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Legacy of Exploration: Rites of Passage & Coming of Age Journeys

Kathryn Collison, 

Core: Humanities

In its most basic sense, a rite of passage is the transition from one state to another—it is the process when one moves from innocence to experience, from ignorance to knowledge, from adolescence to adulthood. But, the journey of self-discovery and identify formation is complicated, involving more than just biological factors. Indeed, coming of age is marked by numerious legal, religious, cultural, historical, and psychological milestones, and there is no one predominant or exclusive rite of passage when a child becomes an adult. Further, contemporary rites of passage and the maturation process are clearly much different from ancient pathways—how we reach the moment of adulthood now is much different from Spartan “baptism by fire” in the Agoge for instance. How boys become men and girls become women, how students become teachers, how initiates become members is a complex process that varies from time period to time period, region to region, class structure to class structure. What ties us all together across these varying time periods, regions, and interdisciplinarity is that we all come of age, one way or another.

We all embark on the journey of maturation, we all sooner or later get initiated into adulthood. Once we reach adulthood, though, this journey doesn't stop. There are still many coming of age moments ahead of us as we never truly learn all there is or experience everything. In this class, we will look at a variety of rites of passage and coming of age journeys from around the world and from varying moments in life. We will also explore multiple interdisciplinary contexts of coming of age themes, including text and film, and consider other initiatory processes. Students will write analytical and reflective papers addressing how/why rites of passage are important. Students will also work in groups to select additional rites of passage for the class. For the final project, students will choose between creative or interview options to understand their place in their own rite of passage moments.

Required Reading:

Antigone, Sophocles (will be provided to students)

The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare

Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

Selections from:

Coming of Age in America: A Multicultural Anthology, ed. Mary Frosch; Coming of Age Around the World: A Multicultural Anthology, ed. Faith Adiele; Into the Widening World: International Coming-of-Age Stories, ed. John Loughery

In group projects, the class will choose three additional texts

Stand by Me

Now and Then

Father of the Bride

Attendance, active participation in class (discussion, in-class activities,), attendance of lectures/writing lab/House event, two short argumentative papers, group project with a reflective paper, and a final self-directed and student-determined rite of passage project with a final presentation.

Kathryn Collison earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University and a B.A. in English from UNM. She has taught in the Honors since 2007 and was the Scribendi 2007-2008 Faculty Advisor. She also teaches creative writing classes online at the University of Phoenix. She has taught poetry in prison, high school, and community college. Her poetry has been published in The Furnace Review, New Works Review, and The Pedestal Magazine. Her forthcoming poetry collection, Like Rain Returing Home, is expected in 2018 by FutureCycle Press.