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Dr. Laura L. Runge
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LAE 6389.001 Practice Teaching Literature

Class 1: Choosing Texts

Class Objectives:

    Distribute/choose sample Anthologies
    Meet with Houghton Mifflin - Lunch Provided
    In-class reading assignment - introductions
    Introduce Syllabus assignment
    General Education Overview
    Introduction to Literature, Poetry, Fiction, Drama, and Short Story
    Form Post Groups A&B

In-class Reading Assignment:

Articles in volume 5 of Pedagogy: Abram Van Engen, "Reclaiming Claims: What English Students want from English Profs" and Calvin Thomas, "Moments of Productive Bafflement, or Defamiliarizing Graduate Studies in English," in Pedagogy 5.1 (2005) 1-35, available online through Project Muse.

    Notes and Discussion Questions:

    Discussion Excercise: Why teach literature?

Divide the class into two groups. One group will read the Engen article and one group will read the Thomas article. Give the class a thirty-minute break to read, and set a time for the class to reconvene, ready for discussion.

Consider: these articles are from a relatively new journal devoted to teaching in English studies, called Pedagogy. We will be reading from the journal in our course this semester. The editors write this about the articles I have assigned today:

"In this issue, Calvin Thomas's "Moments of Productive Bafflement, or Defamiliarizing Graduate Studies in English" is exactly the kind of contentious, opinionated piece that we hope will spark conversation. Some of you (like one of the outside reviewers) will hate the piece, no doubt, or be irritated at the tone or offended at a claim. For example, at one point Thomas refers to undesirable jobs as those "at some East-Jesusy locale where you never imagined for a moment that you would even have to stop while driving through, much less live, much less for the rest of your professional life." Since we both teach at schools in the Midwest (often seen as a cultural desert), Marcy in a rural college town and Jennifer at a small religious college, we suppose we're at exactly such institutions, and we disagree about their desirability, Jesusy or not. Yet Thomas asks us to consider not only what we tell our graduate students about the job market and the profession, but what we tell ourselves about who we are and what counts as success within that profession. Maybe, like the other two outside reviewers, you'll find Thomas's piece intriguing. We've chosen to run it right after Van Engen's commentary because in some ways it is a response, since Van Engen's undergraduate perspective values certain qualities in teachers - and in English studies pedagogy - that Thomas questions. Since Van Engen began a graduate program in English this fall, Thomas's piece speaks directly to him - and, we would hope, Van Engen's talks right back" (page 1).

Part one -- 15 minutes
Have a spokesperson or two for each group explain the article to the other group. Be as clear and concise as possible. Accept additions and corrections from other members of the group.

Part two -- remainder of class time
Addressing both essays, answer the questions:

  • What does literature "do" in the classroom?

  • What does the literature professor do in the classroom?

  • What does this essay imply about the profession of teaching literature?

  • What does this essay imply about the practice of teaching literature?

  • What might this essay say about the purpose or objectives for taking this class on teaching literature?

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