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« This Week's Acquisitions | Main | The Various Haunts of Men »

June 30, 2006

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Jonathan

Are you sure they haven't relied on the many plot-summaries, some surprisingly detailed, available everywhere?

Miriam

Yeah, I'm aware of the phenomenon--but if they can answer detailed close-reading questions in class, then they're doing the reading.

Jonathan

What do you mean by "detailed close-reading questions?" That sounds like the kind of thing that only eidetiker could answer without returning to the text and that could also be answered by turning once to it by the skimmer-along.

I'm not sure that there's any reliable way of determining who's actually read a much-documented book in the undergraduate classroom. It's similar to the old joke about the person who writes a doctoral dissertation about Hamlet without ever reading the play. I don't think there's any doubt that such a thing could be done, and I think there's a logic engendered by the multiple-choice tests of yesteryear that entices some to spend more time preparing via cribs for quizzly expectations than they would actually reading the book.

I've sometimes wondered if there have been situations--surely this happened at least once somewhere--where neither the professor nor the students have read the book being taught, and no one realizes.

Nicole

I'm with you, Miriam. My students do balk a bit when confronted with Bleak House or Middlemarch, but generally, the ones who are in an upper division lit class are game to give it a try and most of them end up liking it (and I teach at a state school where the students are not particularly well prepared and often aren't asked to work terribly hard; I find that the majority of them rise to the occasion). The ones who are trying to get by on the summaries stand out like sore thumbs (in discussion and on quizzes--which are not multiple-choice, but mini-essays to get us ready for discussion). And, when they've done it, they are pretty proud. Plus, reading a long novel gives those who fall behind a real incentive to stay caught up--or to work harder to catch up if they fall behind. If you fail to read a novel you're discussing in one weekly seminar, it will most likely never get read. But if you're spending three weeks on a novel, you can't afford to miss the first third.

That said, I have a colleague who has taught ten Dickens novels in one semester, and I do have a hard time believing that his students are reading them, since--given our own 4-4 load--I can't imagine prepping them myself.

delagar

I teach Middlemarch, along with a couple dozen other Victorian works (none so hefty as MM, I admit, but the reading list is not slim) every fall when I teach Victorian Lit, and *most* of my students not only journey with me through its length, they end up loving it.

Same as Little Professor, though -- my students know what they're in for when they take one of my classes: lots of reading, every day. They claim (most of them) on the evaluations to like this. To quote one student, "I like dr. delagar's classes, not because they're easy, but because they aren't."

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