Tag Archives: teaching

The Limitations of Cerebral Teaching

Teaching literature must be more than just a cerebral affair.

Posted in Donne (John), Edson (Margaret) | Also tagged , , | 1 Comment

Teaching Lit Crit as Autobiography

Literary criticism can be a form of autobiography. Knowing that can improve our teaching.

Posted in Wilde (Oscar) | Also tagged , , | 3 Comments

Think of Writing Essays as Method Acting

To teach writing about literature, think of your students as method actors.

Posted in Bronte (Charlotte) | Also tagged , , , | 4 Comments

A Cancer Patient Reads “The Bacchae”

One of my students, suffering from cancer, has an exciting interpretation of Euripides’ “The Bacchae.”

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Lit Unlocks Cultural & Linguistic Barriers

Teaching abridged classics to students with limited English, this graduate instructor discovered that much more came through than she expected.

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Also tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Teaching Lit as a Public Mission

Teaching at a public liberal arts colleges shapes has influenced how I approach literature.

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How Teachers Can Make Lit Real

The “so what” question is vital if students are to make their responses to literature real.

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher) | Also tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Poetry Is Stupid (But Will Save Your Life)

Reading poetry is a life insurance policy for when things go bad, Housman tells us.

Posted in Housman (A. E.) | Also tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Narrative Drama, Key to Good Teaching

To teach your discipline, turn to compelling narratives.

Posted in Mantel (Hilary) | Also tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Jane Austen Has Something for Everyone

No two students respond to Jane Austen the same.

Posted in Austen (Jane) | Also tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Playing Cards Jane Austen Style

Playing the card game in “Mansfield Park” gives students insight into the meaning of games.

Posted in Austen (Jane) | Also tagged , , , | 1 Comment

World War II Internment Still Resonates

American students of color respond in powerful ways to “When the Emperor Was Divine,” Julie Otsuka’s novel about Japanese Americans’ experience in World War II internment camps.

Posted in Otsuka (Julie) | Also tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Death, Faustus, and a Search for Meaning

The Faustus story can aid one in an existential search for meaning.

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher) | Also tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Steinbeck Makes Microeconomics Real

Economics teacher Steve Ziliak uses Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” to teach the human side of microeconomics.

Posted in Steinbeck (John), Uncategorized | Also tagged , , | 3 Comments

A Poem for Those Feeling Dragged Down

In “The Fascination of What’s Difficult,” William Butler Yeats gives us a poem that will help get us through end-of-the-year workplace fatigue.

Posted in Yeats (William Butler) | Also tagged , , | 10 Comments

Teaching Integrity in High School English

Describing a high school English class that he teaches, Carl Rosin draws on the American Transcendentalists as he insists that his students live lives of integrity. His final assignment requires them to put what they have thought and read into action.

Posted in Whitman (Walt), Wolff (Tobias) | Also tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Day in the Life of a College Professor

I had a very interesting day Monday. Taking inspiration from Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, I thought I’d describe it to give you a window into the life of a college teacher.

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Lit’s Precondition: People All the Same

I’ve just come across an illuminating contrast between literature and war.  Theater director Mary Zimmerman is currently staging a version of the Arabian Nights at Washington’s Arena Stage, and in the program notes she responds to the question, “Are you saying that you believe certain feelings are universal, or perhaps that we share an essential […]

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What Fictional Fantasy Means

Having taught British Fantasy Literature for the first time last semester, I need to think back on it before it becomes a distant memory.    By reflecting publicly, I can share some of the insights I gained from the course. Two major things I learned are that (1) fantasy is an oppositional genre—by which I […]

Posted in Andersen (Hans Christian), Barrie (J. M.), Carroll (Lewis), Chaucer (Geoffrey), Coleridge (Samuel Taylor), Dickens (Charles), Grahame (Kenneth), Grimm Brothers, Haggard (Rider), Keats (John), Kipling (Rudyard), Rossetti (Christina), Shakespeare (William), Sir Gawain Poet, Tennyson (Alfred Lord), Tolkien (J.R.R.) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

