UTA Magazine
Crash Course
English 4336: Special Topics--Baseball Literature

5:30-6:50 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays
Room 101, Preston Hall

Teacher: Kathy Porter, lecturer in English

Catalog description: This course both celebrates and critiques the role of baseball in contemporary culture through close examination of novels, films and a play.

About the professor: Dr. Porter earned her bachelorís and masterís degrees in English from Baylor University and her Ph.D. in literature from Arizona State University. Her dissertation, ďFrom the Grandstands to the Dugout: Women Characters in Baseball Literature,Ē is forthcoming from McFarland & Co. publishers. She teaches English and geography at Saint Maria Goretti School in Arlington. An avid baseball fan, she attends as many UTA home games as her 3-year-old son will tolerate.

Required reading: Works include The Natural by Bernard Malamud; Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella; The Celebrant by Eric Rolfe Greenberg; Fences by August Wilson; and The Southpaw, Bang the Drum Slowly, A Ticket for a Seamstitch and It Looked Like For Ever by Mark Harris.

Course format: The 16-week class is limited to 30 students and is taught in a lecture format that emphasizes discussion. After about 20 minutes of lecture, students focus on the dayís questions (distributed during the previous class session). Students also watch films and hear guest lecturers. They take a midterm essay exam, a final essay exam and write a research paper to demonstrate reading comprehension, critical evaluation of course materials and research skills.

What the prof says: By the conclusion of the course, the students will be able to examine baseball literature and the roles of the sport in America with a more enthusiastic and educated perspective. Whereas films and guest speakers are unusual for most literature classes, students in this course watch Field of Dreams, The Natural and Bang the Drum Slowly. Guest speakers include Miguel Salas (No. 16 in the movie, The Rookie), who details the behind-the-scenes business of baseball movies, and UTA English Professor Tim Morris, a baseball literature bibliographer, who speaks about his baseball literature Web site, www.uta.edu/english/tim.

Essay Question
(Sorry, no multiple choice in literature courses.)
Explain how Bernard Malamud uses baseball and the fisher-king myth to make The Natural an American myth.

Answer: In the Celtic myth, the fisher-king rules a land suffering from drought and blight, which is also reflected in the kingís ailments. A knight restores the land to fertility by successfully completing a quest. In Malamudís The Natural, Pop Fisher, manager of the beleaguered New York Knights, is the fisher-king. His baseball field is a wasteland, and his hands are suffering from athleteís foot. Slugger Roy Hobbs, the knight in this tale, revives the desolate baseball field by playing there. Popís hands are healed as Hobbs quests for the grail, in this case the pennant. Although the Knights donít win the pennant, the qualities of the myth and their presence in the characters provide Malamud with a way to create an American myth.


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