Friday, March 25, 2011

Teaching Lit: Scaring the Crap Out of Students a Class at a Time

It's that time again! We've just changed over from one academic term to the next, which means I'm rolling out new literature to new batches of students. This past term, I taught a Literature and Film independent study. My two students were great, and we had a good time discussing film in general. We read some selections from Stephen King's Different Seasons and Reginald Rose's classic play, Twelve Angry Men.

This term is going to be even MORE fun as I'm teaching another independent study, this time over Science Fiction and Fantasy. I'm also teaching a general Introduction to Lit class, which is a whole section of students--not an independent study.

Wanna know what I've decided to terrorize my students with??! Check it out...

Introduction to Literature:

Short Stories and Essays:
  • "Coming to an Awareness of Language" by Malcolm X
  • "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains" by Ray Bradbury
  • "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin
  • "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates
  • "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor
  • "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker
  • "Today's Demon: Magic" by Lynda Barry (comic)
  • "Good Country People" by Flannery O'Connor
And WHOA, I'm seeing the male-writer-gap now. I still have some things to fill in, I just don't know what I'll use to flesh this out. Stay tuned!

Poetry for Intro to Lit:
  • The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats
  • “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot
  • “Totem” by Ted Hughes
  • “Jilted” by Sylvia Plath
  • "Mad Girl's Love Song" by Sylvia Plath
  • “my old man” by Charles Bukowski
  • “Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy
  • “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen
  • "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams
  • "In a Station of the Metro" by Ezra Pound
  • "Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins
  • Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare
  • "Tyger! Tyger!" by William Blake
  • "Howl" by Allen Ginsburg
And I'm sure I'll jam a few more in there somewhere.

Last, but certainly not least, I'm debating about the "drama" section of the course. The textbook has Antigone by Sophocles and A Doll's House by Ibsen. I've read both, I loved both, and I've taught A Doll's House to death. I would prefer to buy the class copies of Proof (probably can't afford it!). I'm also just not sure Antigone will "play" very well for this bunch. To be announced!

And for the Science Fiction and Fantasy class, we're reading a butt-load of fairy tales I won't list, but the short stories are:
--Excerpt from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
--Excerpt from We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
--"Mars is Heaven!" by Ray Bradbury
--"The Nine Billion Names of God" by Arthur C. Clarke
--"All You Zombies--" by Robert Heinlein
--"The Persistence of Vision" by John Varley
--"Bloodchild" by Octavia Butler
Honestly, I haven't read all of these yet. Most, but not all. I've taken some recommendations from a colleague who taught this course last term and is a heavy-duty sci-fi reader. I also have a bunch of others marked in the textbook like Geoff Ryman's "Dead Space for the Unexpected," but I plan to gather a bit more feedback and do a bit more of my own reading in the coming days.
If you were teaching your own Introduction to Literature or Science Fiction and Fantasy sections, what would you add to the reading list?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Surviving Hell Week

Every turnaround from one academic term to the next is "hell week" but this one has been particularly hellish. For starters, there was only 48 hours between one term and the next: grades to audit, academic performance, and attendance probation to calculate. And I don't even do that part! With 18 faculty to supervise my time is spent auditing syllabi for correctness, building faculty files, answering questions, auditing gradebooks, leading meetings, and assisting other program heads when possible. Oh, and helping with campus activities. Lots of activities.This week presented some HR issues that complicated things as well and sucked the life right out of me.

On top of work, Greyson started running a 102-103 fever Thursday night which turned out to be a wicked ear infection. He's so consistently happy it's hard to tell when he has something bugging him and this time was no different. He's beginning to feel better on his antibiotics, and after a few days of fever that seems to be coming down considerably and consistently.

So, yeah, reading what? I had a few minutes to dive back into books yesterday when Chuck took Little G for a stroll in the park for some fresh air. Today I hope to dive into Affinity full force in preparation for discussion on the 28th!

While my week has been largely bookless and blogless, what's shakin' in your world? What have I missed?

Friday, March 18, 2011

BookClubSandwich: The United States of Arugula

Whewwww!!! I've put the fire in my hair out for the night, and I'm finally ready to discuss The United States of Arugula, by David Kamp!

