Paul O'Brian writes about Watchmen, trivia, albums, interactive fiction, and more.


Syllabus: The Allusive Stevie Nicks

I got both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English Literature, and for quite a while there I thought I was going to become an English professor, one of those new media and popular culture types combined with a wide swath of 19th century novels and poetry. Then I watched Laura go through her Ph.D. process, and thought, “There have to be less excruciating paths to travel — maybe I’ll pursue this computer thing.”

I don’t regret for a second my decision to abandon academia, but sometimes my brain starts to spark, and I think of the classes that might have been. Recent such sparkage has been inspired by Stevie Nicks’ new album, which I’ve been listening to many times over (as should surprise few who know me.) I’ve been wanting to write about all these flying thoughts, and suddenly I realized the perfect form. It allows me to gesture grandly towards a bunch of broad themes, without having to apply any actual rigor to discussing them. Hooray! Plus, since it’s imaginary, I don’t have to try to engage with some of the more irritating (to me) aspects of what the field has become, or rather what it was 17 years ago, the last time I read a syllabus. It’s my party, and I don’t have to invite Julia Kristeva if I don’t want to…

In Her Dreams: The Allusive Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks’ 2011 album In Your Dreams serves as a capstone to her 35-year career as a singer/songwriter. Its songs both build upon and comment upon many of the themes, poetic modes, and even specific lyrics that emerge from her considerable body of work. Beyond that, they draw from a rich variety of sources — literary, cinematic, musical, autobiographical, and more. As is typical of Nicks, their meanings are layered and their referents not always clear. This class will explore issues of allusion, intertextuality, and influence both external and internal, using the work of Stevie Nicks as a lens and the structure of In Your Dreams as a frame.

We will meet once per week, with each session dedicated to exploring a different aspect of Nicks’ work, as highlighted by a particular song or songs from In Your Dreams. Naturally, these themes enrich each other, so we’ll bring them together more and more as the class goes on, with a couple of sessions at the end devoted to synthesizing what we’ve learned. Class sessions will be focused on discussion, and participation will comprise a key part of the course grade. The other elements of the grade are a final paper and two Chain Links projects, explained below in the Grading section. For each class session, course material will be assigned along with supplementary reading, viewing, or listening of interviews and documentary programs.

Your grade will be based on the following components:

1) Regular attendance and active, engaged participation in class discussions. Students are expected to have paid careful attention to that week’s assigned material, be it words, music, or video, and to arrive in class having already thought through some of its implications and interconnections. I encourage you to do further reading and listening beyond what’s assigned — the more you know, the better you’ll be able to recognize important connections.

2) Two Chain Links projects. As we’ll see in this course, Nicks’ work is deeply engaged with a panoply of sources, works that resonate and harmonize with each other. Together, these works form a web of influence, “the web that is my own” as she sings in “Edge of Seventeen.” The purpose of Chain Links projects is to add to this web. The nature of what you create can be fairly free-form: songs, films, essays, stories, poems, paintings, plays, and computer games are all examples of viable projects. However, while their form is flexible, their content must meet some specific requirements. First, all Chain Links projects must be engaged with Nicks’ work, either directly or on a clear thematic level. Secondly, all Chain Links projects must be approved by me in advance. Meetings will be scheduled during my office hours for these approvals. I also strongly recommend that you bring works in progress to me for coaching sessions, to ensure that you’re on the right track. Because of the flexible nature of these assignments, grading is highly subjective — let’s be sure we’re on the same page.

3) A final research paper, 12-15 pages in length. This is a thesis-driven paper on a topic of your choice, due at the final exam session for the course. As with the Chain Links projects, you are required to discuss your topic with me before turning in your final paper. I expect a research paper to be original in its conception, rigorous in its argument, and polished in its execution. Remember, an “A” paper is one that teaches me something.

Final evaluation components are weighted as follows:
20%: Participation
20%: First Chain Links project
20%: Second Chain Links project
40%: Final paper

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Fleetwood: My Life And Adventures In Fleetwood Mac, Mick Fleetwood
Storms: My Life With Lindsey Buckingham And Fleetwood Mac, Carol Ann Harris
Complete Stories And Poems, Edgar Allan Poe
Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
Interview With The Vampire, Anne Rice
The Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice
Reading Packet: Selected articles and interviews

New Moon, Chris Weitz
The Dance, Fleetwood Mac
Selected interviews and program excerpts

