I know I’ve been totally slack on the blogging, so two posts in one day is NUTS. But I’ve had a lot going on! And I wanted to do a student-oriented post and not just a bitchy annoying faculty-member post, because as annoyed as I am with bitchy faculty-member-related shit, I’m in love with my students right now. So, this shall be a Random Bullets of Crap style post that deals with my students:
- I am teaching a Gen Ed lit course right now, one in which I do not use an anthology, which asks a Big Question, and which is, for a Gen Ed Course that isn’t a composition course, totally writing intensive (by my design: not because it’s required). So, their last paper assignment was a critical analysis essay in which they were asked to choose one text from anywhere on the syllabus prior to the last unit (so from weeks 1-13) about which to write in relation to the Big Question. In the week before the paper was due, I assigned two pretty reasonable short stories, assuming students would choose one of those on which to write. Not only did I receive papers that analyzed stuff from across the semester, I received papers that addressed some of the most difficult texts on the course syllabus. I have 25 students in the course. I got papers on: The Odyssey, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (which many of them say was their favorite text of the semester, so stop with the Franzen-HATE!), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, Philip Larkin’s “Talking in Bed,” Jane Eyre, Alexander Pope’s “Eloisa to Abelard,” Ovid’s “Hero to Leander” from The Heroides, James Joyce’s “Eveline,” and Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love.” None of these students are English majors. Fuck yeah! Who says that students don’t rise to the occasion?!?! I can’t be prouder of the work that they are doing. And now we’re reading Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel The Marriage Plot. And they are really reading it, and they are engaged. And I explained the “turn to theory” in literary studies to them and they took notes. Note: there are no formal tests in this class, other than a final that is take-home in which they have to answer the course question with support from the literature that they have read. Seriously: to this point, there are just quizzes, two papers, a blog post that is totally connected to their real lives, and an annotated bibliography that is about them pursuing what interests them. Oh, and participation, which honestly with the exception of 3 of them is A’s all around. And they are so invested. I love them.
- Dude, one of them, I like to think of him as “facial piercing goth dude” finished The Marriage Plot two weeks ahead of time and he asked to talk to me about it in advance because “he was so into it.” SERIOUSLY. Again, not an English major.
- My Survey of Brit Lit after 1800 students: SO MOTHERFUCKING AWESOME. Animated, thoughtful, perceptive, and just generally amazing. They come in with QUESTIONS. They lost their MINDS at Philip Larkin’s “This Be the Verse.” (And apparently after our class on that on Monday they have no problem saying fuck constantly, which I sort of love.) They criticized Ted Hughes’s “The Crow’s Last Stand” not because they had Sylvia Plath associations but because, “this is so much like Gerard Manley Hopkins’s ‘Carrion Comfort.’” My work here is done :)
- I’m also teaching a split grad/undergrad course on The British Novel. This course has been wonderful, and I anticipate AWESOME student papers on Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Midnight’s Children. Huzzah! (Yes, I taught more than those three novels, but apparently those three really spoke to people. They’ve all written on at least three novels beyond the one for their final papers :)
- My Critical Theory students are… fucking unbelievable. In a good way. In the best way. I am looking forward to a papers in which students interpret Django Unchained through Fanon, Divergent through Marx, Adorno and Horkheimer, and Angela McRobbie, Beowulf through Spivak and Bhabha, Fight Club through Butler, The Awakening through Irigaray and Beauvoir…. and those are just the ones that immediately come to mind. I must confess that in introducing one of them who won a scholarship at our department awards ceremony I might have read part of something he wrote for my class in order to demonstrate to my colleagues that our undergrads are so much more capable than so many of them think that they are. (He was embarrassed and proud: and his comment to me after was, “WHY DID YOU READ THAT? IT’S THE WORST SHORT PAPER I WROTE FOR YOU!” And it was the worst short paper he wrote for me, but it was the one that he turned in this week, and I had it on hand, and it is totally better than most things anybody writes for any of my colleagues’ classes.) Now, my publicizing his writing won’t hurt him at all – it will show off that he is motherfucking awesome and a number of my colleagues commented on his awesomeness to me on the basis of my excerpting of his writing – but I should admit that my motives were kind of bitchy. Because I teach them the things that many of my colleagues all say they aren’t capable of doing! And that they don’t know how to push them to do! But to be fair: it’s all the student. It is a luxury to teach an undergraduate who can think the way that he thinks. He is original and a hard worker and intense about literary criticism. And, as my chair said, “so many students think about graduate school and there are so few who belong there, and he belongs there.” And, as the student said to another student at the ceremony, “I wish that my plan for after graduation would just be to spend my life reading Foucault.” Fucking A!!!! (Yes, I have given him the talk about the horrible job market and the way that grad school compromises your humanity and finances. The decision is his, and, in fact, you can count on me to dissuade him, as much as I will support him ultimately if it is what he decides he wants.)
- This is a great moment to note that BES has decided to leave her PhD program, even though she was doing very well, which is a decision that she has made thoughtfully and a decision that she made without looking for my approval, while at the same time I think she was able to make this decision in part because she knew that I would support whatever decision she made. Dude. There are lots of life paths that one can take, and the point is taking one you believe in. And if you decide an academic path isn’t yours, better to admit it sooner rather than later, and better to make your decision when it’s time to make it than to postpone it because you’re afraid of what your mentors might think. She is awesome, in all ways, and I want for her to have a happy life. We all know that an academic career isn’t necessarily (or even most of the time) a predictor of that.
So that is my student news. Oh, and I’m working with an amazing student on her honors capstone next year, and I’m also working with a grad student on her capstone next year, and I am infinitely excited about those of those culminating projects.