MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Friday, November 18, 2011

November 18, 2011: Kids Say the Darnedest Things 5

[The best way I can think of to respond to the Penn State situation is to focus for this week’s blog posts on a few of the many very impressive voices and ideas my students have shared over the years, to exemplify some of the best about what both college and young people have to offer. This is the fifth and final entry in that series.]
Just ‘cause I don’t want to dwell only in the past—historical fiction love notwithstanding—here are five reasons (connected to the five courses I’m teaching in the spring) I’m expecting more impressive student voices in the near future:
1)      Another Turn: My grad class this spring will be our department’s required Literary Theory: Practical Applications, which I’ll be teaching for the third time. I start the class with Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw (1898), and explicitly ask for them for the first discussion not to read any of the edition’s peripheral materials (biographical, historical, theoretical) and instead only to bring their own ideas about the text. Each of those first two times with the class that discussion has been incredibly fun, and incredibly different in each case, so I’m very excited for the third!
2)      I Love the 80s!: The Introduction to AmericanStudies course I helped create here at FSU focuses on the 1980s, as a case study in applying a variety of methodologies, analyzing different kinds of texts and media, working with all sorts of contexts, connecting their own identities (they do a version of the multigenerational family history project I wrote about on Wednesday), and so on. This class is officially team-taught by both English and History faculty, but this semester I didn’t get to team-teach it with my History colleague, so I’m doubly excited to get back in there and hear the many interesting and provocative ways the students respond to our cultural, historical, literary, multimedia, and personal topics.
3)      Capping it Off: This semester I’ve had the chance for the first time to teach (two sections of) our departmental Capstone course, which brings together English majors from across our different tracks. There are a variety of purposes: getting them to reflect on their experiences and assemble their senior portfolio; helping model the different sides to our discipline, including texts that represent each track; talking about their future plans and goals and working on material to help them get there. But for me, the best effect has been just to get to know these 33 senior English majors much more fully than I otherwise would have—and I can’t wait to meet and hear from the spring’s group of 16!
4)      (and 5) My fourth and fifth classes are two I’ve taught a good bit—the second half American literature survey (1865 to the present) and an upper-level course in the American Novel to 1950. I’ve stocked the syllabi in each case with books and authors that I love, so it’s far from a chore for me to come back to these courses for another go. But even more than that, and even more than hearing new batches of student responses to and ideas about these authors and readings, I’m particularly excited to teach the two classes at the same time, and to see how the overlaps and interconnections and conversations across them (and thus the student voices in each) help me to keep figuring out my own voice and ideas.
Can’t wait! More this weekend,
Ben
PS. Any classes or work or experiences to which you’re looking forward right now?

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