Saturday, August 21, 2010

Required Reading: The Instructor's Perspective

I'm survived a first week of classes and while I know this is the honeymoon period of the semester, I still feel optimistic and almost excited about classes. For the first time since I moved from high school to community college, I am teaching a British Lit class, so I am back with some of my old friends (Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Alfred the Great). All those boxes I had stored for so long in my garage as useful as I knew they would be as I pull out the materials I've horded over the years (Ah! Here's my King Lear file!)

I've also been skimming and scanning my bookshelves, trying not to overlook great resources. For example, at the English convention last fall, I bought a copy of Gareth Hinds Beowulf. It's an abridged account with exquisite artwork, something like a graphic novel--maybe just more graphic. I'm also locating John Gardner's Grendel and Seamus Heaney's lovely translation, which features the original Old English text on the left and his line-by-line translation on the right.

In my freshman lit class (Literature-Based Research), I am searching through the newest edition of our anthology, Michael Meyer's Introduction to Literature (Bedford), to see what fresh material I might select this time. The textbook is huge, and I realize that in a Tuesday/Thursday class with only an hour and fifteen minutes each time we meet, I can't begin to have them read all I wish I could. I have tried to take to heart, though, a common last year: "Mrs.Posey, are we ever going to read any happy stories." I am looking at the selections that have been added, the ones I have overlooked before, even the chapters that focus on humor, incorporating those into my syllabus. Why not? I know that I love humor in my own reading selections.

With that same idea, I am searching for writing models for my Expository Writing class, also looking for some with a humorous angle. Some of the most memorable pieces I've read will fit perfectly. I've found "The One-Eared Intellectual" in Bailey White's collection Mama Makes up Her Mind, and I have my eye out for a Woody Allen piece I remember from an old Literary Cavalcade magazine called "If the Impressionists Had Been Dentists."

In the meantime, I'll keep reading for pure pleasure, dropping little hints to my students. "Let me tell you about this book I'm listening to on the way to school. . . ." Who knows? They might be interested too.

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