Friday, January 16, 2015
January 16, 2015: Spring 2015 Previews: Independent Studies
[With the start of a new semester comes all the new opportunities and possibilities provided by a fresh group of courses. In this week’s series I’ll highlight a few of those semester plans, among a couple other things on my Spring 2015 radar. I’d love to hear about your spring plans and goals in comments!]
On what three kinds of independent student work add to my semesters and perspective.
This spring, I’ll have the chance to direct my fourth Interdisciplinary Studies (IDIS) Capstone project. Students majoring in IDIS at Fitchburg State are required to produce a senior project that combines three different disciplines; this past semester, for example, I worked with a student who combined English Studies, Art, and Comm/Media to create the first pages of an amazing graphic novel based on the King Arthur legend. My spring student will be bringing together English Studies, Early Childhood Education, and Psychology to study children’s books and their impacts on our individual and communal identities. Each of my Capstone experiences has been revelatory for me, opening my eyes to new ways to combine these disciplines and see our world, and I look forward to seeing where this one takes both the student and me!
I’ll also be directing a different kind of individual undergraduate work this spring: an independent study, where a talented and dedicated student works with me to create a semester’s syllabus investigating a topic of interest to him or her. This student, whom I’ve taught in two prior courses and who is one of the couple best undergraduates I’ve worked with in my career, is hoping to apply to PhD programs next year and wanted to fill in one of the gaps in his coursework to date: Modernist American poetry. To say that I’m excited for the chance to spend a semester talking about Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein, H.D. and Marianne Moore, T.S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams, and the Harlem Renaissance poets (among others) would be to understate the case. But in truth, I’m much more excited still to see how this student responds to these poets, and how my own perspective on them grows and deepens through his work and our conversations. I’ll keep you posted!
Finally, I will be working this spring with two graduate students who are completing their Master’s theses in our M.A. in Literature program. By complete coincidence, the two theses are interestingly complementary: one student is re-reading Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as an immigrant novel through connections to a number of 21st century such novels; and the other is analyzing Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as a new kind of immigrant fiction, one informed by the genre of autoethnography as well as many only formal and stylistic trends. Compared to any of these other kinds of independent work, graduate theses are far more truly individual, and I see my role mainly as reading and responding to their work and ideas, rather than providing the kinds of more overt direction I do in the undergraduate cases. Which also means that I learn at least as much from the process each time as I contribute to it—and I can’t wait to see what I will learn about these past and present texts and their social and cultural contexts from these two strong students.
Final preview this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Spring plans you’d share?