I'm starting my new summer course on Tuesday, a 1B on nineteenth-century American lit. I'm pretty excited about it, but I wish I'd been assigned a 1A for summer and a 1B for fall. The 1B half of Reading & Composition is the research class, and how those poor students are going to squeeze any decent research into eight weeks is anybody's guess. Obviously, interlibrary loan is not going to be involved.
However, the thought of eight weeks of Twain, Hawthorne, Holley, and Chesnutt is enough to get anybody excited, and I'm no exception.
I'm trying out several new things with this course.
First, I'm going for a more concrete approach to research. When I first taught 1B almost two years ago, I had students try to engage with literary criticism right away. One unfortunate soul wound up trying to work his way through a hard-core deconstructive reading of Poe's "Ligeia." Of course, it was sort of his fault for not reading through the article early enough to realize that he needed to go find another one; still, it must have been disheartening. Other students, brainwashed by the horror that is AP English, combed JSTOR for the most old-school New Criticism they could find, which was painful in another way.
This time, I'm going to focus on historical contexts and textual editions. It helps that the kind folks at the Mark Twain Project have let me use a beautiful scan of a Twain typescript, which I can use to talk about authorial intention and editing and such.
Second of all, Webfiles is now gone, so ye olde web page is also gone. (I keep meaning to get an OCF account, but their hours are so odd, and I keep forgetting.)
Instead, I will have a course blog, where students will post regularly on their research. I'm hoping that this will get people exchanging resources and spark conversations. I'm also hoping that it will get students researching earlier, because as we all know, research involves following a lot of footnote trails, and... did I mention this class is only eight weeks?
And finally... there isn't going to be a course reader. I'm going to photocopy a few things for the students; apart from that, if they need to read something, they're going to have to get hold of it themselves. This isn't pure laziness on my part; I realized at some point that all the time spent over a library photocopier as an undergrad (back when it was only 7 cents a page...) was not wasted, for lo, I now have library skills. My students are going to have library skills too. After all, library skills are practically the point of this course.
Well -- library skills, plus that "reading and composition" thing.
In point of fact, I have some things up my sleeve on that score as well, but since they involve lolcats, I will say no more.