Big Books of American Literature Forum


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Re-imagining the Classroom
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-01-24 13:13:02
Link to this Comment: 4246


This forum is the space for you to comment on how the class is going, to celebrate what's working, call attention to what's not, make suggestions for changes and improvements. I'm initiating that conversation by recording all the metaphors we generated on Thursday morning: for reading, writing, classroom interactions and our roles therein--metaphors which (I proposed) can open up our thinking about the possibilities for what could happen here, but which also (Ngoc observed) can limit them--since, while every metaphor creates a new, surprising association/asserts a similarity between two dissimilar domains, it does so only by neglecting multiple others--
Anne

Metaphors for Reading:
game
duel
food, ingested and spit out
ventriloquizing
reinterpreting
journey (3x, though one specified through the self)
walking down a prairie road
spelunking
escape
adventure
hunting
electrical shock
cooking
exploration
ocean
traveling through time
guide
outlet
peeling an orange
going to a restaurant
temporary suicide
intellectual orgasm
being an archeologist

Metaphors for Writing:
sea
making your own trail
peeling an onion
gathering
cooking
exposing yourself
gate opening
unmasking
rock climbing
reading in reverse
invention
bolt of lightening

Metaphors for the Classroom:
[in high school--regurgitation/baby birds/bulimia]
rowing crew
bee hive
sponge soaking up water
jigsaw puzzle

water cycle
stone in river
dripping sand castles

painting a canvas
growing ivy
puzzle w/ piece missing

Metaphors for Our Roles (in Class):
ivy
human being
gardener
musical notes (in a symphony)
swimmers (in a relay race)
melecules (in a lab)
bristles (in a paintbrush)
lightbulbs
stone (shaped by the river)
floodplain (covered by a flood, which leaves silt)
stone (in stone wall)
food (ingredient in a meal)
bee (dividing labor in a hive)
cat
block of marble
drops of ink (in a pen)
inventor
crew member (of rowing team)
link (in a chain, w/ prof as clasp, holding it together)
vegetable (in a salad blowl)
crayons (in box of different colors)


Co-constructing the Syllabus
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-01-28 21:38:58
Link to this Comment: 4314

Big Books Spring 2003
(Proposed) Co-constructed Syllabus: Sign up to Initiate TWO Classes....
Day 5: Tues, Feb. 4 Uncle Tom's Cabin, ch. 19 (c. 200 pp.).
Day 6: Thurs, Feb. 6 The King and I
Day 7: Tues, Feb. 11 Uncle Tom's Cabin, ch.32 (c.300 pp.)
Day 8: Thurs, Feb. 13 Bill T. Jones and Rodney King videos
Day 9: Tues, Feb. 18 Finish Uncle Tom's Cabin
Day 10: Thurs, Feb. 20 Huckleberry Finn
Day 11 Tues, Feb. 25
Day 12: Thurs, Feb. 27
Day 13: Tues, Mar. 4
Day 14: Thurs, Mar. 6 Walden
Mar. 7-16: Spring Vacation
Day 15: Tues, Mar. 18 Moby-Dick AND/OR! The Scarlet Letter
Day 16: Thurs, Mar. 20
Day 17: Tues, Mar. 25
Day 18: Thurs, Mar. 27
Day 19: Tues, Apr. 1
Day 20: Thurs, Apr. 3
Day 21: Tues, Apr. 8 Little Women
Day 22: Thurs, Apr. 10
Day 23: Tues, Apr. 15
Day 24: Thurs, Apr. 17 The Awakening
Day 25: Tues, Apr. 22
Day 26: Thurs, Apr. 24
Day 27: Tues, Apr. 29 Leaves of Grass
Day 28: Thurs, May 1
Monday, May 6, 6 p.m. Final celebration and presentations


Mid-semester Course Evaluation
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-03-04 11:41:40
Link to this Comment: 4938

Please take a little time, before you leave campus for spring break, to comment on
--what's been working and
--what's not been working in our classroom.
Then ask yourself (and answer in public):
what has been your role in the both realms--how have you contributed to what's been working, how have you contributed to what's not been working...
and what changes might we try, to make things work better,
when we return from break? What recommendations do you have for me, for your classmates, what resolutions might you make for yourself?
Enjoy your time off--and know that I look forward to welcoming you back!
Anne


Mid-semester Course Evaluation
Name: Natalie
Date: 2003-03-05 22:24:58
Link to this Comment: 4959

