Thursday, January 16

spring semester, 2014

it is not springtime. there are two soggy, slushy inches of snow piled up outside--which, granted, is ten less than there were ten days ago during the cold-snap of the century. though I do prefer rain, I find the snow rather beautiful and soothing in its own way, so I don't complain. the seemingly misnamed semester will inch along to spring in due course. and when that happens, finals and stress will no doubt prevent me from enjoying it as thoroughly as I could, but for now... well for now, the semester is glowing with warm, cozy pillows full of insight and excitement. this might be the best January ever.

German 603 German for Reading Knowledge with Claudia Mueller-Green  
I love this class already. it's different. there are only four students aside from myself. we all gather close around the instructor's small table and do our best to keep our sketchy German near the fronts of our brains. it's not necessarily a full language course, though we've told Claudia we do want to work on our pronunciation and listening as much as on our reading. all we really need though is enough familiarity to translate any academic German nonsense we might come across, with the use of a dictionary if necessary. we've started small--yesterday we worked through translating a simple summary of Johann Sebastian Bach's life. next week we'll be talking about Brecht and Kafka. after that, we'll schedule out a few more substantial projects. Thomas Mann, Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein. if we are especially brave, perhaps some Friedrich Nietzsche. for now, our little textbook gives us handy vocabulary lists and grammar tables. I need to brush up on betrachten, gebrauchen, and ungefähr. ich muss mehr üben.

English 680 Rhetoric, Games, and Play with Dr. Samantha Blackmon
this is going to be quite an odd class too. Dr. Sam says they made her put "rhetoric" first in the course title, to give it more academic clout. games seem to be one of this program's big fascinations. Sam Blackmon has been running this gaming podcast for three years now, she says. there's a gaming lair on the second floor, soundproofed and hidden away behind an unassuming office door. I wasn't sure how I'd fit in with all the much more devout gamers among my colleagues, but so far so good, for this class at least. some of my scribbly notes from our first set of readings include phrases like "imagining unrealizable desires" "emancipation from situational constraints" and:
play = imagination + action
imagination = play - action
I'm finding myself very intrigued by the term "play" and all the many meanings we give it. games. sport. drama. music. it's everywhere. a handful quotes from Huizinga's Homo Ludens are going to populate my everything notebook for a good few days, I think.

English 505 practicum with Dr. Richard Johnson-Sheehan
composition. pedagogy. what do these things mean? what are we going to do about them?  this is part two (or part B?) of last semester's 505 class, but since Thomas is now on sabbatical we get to have Rick as a mentor. Rick is a pragmatist, so we are most likely going to read all the same old composition theory and talk about how we can forage useful teaching ideas from it and use our understandings of the past to make ourselves look good when we go out looking for academic jobs someday.

English 622 Classical Rhetoric with Dr. Richard Johnson-Sheehan 
almost two years ago I took a broader version of this, one that spanned all time and tried to cover everyone from Gorgias and Isocrates to Michel Foucault and Stanley Fish in one very short semester. this slightly less ambitious course will stop with the Renaissance. a bit more time to spend with the ancients. again, Rick insists he is a pragmatist, so he wants us to pillage the old western canon of rhetoric for whatever we find most helpful. these Greeks and Romans may seem thousands of years out of date, but some of their tricks still work. some of their perspectives on language and humanity are still pretty useful and even brilliant. this may or may not be because nothing ever changes and scholar after scholar will be perpetually doomed to make essentially the same (re)discoveries about life, the universe, and everything that everyone else made piece by piece before her.

and of course on top of these there is good old English 106. I've been looking forward to new students and new plans. teaching still isn't easy for me, but I am more and more realizing how important it is. I'm not quite sure why it's so important, but I'm going to stick with that answer for now--that teaching these little undergrads how to communicate and how to think is something important.

2 comments:

Hannah said...

Oh, my dear Amelia. I miss you.

amelia chesley said...

Hannah dear! we will always have blogland. and maybe I'll pass through Texas again someday....