During the Fall 2020 semester I taught ENGL 256: The Novel for the first time. Then, in the Spring 2021 semester I had an honors section of the course. For the spring, I revised the syllabus slightly, adding Coulson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and changing the order of the texts.
As a Franciscan Heritage course, we explored a theme of “Stories About America”. We considered what stories get told, who tells them and why, as well as the value of considering multiple, diverse stories about America and what it means to be an American. Along the way we had many challenging discussions. I am incredibly proud of how my students handled difficult topics respectfully, and found ways to disagree with each other productively.
Each student gave a 10-15 minute presentation on a topic providing context about an aspect of one of our texts. We also completed an expanded research project in which students took on the role of an academic creating a scholarly edition of one of the texts we read. To that end, they composed a 5-7 page critical introduction covering either the author of the novel, the text’s critical reception, or providing historical/cultural context for readers about the text. In addition, they composed 4-5 scholarly footnotes for the “edition” of the text, explaining words, phrases, allusions, quotations, etc. that a reader would need to know to understand the text. Overall, it was great fun!
Here are the syllabus and assignment descriptions for the spring 2021 course: