With two weeks of classes left, everybody -- students & faculty -- are just sort of grinding through. The first half of April has been gray & snowy, which has not exactly lifted people's moods either. Because I don't teach until this afternoon, I am sitting in bed with the terriers looking out on the snow blowing sideways (eight inches overnight) & thinking about my courses for next fall. I always do this, at least in a loose sort of way, but this year I'm trying to jot down notes ahead of time. Every fall, 2/3 of the faculty time in my department is spent on a Freshman Seminar that developed out of an old great books type course. We now put more emphasis on writing, but there is still a fairly hefty reading requirement. In fact, we have tried to standardize both the amount of reading & the amount of writing in response to student perceptions that work-loads varied between different sections of the course. We began teaching the new version of the course last year, so this is still pretty new territory for us. Because we are a multi-disciplinary department in an "engineering school," my colleagues & I bring many different perspectives to teaching the first year course. Philosophers -- not surprisingly -- tend to teach philosophy, political scientists, political science, literary scholars, literature, etc. Birds gotta fly. I find I teach mostly fiction, with a bit of poetry. I'm still deciding on the final list of texts for my two sections of the course, but I think this is pretty close:
  1. William Blake, Songs of Innocence & Experience [handouts of Wordsworth's "Immortality Ode," selections from Dorothy Wordsworth's journals, Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, the Garden of Eden story from Genesis, selections on alienation & authenticity from Freud, Marx, etc].
  2. Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland [biographical readings from the Norton Critical Edition of the text].
  3. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper [in an edition with other writings]; Kate Chopin, "The Story of an Hour," "The Kiss."
  4. Italo Calvino, The Baron in the Trees. [Eudora Welty, "Why I Live at the PO"]
  5. Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
  6. Octavia Butler, The Parable of the Sower.
  7. Richard Powers, Operation Wandering Soul.
  8. Gerald Graff, They Say, I Say [a book of rhetorical templates that provides students with ways of characterizing both imaginative & critical texts.]

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

1 thought on “Cycles”

  1. A foretaste….

    I am holding my breath and refrain myself from fainting over the idea itself of a high-standard literary blog.
    Far away from many blogs which strangely look like these endless TV programs which would certainly grow richer by some substance being added to them.
    A Joseph Duemers’s piece of writting as “this ponderously warm manner of saying nothing in infinite sentences”. A tribute to the Verb, a profusion of descriptions, an invitation to unspecified journeys.
    I am writting my first impression over a reading of few lines. Hence the title of this message “Foretaste” as the foretaste that I have of an unfinished reading.
    And still such a beauty felt.
    Well done.

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