Review of Week 1: Aug 24 (by Dr. Seaman)
I’m offering the Weekly Review for Week 1, in part because there’s little to review and in part to offer a model for your future reviews. Bear in mind that those will have quite a bit more to cover, since we met only once this week, and that was introductory and committed to discussing course requirements rather than course content.
This week we got our grounding for the semester to come by, on day 1, going over the class policies and schedule and briefly getting to know one another, especially through the first blog posts. We talked about your different expectations of the course and in response to a couple of your questions I offered some initial introductions of the new English major curriculum and the aims and ideologies behind it. I tried to give some sense of the “pretend research paper” you’ll be working on through much of the semester. The first week made me very optimistic about where we will be able to go this semester, given the energetic and informed and thoughtful contributions made even on day one.
[Here, in the future, you will include passages from the reading that we discuss in some depth in class, as well as any observations offered or questions posed by students that directed our discussion in productive and significant ways. Day 1 didn't offer much of this.]
[Here in the future you will include any key terms that come up in the reading and/or class discussion.]
Preview of next week:
On Monday, we will use Ann Dobie’s chapter on “Familiar Approaches” to reading and interpreting literature to extend our discussion last Wednesday of the ways we tend to read in literature classes, and to start discussing reasons for the popularity of such approaches. Do be sure to read “Barn Burning.” On p. 26, Dobie notes that the familiar approaches to reading and writing covered in this chapter have been popular in the classroom for so long because of “their usefulness.” What kinds of “use” do these approaches have? What do they encourage? What do they discourage? How do they assist a teacher or professor? How do they assist a student? Do you see any potential problems, weaknesses, or gaps in relying upon these approaches?
On Wednesday, we will continue our discussion of ways of reading, in particular pursuing in more detail the “familiar approaches” we will spend time with on Monday. This we will do through a couple of chapters from Garrett-Petts’ book Writing About Literature: A Guide for the Student Critic to consider further the kinds of critical stances introduced Monday. Here he engages with academic discourse and critical discourse, which will be constant concerns of ours throughout the semester. I’m curious to see what you think of his parlor conversation analogy. Toward the end of the Preface he says that “Put simply, knowledge is power. The more you know about the field’s issues, techniques, and motivations, the easier the subject is to learn. Knowing ‘about’ provides ‘know-how’” (16). What kind of knowledge is this? And what kind of learning? Throughout the preface and Chapter 1 Garrett-Petts offers tips of various sorts, clearly aimed at a student audience. What do you think these tips and strategies have as their main goal? What is she encouraging you to think about, and why?
On Wednesday we will also begin our shared investigation of a particular literary text, Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale. We will be reading the introductory material provided by our modern editor, Peter G. Beidler, but we will do this with the purpose not only of learning more about Chaucer and his texts but also with the aim of analyzing the ways such canonical texts from the distant past are made palatable to modern audiences. I’m starting us off with the “Introduction to the Text” portion of the editor’s introduction, very clearly aimed at undergraduate students but also invested in a particular approach to editing medieval texts. Consider, as you read, what Beidler thinks he needs to “justify” about his techniques and strategies in presenting the text (originally appearing in various posthumous manuscripts) to us.