How to Write a “True” Essay about Lit

When I wasn’t teaching class yesterday, I was continuing my marathon essay-grading session. I took a break to write today’s post, however, and used a well-known poem by Langston Hughes to reflect on what I was asking my students to do. In “Theme for English B,” the only black student in a college composition course […]

Posted in Beowulf Poet, Hughes (Langston) | Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Essay Grading and the Great Wall of China

At this time of year, I sometimes wonder why I signed up for this gig. Stacks of ungraded essays are strewn “far and wee” across my study, and only the knowledge that I have completed my student essays in the past assures me that I will make it through this batch. In my hour of […]

Posted in Frost (Robert), Kafka (Franz) | Also tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

Regency Teens, Same Issues as Today

Seldom have I enjoyed a course more than my current first year seminar on Jane Austen—specifically “Jane Austen and the Challenges of Being a Regency Teenager.” The title of the course isn’t historically accurate since young men and women in the early 19th century didn’t think of themselves as teenagers. Adolescence wasn’t as prolonged as […]

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American TV, the World’s English

Image from Poltergeist  I am pleased that Jason Blake, who teaches English at the University of Ljubljana, is becoming a regular contributor to this website. As an English speaker living in Slovenia, Jason is particularly sensitive to questions of language. In the following essay he triggers memories for me when he talks about how television, […]

Posted in Mikes (George), Nabokov (Vladimir), Shakespeare (William) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Mending Walls Can Save Lives

Robert Frost’s poems (as indicated by “Mending Wall,” which I wrote on yesterday) have the wonderful ability to move from the very specific to the universal.  One begins with a small incident (two neighbors fixing a stone wall) and, before one knows it, one is thinking deeply about the world–barriers between people, roads not taken, […]

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Literature and Student Life Stories

This post will have to be quick because it’s been a busy week.  I’ve been involved in marathon grading sessions, attended a full day of senior project presentations (including one that I mentored on Hans Christian Andersen), met with multiple students who are revising essays, and have just returned from a session where students read […]

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Donne as an Aid to Teenage Angst

Giulio Romano, Two Lovers Well, the semester is underway.  Yesterday I began teaching one of my favorite classes, the early British Literature survey (Literature in History I).  Along with Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Wife of Bath, Doctor Faustus, Twelfth Night, King Lear, and Paradise Lost, I will be teaching the poetry […]

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Don’t Underestimate Students

I begin my two literature classes today and, as always, am filled with trepidation.  Will I be the teacher my students need me to be?  Margaret Edson’s play W;t reminds me that, if I stay true to the literature, all will be well. W;t, functions in part as a criticism of those college literature professors […]

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The Limitations of Cerebral Teaching

Robert Donat as Mr. Chips The new semester begins today.  Margaret Edson’s play W;t is a useful reminder of where I should put my priorities as I begin teaching. When my career started out, I had a number of things in common with Vivian Bearing, the English professor and Donne scholar in W;t. I too reveled […]

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Using Twilight to Teach Antigone

Having compared Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight yesterday with Frances Burney’s Evelina, I feel I owe my readers an apology and an explanation. The apology is that I violated one of my principles for the website and judged the book by the movie. All I’ve read of Twilight is the excerpt on amazon.com. If I sell the […]

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Romantic Comedy, A Fruitful Oxymoron

I met with my British Restoration and 18th Century Couples Comedy class for one last time today.  I baked them a whiskey cake (I do this for all of my classes), and we reflected on the experience of the course. We had undertaken quite a journey, starting out with the scandalous poetry of the licentious […]

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You Don’t Have to Read between the Lines

Since I have been devoting recent posts to lamenting how badly literature is often taught, I owe it to readers to talk explicitly how literature should be taught instead. In his book The Crafty Reader, which I wrote about on Friday, Robert Scholes lays out a way of teaching that counters the emphasis that teachers […]

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