Class 3: Teaching by Genre: Poetry, Drama, Fiction and Theory
Jan. 25 Showalter Chaps. 4-7
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Showalter divides the practical sections of her book by genre. How useful is this organization? What
alternatives might you envision? What are the pros and cons of this presentation of teaching literature?
Why is beginning with poetry a good idea?
Showalter surveys several methods of organizing a course on poetry: poetics, metaphors, genres, background,
as well as methods such as reading aloud, lecturing, memorizing, recitation, the commonplace book, writing
poetry, writing about poetry (portfolio), comparison and contrast, and working from what students already know.
What methods or strategies strike you as interesting, compelling and worth trying? Obversely, which do not?
Regarding metaphors, she tells about the example of flowers as a controlling metaphor for a poetry course. What
metaphors might you like to try? What poems would be included?
What are some of the ways a student can learn to "possess" a poem? How will you evaluate this?
How useful is performance theory in teaching? Should we do a session on dramatic training in this class? Who will
What might you take from performance/drama to the teaching of other types of literature? How would you envision this
In teaching fiction, is accessibility a greater boon or bust?
What is the problem with close reading in fiction? What are the benefits? (Evaluate Showalter's instructions
on close reading, p. 98-99.)
Obviously the length of fiction needs to be managed by the teacher. What are some ways of managing the length of reading
assignments in teaching the novel? What are the pros and cons of these strategies?
Think of a favorite work of fiction and how you could dramatize or make concret the experience of the novel for students
(see pp. 93-4 for examples).
How might you use film in teaching fiction? Can you anticipate some of the problems this would raise?
Showalter quotes Dianna Fuss's questions regarding the changes theory has made to the teaching of
literature on page. 106. Consider these questions: "what contributions has theory made to
pedagogy? How has the teaching of theory changed our theories of teaching? Is the theoretical classroom
different, in any philosophical or structural way, from other (supposedly non-theoretical)
If you were to organize a theory class around issues (as described on p. 108), what issues do you
think would be effective or interesting?
Active learning and discussion
Browsing Literature Anthologies
I will bring to class several current and competing literary anthologies. We will take time to explore these
individually and as a group. Our goals will include:
to evaluate the range and quality of literature within
to evaluate the methods of organization
to evaluate the text from the perspective of a teacher
What sorts of questions will you ask of it as a teacher?
to evaluate the text from the perspective of a student
What sorts of questions will you ask of it as a student?
to imagine teaching with this text and its usefulness