Friday, January 13, 2012

Hello, students.

My analytics inform me that a bunch of people from around the country are googling me at the moment. I'm fairly sure I haven't become famous, so I can only conclude that the googlers are my new students. So this is a post for them.

Hi, students. I'm looking forward to meeting you on Wednesday, bright and early at 8:30 am. As far as I can tell, there are only seven of you. We should be able to have excellent discussions with such a small group. A small group also poses some challenges, though; in particular, you all have to be pretty well on your game, because there's no room to hide. (Translation: if you don't do the reading, I'll definitely know.) Keeping me posted on problems that come up should help the class go smoothly; because we're a small group, we can be extra nimble and reassess as needed.

You may have noticed that I'm not regular Emory faculty. I'm a postdoctoral fellow at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, that charming house on North Decatur Road, across from Glenn Memorial. I've been here all year doing research, but this is the first and very likely last course I'll teach at Emory. Previously I was a fellow in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley, where I also did my Ph.D. Although this is a temporary appointment, I take teaching at Emory very seriously; I'm still in touch with many of my former students, and hope I'll stay in touch with you too.

At Berkeley I taught a number of courses in poetry and fiction, mostly American lit, but some British and French too. My most recent course was a delightful upper-level undergraduate seminar in American poetry called "Didactic Modernism." I miss Berkeley students, but I hear Emory students are pretty great too. You can read some of my thoughts on teaching here.

Are you wondering whether you need to fear me? You don't. I'm not an "easy" teacher; I have high expectations for you. But I also want to help you meet those expectations.

There are a few things I expect you to have nailed down on your own, of course—basic grown-up stuff like doing the reading, showing up to class, and keeping track of the course schedule. If you have a high school diploma (and you do), then that stuff should be no big deal. We will be doing some genuinely challenging work, however, and I expect to need to walk you through a few things. Because I'm old and decrepit (compared to you), I sometimes forget which concepts and readings are hard. If I seem to have forgotten, do me a favor and remind me.

While you'll meet me in my capacity as a teacher, it's important for you to know that I'm also—indeed, primarily—a researcher. Although it may not be obvious in class, my research is an important part of my teaching; it lets me design courses that have never been taught before, and integrate the most recent and interesting scholarship into your education. I don't just want to dump facts or concepts into your head; I want to draw you into the process of making knowledge—i.e. research—that I find so exciting. I want you to come out of this course knowing some new things, but just as importantly, I want you to come out equipped to find out things that no one else yet knows or has been able to describe.

I think this course is going to be a lot of fun. Do you have questions? Lay them on me; I'm at I'd be happy to hear from you.

See you Wednesday!

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