Interpreting Non-Traditional Texts

The First Year Seminar at Mercer University is an interdisciplinary course taught by faculty from throughout the College of Liberal Arts. Many of the core texts selected for the First Year Seminar are literary in nature. Each faculty member supplements these works with additional readings. Some sections consider works from theatre, art, and film while other sections read and discuss political science, journalism, and philosophy. The diverse approaches all have the same aim of promoting habits of critical reflection while introducing students to university study and the liberal arts. The following readings come from nontraditional texts. Some supplement existing readings and others stand alone.

Interpreting nontraditional texts requires the same skills of analysis and critical reflection used in interpreting traditional literary texts.  In addition, each text is part of a larger field or genre of study.  To understand unusual texts requires consideration of the genre.  A person who has studied a genre generally will have more insight into a text from that genre.  That is not to suggest that unusual texts cannot be appreciated by those unfamiliar with a genre.  But in order to offer an informed interpretation, a student should try to consider the text as it pertains to other texts from within the same genre in addition to comparing it to traditional readings. 

Composing the Self

  1. The enchanting magic of shadows in an illusion from Teller.
  2. Some of the world’s most unusual architecture.
  3. This essay by José van Dijck considers diaries and journals in a digital age.
  4. The following photo essay deals with Sak Yant, an ancient tradition of tattoos practiced by monks in Thailand. Consider the ornaments and adornments we place on our bodies. What do they tell us about our identity and our culture?

Engaging the World

  1. Poetic Pilgrimage is a hip hop group of two female Muslims and the following are their songs “Definition of a Pilgrim” and “Modern Day Mary’s.”
  2. This poem essay from Tim Wise considers what the response would be if the Tea Party was black.
  3. Brian K. Vaughn’s graphic novel series Y:The Last Man considers a future where a catastrophic event has killed every male of every species except for one human and his monkey. The first issue sets out an interesting thought experiment for readers to consider: What do you think the world would be like if men disappeared?
  4. In 2010, Sydney University won the World University Debate Championships. The following links include the fifth and sixth speech in the final round debate on the topic: This House Believes the Media Should Show the Full Horror of War.

Great Speeches

  1. Elie Wiesel (6:30) - An excerpt from  
    "The Perils of Indifference"
  2. Mary Fisher (8:54 and 5:59) – Speech to the Republican National Convention in 1992 –
    "A Whisper of AIDS" Part 1
    "A Whisper of AIDS" Part 2

  3. Harvey Milk (1:55) - An excerpt from 
    "Hope"
  4. Malcolm X (53:37)
    "The Ballot Or the Bullet"
  5. Malcolm X (4:25) 
    "By Any Means Necessary"
  6. Martin Luther King, Jr. (17:28) 
    "I Have a Dream"
  7. Barbara Jordan, 1976 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address
    Part 1- (9:25)  
    "Who Then Will Speak For the Common Good" Part 1
    Part 2- (9:55) 
    "Who Then Will Speak For the Common Good" Part 2
  8. Tom Regan (9:51)
    The Case For Animal Rights