Volume 9, Issue 1     Editorial (2)
Teaching the Novel and Short Fiction.These essays cover a very wide range of topics, yet they can be organized meaningfully into three major groupings. The first includes essays on the complications arising when we teach literature in radically different contexts. Layla Al Maleh and David L. Gugin address the challenges of teaching Anglo-American literature to students in the Arab world, whereas Rob Baum looks at the difficulty of spanning cultural differences – including race, class, gender, and sexuality – within the United States. Other essays reflect on related difficulties of teaching literature from earlier centuries to students of today. Carl H. Sederholm focuses on the Gothic and Matthew Hilton-Watson on French naturalism; while William Wandless addresses more general concerns about the 18th-century novel. A second set focuses on the beginning student, particularly the non-English major, and the need to make meaningful connections between the work and the reader. Colin Irvine describes writing activities that guide students in exploring “the surprising similarities and/or differences between life and literature.” Laura Rotunno asks students to consider how their expectations shape their interpretation of what they read. Ann M. Tandy-Treiber encourages students to confront and analyze the racism, sexism and other “isms” in 19th-century fiction. David C. MacWilliams relates how the use of “hometown” novels improves the sense of relevance of assigned readings for students in the composition classroom. Finally, Margaret H. Davis details her strategy of beginning a general education course with well know fairy tales and lesser known variants, thus prompting students to rethink conventions and to engage in more through analyses of their own experiences. The final set presents strategies for teaching specific works. Preeti Bhatt focuses on the postmodern elements in Muriel Spark’s Symposium, Tara Moore explores the cinematic references embedded in Ralph Lombreglia’s “Men Under Water,” Amy A. Childers uses rhetorical theory to analyze a dinner scene in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, Toni Wein applies the Freytag pyramid to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and my essay presents a way to move students beyond the humanistic and New Critical approaches they often bring with them from high school. These essays make suggestions for improving many of our teaching activities and assignments, regardless of the precise works assigned in each course. Michael D. Gose’s “Caveats for Teaching the Novel,” selected for the “Editor’s Choice,” addresses many of these same concerns about working with longer pieces of literature and with students majoring in fields other than English. Taken as a whole, this cluster of essays offers a valuable range of strategies and activities for the literature classroom.James B. Kelley, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English
Mississippi State University – Meridian
CFP for the next Teaching the Novel and Short Fiction issue, Spring 2006.
See Index to all published articles.