While this book started strong, either because of its subject matter or because of the timing, I seem to have stalled at 3/4s of the way through. I mentioned in my previous post about this book that I thought it would be more about the evolution of food itself, while to the point I've read in the book about 3/4s, it's really a chronicle of the people behind the American food revolution. I probably should've known given the cover of the book as a "Last Supper" of chef portraits, but in my defense, I have the Nook version and didn't see the cover up close.

The "big three" in American cooking, as Kamp would describe them, are James Beard, Julia Child, and Craig Claiborne. Everyone is familiar with Julia Child, but I was far less acquainted with James Beard (having heard of the Award, but that's it), and not at all familiar with Craig Claiborne. It was really interested to read how these three sort of sprouted a food culture in America. French food was a heavy hitter in those first years of American foodiness, and it sprouted slowly from these three and spread to others such as Alice Waters.

Speaking of Waters, I first heard of her and her influential restaurant, Chez Panisse, on an episode of Iconoclasts years ago. I was swept away and totally rooting for Waters' when I saw that show. She was everything I believed in: slow, local food proponent. Quality food. Quality dining. Now, though, after reading Arugula it strikes me that Waters is the face of a restaurant made great by other chefs. Waters herself hadn't done much of the cooking, though Kamp does point out that she's a gifted salad craftswoman. I feel a little robbed now that I "know" Waters better. Hmmphf!

While this book is undoubtedly well-researched and well-written, I actually find myself getting a little lost and bogged down at times. Maybe the minutiae of these food-gods' lives are just a little too much for me right now, but I'm left wishing for something a little more...sweeping? Cohesive?

Now that I've rambled, I'm really curious what you thought if you got around to it. Don't forget to visit Kim to learn more about her take on the book.

Don't forget to leave a link to your thoughts below.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I'm late! I'm late!

Running a little behind on posting discussion for The United States of Arugula. Blame it on work! I'll be back tomorrow, bright and early, with that discussion.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Library Lovin' - Overdrive

Something has happened! A wonderful, superb, fantastique thing! My library FINALLY subscribed to Overdrive, so now I can download epub books for my Nook as well as audiobooks. This, friends, is just like my library expanded overnight. So did my TBR! Below is the beginning of my library e-book wishlist. Scary, eh?

  • The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • The Dreams in the Witch House by H.P. Lovecraft
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
  • Horns by Joe Hill
  • The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
  • Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie
  • Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
  • My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares
  • One Day by David Nicholls
  • The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
  • Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez
  • Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
  • Solar by Ian McEwan
  • Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Whoa, Nelly! And everytime I browse, there are NEW E-BOOKS for the plucking. As if I wasn't already ravenous enough. I'm a slow reader because of my life, but I'm a faster reader at heart, so when I see all of these books, I want to read them all RIGHT NOW.

Have any of you started downloading books from you library? What's on your digital wishlist, library or otherwise?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Sunday Salon - I'm a Reading Tart

Happy lazzzyyy Sunday, y'all. Greyson has had a little bit of a cold, he's kindly passed it along to me, and I've spent the majority of my morning watching Food Network and dozing. I would really prefer to read, but staying awake has been a challenge.

I'm in the midst of several books (as I've mentioned recently). I'm wrapping up The United States of Arugula for the March 14th BookClubSandwich discussion. I had a preconceived notion that this book would be about FOOD, and it certainly is, to some extent. But it's much more about PEOPLE. Likewise, it examines food movements in the U.S. I won't give away too much since the discussion is coming up soon, but I think I could've gotten a really good feel for this book if I'd read this blurb from first:

One day we woke up and realized that our macaroni had become pasta, that our Wonder Bread had been replaced by organic whole wheat, that sushi was fast food, and that our tomatoes were heirlooms. How did all this happen, and who made it happen? The United States of Arugula is the rollicking, revealing chronicle of how gourmet eating in America went from obscure to pervasive, thanks to the contributions of some outsized, opinionated iconoclasts who couldn't abide the status quo.
 It's taking me a bit to read this roughly 400-pager. Non-fiction always moves a little slower than fiction for me. Given that I've been reading it for a little over a week, I'm feeling a little unfaithful and tarty.  It's taking ALL I HAVE not to read Affinity until I'm done with The United States of Arugula. I'm also bound and determined to read Room before it has to go back to the library. I was on hold so long, I'd feel like an arse if I didn't read it.

