A recent outbreak of compulsive course-planning seems to have addled my brain--and if you don't believe me, I offer Saturday's post as evidence. I've been mulling over ideas for my fall and spring courses so persistently that I keep having epiphanies at inopportune moments, like during the sermon at church. I hope the pastor thought I was frantically scribbling sermon notes on the back of my bulletin. I'll just shred those notes before he gets a look at them--but first, I'll transfer them to my "spring Honors Literature Syllabus" file.
I can't remember the last time I had so many new courses to plan or old courses to revise drastically. I wrote earlier about my search for a monster movie for my spring film class, and I received some helpful responses that will come in handy as I work on that class.
I also wrote my difficulties finding a textbook for my fall freshman composition class, which is linked with a biology class and full of biology majors. I finally settled on a terrific text: The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011, which features terrific articles in a variety of lengths covering some really compelling topics--and it's cheap! (For a textbook.) I'm thinking about an unusual assignment for a researched persuasive essay: each student will write a letter to the presidential candidate of his or her choice persuading him to take a particular stance in regard to a particular scientific problem. Fun, yes?
And I wrote about finding appropriate texts for my fall Sports Literature class, which is the first of my fall classes to have reached the completed syllabus stage. Now I need to figure out how I'm going to handle a classroom full of mostly men (only one woman in there so far!) and mostly football players (13 out of 18 students!).
But that's not all! I realized just yesterday that the Honors Literature course I'm teaching in the spring is not part of a learning community, so I'm free to select my own theme for the course. That's what I was scribbling about in church yesterday--a list of texts dealing with journeys: Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain, Cormac McCarthy's The Road, plus some poems and short stories and a play, maybe Death of a Salesman accompanied by the wonderful Eudora Welty story "Death of a Traveling Salesman" and Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find." I'd like to take that course! But instead, I'll teach it.
And that's still not all! I may have the opportunity to teach another 200-level literature class in the spring, but I'm having a hard time finding one that hasn't been taught in a while. I don't want to step on anyone else's toes and I don't want to teach two film classes in the same semester, so I've been casting about for a theme for an experimental course--and now I've got it! We regularly offer a course called Concepts of Tragedy, so how about Concepts of Comedy? A little Chaucer, a little Shakespeare, some satire and short fiction and silliness, and maybe even an opportunity to teach the greatest academic novel ever written: Straight Man by Richard Russo. Wouldn't that be neat?
Of course, at this point Concepts of Comedy does not, in the strictest sense, exist, and it will not come into being unless someone writes a course proposal and gets it approved, which will have to happen pretty quickly if we want to offer it in the spring. Somebody had better stop obsessing over syllabi and get cracking. Course proposal, here I come!