When an undergraduate professor assigned Roland Barthes and told me, “The Author Is Dead,”1 I heard with elation the clarion cry of burgeoning self-importance. I was no longer a measly high school student who naively derived literature’s meaning from the author’s personal psychology. No, no, I was a college student now and could refer to The Text as Ding an sich. In fact, by interpreting it, I was basically writing the darn thing! Reborn as a liberated reader, I ultimately heeded the call to become a literary critic myself.
In my last post, I previewed my newest introductory-level literature course, “Reading Romanticism Today,” where my freshman writing students and I have just wrapped up a unit on “Nature and the Sublime.” As Seth Wilson recently reminded us, the concept of the “sublime” can be a wily one to pin down, even for (or maybe, especially for) scholars who study authors that were themselves fascinated by this aesthetic and philosophical notion.
For the purpose of this course, we’ve been exploring the “sublime” by mashing together some of Romanticism’s greatest hits—Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey,” Shelley’s “Mont Blanc”—with contemporary media pieces, such as a recent documentary on the Cosmos hosted by astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson (discussed in September’s post). The paper assignment that culminated this unit asked students to find their own example of the sublime in an artwork they would choose from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The pieces could be from any historical moment, but each one had to connect to a Romantic poem. Here, I offer some of the students’ fascinating finds: Continue reading Reading Romanticism Today: Artistry of the Sublime
In my composition class this semester, we’ve been talking a lot about education: teaching methods, evaluation, structure, etc. There’s a new documentary out called Ivory Tower, and, though I haven’t seen it yet, we read a few articles about it in class, like “The Hi-Tech Mess of Higher Education,” which links panic over the value of education to increasing emphasis on technology. It’s not new or surprising to say that online education is on the rise. More instructors are offering online classes, and more students are electing to take them. Not only will they allow you to pursue your education from anywhere with an internet connection, but many of them will allow you to have a flexible schedule as well. Personally, I will probably always prefer the traditional classroom setting (and my current students told me they would, too), but there are undeniable benefits to an online course, alongside many challenges for those of used to the face-to-face interaction with students and/or teachers. Continue reading Online and Off Kilter: Navigating the Online Classroom