[As another challenging but rewarding semester comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on a handful of moments that particularly surprised me (in good ways). I’d love to hear some of your Spring reflections in comments!]
I first taught The American Novel to 1950 in my first Spring semester at Fitchburg State (Spring 2006, if you want me to feel really old), and in the many sections since I’ve switched out almost every book on the syllabus at least once or twice. With one exception: I’m pretty sure I’ve started every section of this class (after an introductory week featuring two early 19th century short stories to get us going a bit) with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables (1851). I greatly enjoy Hawthorne’s historical romance and find that it teaches really well, but certainly that consistent presence means the couple weeks of conversations about the book tend to feel familiar by now. So I was pleasantly surprised this semester when our final discussion about the novel became a thoughtful, multi-layered deep dive into histories of the Salem Witch Trials, both in and beyond Hawthorne’s book. I’d claim that my drawing of the House and its environs on the whiteboard was the key, but really, as usual, this was all about a great group of FSU students and their perspectives and ideas. That part is never a surprise!
Next surprise tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Spring semester reflections you’d share?