First Day of Class

Today was the first day of the semester at UConn. I’m teaching a new class, English 2011: Literature through Reading and Research.  This is a relatively new class at UConn, too. It’s an honors course, meant to be a hybrid between the traditional first-year writing course and a more content-intensive literature course. These classes are usually taught in “pods,” with the pod led by a tenure-line faculty member and one or two graduate students, all sharing a common syllabus designed by the faculty member on a topic of his or her choice. However, the faculty member for our pod (one of my advisors) is on fellowship this year, and not teaching, so I was lucky enough to get to design the syllabus and schedule myself.

But this course is new for me in a couple of different ways: it’s my first honors course, it’s the first time I’m teaching an explicitly Shakespeare-and-pop-culture course, and it’s my first time teaching a theory-heavy course. The three of those together has me really exited but also filled with just a touch of trepidation. (It’s also my first time teaching Taming of the Shrew and Macbeth, but I am less inherently excited or trepidatious about teaching new plays.)

Since these were honors students, and they don’t have the option to switch between sections the way regular students do because of the limited number of classes, I was able to assign some advanced reading. This helps a lot in class with almost two hours of class time in each session (it’s a 4 credit class). I started with the first section of Julie Sanders’ Adaptation and Appropriation, which does a great job explaining the major critical issues in adaptation and appropriation studies, defining terms, and raising important issues.  I paired that with the Introduction of Douglas Lanier’s Shakespeare and Modern Popular Culture (which has the great title of “Where No Bard Has Gone Before”) and raises questions about the specific role of Shakespeare in culture.

And, wow, did my students rise the the challenge. The class blew me away.   I think I had the best first-day discussion (or even second-day discussion!) that I’ve ever had.  My students weren’t just getting the reading; they were thinking about where they needed to challenge the reading, drawing comparisons to things they are familiar with, and asking hard questions. I think all but one or two students spoke in class, but I’m also going to have to work to make sure the students who think well on their feet don’t overwhelm the students who need a bit more processing time.

The Prezi I designed for the class also went over really well.  (you can see it here:  That felt good.

Overall, I am *thrilled* with this class so far.  It’s early days, but I’m really looking forward to the rest of this semester with this batch of students.


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