What has been working?
The class discussions have been very interesting, and have often-times brought out new elements of the text that are important. I like the mixture of classic texts and contemporary criticism/adaptation, and it really does add an interesting lense through with to view these texts.
What has not been working?/What could change?
Sometimes I feel as if the class gets so rapped up in philosophical questions that we lose track of the fact that we ultimately need to return to the TEXT in order to make an argument that will hold up.
My contributions:
I believe that I have added to class discussions, and have really felt engaged by some of the questions being asked/investigated. Conversely I also found that there were some conversations I didn't feel able to participate in, for lack of knowledge or because I really didn't have any strong opinions, and that was kind of difficult for me because I'm kind of compulsive about talking in class (think Jane Tompkin's "Talking in Class"). I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing!
Lastly, I think that I would benefit from having a sense of what the over-arching aim/direction, etc. of the course is, which might help direct our course of inquiry.


classroom
Name: barbara
Date: 2003-03-06 06:54:36
Link to this Comment: 4968

Have loved reading both books, and the class is fun! I also have enjoyed the contemporary readings. I'm not sure I like the separating of the class into two readings, mostly because I feel I'm missing something by a) not reading the other book; and b) because I think we need Ann in the classroom to guide the discussion. I feel so compelled to help the person leading that day, that I probably don't make enough sense and it's too much off the top of my head. I am gradually getting used to the posting system, another big step in my technological education. What do I contribute to the discussion? Not as much careful reading as I want to because it's just so much reading, but I do try to contribute as much as possible.


halftime
Name: Phil
Date: 2003-03-06 17:05:49
Link to this Comment: 4978

Working:
Contemporary pieces in reference to the novels- these have been very valuable in generating discussion
class discussions(at times)/warmup/pregame activities--I really like these!
smaller discussion groups for the Moby Dick/Scarlet Letter split

Not Working:
I think that after the first day or two we discuss a novel, we essentially go through most of what needs to be covered, and in subsequent discussions we primarily re-discuss previously issues. Now, this wasn't necessarily the case for Moby Dick, although I felt like there was a little of that today. However, the contemporary pieces have really helped to prolong/add too our discussions.

The smaller groups worked and didn't work. At times, without out Anne to facilitate a discussion, we lacked focus, but the smaller groups were more conducive to discussion than the single large one.

My contributions:
I have added to the class discussions, though not as much as I should have, and I will try to be more active in future discussions.



Name: kathy
Date: 2003-03-06 17:44:42
Link to this Comment: 4979

Truthfully, I think a lot of things are working in our class. I have never been in a class with so much student participation and discussion. I find I'm learning a lot about these novels from various perspectives, and also learning how to look at literature in a historical and modern context. Something I think that works really well is getting into smaller groups and working on ideas or questions, because it warms everyone up to participate. Breaking up the class seemed like a good idea to start, but I'm not sure it worked out like we thought it would. I often felt like Barbara, in that I was missing out on reading the other book or talking about what the other group was talking about. And our group did tend to come at a stalemate. However, sharing our own experiences or finding out clues to the authors motivation, shed some light on the scarlet letter and was a very interesting part of our discussion. So basically I think the class is working really well.


class
Name: Kati Donag
Date: 2003-03-08 23:34:17
Link to this Comment: 4998

In theory I really like this class. I like the content, the materials, but I'm not sure that it's working out the way I had hoped. I feel like the modern interpretations and texts are extremely helpful, but I also feel like I"m being rushed through the main text and don't have enough time. Maybe this is because we're trying to read Moby-Dick in three week, when it should take four. I think that the class discussion have a lot of potential, but I know for certain that I am not fulfilling my part of the discussion. Hopefully I can work on that. Happy Spring Break!


Shuttling/Friendship
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-03-09 18:36:38
Link to this Comment: 4999

Responding to Barbara's comment that she didn't "like the separating of the class into two readings, mostly because I feel I'm missing something by ... not reading the other book," I'd say I did get the best of both worlds, by shuttling back and forth between groups during the past few weeks. So: here's a little "shuttling" for you all--an interesting record of how Hawthorne and Melville's friendship flourished, then languished.


better late than never
Name: Nicole Mar
Date: 2003-03-13 11:40:02
Link to this Comment: 5006

--what's been working
I think that what is good about the class is the way that we are able to bring the text to the modern day and apply them to our lives and times. I have enjoyed our laid back conversations thus far but....
--what's not been working in our classroom.
but cometimes i find myself asking "what is the point?" not so much the point of the books themselves but of our conversations? I have not read most of these texts and i am interested in learning about them and their authors. I would like to know more baout what literary critics have said about these texts, but when we read criticism we never cover it in depth in class. I am also frustrated with students leading discussions on things that they are not anymore knowledgeable than the rest of the class. I hate to say it but i like little lecture by profs and I like more direction.
--what we might do
I think that it would be a good idea to change the discussion leaders situation. I would like them (and me included) to have a little more of an idea of what is going on in the classes they are leading. I think more professor imput before discussions with the discussion leaders would be helpful. More guidence... as it is i sometimes feel like the blind are leading the blind in this class!

