[It was delayed by a week (leading to the cancellation of Spring Break), and its format may well change by the time this series airs (as of this writing my four regular classes will be hybrid, as they were in the Fall), but a new semester starts this week nonetheless. So this week I’ll preview some of what’s different and what will be the same in my Spring 2021 courses!]
On resisting the
temptation of the familiar and pushing toward something new--with your help!
The last few years my one annual graduate course for our English Studies MA program has alternated between Spring and Summer semesters, and this time I’m back to the Spring, with a hybrid class that will meet in person once at the start of the semester and once at the end (with weekly Google Meet conversations and plenty of asynchronous online responses in between). The class I’ll be teaching, American Art and Literature 1800-1860, was on the books before I started at FSU in 2005, and is one I’ve only taught once before, in the 2007 Summer session (making it the second graduate class I taught at FSU). I’d be lying if I said I remembered much at all about a class I taught 13.5 years ago, but in looking at the syllabus, I like the choices past Ben made, and especially the breadth of genres, media, and perspectives & identities featured therein: main texts from The Scarlet Letter and Leaves of Grass to A Son of the Forest and A New Home; Who’ll Follow?; and secondary ones including paintings, magazines and newspapers, speeches, essays, local color short stories, and more.
I’ve never believed in reinventing just for the sake of reinventing, and to that end, when I’ve found a syllabus that works well, I’ve tended to use it for at least a few sections of the course before considering any significant changes. Given that general attitude, and then factoring in, well, [gestures at everything], it stands to reason that I’d keep this syllabus the same for my Spring 2021 section of the course. And I sure considered doing so—but the truth is, I’ve learned a ton about this era in particular, and about American literature and culture in general, in those intervening 13 years. From individual voices and works like Henry Highland Garnet’s address and Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s “Cacoethes Scribendi” to more communal conversations like the Lowell Offering and the Young America movement to historical communities like the Chinese in California and the Mashpee Revolt in Massachusetts, there’s just a great deal that I’d want on a syllabus like this one that wasn’t there in 2007, and I’m excited to figure out where and how to include it this time around.
In that spirit, however, I’m also interested in broadening the “art” part of the course, in thinking about how to make my materials more genuinely multimedia. And for that I’d really love your thoughts and ideas, all—takes on either particular works, artistic or cultural genres, or websites/projects that would work well in this class? I’ll leave some room to slot them into the syllabus, so I’d love to hear your ideas, thanks!
Last Spring preview tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Spring courses or work you wanna share?