This Week In My Classes: Just Keep Swimming!

This post really should be called “This week, last week, and next week in my classes” — partly because I didn’t manage to post last week at all, and partly because if I had, or if I manage to post again next week, the theme is likely to be the same: it’s Dory time!

My teaching posts around this time of year, like those in late November and into December, have a probably tedious sameness to them that reflects the cyclical nature of academic work. As the end of term approaches, it’s like a blizzard of different tasks, big and small, from getting the last few readings and lectures prepped to making up review handouts, and including marking the work that’s still coming in while bracing for the onslaught of final exams and term papers. As I’ve mentioned before, because I have one all-new class this term (Pulp Fiction), I’ve had to create basically every scrap–meaning everything from paper topics to editing worksheets to lecture notes to you name it –from scratch, so that has meant a lot of scrambling. I had been feeling kind of discouraged about this class, but in the last week or so I got a bit of positive feedback about it, which helped a lot, and also heard from a few students about how much they’d enjoyed Lord of Scoundrels. Score one for my team! I’m teaching it again next winter: it will be much easier, logistically anyway.

This has not been such a problem in 19th-Century Fiction, except that this is my first time including Adam Bede, so that meant both new materials and tweaks to existing ones to integrate it. Also, the additional students I blithely admitted (in a fit of altruism, I raised the cap on the class from our standard of 36 for upper-level classes to 50, so everyone on the waiting list could take it) meant at least 30 additional hours of work over the term — which was fine, really, as I was happy to have more interested students participate, but it has added up. As I said when I made the call, though, the more people who read Adam Bede the better! It’s my small way of contributing to the growing good of the world. I’m not so convinced reading Tess is a means to that end, but I have to give Hardy credit: for all his terrible sentences, he provokes more impassioned responses than almost any other author I teach.

Anyway, the unusual silence here mostly reflects just how busy I’ve been, along with how tired I’ve been feeling when the work is done — too tired to do much good reading, too tired to do much extra writing. The reading I’ve done outside of work has mostly been light: I just finished both of Lucy Parker’s contemporary romances set in the London theater scene, for instance, both of which I really enjoyed. As much as the stories, I liked the inside look at play production: I guess this continues my habit of enjoying both romance and mystery especially when there’s “neepery” involved.

Another reason for the lapse in my blogging is that we’ve been struggling with some technical problems at Open Letters (if you have visited the site recently, you may have noticed it either loading very slowly, or not loading at all). We are working away at fixing this — I say “we,” but I admit I’m not able to help much. In fact, all of the editors are a bit out of our depth when the problems are too far below the surface of our WordPress template, but we are making progress and, best of all, have a lead on someone trustworthy with more technical expertise than any of us, in whom we have now invested all our hopes and dreams! It is a particularly good issue of Open Letters this month, I think, so it is really frustrating knowing that has been less accessible. Happily, for me at least, Novel Readings does not seem to have been affected, or at least not in the same way.

So that’s what’s up! Not much, and I do wish I had more of interest to say, and especially more good reading to write about. That time is coming, though. I can see it, through the mists! Spring is coming too, I think, though it’s still a bit early to be too confident about that.

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3 Responses to This Week In My Classes: Just Keep Swimming!

  1. lawless says:

    for all his terrible sentences, he provokes more impassioned responses than almost any other author I teach.

    That may be why I have what seems like an unfashionable love for his novels.

  2. Bookertalk says:

    That additional intake means a lot of extra marking work so not surprising you’re tired. Whats been the reaction to Adam Bede?

    • Rohan Maitzen says:

      We had some really good discussions about Adam Bede, I thought, and some students were clearly really taken with it, though I think (as is typical with Eliot’s fiction) it was a bit too dense or slow paced for others to really appreciate it. I had some students in the class who had already studied both Middlemarch and The Mill on the Floss, so that no doubt gave them an edge in knowing how to read her prose. I would definitely assign it again, though: even if some students struggled a bit with it, I bet they struggled less than they would have with Middlemarch in the time I would have allotted it.

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