Saturday, December 16, 2017
December 16-17, 2017: Spring 2018 Previews
[As another semester comes to a close, I spent the week reflecting on some complex moments and questions related to Teaching under Trump (trademark AmericanStudier!). Leading up to these first thoughts on Spring 2018 classes and work!]
On plans for three Spring courses and one big project.
1) 19th Century African American Literature: I’m very excited to have the chance to teach the first half of our two-part Af Am Lit survey for the first time. To some degree I see my job in such a course as just sharing as many wonderful and important writers and texts with the students as possible, from foundational figures like Wheatley (it’s a long 19th century, okay?!) and Douglass to under-read folks like David Walker and Harriet Jacobs, and right up through turn of the 20th century greats like Chesnutt and Pauline Hopkins. But I also want to use a culturally focused course like this to ask the students to consider such vital subjects as identity and heritage, place and language, and more, and to that end am especially excited to be connecting the course to my colleague Kisha Tracy’s ongoing Cultural Heritage Project. Should be a really wonderful and inspiring addition to my Spring all the way around!
2) My Second Online Course: As I wrote as it was wrapping up, my first time teaching an all-online course went better than I had expected, although it was not without its distinct challenges to be sure. I expect both of those trends to continue when I teach my second such class this Spring, but with a couple important differences related to the specific course in question, American Literature II. For one thing, this is a class I’ve taught many many times before (I had never taught the Short Story course before the online version), and so it will be a matter of how to transfer it to the all-online setting most smoothly and successfully. For another thing, a survey class requires more historical information and context, and thus (as I’ve written about elsewhere) the need for more professorial lectures than I generally prefer; I have to admit being unsure about the best way to deliver such information to students in an online class. Any thoughts on that, as on all my topics here of course, would be very much appreciated!
3) English Studies Senior Capstone: I’ve taught our departmental capstone course many times as well, and this version should be relatively similar to the last iteration (at least in terms of the syllabus and readings/materials; this is a very individualized course and so changes greatly with each community of students). But at the same time, and as this entire week’s series of posts has indicated, the nation and world feel drastically different than they did during that Spring 2016 prior Capstone class of mine. Some of our particular readings, especially Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah (2013), might naturally lead us toward contemporary social and political topics and discussions. But on a broader level, what does it mean to prepare graduating students for their next steps and futures in the age of Trump? Another one of those teaching questions for which I don’t have any definite answers, but with which a class like this will most certainly have to grapple.
4) The Book!: One place where I’ll unquestionably be doing such grappling this Spring is my continued work on my fifth book, Exclusion & Inclusion: The Battle to Define America. It’s possible that my agent Cecelia Cancellaro and I will have news about the book by then, and of course if we do you know I’ll find a way to pass it along in this space. But regardless of where the project stands, I’ll be continuing to plug away, to write about histories and stories of exclusion and inclusion and in so doing to try to do what I can to challenge the worst and contribute to the best of America in Spring 2018.
Next series starts Monday,
PS. Spring plans or possibilities you’d share?