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CLS 251 — Pay Attention, Be Astonished, Tell About It: An MLA-Style Course

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Mar 31—Jun 2
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Apr 2
Units: 2
Grade Restriction: Credit only; no NGR/letter grade
Tuition: $525
Instructor(s): Charles Junkerman
Limit: 18
Status: Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Mar 31—Jun 2
10 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 2
2 Units
Grade Restriction
Credit only; no NGR/letter grade
Charles Junkerman
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Please note: The course is open to students who have not previously enrolled in an MLA-style course through Stanford Continuing Studies.


This course aims to introduce those who are strongly interested in pursuing a degree in the Stanford Master of Liberal Arts Program to the kind of seminar they would likely encounter in the program. Students will face the same kind of intellectual challenges, the same kind of opportunities to engage in weekly discussion, and the same kind of stimulus to write persuasive research essays. Students are required to take this course for credit, submit written work, and contribute to class discussions, as happens in all MLA seminars. However, this course may not be taken for a letter grade, though students’ written work will receive extensive feedback from the instructor. For more information on the MLA Program, visit mla.stanford.edu.


The title for this course comes from a stanza in Mary Oliver’s poem “Sometimes." Joseph Conrad agreed with Oliver's "instructions for life," once writing that “the unwearied self-forgetful attention to every phase of the living universe reflected in our consciousness may be our appointed task on this earth.” In this course, we will encounter some of the most attentive and visionary “seers” of the natural world, among them writers like Darwin and Thoreau who have helped define modern consciousness itself. We will also spend time with Rembrandt, van Gogh, John Constable, J.M.W. Turner, Walt Whitman, John Muir, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Aldous Huxley, Elizabeth Bishop, Ansel Adams, Edward Abbey, and Annie Dillard.

Charles Junkerman, Dean of Continuing Studies, Emeritus, Stanford

Charles Junkerman received a PhD in comparative literature from UC Berkeley and has been at Stanford since 1983, teaching courses on cultural history from the Enlightenment to the present, with special interests in Emerson, Thoreau, and the American transcendentalists, and Yeats and Irish modernism. In 2009 he received the Cuthbertson Award for exceptional contributions to Stanford.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) J.A. Baker, The Peregrine (ISBN 978-1590171332)
(Required) Richard Higgins, Thoreau and the Language of Trees (ISBN 978-0520294042)
(Required) Aldoux Huxley, The Doors of Perception (ISBN 978-1907590092)
(Required) John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra, Dover edition (ISBN 978-0486437354)
(Required) Henry David Thoreau, The Heart of Thoreau’s Journals, ed. Odell Shepard (ISBN 0486207412)
(Required) Walt Whitman, Song of Myself and Other Poems, Selected and edited by Robert Haas (ISBN 1582437114)