I began writing posts about my teaching plans and experiences because I thought it might contribute to demystifying our profession — and perhaps counteract, just a little bit, the way it is sometimes demonized (or ridiculed). I discovered after that first year that there were real benefits in this for me, and, not incidentally (if less directly) for my students, and so I’ve kept it up ever since (you can browse through the archive of posts here, if you’re interested). At this point, I’ve talked about pretty much all the courses in my regular teaching rotation at least once, but while there’s some repetition, I do vary the reading lists from time to time. And I’ve also strayed occasionally from straight-up reporting to broader reflections on different aspects of pedagogy or extended reflections on our readings, so for me at least that keeps the exercise interesting.
Heading into my seventh season of this series, I have no specific ambitions or plans for it beyond keeping it up and seeing what arises from week to week. One of this term’s classes will already be quite familiar to regular visitors here as I have taught it literally every year I’ve been doing these posts, and that’s Mystery and Detective Fiction. I change it up a bit each time, and this year’s innovation is — finally! — switching to The Big Sleep from The Maltese Falcon. I’ve been thinking about this since at least 2009, when I read it and complained that I found it tiresome: “sexist, homophobic, convoluted.” Rereading this summer, I didn’t love it but I certainly appreciated it more (but yes, it is convoluted, and I’m also still pretty sure it is sexist, though I’ll invite debate about that in class when we get there). The only other tweak is that I’ve cut most of the short fiction: students often remark in their evaluation that there’s a lot of reading in the course, and this allows me to stretch out our time for some of the novels a bit more without losing anything that makes me particularly sad. Today we talked about “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and Friday we begin discussions of The Moonstone. Yes, I always reread it — though at this point I do sometimes skim selectively. I almost never get caught out on a detail I’ve forgotten!
My other class this term is The British Novel from Austen to Dickens. I’ve taught this class pretty regularly in recent years but I haven’t assigned Waverley since before I started blogging. I stopped assigning it because the students were so petulant about it in their evaluations — most of them, I should say, as there were always a few who really got it and loved it. We’ll see how it goes this year: it may well provide fodder for a post or two. The other big change is bringing in David Copperfield as my Dickens option: in previous incarnations of this class I have done Hard Times, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, or A Christmas Carol. It’s our only really loose baggy monster, and it does come right in the middle of term, but I’ve tried to allow enough time for it in the schedule that it won’t kill us all — or kill everyone’s enthusiasm for the class. I’m sure they’ll love it. How could they not? Right? Please? Right now we’re working our way through Persuasion and as far as I can tell they’re keeping up and appreciating it.