Literature Seminar

I am currently teaching a 7 week long literature seminar. The course focuses on Canadian and American literature from the 20th century. I have included here an outline of the course for those who are interested.

I have a background in modern literature and am available to teach courses in American, Canadian and British literature. I have also been expanding my knowledge of post-colonial literatures from Africa, South Asia and South America.

Canadian-American Literature Course

Introduction:

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to a small collection of books and one play that are considered modern literary classics. As the instructor, I have read each of these books and I have also taught several of them in a public school setting. I am personally familiar with each work and can vouch for their literary quality.

The books:

I have selected six books and one play. Three novels are Canadian, two novels are American, 1 is British and there is one play written by an American playwright. I am looking to give each student a sampling of great literature. Also, a number of the books on this list are frequently taught to high school students in both Canada and the United States.
The books I have chosen are:
1.) As For Me And My House by Sinclair Ross
2.) Son of a Smaller Hero by Mordecai Richler
3.) Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock
4.) As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
5.) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
6.) The Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
7.) Lord of the Flies by William Golding

All of these books are available for free through the London Public Library System or the Western University Libraries.

Goals:

I would like each student to come away from this course with a feeling that they have received a strong (and enjoyable) introduction to great works of 20th century literature written in the English language.
The books I have selected are challenging and I expect that each student will approach the reading of these works with a sense of commitment and a desire to engage the manifold meanings and ideas each work introduces.
When the course is completed each student will have read literature they likely would have encountered in any public or private high school. These books are also important because they will help students broaden their cultural literacy.

Expectations:

Since this is a seminar course it will be structured around weekly hour-long discussions of the assigned reading. Every student (and the instructor) will come to class prepared to discuss the material and participate in a disciplined, courteous and friendly discussion of a set of questions prepared either by the instructor or one of the students.
Each week a different student will be assigned a book that will be under their “supervision.” They will be expected to prepare a set of questions that will structure our discussion for that week. I expect each student to have their questions prepared the night before we meet so they can email each one of us a copy one day in advance of class meeting time. I also expect that each one of us (the instructor included) will come to class having read over the prepared questions. It is my intention that we arrive having already thought about the questions we are expected to be able to answer.

Discussion:

I will moderate the discussions each week using the questions that have been prepared. I plan on participating in this activity myself and will provide each student with a set of questions for our first week of class. Students should come to our first session having read the assigned book for week 1: As For Me And My House by Sinclair Ross.
It is very important that each student come prepared; the success of this course depends on their efforts. I also expect each student to be courteous, respectful, and not to interrupt while another person is talking. In other words, basic rules of etiquette apply.
I believe very strongly in encouraging questions and discussion. There is no such thing as a foolish question. However, I expect that students will do their work and that their participation will reflect their efforts at preparedness.

Discussion Questions:

Each week a select student (or the instructor) will provide a minimum of 10 questions for discussion. Of course, we cannot guarantee that all 10 questions will be taken up (or answered) during class time. The purpose of the 10 question requirement is to ensure that students come prepared to keep a discussion going for the full hour.
It is important to keep in mind that good questions are based around discussions of theme, plot, character development, use of language, narrative style and other forms of literary mechanics that students may pick up on while reading. We want to avoid yes/no questions or simple inquiries that can easily be answered and do not invite discussion. In other words, questions should be broad, challenging, and seek to engage the text at a deeper level of understanding. This is a very good skill to learn because teachers and professors will expect this more and more as students move through high school and enter college or university.
Paper Assignment:
There will be one paper assignment due on the final day of class. The assignment is as follows: Students will pick one book and write a 5 page paper discussing one of two possible topics:
1.) What is the role of the main character in the telling of the story? Discuss how the main character either makes things happen or has things happen to him/her. Explain how the author’s use of the main character impacts the development of the plot.
2.) Is there a message to this work? Does it have a moral? Is it an allegory? If so, explain what you think the message is citing (and discussing) examples from the book.
There is also a third and more challenging option:
3.) Pick three books that we read and write a paper explaining how you think these works are related. Do they share a common theme? Are the works in some way a form of social or even political commentary? Do the authors appear to share a common perspective on modern problems? Support your argument using examples from all three books.