Fall 2012 Prep

*blows dust off blog again*

I will set aside the usual mea culpa here and just say that it's been a long year, and blogging hasn't been the highest of priorities. But I'll try it again, if nothing else to produce a resource that might actually be useful for someone else, if not myself.

So, you missed my first attempt at Chaucer last spring, which I thought went all right--not great, but all right--until I got a student comment that said I'd killed their interest in the middle ages. Not exactly a bright and sunny beginning for Chaucer, I'll admit. But everybody's got to start somewhere, and now all that material exists, and can be improved upon. Especially the lectures, which should become actual lectures at some point, and not just a regurgitation of notes.

The fall fast approaches, and I've got nothing new on the plate: three sections of World Literature to 1650 and one section of Introduction to Literature, both of which I've taught before. WLIT has some new surprises--I'm teaching "Bisclavret" for the first time, and Le Morte Darthur for the first time since last year's "Arthurian Lit" Course. Intro has also been revamped, after students in the spring kept asking "why are all these stories so damn depressing?" Gone are Raymond Carver ("What We Talk About"); Sherwood Anderson ("Hands"); and Flannery O'Connor ("A Good Man is Hard to Find"); in their place are, respectively, Neil Gaiman ("How to Talk to Girls at Parties"); William Gibson and John Shirley ("The Belonging Kind"); and Etgar Keret ("Healthy Start"). Keret and Gaiman appear as options for the first out-of-class paper for Intro as well; Keret's "Lieland," a moral about lies that reminded me of Italo Calvino; and Gaiman's "The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains," which feels like a Poe story written by Stephen King.

I'm also trying an exam-free semester this time around; there is no midterm, and the final exists only as an option to improve the final paper score. Both courses are also using a modified version of my research paper assignment sequence:
  1. A paper proposal, of 150-300 words
  2. A close reading paper--now with a clear explanation of how a close reading works
  3. One (or two) summary-critique-application papers, which combines a regular summary/critique of their secondary research with a final paragraph in which they demonstrate how they will synthesize their research into their essay
  4. And the final, synthetic Research Paper, which draws together all the work they've done so far.
 I tried an earlier version of this in Chaucer, and it appeared to produce better, more meaningful research papers. Here's hoping it'll go well again.

One final bit of good pedagogical news: I will be teaching "Medievalism" in the spring. It's listed as a 4000-level course, which means that I will have now taught every level of undergraduate course, from Freshman to Senior. Hurrah!

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