A few important things about how we teach, and how we hope you will learn:
• Your reading, your analysis, and your interpretations are the main “subject” of this course. We already know what we think: we want to hear what you think. We’ll share what we’ve learned so far, of course, but the emphasis in the course is discovering and creating your own knowledge rather than replicating ours.
• This emphasis on the process of discovery means that classes proceed primarily through discussion. Come to class with the material read (perhaps more than once), and with some questions and/or comments about your reading. Mark up your text. (If it’s an online text, print it out so you can mark it up and bring it to class). Write about the reading. Only through persistent engagement with the material can you make it your own.
• That said, there is a subject matter to the course and some skills for you to learn. We’ll learn new vocabulary as we discuss the ways in which scholars have approached literary texts in the past; we’ll acquaint ourselves with several, sometimes competing, methodologies for the current study of literary texts; and we’ll read deeply, if not broadly, in the literature of our period.
You might consider this class a friendly boot camp for the English major. Over the course of the semester, we will focus on some of the key skills you will need to be successful in your literature classes. Even if you decide not to pursue English, these skills should prove very helpful in other courses. Here are our goals for the semester:
• You will leave the class with a sense of the ways in which literature and history engage each other, and a deeper awareness of their mutual shaping.
• You will develop stronger close reading skills, learning how to explore the nuances of a work through careful study and note taking, and you will have a working knowledge of some of the most important critical terms for literary analysis, both theoretical and methodological.
• You will develop stronger writing skills by writing frequent blog entries and two papers, as well as by doing in-class writing. To help work on your writing, you will write a draft and a revision of the first essay, and you will evaluate and edit your classmates’ essays.
• You will develop stronger presentation skills. As most classes and jobs will require you do to presentations, it is essential that you learn how to do them well. You will be collaborating on a presentation with two of your classmates, and you will be going to the Speech Center to practice your speaking skills.
• You will, we hope, also leave the class with a deeper appreciation of both the works we study and the insights of your classmates.