Fleetwood Mac – “Angel” [Tusk]
Fleetwood Mac – “Destiny Rules” [Say You Will]
Fleetwood Mac – “Dreams” [Rumours]
Fleetwood Mac – “Everybody Finds Out” [Say You Will]
Fleetwood Mac – “Eyes Of The World” [Mirage]
Fleetwood Mac – “Freedom” [Behind The Mask]
Fleetwood Mac – “Gypsy” [Mirage]
Fleetwood Mac – “Illume (9/11)” [Say You Will]
Fleetwood Mac – “I’m So Afraid” [Fleetwood Mac]
Fleetwood Mac – “Not Make Believe” [mp3 provided]
Fleetwood Mac – “Silver Springs” (1997 live version) [The Dance]
Fleetwood Mac – “Sisters Of The Moon” [Tusk]
Fleetwood Mac – “Storms” [Tusk]
Fleetwood Mac – “Sweet Girl” [The Dance]
Fleetwood Mac – “That’s Alright” [Mirage]
Stevie Nicks – In Your Dreams [full album]
Stevie Nicks – “After The Glitter Fades” [Bella Donna]
Stevie Nicks – “Battle Of The Dragon” [Enchanted]
Stevie Nicks – “Bella Donna” [Bella Donna]
Stevie Nicks – “Candlebright” [Trouble In Shangri-La]
Stevie Nicks – “Desert Angel” [Timespace]
Stevie Nicks – “Edge Of Seventeen” [Bella Donna]
Stevie Nicks – “Enchanted” [The Wild Heart]
Stevie Nicks – “Fire Burning” [The Other Side Of The Mirror]
Stevie Nicks – “Ghosts” [The Other Side Of The Mirror]
Stevie Nicks – “Have No Heart” (demo) [mp3 provided]
Stevie Nicks – “I Can’t Wait” [Rock A Little]
Stevie Nicks – “If Anyone Falls…” [The Wild Heart]
Stevie Nicks – “Lady From The Mountain” (demo) [mp3 provided]
Stevie Nicks – “Leather And Lace” [Bella Donna]
Stevie Nicks – “Long Way To Go” [The Other Side Of The Mirror]
Stevie Nicks – “Love Is” [Trouble In Shangri-La]
Stevie Nicks – “No Spoken Word” [Rock A Little]
Stevie Nicks – “Rooms On Fire” [The Other Side Of The Mirror]
Stevie Nicks – “Rose Garden” [Street Angel]
Stevie Nicks – “Secret Love” (demo) [mp3 provided]
Stevie Nicks – “Sleeping Angel” [Enchanted]
Stevie Nicks – “Sorcerer” [Trouble In Shangri-La]
Stevie Nicks – “Stand Back” [The Wild Heart]
Stevie Nicks – “Street Angel” [Street Angel]
Stevie Nicks – “Touched By An Angel” [Sweet November Soundtrack]
Stevie Nicks – “The Wild Heart” [The Wild Heart]
Selected interviews

Supplemental interviews and articles will be assigned each week along with the scheduled reading, listening, and viewing.

Week 1: Introduction — A brief history of Stevie
In-class listening: “The Chain”, “Dreams”, “Go Your Own Way”

Week 2: “Must secret loves secretly die?” — Clandestine romance and veiled autobiography
Reading due: Fleetwood: My Life And Adventures In Fleetwood Mac
Listening due: “Secret Love”, “Stand Back”, “Everybody Finds Out”, “Secret Love” (demo)

Week 3: “Part of a great romance” — Retrospection and introspection
Reading due: Storms: My Life With Lindsey Buckingham And Fleetwood Mac
Listening due: “For What It’s Worth”, “Rose Garden”, “Love Is”, “Sweet Girl”

Week 4: “Always in and out of your light” — Power struggles and regrets
Reading due: Jane Eyre
Listening due: “In Your Dreams”, “Dreams”, “Silver Springs”, “Bella Donna”
Viewing due: The Dance

Week 5: “In the smoke and the fire” — Fiction and reality
First Chain Links project due
Reading due: Wide Sargasso Sea
Listening due: “Wide Sargasso Sea”, “Fire Burning”, “I Can’t Wait”, “No Spoken Word”

Week 6: “I stare at my city” — Permeable roles and the general maternal
Reading due: Interview With The Vampire
Listening due: “New Orleans”, “Illume (9/11)”, “Ghosts”

Week 7: “The candle burns bright” — Rock and roll vampires
Reading due: The Vampire Lestat
Listening due: “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)”, “Candlebright”, “Lady From The Mountain” (demo), “Sorcerer”
Viewing due: New Moon

Week 8: “The moon never beams without bringing me dreams” — American gothicism
Reading due: Selections from Edgar Allan Poe
Listening due: “Annabel Lee”, “Gypsy”, “Have No Heart” (demo), “Storms”, “Edge Of Seventeen”

Week 9: “I am a soldier’s mother” — Permeable roles and the specific maternal
Listening due: “Soldier’s Angel”, “Desert Angel”, “Eyes Of The World”, “Battle Of The Dragon”, “Freedom”

Week 10: “But you’re so alone” — Isolation within adulation
Second Chain Links project due
Listening due: “Everybody Loves You”, “Sisters Of The Moon”, “Not Make Believe”, “Enchanted”

Week 11: “Like a ghost through the fog” — Closures and hauntings
Listening due: “Ghosts Are Gone”, “Angel”, “Long Way To Go”
Listening to revisit: “Sweet Girl”, “Silver Springs”, “Ghosts”

Week 12: “Love was everywhere, you just had to fall” — Storybook romance
Listening due: “Italian Summer”, “The Wild Heart”, “If Anyone Falls…”, “Destiny Rules”, “Rooms On Fire”

Week 13: “I used to dream that you were an angel” — Resonance of recurring themes
Listening due: “You May Be The One”, “Sleeping Angel”, “Touched By An Angel”, “Street Angel”, “I’m So Afraid”

Week 14: “Deeper than a deep well” — Country music and love songs
Listening due: “Cheaper Than Free”, “Leather And Lace”, “After The Glitter Fades”, “That’s Alright”


M-m-m-my TCONA! [Days 2 and 3]


Love in Las Vegas

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    This is awesome!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén