2013 Summer Seminars

Common Ground 2013

June 28, July 1-3, July 8-12

10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Teachers who submit a reservation by May 31st will be offered a place in one of this summer's Common Ground seminars. After May 31st, participants will be added on a first-come, first-served basis until each seminar is filled. Reservation forms may be e-mailed to mlchesser@uh.edu.

Writers and Their Regions
Bill Monroe, University of Houston

Our seminar takes its name from the capstone course of the Center for Creative Work at the Honors College. In this course students study writers and artists from a geographical place, space, or moment in time, then travel over spring break to make their own art inspired by the region. In this seminar we will take a journey into the writer's true country. Our reading list focuses primarily on local writers, with detours through O'Connor's Georgia and the greater South. The writer's region—a geographical space, language, architecture, demographics, population density, ethnicity, landscape—provides the raw material for the writer's art. Learn how landscape and "the built environment" can inspire your students' writing.

  • Martha Serpas, The Dirty Side of the Storm: Poems
  • William Goyen, The House of Breath
  • Flannery O'Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories
  • Donald Barthelme, selected stories
  • Larry McMurtry, All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers
  • Lyle Saxon, Gumbo Ya-Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales
  • Marie-Theresa Hernandez, selections from Cemeteries of Ambivalent Desire: Unearthing Deep South Narratives

My Own Private Wilderness: Reading and Writing the Natural World
Lacy M. Johnson, Writers in the Schools

The human condition appears perhaps nowhere more mysterious and self-evident than in its relationship to the wild world, and in this Common Ground/WITS collaboration we’ll look at a few of the myriad ways this relationship has been documented in essays, memoirs, and narrative nonfiction. As we consider the aesthetic and ideological dimensions of these texts, our emphasis will be on the intersections of the personal and the natural, the polluted and the pure, the public and the private. In an effort to cultivate a deeper relationship with these intersections, we’ll spend time each day crafting essays, memoirs, and nonfiction of our own, and to that end we’ll also read a few texts to help us sustain and teach good writing long after the seminar is done. 

  • John D'Agata, About a Mountain
  • Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces
  • Phillip Lopate, To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction
  • John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra and Selected Essays
  • Rubén Martínez, Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West
  • Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
  • Ben Yagoda, The Sound on the Page: Great Writers Talk about Style and Voice in Writing

Husbands and Wives
Romanus Muoneke, University of St. Thomas

This seminar will explore the theme of the relationship between husband and wife in selected works of literature. There is no doubt that the key to a healthy, strong, and successful marriage is the love relationship between man and wife. In our electronic age in which lots of marriages spring forth from a superficial meeting on Match.com or sometimes in night clubs, a close study of literature could provide a useful guide for choosing the right partner for marriage. It is never too early to begin to prepare ourselves and our students for this all-important choice that many will have to make in their lives. Our readings will show wives and husbands in action, revealing solutions to complex problems that arise in husband-wife relations. 

  • Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler
  • Aeschylus, Agamemnon
  • Euripedes, Medea
  • Buchi Emecheta, Kehinde
  • Susan Glaspell, Trifles
  • Al Hakim, Fate of a Cockroach

Metamorphosis: Some Things Change, and Some Never Do
Merrilee Cunningham, University of Houston-Downtown

With Ovid’s "Metamorphoses" as our guide, we will look at the nature of change in literature. Ovid has influenced the literary canon in surprising ways, and in this seminar we will explore just a few of the great works Ovid inspired. Before we begin our readings, we will spend a day on Ovid and the Augustan Age. Our readings will focus on shape shifters in literature, from wolves to cyborgs, and on the art of transformation. From giant cockroaches to the first automaton in the age of machines, our reading list is sure to appeal to high school students and their teachers.

  • Ovid, "Metamorphoses"
  • Andy Clarke, Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence
  • John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi
  • Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Carlo Callodi, The Adventures of Pinocchio
  • Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis
  • Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  • Bruce Sterling, Schismatrix