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Thursday, December 15, 2022

December 15, 2022: Fall Semester Moments: Hughes and the Blues

[This semester went fast, felt slightly more familiar than the very strange last couple years, and featured some wonderful individual moments that exemplified why I do what I do. So this week I’ll highlight one such moment from each class—share your own Fall moments in comments, please!]

On a student paper that quite simply blues me away (sorrynotsorry).

As part of this same semester recaps series four years ago, I wrote about a particularly excellent student paper produced in that semester’s section of American Literature II online. I’d like to think that I’ve gotten a lot better as an online teacher over the years and sections since (I teach one online class every semester, alternating between that survey and The Short Story), but the bottom line has remained roughly the same: a great deal of my goal in these online courses, more so than in in-person classes where collective discussions are far more possible, is to help the students produce the best individual work they can. That means every student and every assignment, to be sure, but if I can get even one paper a semester that rivals the Sui Sin Far one about which I wrote in that 2018 post, I’ll feel pretty darn good. And I’m happy to say that in this semester’s section of American Lit II online I got one of the very best student papers I’ve received, a stunning close reading of Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues” as an expression of 1920s African American community.

Honestly, I don’t have too much more to say about that, so in lieu of a second paragraph I’ll ask you to check out this amazing video of Hughes reciting his poem accompanied by a blues band. The enjoyment that video provides parallels quite closely how much I loved reading this student paper—if I can get that feeling just once in every online course, you best believe I’ll keep volunteering to be one of our department faculty who teach them.

Last semester moment tomorrow,


PS. Fall moments you’d share?

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