June 09, 2008

Summer SAGES seminar casts excitement into literature

Literature of Fly Fishing course will provide students with hands-on experience thanks to gift from Orvis Company


This summer, Case Western Reserve University students will hang the "gone fishing" sign on the classroom door, but that doesn't mean they are taking a break from learning. Royal Coachmen, Wooly Buggers and Fate: The Literature of Fly Fishing, a summer seminar, will immerse students in the lore, mystique and skill of fly fishing.

"Not only will students examine literature that spans over seven centuries of the sport, but they will also have a hands-on opportunity to acquire fundamental fly fishing skills," said John Orlock, the Samuel B. and Virginia C. Knight Professor of Humanities and the course instructor.

Thanks in part to a generous gift from the Orvis Company, students will have the opportunity to try their hand at fly casting and tying, practicing the skills authors like Ernest Hemingway, Norman Maclean and Arnold Gingrich have romanced about for years.

Orvis, recognized as the world's leader for fly fishing apparel and equipment, donated eight fly fishing rod and reel sets. Orlock plans to take the students outside the classroom and practice casting with the rods from the shore of the Wade lagoon.


"This is a significant contribution," said Orlock, an ardent fisherman in his time away from the theater and dance department where he teaches courses in playwriting, screenwriting and acting. "This will allow students to really get a feel for the sport, to understand the aesthetics of it.

The seminar, offered for the first time through the SAGES program and running June 16-July 28, will explore the sport as presented in both fiction and non-fiction works. Students will combine their knowledge of the written works and their experiences with the equipment.

Published works about fly fishing date back to the late 15th century and it became a popular subject for authors in the 1800's. Readings include Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle, The Rural Lif, A Different Angle: Fly Fishing Stories by Women, Nervous Water: Variations on a Theme of Fly Fishing, The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man's Recreation, and the lead piece, Norman Maclean's classic A River Runs Through It.

"For many writers, fly fishing is about something more," said Orlock. "There's something inherently contemplative about being in nature, being of it, and being active in it. Wading and walking through the water; surrounded by and participating in nature. Being silent and still while also being alert and aware of even the smallest movement. While in this mode of concentration everything else goes away. It's then thoughts drift in about your life, your work, your relationships, meditation, contemplating the universe. This has been the impetus for the texts we'll be considering in the seminar."

According to Orlock, these readings will spark a number of questions throughout the course:

  • What is the fundamental nature of sport, how does it vary from other forms of recreation, and can a sport be considered an art?
  • Within the broad historical scope of this literature, what prompts the various authors to often imbue the sport with metaphysical, spiritual, or aesthetic dimensions?
  • What is it about fly fishing that causes it to be considered as a meditation tool for reflecting upon one's life? What elements of the writer's craft cause this body of literature to elicit such a strong emotional response across the centuries?
  • How might these elements of craft be applied and integrated into an effective academic writing style?

Orlock will also teach the course as a SAGES topical seminar in the fall and hopes to continue teaching it twice yearly.

"The deans (College of Arts and Sciences associate deans Molly Berger and Peter Whiting) are very supportive and enthusiastic about the seminar, and Orvis has made a substantial contribution to the course," he said. "It's really a collaborative effort."

For more information contact Jason Tirotta, 216.368.6890.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, June 9, 2008 12:25 PM | News Topics: Collaborations/Partnerships, College of Arts and Sciences, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, Philanthropy, Provost Initiatives, Students

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