OK, that last post was rather boring and whiny. I'm in a happier mood now, as the exams are over and I don't have to start grading them until the weekend. I baked cookies for my 11 a.m. section of Brit Lit, by way of thanking them for being the sort of class that made me happy about going to work on Monday mornings. I wish I were going to see more of them next semester; right now, I have one enrolled in the Shakespeare class and one in Brit Lit II, while the 8 a.m. students, most of whom didn't show any obvious signs of liking my class, are signing up in droves. Go figure.
We finished off the semester with Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," which was a new text for me. It taught pretty well, I thought (much better than I was expecting -- it's one of those poems where you wake up at 5 a.m. thinking "GOOD GOD, WHAT POSSESSED ME TO TEACH THIS?" after which almost anything is a pleasant surprise). And I passed around a handout with "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways," and we talked a bit about the common threads and differences, and why the Brit Lit survey sequence splits where it does. (Well, mostly it splits where it does because the Norton Anthology splits where it does. Which came first, the survey course or the Norton? I haven't the foggiest.) Anyway, teaching the whole sequence is odd because you get a bunch of repeat students, for whom this is like the second half of the same course, and a bunch of new ones, many of whom haven't taken the first survey. I don't know whether to think of it as a continuation or a change.
I spent most of the exam period working on the syllabus for next semester. I'm trying something new, loosely inspired by Dr. Virago's Crux Busters and Sisyphus's Close Reading Homework: replacing the first long paper with a series of five mini-papers, which will require students to focus very tightly on a small part of the text. I have a feeling grading these will be a huge time sink, and I wouldn't even attempt it if I were teaching two sections instead of one, but I'm hoping it will get them in the habit of thinking hard about word choice and the like.