Why you should take Lit Trad IV

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Melville’s classic “Moby Dick” has served as the capstone of Lit Trad IV — and, to many, the Core — for years. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

To journey with Ishmael, or not to journey with Ishmael, that is the question. Unlike the other Core classes, Literary Tradition IV is, for many University of Dallas students, an elective.

For any student whose major is categorized as a science, the fourth element of
the literary tradition sequence is optional. The same is true for anyone who scored sufficiently well on the AP English exam in high school; they can free themselves of the
requirement by doing an extra assignment or two during their Rome semester.

These students, of whom there are a goodly few, must choose to take another rigorous literature class in which they will have to read allegedly grueling novels which many of them have already read in high school and which will not contribute at all to their degree plan.

The natural tendency is not to take it; I know I didn’t plan to. The law of least resistance points these students to less demanding electives which will allow them more time and energy for their majors.

I hope to counter this tendency to whatever degree I can. It is too good a class to be
missed.

Let’s start with the books: “Mansfield Park,” “Crime and Punishment,” “Go Down Moses,” “Moby Dick” and a number of brilliant short stories. I am only now taking Literary Tradition IV and have not yet read “Go Down Moses” or “Crime and Punishment,” but what I have read has been a pleasure.

Besides being classics, these books are fun and make excellent poolside reading. Who doesn’t benefit from spending a few hours every week relaxing by the pool and reading
a great book? If you take Lit Trad IV, you can do so completely guilt-free.

Next selling point: creative writing. For many, Lit Trad IV is an initial introduction to creative writing, as it has been for me. By the time a student is at the tail end of the Core, he has written enough papers to fill a book. The short story and all the intermediate steps to get there are a refreshing type of assignment, which, like the books, is conducive to leisure.

Storytelling is something we all do for fun anyways; now we are given credit for it. If you throw yourself into it, something very easy to do when procrastinating for another class, it’s very fun.

My advice to someone unsure whether they want to sign up for the class is as follows: Take it during your senior year.

By that time, you will miss your lit trad classes. Nostalgia will be starting to kick in and you will be glad for the chance to take another one.

Many also find that their workload is surprisingly light for the last of their college years; the combination of leisure and work that composes Lit Trad IV is a great way to fill spare time. It would make Josef Pieper proud.

So pick up your harpoon and set sail with Ishmael.

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