The WasteLand discussion-10/30/18

Tuesday’s discussion on how to teach T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” made me think of how hard it is to teach a poem of that magnitude and the planning that needs to be done.  In other words, it made me think of how context is so crucial with this poem and how that comes into play.  When I first read the poem in Professor Hanley’s English 528 class about a year and a half ago, I didn’t realize how complexed this poem is with students until we really came up with ideas yesterday on how to make sure the students understood it.  For example, I remember coming up with some visual annotations for the poem and going further into the symbolism with each section.  However, this was such a good idea to come up with fresh new lessons to look towards authentic learning with the students.

One thing that I really thought was extremely resourceful was Veronica’s idea of looking at the pre-war/post-war connections to “The Wasteland.”  I would have never thought of that.  It made me think in the class of the literature that could be compared/contrasted to the poem.  For example, even though this is not an American novel, but what if the students read excerpts of All Quiet on The Western Front and contrasted it with the poem?  To me, I think of “The Wasteland” as this pre-war struggle in the world and All Quiet on The Western Front as this post-war struggle.  However, both of them discuss this sort of fear occurring in the world.  That is the connecting theme that could be looked at when teaching “The WasteLand.”

I really thought it was interesting when Professor Hanley simply explained that poems are transactions.  Poems exchange ideas throughout the whole piece and present fragmented ideas.  When we use dialogue in our daily lives, we blurt out fragmented phrases and rarely do we have precise sentences in our verbal language.  In other words, poems reflect the language in which we have learned ever since we were born.

I think this discussion taught me ways to formally come up with a lesson plan for “The Wasteland” because it teaches us grad students to look beyond just coming up with our own assignments and look deeply how we can benefit the undergraduate students in literature.  In fact, this will help me when I take the teaching creative writing course this spring because one of the main projects in that class is to formulate a syllabus.  It stood out to me when someone brought up the syllabus being your thesis for the class.  To me, that is so significant because of the texts being discussed in class reflect your teaching philosophy.  I loved going back to the “Conversations with Text” article because it helped me with how much it is crucial for students to think about the poem and how it makes them feel.  This is something I would want to implement when I get a chance to teach this poem.  I truly wish our graduate seminars included more of this because it gets us thinking about how to really authentically teach these texts and make them learn/unlearn the poem.  We need more student input on how to teach challenging texts like “The Wasteland.”

Thinking Beyond the Canon

Journal: Hastac

When we think about a syllabus, often there are visions of a packet full of background information on the course material, the required texts for the class, what is expected of the students, student learning outcomes, and a tentative class schedule for the semester.  However, this is not the case with this syllabus being discussed in this article.  In the article from the hastac journal titled “Thinking Beyond the Canon” by Flora de Tournay, Tournay identifies the complexities with this syllabus in regards to canon.  When you have several marginalized authors in the curriculum for the course, it is assumed that this would give students the chance to respond critically to the novels.  However, that is not always the case in some college classes and does more harm than good to the students.

With this new approach to the syllabus, it opens up possibilities for commentary, visual representations, and even notes left by the students.  For example, Tournay says this about the syllabus, “Self-authoring or -authorship, which here functions as the methodological manifestation of my own pedagogical approach, is also reflected in the course’s proposed content” (Tournay).  What this means is that the students are taking charge with the curriculum and in turn, the syllabus is a product to this activity.  In this course, the required readings are from African-American writers (which are either Queer or Female) that have been not discussed in your average English Literature college course.  All of these texts were mainly autobiographical, which includes the cultural history this author has endured in their life.  In a way, this gives students a chance to read the text like you are a writer.

Besides the texts being discussed during this course, the students are given essays that discuss the exclusion around the canon and what sort of hardships are faced when talking non-canonical literature.  Activities in this course would include group work, in-class free writes, and longer writing exercises; those writing exercises would be evaluated by their peers in class and several workshops would be assigned on the day of class.  The pedagogical goal is for the students to think deeper in literature at the higher education level and practice composition at the same time.  With revolving around the idea the marginalized authors and how the students can write about how the authors are not included in the canon, this affirms their chance to be co-designers of this composition course.

I found this article very relevant to Backwards Design because of the syllabus is designed to revolve around outcomes and desirable results (which is included in Grant Wiggins’s “What is Backwards Design?” chapter).  On top of that, in my creative writing course, I am an instructional assistant for, poet Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta shared with the class a crucial story.  She was a curator for a reading series, but only academics were allowed to this reading series.  To circle back to this article, Acosta and Tournay bring up a similar theme: exclusion.  The goal is to advise students to look at the deeper aspect of exclusion of these marginalized authors of literature and how to take authority over the discussion to focus more on inclusion outside of the canon.

You can see the syllabus here: