Jan. 10, 2006
Courses and Syllabi
Dr. Laura L. Runge
Office: CPR 301J
LAE 6389.001 Practice Teaching Literature
Class 1: Passion and Practice
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.
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
Part two -- remainder of class timeWhat does literature "do" in the classroom?
Addressing both essays, answer the questions:
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
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