Over brie, baguettes and fresh clementines, Professor Julie Rivkin concluded our last class of “Novel Commodities” with two questions for each student: What did we take away from the course and what will be our next step?
Paige, a senior environmental studies major, was the first to answer. In taking her first English class at Conn, Paige said she was able to better understand the issues of environmental science that she learns in lab through literature such as Sinclair's "The Jungle" or Katherine Boo’s "Behind the Beautiful Forevers."
From literature of the Lost Generation to contemporary texts, "Novel Commodities" focuses on the commodification, overconsumption and obsession with things. What I found most fascinating from the course was the issue of overconsumption of garbage and waste in India. Having recently taken a class with Professor Sunil Bhattia, who is assisting in raising funds for Shelter Associates, a non-governmental organization that sponsors the construction of toilets in the slums of India, I have some previous knowledge of the abysmal conditions. Through my experience in taking "Novel Commodities" with Professor Rivkin, I have found myself drawing from issues in the traditional media or from outlets like Vice News.
As an English major, I am predisposed to the opportunity to take a variety of different English classes in different time periods and based in different regions of the world. Paige's experience is representative of the opportunity that we have at Conn to see more than just a narrow view. I found Paige's perspective on the course influencing my own interest in creating an interdisciplinary course load, especially while I am studying abroad in Milan.