Monthly Archives: September 2009

update: collaborative reading on richard sher’s enlightenment and the book, beginning Oct. 11

Hi everyone,

I’m back in town, and ready to get things rolling for our next reading, beginning next week.  How does Sunday, October 11th sound to everyone?

Eleanor, I believe, had called the Introduction and ch. 3; I can take chs. 1 and 2; Laura Rosenthal has called ch. 4; and Joe Byrne, ch. 6.  Any takers for the conclusion?  I figure we’ll do one segment a day until the book is completed, and Rick can chime in whenever he wants.  Additional takers are welcome.

How does that sound to everyone?

Best wishes,



burney collection research assignment on Haywood and Davys

During our exchanges about Laura’s ECCO assignment last week, I mentioned that I’m currently using my trial access to the Burney collection (via EMOB) to break down the process of historical contextualization for my graduate students.  This is  in a seminar on Jane Austen and her 18th century novelistic predecessors, but it also focuses on the most effective ways to teach 18c novels to  students largely unfamiliar with novelistic conventions.

Since many of my students are MAs who are interested in or currently teaching in the high schools and community colleges around Houston, this seemed a good way to organize our discussions.  At the same time, I’m making an argument in this class about the value of undergraduate research and independent inquiry in literature classes.  Interestingly, it’s been my work in my undergraduate classes that’s been most instructive for me as I learn how to rework existing courses.

For this reason, I wanted to start weaning my students (and myself) away from conventional lecture-style instruction at every level of my teaching.  Yet this goal is surprisingly difficult, even in a graduate-level seminar, because of the comfortable division of labor that occurs when professors play the role of the expert.  Still, I want my students to experience first-hand the strategies I’ve been using lately (including course blogs, brief recursive research assignments, class portfolios, self-assessment essays, and so forth), so that they can put them to work themselves at some point.

The basic idea is that students use the course-blog not so much for the purposes of recollection (the deadly comprehension-test), but to dig up additional information and present it to the group for discussion.  That additional material, whether it comes from primary or secondary sources, will then be used as part of our more pointed discussion of the assigned texts (in this case, short novels by Haywood and Davys).

Below you’ll find the prompt for my first “Reading Question” on the course-blog, which takes off from our first class discussion about teaching pre-twentieth and twenty-first century literature to inexperienced students.  Students were expected to do this assignment over the weekend, to discuss their results on the blog in a few paragraphs, then bring in their examples to class the following Monday.  Students will do one blog post a week, and these will be collected into a graded portfolio along with a self-assessment essay at semester’s end.

Here’s the prompt:

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