By Reneé Weissenburger
My love affair with literature art began at an early age. As with most children, it began with fairy tales, and not those nice, sugary ones, either: I loved the tragic tales, mermaid foam and all. By the end of grade school, I had formed intimate alliances with Lewis Carroll, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Louisa May Alcott and Judy Blume.
As a teenager, I used these guides quite literally — such as the summer I lugged around a giant pot of basil trying to understand Keats’ Isabella and her tragic love of Lorenzo. I have always been interested in trying to crawl beneath the skin of such characters, to find out what makes them tick, what makes them endure.
While I still love dressing up as ill-fated heroines, I tend to use these texts and images a little more pragmatically these days. Tennessee Williams, for example, is the constant voice of compassion in my ear. Virginia Woolf reminds me how fragile and isolated we all are — even in a crowd. Toni Morrison makes me weep for the world, while Gabriel Garcia Marquez reminds me to marvel at it. To date, I have yet to encounter a situation — no matter how lovely or horrifying — that these great instructors have not helped me through.
Reneé Weissenburger, M.A., in Literature and Writing has worked as an artist for CoTA (Collaborations, Teachers, Artists), a non-profit program that seeks to integrate art into existing public school curricula, and as a literature & creative writing instructor at National University over the last six years. She is immensely interested in the relationship between literature and art. She is teaching two courses in Winter: Magical Realism: Where the Mythic Meets the Mundane and Beyond Image: Using Photography with Other Media.
UC San Diego Extension is also offering a course in Winter entitled Literature, Imagination, and the Sacred with Catherine Guthrie, who will also share view on the literary life in January.