Please don't get me wrong - i enjoy this class - but if asked right now what i have learned i have NO CLUE how i would answer and i would like to have a better concept of what i am getting out of the course!


progress of big books
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-03-17 18:06:14
Link to this Comment: 5034

i am used to the free form, student initiation of our class. my high school was based on student input. i have experienced classes that went way overboard with the student led, touchy feely, thing. i don't think that big books has gone overboard. i love the class discussions: in class and online. i think the group work (splitting into the two groups and also the three/four person groups) is not as productive as it could be. yes, we are all mature college students, but even we need a grade-giver hanging over our shoulders to push us to meet our potential and enable/force the discussions to reach the highest quality.


Thinking about class
Name: Taka Kawan
Date: 2003-03-17 23:20:20
Link to this Comment: 5043

I enjoy talking about the gapplicationh of thoughts into contemporary cases, and I think we have had many good examples. I think that this is the ultimate reason why we are reading these books today. On the other hand, I feel a little insecure when we make these applications without talking about the text itself in detail, since everyone may not be on the same page. To put everyone in the discussion, somehow we have to standardize our baseline, and I think that it shall be done by the discussion leader and Anne. Though I donft know exactly how, one way may be to always go back to the text and frankly talk about how we felt about each scene, before starting the discussion. I guess there is much fancy stuff to talk about, but I felt that the text should be utilized more.


stepping up
Name: Bernadette
Date: 2003-03-18 03:56:15
Link to this Comment: 5047

Overall I like the idea of this class, but I have to admit it has not been what I expected. I agree with those who have commented on the need to return to the text more in class discussion. Generally I think Anne guides us with the text and then we, students, take off and sometimes go too far. I think that the comment about the need for a "grade-giver" to guide and push us came from our tendency to 'go off' from the text, but I have have to disagree with it nonetheless. I think a professor's role is to provide insight and understanding where student inexperience would keep students from reaching further depths with a text or concept, I do not think, as "mature college students," that we should lean on the presence of a prof to step up our own intensity in investigating a text. We may be struggling with a text - but that is good and if we push ourselves harder we will very likely arrive at very interesting and sound analysis.
I don't thin that the breaking up of the class worked very well, at least with the Moby Dick session, because it limited our collective resources and led to those stale mates. Also, I agree with those who suggested that Moby Dick requires more time, and though I enjoyed reading the contemporary texts alongside the novel, I don't think that our investigation or understanding of the novel itself was thorough enough to allow us to fully benefit from the secondary texts.
As far as what has been working, I think the online forum provides a good place for us to individually attack the texts and I have found several of my classmates discussions/musings here to be very helpful in giving me different insights, especially when what is brought up here does not make it into class discussion.
I have to admit that I am not such a fan of the games. While they often help to get things going, I think that often Anne is the only one who knows where the games are meant to lead us.
As for my own contribution - I have been lax about posting but I hope that I have somewhat made up for that by participating in class discussion.


Looking forward to my Tuesdays and Thursdays
Name: Mia
Date: 2003-03-18 05:17:46
Link to this Comment: 5050

I love all the different ways we are able to learn. Anne, I like how you can mix up the teaching style and let us brainstorm, make skits, and "play games" as a way of getting to know the text better. This is my first humanities class outside of c-sem and I was pretty nervous to what I would find, but I really enjoy it. I also like that the discussions are the bigger questions of themes discussed or not discussed within the book and we have a chance to explore what those themes meant for the author then and for us now. The class is a fun way of approaching what could be rather dull literature. Thanks, Anne!



Name: Eric Seide
Date: 2003-03-18 09:23:13
Link to this Comment: 5054

I like the freer class discussions. Having taken nearly all of my classes at Haverford, it is refreshing to be in a more relaxed, less "classlike" atmosphere.


