Advice from the 240s Workshops (Spring 2015)

  • Repetition is useful. Don’t try to cover too much over the course of a semester. For 244: Theory this might mean spending more time each week on a particular theoretical text. For 241: The Text in Its Historical Moment this might mean covering fewer historical moments. So instead of covering four or five historical moments, cover two or three and use the extra time to give students the opportunity to absorb both the history and literature from the period.
  • These courses were designed to teach different methods, and so as you design your course consider what it might mean to focus on methods rather than concepts.
  • A common sentiment is that these courses are much more challenging than the previously required sequence. The fourth hour can be used to address some of this difficulty by focusing on particular methods to engage the students (such as group work, close reading, and various other exercises.) And finally: embrace the difficulty and acknowledge it!
  • Try breaking your course up into different units and experiment in each unit with ways to introduce the material and the order of texts. For example, in one unit of English 242 you might want to introduce the texts chronologically whereas in another unit you might intentionally assign them out of chronological order. Similarly, in English 244, you might decide to start one unit with a literary text and then assign the theory that engages with it, whereas in another unit you might assign the theory first and then end with the literary text. Think of the course as an experiment for you! We’ll continue to have more workshops in the future to consider best practices and share ideas.

And here are some theoretical questions that emerged from the 240s workshops that you might want to consider as you design your course:

  • Is literary history a useful tool in talking about literature? Why or why not?
  • What is the relationship between literature and history? How can we read literature as history, and history as inflecting literature?
  • How does theory change the way we read literature? How can we read literature as theory?
  • What is the relationship between form and genre? What does it mean to teach genre as a concept?
  • What might it mean to teach a course organized around methods rather than concepts?
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About Karen Weingarten

Karen Weingarten is an assistant professor at Queens College.
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