On animal reading and being humanimal

Teaching is a curious business

Teaching is a curious business. Whatever you plan, and however much and meticulously you plan, everything can change from one minute to the next in a live class composed of other living beings. This could be scary. It’s also wonderful. I wouldn’t change it for a minute, certainly not for the seemingly greater stability and solidity of the rigorously programmed and the rigidly scripted.

What happens in class is only a small part of teaching and of what a course is, and a class; for a course changes again with every class and its individual human participants, as a community of co-creation. How a course will translate to that class is never predictable, as it depends on who that class will be; a class is a “who,” not a “what.” At the moment of formally starting to make a course, you’re bearing in mind these unknowns and hoping to retain enough flexibility to accommodate them; that is, at the moment when you know, officially, that you will be teaching a certain course. You might already have been loosely thinking about ideas for courses off and on—just as a regular part of “what if …” everyday fanciful musings—and there would then be several months’ thinking, reading, writing, designing, and shaping before the course starts.

Then the course happens, and the class. And afterwards, there are highs and lows, and a stage when you’re wondering if it’s the right time to look back and think through it again; not too soon, not too late. In my case, I had to do this about a month ago in the regular periodic rethinking and redesigning of beginners’ French courses for this coming new term. I also have to do this rereading right now about another course from last term, as it’s part of a talk I’m doing at the MLA convention next week, in a session on “Animal Thinking.” The idea and abstract for that talk were the first stage of making this course last term, on “Animal Reading.” (This post isn’t that talk.)

RMST 221B “Literatures and Cultures of the Romance World I: Medieval to Early Modern – Animal Reading“ was a strange course. I knew it was going to be strange back last spring, and it grew strangely and stranger, and then, as expected—if the only thing that is predictable about how design translates to realisation is unpredictability—it took some odd twists and turns between September and December. One of the most remarkable was a human turn; or perhaps, rather, a human turn within The Animal Turn.

(continue reading … 👉 )

a very short fable about medievalism, #medievaltwitter, and teaching