My Syllabus

Hands down, my favourite course to teach is Introduction to Literature. While I enjoy teaching Composition, I love teaching literature. There’s more reading and less grading; it’s a win-win.

Every semester, I add a few new stories and poems that have caught my interest, and I keep on a few that I think are important.

Here’s some of the new ones I’m most excited about teaching, mostly scheduled during March and April:

  • Kurt Vonnegut’s “EPICAC”
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” (scheduled immediately before Spring Break. That’ll be fun.)
  • Arthur Clarke’s “The Star”
  • Czeslaw Milosz’s “Song at the End of the World”

And . . . drum roll please . . . I’m finally teaching a movie! I’ve wanted to do this for years. This year, it will be Arrival. It’s a good story, recently released, and probably new to the majority of my students.

A few favourites I’m keeping on:

  • Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess.”
  • Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias”. I’ve been listening to Hardcore History’s podcasts on the Persian empire, so my keeping of “Ozymandias” is partly inspired by that.
  • Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

Interestingly, many of the texts I keep on not because they’re favourites of mine but because they’re favourites of the students, and/or they do an excellent job teaching what I want them to. Mary Oliver’s “The Swan,” for instance, is great at teaching imagery, and the students last year loved it, while Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles” is a fantastic little play that can be read in class to give students more time to work on their first projects.

And, through a last-minute adjustment to my schedule, John Milton’s essay, “Areopagitica,” abridged by yours truly for non-majors. A previous student of mine recently reached out to me, looking for the title of the essay; it turns out that she was going through an experience which made the essay personally relevant. I love the essay but had wondered whether it was in fact relevant to students; the fact that she found it so made me add it back on.

And yes, they’ll be asked to memorize a passage for the test, the same passage I memorized when I took a course in Milton during senior year of college.

I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees its adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. 

Beautiful. Thanks, Dr. S.

Now, if I could only decide what novel to teach!



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