Monday, January 14, 2013


Today I worked on the syllabus for my Brit Lit survey course. Each spring, I alternate teaching between the first half of Brit Lit (Old English to mid-c18) and the second half (French Revolution-Modernism). To clarify--one spring I teach the first half, and the next spring I teach the second half. I have been doing this for about 10 years.

As I was updating the syllabus today for this spring (which is the first half), I found myself making some significant changes to the readings, which is something I really haven't done much of since I've been teaching the class. Some of the changes are the result of me adapting to a new text. Others were the result of some kind of internal impulse, the source of which is mysterious.

Here are the changes:
  • No more take-home exams. Sick of plagiarism. From now on, we'll do in-class exams which will be totally fair but full of surprises!
  • No more Faerie Queene. I know. I know! But I like to teach Book III, and none of the texts have Book III, and many of the students fight the text anyway, so I'm going to take a break.
  • I'm teaching Chaucer's "General Prologue" in translation. Gaspe!
  • I have gotten rid of the Cavalier Poets in favor of adding more background on the English "Civil War."
  • I have kicked out Pope and added more Johnson.
These changes felt very weird and even a bit wrong and scary, but, at the same time, it was liberating to delete "To His Coy Mistress" and "Essay on Criticism." I know these texts are important and show us things about the time periods, but Marvell really is a bit of a tool in that poem, and novels totally beat out the heroic couplet (Sorry, Pope! You lose!), so I'm thinking we might try focusing on other things.

So there. I am ruling my own curricular kingdom! 

Do you have any favorite texts that are great for survey courses but still somewhat off the beaten path?


Bardiac said...

I think in surveys it makes total sense to use modern translations of Old and Middle English texts.

But oh, I love Marvell's bar-line poem!

Rebecca said...

I can understand your getting tired of the Cavaliers and Pope, and I would think students no longer find any shock value in those poems, considering what they see all day long. Careless shoestrings and neglectful cuffs? Come on! I couldn't teach that without laughing myself. Hee hee.