This will represent 100 percent of your grade

The syllabus begins simply enough:

English 135. Fate and the Individual in European Literature: First semester. 2 hours credit. Open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students who secure written permission from Professor Arno Bader, 2222 Angell Hall. Th, 4-6. 2215 A. H. Instructor W. Auden

That’s W. H. Auden to you; the poet taught this course at the University of Michigan during the 1941-42 academic year, and the required reading comes to some 6,000 pages, including both warhorses (the entirety of Dante’s Divine Comedy) and showponies (Rimbaud’s Une Seison en Enfer). Oh, and nine opera libretti, in your copious free time.

I can assure you that by 1970 or so undergraduates were complaining about this sort of load; I suspect that today they object to the very idea of something being required.

(Via Pejman Yousefzadeh.)


  1. fillyjonk »

    6 March 2013 · 8:02 am

    One of the reasons I took Linguistics for my Social Sciences credit (at the very same school that Auden taught at, but some 45 years later) was that my mother started out majoring in History and talked about how a typical reading assignment for one day’s class was 300 pages.

    I DID take Great Books, which we used to jokingly refer to as “If this is Tuesday, it must be Plato.”

    I will say there is one problem with high page-count reading expectations: I find my comprehension goes WAY down the faster I have to read. I hung on to my copy of Plato’s Dialogs (and also my copy of the Aeneid and some other things) with the thought that SOMEDAY I would re-read them when I had enough time to really think about what they were saying in great detail. (Haven’t got ’round to it yet).

  2. McGehee »

    6 March 2013 · 9:39 am

    I think at least one or two of my high school teachers assigned reading not expecting us to RTWT in the time allotted, but to read enough to want to finish on our own time.

    I’m sure somebody in one of those classes did…

  3. fillyjonk »

    6 March 2013 · 12:08 pm

    wait, we weren’t expected to read the whole thing?

  4. McGehee »

    6 March 2013 · 12:32 pm

    If we were, I should have gotten even worse grades thahn I did.

  5. Tatyana »

    6 March 2013 · 3:00 pm

    When I was in design school 19yrs ago, we had a professor who was notorious for his way of encouragement: “what do you mean you don’t have enough time till next class? You have 2 days and whole 3 nights!”

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