Climbing the highest peaks on the planet is the ultimate physical accomplishment. Nearly everyone has daydreamed of some great feat: climbing the highest mountains, visiting remote but beautiful places across the globe, making a great discovery that betters many lives, solving a difficult problem in math or physics, playing the whole Beethoven Sonata cycle or some other Herculean feat of musical prowess, and yes, reading and understanding great but very difficult books.
Our group of expeditionary adventurers will attempt, over approximately a twelve-month course, to scale six mountains of literature, each with a unique difficulty to overcome and a treasure to be found upon completion. Aided by guides, both digital and human, and working together to overcome challenges presented by the material, we will become not only better readers, but more alive to the potential locked within our minds. For many of us reading is as important as breath. The specific books chosen for this course exist in the rare air at the height of literary achievement. All six novels fall into the modern and post-modern realm of literary criticism. This is the era beyond realism where the questions that wake us in the middle of the night linger and play. The discipline involved to simply read the words is only the first step. Every book stands alone as a work of art, and art only lives when the audience gets involved with the artist in the creative process.
“We’re not keen on the idea of the story sharing its valence with the reader. But the reader’s own life ‘outside’ the story changes the story.”
–David Foster Wallace
Reading these books involves bringing your life experience and learning to the encounter, regardless of what disciplines you trained in. Supplemental materials focused on modern and postmodern theory will increase our ability to scale these unconventional vanguards of literary excellence. These are not light entertainments for a day at the beach. They are the products of minds that wrestle with the big questions of existence and the problems of living in a world of infinite, instantly available information. They aspire to show the breadth and depth of a world where manipulation, media, and group psychology blur the lines between thinking and knowing. They afford us the opportunity to create order out of chaos by seeing beyond the words on the printed page and into the consciousness of the creator.