Walls of Words

Nicole Lobdell

Nicole Lobdell is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English in 19th-century British literature at DePauw University in Greencastle, IN.



ENG 197: First-Year Seminar: Obsession

Writer and director John Waters once said, “Without obsession, life is nothing.” When is obsession a good thing? For Waters, obsession is a necessary part of the creative process, and contemporary society suggests there are strict notions of good and bad obsessions. What are the consequences of having an obsession? In this course, we will use the theme of obsession to explore other processes and desires, such as memory, creativity, genius, madness, infatuation, and power. We might consider the fine lines that distinguish an interest from an obsession, a productive process from a disorder, and a tool from a disability. While our artifacts of study will be mainly literary (short stories, novels, and poems), we will also look at contemporary studies on the nature of obsession and more specifically obsessive-compulsive disorders and hoarding. Readings will include Brian Thill’s Waste (2015), E. L. Doctorow’s Homer & Langley (2009), Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1610-11), Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2004), and John Fowles’s The Collector (1963) among other shorter works.

Writing & Academic Argument

The first-year seminar serves as a bridge to the overall university experience. Courses are designed to analyze a topic, in our case obsession, from a variety of perspectives, emblematic of the liberal arts approach. Our seminar provides experience with fundamental academic skills that you can use in a range of disciplines:

Reading critically and analytically

Engaging in thoughtful discussion with your peers

Understanding and communicating your ideas to others

Using writing as a means to organize and clarify your thoughts on a topic

Exploring academic argument in a variety of modes (written, oral, visual, and electronic)

Finding and appropriately using reference materials

Visualizing Information and Data

Defining your individual reading and writing process (i.e. what works best for you)

Drawing valid conclusions

Reflecting over your reading, writing, and critical thinking