The Syllabus Life-Cycle

Gustatory Romanticism Update

UPDATE (12/13/11)

Last night, the Gustatory Romanticists met for a dinner party and attempted to adhere to the "Man of Taste" virtues and follow the decorum dictated by our various cookery and social experts. (Food is always an incredible way to gather people.) After we dined on red-wine braised short ribs, challah bread, mango salad, black bean salad, apple butter & ginger cookies, egg salad, mashed potatoes, some good wine, we moved to the eggnog, brownies, and a synopsis of final projects.

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New Graduate Course Help

This Fall, I'm teaching a graduate course in Romanticism. The last time I offered a graduate course (2 years ago on William Wordsworth), it was cancelled for low enrollment (only 7 signed up; I needed at least 10). This means that an entire generation of our MA graduate students haven't had any Romantic-era literature for their comprehensive exams.

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Frankenstein, Encore! (Or not?)

I , like Katherine, have also been teaching Frankenstein, in my case in the “Romantic Poetry and Prose” survey I’ve been conducting since September. It’s hard to imagine a version of that course that could dispense with Frankenstein.

For a start, the novel itself enacts a kind of retrospective postmortem on the Romantic period, with its quotations from “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Tintern Abbey” and Percy Shelley’s “Mutability.” At this stage in the academic year, I’m urging my students to look back and survey the literary history we’ve covered and, wonderfully, Shelley herself can look to be doing just wht I’m asking them to do.

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Scribd, the Collaborative Classroom, and the Paperless Blake Class

Like Kate Singer, I too have been thinking about the rise of the Digital Humanities at MLA 2011. I agree, largely, that making should be a hallmark of identifying as a digital humanist but - like Kate - I wonder if making is limited to coding. Building or making may refer to the construction of scholarly and student communities.  Matt Kirschenbaum in "What is Digital Humanities and What's it Doing in English Departments?" makes the following claim:

Whatever else it might be then, the digital humanities today is about a scholarship (and a pedagogy) that is publicly visible in ways to which we are generally unaccustomed, a scholarship and pedagogy that are bound up with infrastructure in ways that are deeper and more explicit than we are generally accustomed to, a scholarship and pedagogy that are collaborative and depend upon networks of people and that live an active 24/7 life online. Isn't that something you want in your English Department?

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Blake 2.0, Collaborative Learning, and Collective Intelligence

For my Spring class on "Blake 2.0," I've decided to engage in collaborative learning and model forms of collective intelligence. I like my assignments to have two separate characteristics. First, I like to show students that they can accomplish great things if they work together. Second, I like my students to produce something of value, something that they can be proud of after the end of the semester.

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Poems to Remember (but how?)

As is all too apparent, time got away from me this semester (luckily the undergraduate Romantics course at the University of Toronto is a two-semester course, so I will have plenty of opportunities to make up for my silence). I have a backlog of topics to address. Right now I’m thinking hardest--because I’ve just handed back the first set of papers and because we’ve just had a review session for the “term test” that will conclude this semester-- about my undergraduates’ relation to poetry and the panicky feelings many, though not all, have when invited to understand a poem as something other than a piece of prose arranged eccentrically on the page.

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Why Teach Romanticism? Reflections on Course Objectives

Diedre, Eric and Crystal have all given compelling reasons for a contemporary "in" to Romantic literature. Diedre's stunning example of a student connecting "The Negro's Complaint" to poets in Singapore was complemented by her admission that she is "(still) a historicist critic." Crystal's argument that we should not let contemporary texts replace the focus of the course on "primary sources themselves," is an important rejoinder to keep historicism at the core of what teachers of the Romantic period do.

How do we, though, justify a Romantics course when we aren't primarily teaching survey or period courses? Is there, in other words, a purpose to teaching Romanticism that isn't contained within a historical survey?

Here's my reasoning.

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Starting the semester and naming names

How to begin?  According to scary statistics that are always quoted by my university’s Centre for Teaching, students are frighteningly quick to make up their minds about a course --and make their first impressions of the first quarter-hour of the first class bear heavy evidentiary weight.  That is not the only reason to steer clear of the defeatism that Arthur Lovejoy models in one passage in his "The Discriminations of Romanticism" essay (1924): "When a man [sic!] is asked, as I have had the honor of

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