The other class I'm teaching this semester, not the survey, is essentially a spring break trip attached nominally to a course so it can be called study abroad. That is, I meet once a week for 50 minutes with 11 English majors for the first ten weeks of the semester to prepare for a trip to London, where we'll do some touristy stuff and see four plays. Then we'll come back and write papers on them.
"Fifty minutes a week?" you ask? "How does that add up to three credits?" Well, apparently, the time spent in London counts as the other thirty classroom hours. I am as unhappy about this as you might imagine. It's not that I want more work to do--the class meets in the late afternoon, so my preferred 150 minute format would take us well into the evening. But what the hell am I supposed to teach in ten 50-minute classes?
So here's what I am teaching.
Week 1: syllabus, policies, tour prep, and questions
Week 2: present briefly on a site in London that you know about from a work of literature. Craft and hand out brochure detailing it's literary appearance and information about its current situation--still around? open for business? tourist details?
Week 3: Read play #1: Equus (starring Daniel Radcliffe--aka Harry Potter--did I mention that 91% of the students are female? and that the main character is called for to do a nude scene?)
Week 4: Readings on West End and its place in London culture.
Week 5: Play #2: The History Boys, One of the problems of this course is that I am limited to what's playing, what I can find out is playing, and what is not already sold out. I could not, for example, get tickets to the National's production of Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle.
Week 6: Historical London: Read an assigned chapter from A.N. Wilson's London: A History, and create a handout that summarizes important events while highlighting 3-5 potential sites that we might visit while in London.
Week 7: Play #3: Attempts on her Life: by Martin Crimp. Edgy and kind of avant garde...will likely baffle many of my students, at least as far as I can tell. it's out of print, and I've never read it, only about it. So I'm getting a copy and reading it post haste. Thank god for e-reserves.
Week 8: Cultural Capital. I'm having them read Horkheimer and Adorno on the culture industry...the first paper assignment after they return is to take a stab at a cultural studies approach to a tourist site and it's use of cultural capital. The assignment may bomb, but dammit, I can't run this class if I don't have a little room to get them to think critically about the whole idea of tourism.
Week 9: Maybe Merchant of Venice. I'm stoked that Flavia just posted this great item on Theatre for a New Audience's production of the same play, 'cause I think this one's be a pretty straight up one for the tourists who come to Stratford on holiday. You know...like us.
Week 10: The rest of London: Prepare a quick presentation on one other site in London you hope to visit and what its "educational value" will likely be. I've got at least one Princess Di buff in the class, so I'm kinda psyched to see what she'll bring in. I'll be presenting on the Tate Gallery, which I am so stoked to visit. Oh wait...I haven't mentioned that I've never been to London? or off this continent? or that I'm really just a provincial lad who lucked into this whole cosmopolitan/academic role by virtue of, well, who knows? Well, no one asked me that when they asked if I'd teach this course, so hey...we're all learning here!
Week 11: Itinerary review and Travel Etiquette: Suggestions from my readers here warmly, desperately welcomed.
The trip (Spring Break is late this year, so London in late March will be cold and rainy, I
m guessing...just a shot in the dark).
After that? a few weeks wherein we meet briefly to talk about the trip, pass out assignments, workshop the papers, etc. They turn stuff in at the end of the semester, and we're done.
I'm really resisting the fact that this course is going to be so light...yes, it's true that many of my students are from rural areas and have never had the opportunity to travel outside of this and bordering states, let alone to another country (like, ahem, myself). So maybe all that's good. but one short class day on any text longer than Ode on a Grecian Urn seems like it borders on irresponsible pedagogy. We'll see what happens, indeed. Ultimately, I'm kind of excited...I mean who wouldn't be by the prospect of taking 11 college students to see Equus (and naked Harry Potter )?