April 25, 2009

Summer Reading Plans?

Even in Halifax, spring comes eventually, so I've been thinking about my reading plans for the summer. One result is that over at The Valve I have raised the possibility of another group reading, organized along the lines of last year's Adam Bede event. The novel I have proposed is Charlotte Bronte's Villette; I give a few more details and ask some questions about procedure in my post at The Valve. If you're interested,or have any response to my questions about format, let me know, here or at The Valve.

5 comments:

R. T. said...

Well, Villette, huh? Include me in your reading group, at least tentatively. You may get feedback that includes suggestions for a book other than Bronte's. As for myself, I would have thought Austen's Northanger Abbey would be a rollicking good read for the summer reading group (even with the novel's shortcomings), but Austen's gothic tongue-in-cheek romp may be too unpolished for your purposes.

On that note, I've been wrestling with coming up with one novel--that's my limit--for an Introduction to Literature course this summer. So, let me pick your brain, so to speak, and ask you: If you could teach only one novel to an Intro to Lit course, which would you choose?

Rohan Maitzen said...

R.T., thanks for your comments. I would not incline to Austen myself, though I agree she provides more of a "romp". I wouldn't consider Northanger Abbey "unpolished" necessarily, but I think it's a bit thin for something like a sustained multi-week group discussion like the one we had last year ("IMHO," as the texting generation would say).

As for your other question, I've had the same challenge myself for my Intro classes. Most recently I have done Ian McEwan's Saturday and Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day--the intro class I've been teaching is a one semester class organized by genre, not historical period, so something shorter and more contemporary seemed to suit my purposes best. In past years, when teaching our full-year intro course, I've done a novel a term and done Hard Times or A Christmas Carol for the first term and A Room with a View for the second term. The problem--as I'm sure you are only too well aware--is that when you could pick really anything you want, you need a reason to pick one thing over another! So I try to imagine an overall theme for the course and then choose a novel that seems to fit. My most recent choices, then (McEwan and Ishiguro) have been for a course in which I emphasize literature and its ethical force in the 'real world'. For what it's worth, I think the McEwan was a fairly successful (i.e. popular) choice; The Remains of the Day (though one of my personal favorites) proved a bit low key for first-year students.

Colleen said...

I would like to be part of a reading group devoted to Villette; it's the only Bronte novel I haven't yet read.

R. T. said...

I am perhaps too hung-up on trying to find just the right novel for my Intro classes; I obsess about assigning a really good novel that will meet the most severe test: Will student's enjoy it? Sometimes the selection simply does not work. For example, one novel this semester was Ishiguro's NEVER LET ME GO, and I thought it would work quite well. Then a student responded when I asked what people thought of the novel after the first several chapters; he said, "I'd rather go to the dentist for a root canal than read another page in this book." Oh well, you can't win them all (over to reading good novels). At any rate, the obsessive search goes on and the angst-wracked decision looms large in the future. Finally, though, thank you for you superb feedback and suggestions. I'll keep watching to hear more about VILLETTE. Keep us posted (no pun intended).

R. T. said...

Well, I'm already intrigued by Villette (i.e., I've jumped the gun a bit and begun reading Bronte's novel), and I'm about to also revisit James's novel. You see, I'll do just about anything to avoid reading and grading final exams and essays; I can procrastinate on the grading by immersing myself in Bronte and James. Thanks for instigating the diversionary procrastination.