Thursday, July 26, 2007

Time, Math, Hybrids, and Other Related Material

The approach to American Literature here is going to be different than my old approach. One reason for that is that, with the four-class block schedule, each class is eighteen weeks. Where, in the past, English 11 (American Lit) was a year-long class, meeting five days a week for fifty minutes a day, at my new school, American Lit is an elective that meets five days a week for ninety minutes a day. If we may venture into the realms of math, that means that whereas my class used to meet for 250 minutes/week, my new class meets for 450 min/week. Sounds great, right? However, over the course of eighteen weeks, my new class will meet for (pausing to enter some #s into the calculator) 8100 minutes. My old class would meet for 9000 over the thirty-six week school year. That's the equivalent of 18 fewer class meetings. So, that's like three weeks worth of classes that I won't be teaching.

Not to mention the fact that, with ninety-minute classes over a shorter period of time, I can't expect students to do an equitable amount of reading outside of class, which means: more reading time in class. So, that cuts into the time I have to cover material.

As well, my new school is trying to change its approach to American Literature, focusing on its "hybridity." What is "hybridity," you ask? Well, it appears that in this approach American literature (which is referred to, rightly, as US literature, since "America" includes Canada, all the Central and South American countries, the Caribbean, and other territories) is looked upon as a collection of texts that synthesize (or hybridize) multiple cultures. In the creation of US literature, these texts are in dialogue about several things (in this approach, the focus seems mostly historical/socio-cultural--the texts converse upon power issues and other related social issues: justice, fairness, dominance, etc.). Of course, they also converse about textual and literary issues, but that idea seems less important in the scope of this approach.

So, the development of the course will not be chronological, which is what I am used to. It will include writers of many backgrounds, which is the same as I have always done, but the presentation of the texts will hinge on a thematic frame work (i.e., community, identity, etc.), rather than a timeline that might demonstrate the development of US literature over time.

This is a shift in thought and focus (sort of), for me. I am not discounting this hybridity approach at this point. I do feel some resistance to it, but that is most likely a natural response to being asked to change my approach. The issue I am struggling with is the incorporation of the text study aspects of the course as an integral part of the thematic focus. I will figure it out, I'm sure, but that is the cross-beam that I can't quite hew out for this plan, yet. I am coming from a past experience in which my course and my approach was socio-historical--that shouldn't be too much of a shift, but this approach seems to change the focus of that approach. I just haven't put my finger on how, just yet.

On one level, the differences are not very great. My old approach had a great deal to do with the texts as artifacts of the time and place they were from, and multiple perspectives (from writers of various backgrounds) helped illuminate the perspectives and power structures of the US culture of the time. This new approach, however, has much to do with the dialogue between texts and eliminating any sense of a "dominant culture." That may not be wholly true, since it acknowledges that there are power structures (and attempts to investigate and reconfigure them), but it gives more voice, perhaps to what have been historically (though less and less as time moves forward) considered "fringe" texts. A decidedly anti-canon approach that tries to eliminate the sense that multicultural literature is a genre unto itself, or is just a discrete section of the greater (Eurocentric) topic of US literature. This is all good. But there is still a sense of somehow throwing out the baby with the bath water in my mind. Ultimately, in my classroom, I guess I do have some control of how the approach is, well, approached.

It's funny. I feel resistant to it, but I also feel excited to be doing something different, and eager to make it work. I'm not so cynical yet that I will dismiss all change as pointless. I will try it first...then I will dismiss it as pointless.

It is T-minus 22 hours until the arrival of our boys parental units. I may be keeping you abreast. I may just wait until the smoke clears and give you a recap. Keep checking the Bat Channel....


Jami said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
comoprozac said...

I was going to comment on your post, but Jami's comment caught my eye...I'm very ADD when music is involved.

Jami said...


White Rabbits are playing in Columbia on September 11th. I am not sure what day that is but perhaps you want to think about a road trip? Just something to think about.

Jami T.

Jami said...

Hey Comoprozac,

I just read Pete's post in GO and it looks like there is a lot to look forward to in the upcoming months. We went to see Beta or VHS last week...not a great show but it served to break a dry spell. I am wondering if the Polyphonic Spree will be sold out next week? Any thoughts on that show.

Jami T.

ATR said...


I am intrigued....


I know.

bgovjtao! (It's like Serbian meets Mandarin.)

Anonymous said...

It's so interesting to hear about your teaching and the underpinnings. I have to admit, though, that I probably didn't fully understand it. Some of that may be because I haven't been trained as a teacher, surely. However, I'm sad to say that I've never had a really good American or US literature class. I think it would be fun to take your class somehow! Do you think you might ever go on tour or take your show online?

I hope you have a great visit with the fam! Please give them my love.


comoprozac said...

I don't beleive the Spree will sell-out until maybe that night with the students gone. I'm heading to St. Louis to see Interpol that night.