Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spring 2011 teaching

Next semester I'm teaching a course on early twentieth-century American poetry:

Didactic Modernism: American Poetry, 1915-1945

This course will provide an overview of American modernist poetry, addressing key concepts in modernism including impersonality, the crisis of representation, and abstraction. Among these, however, the course will take as its primary area of investigation modernist American poetry’s manifold attempts to refashion the way people read, casting readers as pupils requiring instruction. This course explores the ways in which modernist poets construed literary change as demanding a return to “the basics”: a revision of the literary canon, new demands on the reader’s education and attention, and a reconsideration of what it means to read--or to learn to read. We will approach this topic from two critical angles: first, by way of theories of language advanced by Saussure, Austin, Derrida, and Wittgenstein in a philosophical return to the basics; second, through a consideration of the history of pedagogy and childhood in America. This course will prefer lingering over longer bodies of work to reading single poems by many authors; as always, coverage cannot be comprehensive. Students will write two short papers and take a final exam.

I've already had a few people email me about the wait-list. In case anyone reading this is thinking of emailing me with the same: it doesn't matter what you registration status or class standing is; unless you're actually at this moment registered, I have no idea whether you'll get in. English majors and students with higher class standing will be given priority, but I won't be the one making those calls; it will be the arcane Tele-Bears system that does it. I also have no idea how many registered students will drop; that's ESP territory, and I'm not psychic.


I sympathize with students' frustration with the uncertainties of the registration process. This is why it matters so much that students make themselves aware of the administrative policies at their own universities, and, at public institutions like Cal, aware of state politics. This is your university, if you care to help shape it.

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