Looking forward a bit more, I need to start working on my 2011 challenges. So far I'm doing the best on the E-Book Challenge. When I finish Affinity and The United States of Arugula, I'll be 1/3 of the way through the challenge on my way to 12 e-books for the year. I don't think I'll have any problem surpassing that number.

The Chunkster Challenge will likely be my biggest hurdle for the year. Given the limited free time, Chunksters make me a bit antsy. I'm gonna try, though! I have lots of chunkies on the shelves that get avoided, so I shouldn't have any shortage of material to work with.

Finally, What's in a Name 4 will take some focus!!! I need to see if I own any books that meet the requirements.

How's your Sunday? Your challenges for the year?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Library Book Sale!

I can't believe I haven't posted all week! We're at the end of an academic term at work, so that means wrapping up one and beginning a new term on March 16th. This is the busiest time during the changeover, so I'll be in and out.

I get off at 3:00 on Fridays, and I needed to pop by the library to pick up my copy of Room. I've been on the waiting list for EONS, so I'm definitely going to devour it before it goes back to the 'brary. When Chuck and I pulled up, we saw THE SIGN OF ALL SIGNS: Book Sale Friday and Saturday.


I was good, though. I managed to only buy three books:

Yum-O! I've heard lots of buzz over the years about The Madonnas of Leningrad, I've never read Philippa Gregory, and after all the talk of Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, I just had to snap this one up.

I was a little surprised at only coming away with three books, but I am reallyyyy trying not to add to our already too-full townhouse. Chuck, on the other hand, made quite the haul with some photography books and several books on Japanese and Chinese cooking. I think I might reap the benefits of those purchases.

Sooo, have you read any of these goodies I bought? Thoughts? Warnings?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Reading as Discipline?

Rocketboy and Rocketgirl are quite the normal teens. They're really good kids, but they sometimes have trouble...following directions. As a result, both are currently grounded. Since Chuck and I get sick of giving the same old lectures, we try to choose our punishments carefully for maximum effect. For example, one of our most brilliant strategies is a snack of 1/2 a teaspoon of Wasabe paste for lying. This technique has dramatically cut down on the lying in our house or honed their skills to the point that we can't tell the difference anymore.

With this most recent grounding, I decided to be innovative in my "punishment" for Rocketgirl. Reading is a love we both share, and quite honestly, she hasn't been reading anything but books for school here lately. I also suspect that some of the kids' collective boneheadedness as of late is related to a sense of disconnectedness in our house. Ever since the family passing we had several weeks ago, everything just seems a bit askew. Voila! I decided that Rocketgirl's "punishment" would be to read five books of MY choosing before she's ungrounded. She has some measure of control over her own fate in how fast she completes the books, and it's a way to connect us a bit more over discussion of the books.

What did I choose for her?

  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver because I thought she would like it, I want to know how it is before I read it, and it's about love. That has teenage girl written all over it.
  • I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore because we'll probably go see the movie as a family when we have the time and some extra cash.
  • Sailing Alone Around the Room (poems) by Billy Collins because she recently asked for a poetry book, these are accessible and deal with the everyday, and there are quite a few about writing and reading.
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd because in some small way it reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird which she read and loved this past summer.
  • The Secret Lifes of People in Love by Simon Van Booy because she loves writing almost as much as reading, she specializes in short stories, and I know these will tug at her heart strings.
I have to say, I did question this unorthodox approach to "punishment" at first. Would it work? Would she "get" it? Would it really do us all any good?

It's only been a few days, but so far, things are great. She's finished Sailing Alone Around the Room, she's halfway through Delirium, and she's well on her way to finishing the rest. Sunday she came bounding down the stairs with Delirium open in her hands and said, "Andi! I'm in love with this book!" She then asked if she could add ANOTHER BOOK to her required pile--a review copy of a slim little volume called SkateFate by Juan Felipe Herrera (which she's already finished).

In short, it wasn't a traditional punishment, but a sneaky, step-mom way of slowing her down, getting her involved in something positive, that we can talk about, and that will structure her time a little more. I have to give myself a pat on the back this time. I think I'll do the same thing to Rocketboy the next time he needs straightening up. We'll see if it sticks! :)
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