many times in a variety of interpretations, and Rollin’s saxophone sounds the dilemmas and yearnings that infuse the many concepts of “home,”” reads the course description.

That’s right, from a song, comes a theme for a senior seminar. Specifically, Mark Olson’s seminar titled “A House Not a Home” : Reading U.S Literary Constructions of Domestic Spaces. 

The course will look at the many different depictions of home against the depictions of house.

This will be done by analyzing texts with “house” or “home” in the title, including, possibly the list below.

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2007), a graphic memoir by author of Dykes to Watch Out For that chronicles her childhood in Pennsylvania with a focus on her relationship with her father.

Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House (1925), a novel that is largely fragmented into three portions as it follows a professors move into a new home, an exploration into New Mexico, and travel to Mexico.

Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars (1900), a novel that follows the wake of the American Civil War informed by Chesnutt’s own autobiography as a mixed race women moves to join her brother in a new city and lives as a white woman, hiding her full heredity.

Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street (1984), a “coming of age” novel that is about a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago as she decides to leave her impoverished neighborhood via a life on the streets.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables (1851), a novel that follows a New England family in their home, a house inspired by Hawthorne’s cousins home in Salem where their ancestors played a part in the Salem Witch Trials.

N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn (1968), a novel sectioned into four parts as it tells the tale of Abel, a Native American who lived in and out of mainstream society throughout. It is said to be based on Jemez Pueblo, but combines personal experience of Momaday and his imagination as well.

Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth (1905), a novel that tells the story of an impoverished, but originally well-born woman in New York City during her fall from privilege and high society.

That list isn’t finalized and could change, but they will all follow the main idea of texts with one of those key words included.

The course offers the Hamline Plan requirements for Writing Intensive (W), Speaking Intensive (O), and Independent Critical Inquiry and information Literacy (Q) and is an Senior Seminar as required for the English major.

The class is set for Tuesday night’s 6:00 – 9:00 p.m in the Giddens/Alumni Learning Center (GLC) room 204E. It’s required that a registering student have taken ENG 3020 and at least one of the 3000-level literature courses and consent of the instructor. A grade of C- or above is required for the courses above. Sign up for instructor permission on the sign up sheet on David Hudson’s door (GLC 229W).

Find the course’s full information here.


This article was written by staff, Franki Hanke. 

Franki Hanke, or Francheska Crawford Hanke, for long, is a student administrative assistant with the Hamline University English Department, and she’s in charge of the running of Hamline Lit Link. As a staff writer for the blog, she loves the opportunity it gives her to interact with different perspectives and learn more about the realm of English. Her essays “Why I Write” and “I Couldn’t Say No” were published in Wise Ink publishing’s anthology Why We Ink in 2015. Her poetry has been published on The Drabble (2017) and Oakwood Literary Magazine (2017).

She is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Professional Rhetoric Focus at Hamline University and plans to graduate in 2019. Along with managing the blog, she runs the social media outreach and accounts for the department. Outside of the English Department, she writes for The Oracle newspaper and Odyssey Online.

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