I thought that what [Farmer] wanted was to erase both time and geography,
connecting all parts of his life and tying them instrumentally to a world
in which he saw intimate, inescapable connections between the gleaming
corporate offices of Paris and New York and a legless man lying on the
mud floor of a hut in the remotest part of Haiti.
Kidder writing about Paul Farmer in Mountains Beyond Mountains (218)
When universities start collaborating with their connected communities
(at home and abroad) on the most pressing issues of the day, I have
seen the tables turn in ways that benefit both our innovations and
the quality of our multicultural community. Why does this happen? I
believe the answer lies first in the nature of the problems to be solved
now and the connected question of who becomes the expert. It is hard,
for example, to make progress on environmental sustainability in an
urban ecosystem without addressing questions of environmental justice,
and whose voice do we need to listen to in that case? How do we tackle
the urban epidemic of diabetes even if we develop a better understanding
through genomics of the disease itself, without contextualizing its
spread within the broader questions of race disparities in health?
Wouldn’t we understand
the genesis of inter-religious conflict better if we engaged with refugee
communities in our own cities and towns? It is virtually impossible
to find a problem of major importance to our society in which the insights
of a diverse, multicultural community would not be very valuable to
--From SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s "Multiculturalism,
Universalism, and the 21st Century Academy" (6)
For the fourth consecutive year Syracuse University is encouraging a
new entering class of first year students to read a book in common.
This year’s choice of shared reading is, as you know, Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond
Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure
the World, first published in 2003. Having read the book it would
be easy and appropriate to conclude that Paul Farmer is a remarkable
man, and that the world needs more people like Paul Farmer. In this
first unit of WRT 105, however, you are going to think about the book
a little differently and write an essay that engages with the complexity
of issues raised by and within the book. Consider the following questions:
- Why does the University promote a shared reading for all first-year
- What is the purpose of this particular book as this year’s selected
- What sorts of questions, conversations, and values does the University
encourage you to engage with over the first couple
of weeks in college?
- In what ways does Paul Farmer’s expertise emerge from his
status as an insider/outsider? How does his status
create obstacles for him in his work? What does it allow him to achieve?
- How does someone become an 'expert' in an increasingly
complex and globalized world?
- What sorts of new awarenesses, perspectives, and responsibilities do
you imagine readers of Mountains Beyond Mountains might
be encouraged to take away with them?
After thinking through (and writing in response to) some of
these questions you will write an essay based on a claim that addresses
the relationships among the following key terms: "university," "community," and "expert."
You will carefully re-read the book and select claims and arguments
that Paul Farmer makes about his work and about the world, as well
as claims and arguments that Kidder makes about Farmer, and use them
as evidence for the new ideas you are generating. You may reference
your own experiences with "communities of experts" as
long as they serve as evidence for a claim related to the key terms
and not simply as narrative filler. This is not a personal essay
but an academic essay that reflects your efforts to analyze and argue.
You may also reference Nancy Cantor’s article in Critical
of View" piece on the University website.
The essay should be a minimum of 1000 words, 12 point font, double spaced.
The essay and project 1 portfolio are due on Thursday, September
Please use MLA citation within the body of your essay and on
a Works Cited page, and please include an appropriate title
for your essay.
Invention Portfolio (IP) Contents
but are not limited to:
- WRT105 information sheet
- A list of “little gems” from Mountains Beyond Mountains—that
is, comments, claims, insights, arguments, pithy remarks
that Farmer and/or Kidder make
- A two-paragraph summary of the Nancy Cantor article in Critical
Encounters with Texts
- Notes on your visit to the library
website devoted to the shared
- A notes grid on Google and database searches on key terms (expert,
university, and community)
- A 250-word synthesis working with the two quotations on the top of
the assignment sheet
- Draft of the essay (2 pp.)
- Reflective cover letter
Optional (i.e., Bonus!) Invention Portfolio (IP) Contents:
- A new promotional blurb for the book