A new semester

School starts for me this week, and although it is a short week, with classes beginning only yesterday, it feels very long. Everything hits all at once, and the transition from quiet summer days, with work to do but with relaxed deadlines, to semester busyness is a shock.

One of the classes I am teaching is World Literature II, and it’s an online course. I’ve taught fully online courses before, but not this particular one, and I haven’t taught a literature survey in this format before. So it will be interesting to see how it goes. This week my students are reading a few poems by Friedrich Holderlin and Heinrich Heine by way of introduction to German Romanticism, and next week we will read Goethe’s play Faust, Part 1. I am very curious to see what the students will make of it as it’s such a bizarre play in a lot of ways. I’m asking students to write on a discussion board each week and also to keep a private reading journal (private between me and each student, that is), so I’m looking forward to seeing what they write. The journal assignment is open-ended, so I could get a whole range of interesting responses.

I’m not sure what the new semester is going to mean for me reading-wise. I have some reading to do for class, but I should still have time to read just for fun. The question is how much energy and focus I will have. I finished a short but powerful novel last night, Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy, which I hope to post on later, and now it’s time to choose something new. Part of me is tempted to pick up a long Victorian novel (perhaps Margaret Oliphant), but another part of me is worried that if I start something long but don’t have a lot of time to devote to it, it will drag on forever. Another part of me (there are many parts) wants to start something easy, perhaps a mystery novel. Another part is annoyed that silly things like work get in the way of the reading I want to do. I’m lucky that part of my job requires reading, but when it comes to reading, I’m greedy and am not satisfied with only what the job requires.

But now it’s time to get offline and go browse my shelves in search of a new novel.

10 Comments

Filed under Books, Life

10 responses to “A new semester

  1. There aren’t enough hours in the day for all the parts–but over the whole year there is opportunity for every inclination. When it comes to fall, I usually find the transition challenging. We’ll see what this year is like in a couple of weeks.

  2. Darn work, getting in the way of reading! I hate when that happens and it happens far too much. At least your world lit class sounds interesing. I hope you get good students. What did you end up choosing to read?

  3. I can’t help but feel that I would very much miss the in-person conversations were I to take a lit class online, but people I know who have done it really enjoyed it. Hope the experience proves a good one for you & your students!

    And yeah, stupid “making a living” always getting in the way of reading time. Pshht. Who needs it?

  4. The first week back is always a shock, isn’t it! At least there is a three day weekend to cushion things. I like the sound of your online class–it sounds like it would be fun to teach (and take!). Have fun choosing a book–a good Victorian story sounded good to me as well so I have started Wilkie Collins’s No Name. But I know that feeling well when lots of things sound interesting…

  5. Lilian — it does make sense to think of things on a yearly basis, rather than a daily or weekly one. And yes, for me, fall is much more like a new year than January is, and it can be much bumpier. I hope your transition to fall goes well!

    Stefanie — so far so good! I ended up picking up Margaret Oliphant’s The Perpetual Curate, which I’m enjoying so far, although I’ve read only 20 pages or so. It will end up taking me a while, but that’s okay.

    Emily — I think you lose some things and gain others in an online class. We have discussions, but they are written, so they are slower and more carefully thought-out, rather than spontaneous and immediate. I think online classes are good for those who like to take time to think before they express an opinion. Those who are very comfortable talking and like immediate feedback would probably prefer the classroom.

    Danielle — I like teaching online, although reading all the students’ assignments is pretty time-consuming. But it’s interesting to read what the students think, and I think all the writing they do in an online class makes their writing improve quickly.

  6. In Japan, the school year starts after Spring break, so we are starting second term (of three) right now. Unfortunately, all of the schools have their big sports festival in late September and the kids spend hours each day preparing. This means English classes often get canceled. I have to be present at school, but a lot of days have no clear work assignment. Boredom is my enemy.

    I hope your schedule stays exciting.

  7. bardiac

    I detested Goethe’s Faust in high school. The guy abuses a woman horribly, is a general jerk, and gets saved in the end, because he’s a very special white male.

    Later, I read Marlowe’s Faustus, where he gets shredded at the end. I was happy.

    And that was one more clue that I just am not a romantic.

    I hope the semester goes well for you!

  8. Bikkuri — how frustrating! I would hate to see English classes canceled for the sake of a sporting event. Priories, right?

    Bardiac — yeah, I can see why you wouldn’t like Goethe’s Faust. I’ve never read Marlowe’s version, and should.

  9. I love hearing you talk about the books you’re teaching. Your online course sounds like something I’d like to take. Have a great semester and above all, enjoy your teaching and reading!

    I’ve just come back from Europe and had the chance to revisit Bath, with Austen’s Persuasion as a guide… you might like to check out my latest post. Love to hear you talk about JA too. :)

  10. Arti — thank you! How wonderful to have visited Bath! I’ll definitely check out your post.

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