After reading a novel based at a university, take one scene and rewrite it as if it were set at your university, but during the novel’s historical period. This exercise will require archival research on your university and careful readings of the novels. Your scene needs to be historically accurate, but it also needs to evoke the style and sense of the novel you are rewriting.
If you find a novel that is already set at your university (for The University of Illinois, you could read Co-Ed by Olive Hormel, Odd Girl Out by Ann Bannon, or Gallatea by Richard Powers, for example) you could add a scene, or rewrite a scene from a minor character’s point of view. Again, conduct archival research to make sure you have all the details you need to portray your scene accurately.
For examples of student work on this exercise visit our digital archive at IDEALS.
Mini-exercise: Find Illinois’ Dink Stover of Stover at Yale in the Illio
Note: This exercise can be adapted for use with a character from any college novel.
Go to the University Archives and look for the closest thing to Dink Stover in the Illio yearbooks of the decade in which the action of the novel is situated, 1900-1910. As you look for Dink, consider what kind of man he is in Stover at Yale his habits of dress, his background, his demeanor, the clubs he joins, the company he keeps. You might, for example, start on the clubs or sports pages and work backwards from there. As we’ve discussed, Dink changes over the course of the novel. Consider which “Dink” you’re looking for. It is possible different people will present Dink at different stages of development.
Make at least one photocopy of your Dink, to show the class when we next meet. Take notes on your Dink, so you can explain to the class why you chose him.