It’s almost March. The time of year (at least in my department) that we get our teaching assignments for the fall semester. Many of us greatly look forward to this, especially if it’s our first time teaching our own courses: there’s something intoxicating about finally getting to design your own class. The possibilities are endless.
Until you read the course description of the class you’ve been assigned.
Continue reading Hacking Non-Romanticism Teaching Assignments
Today’s post represents the ripening of an idea I pondered in the first post I ever made to this blog, way back in September. (Sigh… how young I was back then…) I had been pondering the concept of “emotive reading” as a way into understanding literature—and lucky for me, I got assigned to teach a whole semester’s worth of Shakespeare this spring, the perfect lab for testing my ideas! (Just this morning, in fact, one of my students caught on to the game, stating grimly, “so we’re your guinea pigs, huh?” Bless his heart!) Indeed experimentation is, in my world anyway, a big part of the process through which I learn how best to reach my students, and recently I experimented with an unconventional assignment (i.e. not an essay) that I would consider a success. I thought I’d pass it along. Continue reading The “Play” Within the Play: A Sample Assignment
The traditional literature class does much to perpetuate the image of a hermetic system. The student, in almost every instance an outsider to that system, is to read a text whose value has already been established within the system, whether by a traditional canonically-centered ideology or by the myriad political or historical ideologies that variously motivate literary study. The obligatory reading practice to be adopted relative to this text is one that is oftentimes foreign to students. We demand: the value with which someone has imbued these particular pages exerts an occult-like control over the method of your engagement. This is not a text that can be read from afar, or casually; it requires a scrupulous, an active, a restless and a difficult attention. Close-reading demonstrations and exercises become the incantations that manifest the space of literary analysis. Students enter into this conjure room, having struggled to adopt that practice, and unload the fruits of their labors in discussion. They leave. They refocus. They return. They pour their energies out into the open air. Meanwhile they produce documents, exercises in literary analysis that are presumed to be of great value within the system, and of almost no value outside of it (the rarity with which students will return to claim end-of-semester work the following semester speaks to the degree to which they know this to be true). At the end of the semester they are awarded a grade that evaluates their capacity to accommodate themselves to the expectations of the system. They are sent on their way. They are not asked to return, nor is it suggested directly that they take anything with them. Continue reading Putting Literature to Work