University of Utah
Honors Course
Contemporary Literature and Community Service Leslie Warner
Winter Quarter, 1994

Students will read and discuss contemporary literature (1945 present). Discussions will focus on how the literature we read affects our perceptions of community and serving others. Since we will be primarily discussing the society in which we live, assigned readings will be mostly American Short Stories, with a few international authors added to help us gain perspective on our own society. Students will be asked to compliment their reading with active community service in an area of their choice. Students are encouraged to serve approximately 3 -5 hours weekly in an area of personal interest, preferably corresponding to their course of study.

Papers: One 6 - 1 0 page paper due at the end of the quarter. Students have the option of writing a single paper on the theory they have developed over the course of the quarter, or a short story that expresses their theory accompanied by a two-page summary of other material used or discussed in class.

One page (minimum) journal to be used for weekly class or small group discussion. Due weekly.

Texts: "A River Runs Through It" by Norman Maclean Selected short stories (on reserve)

One full-length novel -- student's choice

Week 1: Introduction and class discussion -- who are the members of our community, and what is our relationship to them? What is the perception of how much we "owe" or need to give to our community? Assignment: A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean Journal -- Focus on who is served in this story and how that service is received, Be prepared to discuss why certain people in the story need to be served, and how those people differ from the people you consider to be "needy." Consider the difference between 'serving" and "helping." * Select a volunteer opportunity for the quarter.

Week 2: Class discussion -- A River Runs Through It Sharing of class members' service choices and discussion. Assignment: Begin volunteer service. "For Esme--with Love and Squalor" (Please read each story twice; once before your weekly service opportunity, and once afterwards.)
* Journal -- Decide who is the recipient of service in this story. Keep in mind that it is possible to be served while one is serving. Be prepared to discuss the relationship between the narrator and Esme, and how it relates to your particular area of service. Consider how your attitude about the service you are doing changes as well as your reading of the story.

Week 3: Small group discussion -- "For Esme,--with Love and Squalor" Class members should now be preparing to come to class each week ready to discuss their specific area of service and how the reading changed their experience or was affected by reflection on what they read as well as the particular focus of the journal assignment for the week.

Assignment: 'The Universal Fears" by John Hawkes Journal -- Think about what it means to serve a group of people rather than only focussing on a helping relationship with one person. How are you affected? How is society affected? The group or individual whom you serve? 4, Select a novel that you will use to tie together all class readings as well as your community service. Try to choose a novel that speaks to your course of study and/or your chosen area of service for this quarter.

Week 4: Class discussion -- "The Universal Fears" Assignment: "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin Journal -- Think about instances that you may have felt you should not help another person. Discuss feelings of guilt or anger that are associated with problems you see that are not solvable.

Week 5: Small group discussion -- "Sonny's Blues" Assignment: 'A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez Journal -- Does Garcia-Marquez' view of service differ from what you have experienced so far in the quarter from American authors? If so, how? If not, what are the similarities? What part do religion or religious icons play in our own ideologies of community service?


Contemporary Fiction (after 1945) is recommended as opposed to novels classified as Romance, Mystery, Horror, Science Fiction or Fantasy. Novels by any of the authors discussed in class are highly recommended as well as authors like Alice Walker, E.L. Doctorow, Toni Morrison, Robert James Waller, Anne Tyler, John Steinbeck, Ayn Rand, Amy Tan, Saul Bellow, Wallace Stegner, etc. Novels are not required to have a specific service theme, but should focus on human relationships and a character's interaction with society. Students should be able to find a connection between what they are doing personally in the community, and the message the author delivers about his or her own opinion of community involvement.

_The Bean Trees_ by Barbara Kingsolver

A student working with children or studying Child Development or Elementary Education might use this novel about a young travelling woman who is given a small child by a stranger and comes to a decision about whether she is the right person to bring the child up.

_The Education of Little Tree_ by Forrest Carter

A History or Ethnic Studies major or someone who chooses to work with children or ethnic minorities may choose this novel about a Native American boy who lives in the mountains with his grandparents and attempts to reconcile his upbringing with the stereotypes society gives him.

_The Eight_ by Katherine Neville

A student interested in history, business, or political science may select this story about a group of people travelling around the world to find the answer to a mysterious scientific formula that was discovered and hidden centuries ago.

                                        Date: Tue, 26 Dec 1995 12:20:00 MST
                                        From: Renee Buchanan <>