Literature: Hope and Faith in the Age of Dystopia
Literature has the power to shape our inner lives as well as our capacity to be and act in the world. C.S. Lewis has said the arts, and hence by extension, the written word, allow us through our compassion and empathy to reach beyond ourselves to heal the loneliness and dangers of self-absorption: “In love, in virtue, in the pursuit of knowledge, and in the reception of the arts, we are doing this.”
This literature course takes two tracks. In the morning session, we consider the human and moral dimensions of literature through an examination of various “digital dystopias,” texts that explore the effects and the power of digital media and technology on our lives. We will supplement our reading of popular, young adult literature by watching a documentary about adolescents and digital media as well as a TV show (like Netflix’s Black Mirror) or a movie (like Tron: Legacy or The Hunger Games). The afternoon session will offer an examination of contemporary authors (i.e. Wendell Berry, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chris Hayes and others) to explore the dynamic relationship between literature and life, and particularly the role literature plays in allowing us to imagine community and to seek justice, particularly for the disenfranchised and uprooted among us. Taken together, the course as a whole, argues for individuals to work for the common good rather than to focus on individual wants and needs.
In several class sessions, we take these discussions “into the field” (and back) by visiting several community organizations that serve the lonely and disenfranchised. In this way, we hope to broaden students’ understanding of the potential literature has to not only broaden one’s view of the world but call one to action.
Ed Kelly leads the track’s volunteer service dimension, interweaving students’ class readings and discussions, personal writing, and volunteer activities on behalf of the community’s homeless and afflicted. While head of the English department at Niles (Michigan) High School, he initiated a pioneering course in community service-learning as well as innovative courses in film and in Shakespeare performance. He has devoted his professional life to developing young people through teaching and coaching (soccer and track). He has a B.A. and M.A. in English from Notre Dame and teaches in Notre Dame’s First Year Writing Program.
Michael Macaluso serves a faculty member of the Alliance for Catholic Education and a fellow of the Institute for Educational Initiatives. In this role, he teaches education related courses through the Teaching Fellows M.Ed. program and through the Education, Schooling, and Society program. As faculty of supervision and instruction, he visits ACE Teaching Fellows at various communities around the country, including Tampa, Washington, D.C., and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Macaluso earned his undergraduate degree in English and political science from the University of Notre Dame and his M.Ed. from the ACE Teaching Fellows program in 2006, serving in Baton Rouge. After teaching in the suburbs of Chicago, he earned his Ph.D. in curriculum, instruction, and teacher education from Michigan State University. He specializes in English education and young adult literature.