Monday, September 15, 2008

Solitary Confinement

Today begins my Fall semester at Northeastern. I am taking two classes: Detective Fiction and Children's Literature. They are described as follows:
"Detective Fiction explores the elements of intrigue, logic, and thought that converge in the whodunit. Students sample a wide range of detective fiction to explore the questions of innocence and guilt, action and responsibility, power and authority, and victim and victimizer and to see connections between this popular form of literature and its classical antecedents."
This class involves reading the following:
"The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Mystery of Marie Roget," "The Purloined Letter," "The Gold-Bug", Edgar Allen Poe
"The Moonstone", Wilkie Collins
"The Hound of the Baskervilles", Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
"The Thin Man", Dashiell Hammett
"The Murder of Roger Ackroyd", Agatha Christie
"The Mirror Crack'd", Agatha Christie
"The Big Sleep", Raymond Chandler
"Murder Must Advertise", Dorothy Sayers
"Cover Her Face", P. D. James
"Mystic River", Dennis Lehane
This class is 12 weeks long. Simple math tells me that, except for the Poe short stories, I am required to read a full length novel nearly every week. Fine. I like to read.
Children's Literature is described as follows:
"The psychology of creation, the ways of imagination, and the role of fantasy and play in such children’s books as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Charlotte’s Web."
This class has the following reading list:
"Little Women", Louisa May Alcott
"Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland", Lewis Carroll
"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", Mark Twain
"Peter Pan", James M. Barrie
Selected readings from "English Fairy Tales", Joseph Jacobs
"Charlotte’s Web", E.B. White
Selected works from Children’s Poetry
"Anne of Green Gables", L.M. Montgomery

Each one of these classes requires a weekly (one-page) paper regarding our thoughts on the readings. There are 5 essays in each class, a mid-term and a final. All in all, there is a lot of work involved here - reading and writing. Initially I wasn't bothered by the reading list for each class; I am now. Not by the reading lists, but by the format. These are online courses.
Usually I am reluctant to take classes such as these online because I truly feel that the lack face to face interaction when discussing literary works limits the depth of conversation. I don't feel that I get enough out of the course because of the limited participation on-line as opposed to a dedicated class/discussion time. I have learned more from face to face interactions with my peers that involve clarifications from the professor then I ever have "on-line". Yet, the university isn't making these classes available in any format other than online and I am beginning to resent it.
While reading is a solitary pursuit I do not feel that learning about literature should be. I know that I learn more when I am exposed to other thoughts an viewpoints, particularly those that do not mesh with my own. I enjoy it when another student has an insight on a work that I may have never realized on my own and shares it with the class.
This is why I want to learn (and possibly teach) literature. Literature is fluid, not staid. It is interpretive and not formulaic. It is not as science or math, where the formula is the end all and be all. The written word means different things to each reader and allows for different viewpoints to be arrived at from the same words. Literature is alive and deserves to be shared between people, face to face and with free-flowing conversation.
I can handle the workload (I think) and I am excited about reading most of these works. However, I know that I will be left to my own devices because of the limited interaction that "discussion boards" allow for. This is not learning; at least not as I understand it. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer not to learn in a bubble.


Blogger Fox In Detox said...

My suggestion would be that you take another, similar course elsewhere. Like...take Harvard for instance...They're offering two advanced fiction writing courses, an advanced screen writing course, eleven Academic writing and critical reading courses, an advanced essay course, investigative journalism, feature writing, ethics in journalism...the list goes on and on...and guess what? None of these are online!

2:17 PM, September 15, 2008  
Blogger Bridget said...

I second's time to look elsewhere, my friend. Northeastern is no longer supporting the level of education that you desire/require. It seems that they are supporting other majors and are letting some fall by the wayside. It's such a shame that the internet as a classroom is taking over their literature classes. No way can you get the same benefit from a class like this online!

3:47 PM, September 15, 2008  

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