08 October 2009

Back on the literary front . . .

I'm supposed to be ordering books for my spring classes, which means I should know what texts I plan to teach. Of course I don't know. I have a long list of things I'd like to teach, which needs to be cut down to what we can actually do in one semester, during which my students have other classes (and I have two conference papers to write and give).

In spring, I'll be teaching Arthurian Literature to upper-division English majors. I usually avoid anthologies, and tend to prefer to teach whole works (or large chunks, such as the Arthurian section of the Brut). But I'm thinking that I would like to teach some smallish excerpts from Spenser's Faerie Queene: Merlin's prophecies from Book III, and the cantos from Book I in which Prince Arthur first appears.

Will this work, if I provide plot summaries for the rest of Books I and III? Or is it too in medias res for students to cope with? Sometimes they seem to prefer the whole-book approach, even if it's something like Spenser with archaic language. Those of you who teach surveys and excerpts, please comment!


Anonymous said...

never taught a course like that, but I majored in english and I can attest that as a student, I could have coped. Granted, I was a reasonably bright student, but still. with sufficient context in the way of plot summary, I don't see why not.

I would have loved your class, I'm sure. I was crazy for Arthur after reading sir gawain and the green knight in a survey course but my college's only tt english professor was a specialist in wordsworth so no dice on the upper level courses in that area.

Oh, the other thing I should add, as I'm thinking about it, is that I TA'd a course with a prof who preferred to teach whole works (this was classical mythology) and I'd say that worked really well about 80% of the time. With a couple of works, on the other hand, I think they could have done with excerpts. If it had been my course, I would have leaned toward whole works but probably only done excerpts of one or two of the longer texts.

someone with actual experience teaching this should chime in next.

Bardiac said...

I think excerpts from Spenser should work fine, especially if you set up the context a bit. Or a lot. My sense is that the students who like arcana for the sake of arcana like Spenser, and the rest would be happier with excerpts.

Sounds like a great class, though!

Anonymous said...

It does sound like a great class. I, too, agree that excerpts can work fine with context.