MyAmericanFuture

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

May 17, 2018: Spring Semester Recaps: American Literature II Online



[As another semester concludes, a series recapping some of the wonderful texts we read in my classes, along with some other Spring work of mine. Leading up to a preview of coming attractions for the Summer and Fall semesters. I’d love to hear about your work, past, present, or future, in comments!]
I wrote in my preview post for this class about my choice to focus entirely on short works, rather than the novels I usually use. To my surprise and delight, that allowed the students to really dive into those shorter works, with some in particular receiving far more thoughtful readings than I have generally found when they’re included alongside longer works. Here are three examples:
1)      Stephen Crane, “The Open Boat”: When I include Crane’s story alongside a novel, I usually excerpt it, and perhaps that’s part of the problem; the story’s slow build to a gripping conclusion is certainly part of its appeal. In any case, students had a number of really compelling things to say about identity and community in the story, and about how Crane pits his four protagonists against both the sea and their own minds and fears. I came away with a newfound appreciation for this story, which is a pretty rare and wonderful thing in a class I’ve taught as many times as I have American Lit II.
2)      Sarah Piatt, “The Palace-Burner” and “A Pique at Parting”: Longtime readers of this blog know how much I love Piatt, and believe we should all read her dense, dialogic, wonderful poems. So I include them on my American Lit II syllabus every time I teach the class; but the truth is that when they’re located alongside a novel we have only a few minutes to discuss each of these two poems, and that’s just not enough time to do them justice. In extended Blackboard post analyses, however, the online students could really delve into these poems and their speakers, styles, and themes of gender and identity, and the result were the best student readings of Piatt I’ve yet encountered.
3)      William Faulkner, “Barn Burning”: “Barn Burning” isn’t Faulkner at his toughest (not by a long shot), but it’s still Faulkner, still a modified stream of consciousness narration, still a tough read to be sure. Once again, in my regular sections I excerpt the first few pages of the story, giving students even less time to get into that narration and the world it guides us through. But in this online section, students read the whole story, and really thought through both the narration and the cultural and historical themes, analyzing how the story’s form and content work together to create an immersive reading experience. One more way, like all these, that this online teaching experience will help me further strengthen my in-person classes as well.
Last recap tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What have you been or are you working on?

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