Opinions & Suggestions
Name: Jillian
Date: 2003-03-18 09:37:28
Link to this Comment: 5055

Overall I have really enjoyed this class thus far and think it is running really well. I have to admit that there are several aspects of this class which I am in two minds about. First, the fact that most discussions have no focus and no point that we are working towards. Sometimes this works really well and we get to explore things that are really interesting but other times conversation flounders and its really hard to pick it up again. Another thing that is both good and bad is dividing the class for reading TSL and MD. I liked having smaller discussion groups, but sometimes conversations became stale because there weren't enough voices. I also felt, like Barbara, that I was missing out by not reading both books. I look forward to being with the whole class again this week. One thing that bothered me is the fact that we read secondary sources before finishing the actual books and this often ruins the ending for those of us who have not read the book before. I was really upset to find out that Eva died before being introduced to her in UTC. It might be better to just read the whole book and then work with criticism.
I think for the most part I have been an active participant in class but I find that once the conversation sinks I lose interest and its hard for me to get myself to participate in those instances. I've posted a good amount although I should probably post more.


class
Name: ngoc
Date: 2003-03-18 12:31:24
Link to this Comment: 5057

i am not enjoying the class as much as i thought i would...and i don't think it is because of the way the class run...i have the feeling that the materials got a lot to do with it... i am not saying that i don't enjoy reading...but i think the discussion can be very repetitive...even when new ideas are presented...they're not as interesting...i really don't know why...

whether working in the big group or small group...whether having student lead discussion or not... i feel that it would make little difference if i am not intrigued or inspired...or interested in the materials... is there anyway to spice up our reading materials? =]


Spice?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-03-18 12:58:06
Link to this Comment: 5058

Ngoc, what do you mean? "Spice up our reading" by reading different books? By drawing on "spicier" readings of our readings? Is what you call a lack of "spice" a comment on the quality of the canonical Big Books? (Is "spice" a standard?) What are the qualities that you are looking for in the canon? Is a canon, by definition, without spice?


How we're doing
Name: Nancy Evan
Date: 2003-03-18 16:39:38
Link to this Comment: 5062

So how are we doing so far? I think I pre-empted this with my last posting. I definitely love the theory of the class, but it definitely takes some extra (but well worth it) initiative. I think the forum is a great place to start/continue class discussion, but we have to bring it full circle-- back into the classroom when we can all discuss.

As far as the lull in topics, I think it is pretty difficult to learn how to question each other without offending anyone. One of the main aspects of class that I enjoy is hearing what people really think-- that is, what they say when they are questionned about their statements. This is when people really seem to be thinking on their toes and it seem the less perfectly thought out something is, the more we can use it to faciliatate further discussion. Anne, when you are around this is easier. You are the teacher and it is your job to ask us these questions, but I think asking each other these sorts of things upsets the power balance a little more (or a lot more). Like, 'why is this person acting like a teacher, this is condescending''. This is just something that has to be adjusted to, I think.

I am really enjoying the openness of the course so far, especially in contrast with last semester. I feel like during the Sex class, we really were exploring uncharted territory, and our experiences always had a certain air of discovery to them. This semester, since these books have sometimes seemed 'cliched', 'dated' , etc, we have had the struggle of how to make them relevant, and so far we have succeeded. This could easily be the type of course where students read literature just so they could understand the lecture the next day and write white-bread lit crit essays. Hooray for the course, for being creative, hands-on and (most importantly) completely encouraging of creativity.


A Belated Critique
Name: Emily Fein
Date: 2003-03-19 14:48:41
Link to this Comment: 5090

I agree with the overall class opinions that we talked about in Tuesday's class. As usual, I do not think things are as bad as students have been making them out to be. I think the small discussion sections do have their virtues. I feel less intimidated with the smaller group of students and I think the student leaders work better in the smaller groups because they have fewer people to lead and feel more control over the situation. I also see the negative aspects as well. When the conversation stops, Anne is not there half the time to keep it going. I think what Nancy said in class was true. Even if it is not a conscious effort, I think we all speak more when Anne is around because she is the professor and she hands out our grades. It is nice to think that we are at college to learn for ourselves, but we all care about our grades to varying degrees, which is unavoidable in an underlying competitive atmosphere.

Now the less fun part of this posting: introspection. I admit I am not always much of a talker and I definitely wakeup a little bit when Anne enters the room (could be her loud voice). I took this class so I could read important books in American Literature, and I know I could get more out of it if I worked a little harder to bring more ideas to class and share them more readily. I recommend that all of us try to speak up, and I think we can have better flowing conversations. I think student leaders should tell students in advance how to prepare for the class so the lesson will flow smoother, and meet with Anne before hand if necessary.


an extremely belated critic
Name: Melissa
Date: 2003-05-16 08:26:59
Link to this Comment: 5694

So far in the discussion before break i was having great difficulty with the entire class participation idea. In many of my college classes, so far, there has been little or no discussion and this seems to reflect in my urrent participation. Sometimes even not participating in class makes me nervous because of the way that the room is set up. I hope to soon overome this slight fear and become more comfortable with the group.





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