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Mid-Semester Course Evaluation --> And Planning for the Remainder

Anne Dalke's picture

This weekend, please post as a comment here your proposal for the remainder  of our semester's work together. Begin with a paragraph or two of a mid-semester evaluation of how we're doing in learning together:
what's working? What needs working on? What should we keep, of our shared practices? What might we change up?

Turn then from questions of "form" to those of "content": What evolving genres would you choose to explore, if the remainder of the class were an independent study? What do you recommend our exploring together? Why? (i.e. how do your selections expand/extend/challenge what we have already done?)

I have two more weeks of material planned for after break (wiggle room, to order new books, do some course planning), but we will select material together for NINE [AS YET UNPLANNED] CLASSES.


EGrumer's picture

Mid-semester ruminations

I'm really enjoying this course.  It's nothing like what I expected, and I didn't even have clear expectations.  I always get to class unsure of where our talks will go, and leave with questions to mull over.  I love the open discussions.  That said, I am less fond of writing on the board.  It makes me feel on-the-spot, and I'm never sure that we've written anything too radically different than what we've already put forward orally.

For what we do next, I find myself draw to the blurred edges of "genre" -- both genres that are evolving and garnering more academic analysis (like romance, graphic novels, and speculative fiction) and genres that seem to infringe on other genres. This came up in our discussion of how to classify Persepolis: memoir, fiction, non-fiction? I would love to explore these boundaries, how and where we decide that something is one genre rather than another.

I like dglasser's idea of looking at science fiction.  I love speculative fiction, including science fiction, and it's a great example of a blurred genre boundary.  What is science fiction, and what is not?  While I'm not sure whether it is more properly fantasy or science fiction, A Game of You, which we have coming up to read, fits well with that plan of study.

vspaeth's picture

Evaluations and moving forward

I like a lot of things about this course.  For one, it's extremely interesting.  I'm being forced to stretch and mold my definition of genre nearly every day.  The ideas we talk about in class are really universal.  I find myself dwelling on them in my other classes, and in other aspects of my daily life.  I actually love that we're not being lectured to, because if we were we wouldn't reach the same conclusions that we get to in class every day.  Honestly, if just Anne was talking I think I would be more lost than I sometimes find myself, because each person connects things differently and I have more than one way to see things.

As for being lost, one thing that doesn't work for me in the class as much is the pace of our conversation.  I tend to be really quiet in class, mostly because it takes me a while to fully digest what someone is saying.  The pace of the conversation, while completely engaging, blasts by me and before I can even think of something to comment on one idea we're on to the next one.  I guess that's why I love Serendip though, because at the end of the week my brain can fully unpack what I've taken away from class that week.  Even though the pace doesn't work for me, I wouldn't want to change it.  It's a good work out for my brain.

 I wasn't really sure where we could go next either.  I glanced some of the posts before me, and all of the ideas look really great and really interesting.  One thing that I didn't really see that I found interesting came up when we were talking about Persepolis.  We had a small debate over whether or not this graphic narrative was fiction or non-fiction.  Since it is a memoir, we want to lean towards non-fiction, but there are many aspects of any memoir that can make it fiction.  I really liked this idea of the, perhaps evolving, genre of memoirs.  Why do we call them memoirs and not autobiographies?  It could also be interesting to think of works of fiction that model themselves after memoirs (Such as Memoirs of a Geisha).  I feel like a lot of novels in the Historical Fiction genre are written quite often as a memoir of the respective character as well.  Historical fiction could also be an interesting topic for this idea of what makes a work fiction vs nonfiction, because although the stories are fictional, most authors do extensive research on the historical figures to create a very realistic character.  These are all interesting ideas though.  They, obviously, would need a lot of fleshing out.

froggies315's picture

I was not expecting to like

I was not expecting to like this class.  Over winter break, my mother-daughter book club from when I was younger met up so we could all check in with each other.  I complained to everyone about the absurdity of distribution requirements.  I thought it was silly that school was making me take an English class.  Most of the daughters agreed with me, but the mothers lovingly told me to stop complaining and grow up.  They told me that I might just end up liking my English class.  The mothers were right!  I like this class.  The readings are interesting, class discussions make me think, and the writing assignments make me think even more.  These are good things, so I hope we don’t change them up too much.  

Two things that I wish were different:  

1. I didn’t really like having guests come to our class at the beginning of the semester.  Having new guests come every week made made the beginning of the semester feel choppy.  

2. I also found it pretty difficult to read the blogs.  I know we’ve talked about different types of reading, but I could have used more direct instruction on how to access the material in the blogs and clearer guidelines on how much of each blog we were supposed to read.  

Something I want to work on:

I think a lot about this class outside of class--which is good, but it means that I come to class with a clearly formed plan about what I’m going to say and what I expect everyone else to say.  I think this is not so good.  I want to figure out a way to have less of an agenda when I come to class.    

Suggestion for the rest of the class:

I’d like to continue to explore different genre forms (as opposed to different content genres, if that makes sense).  I think it would be cool if we could read the same type of story (content wise) in lots of different forms.  Maybe we can explore: Radio? Plays? Poetry? Movies? The plain old novel?  Picture books? Books on tape?  Songs?  

If I were choosing for myself, I’d pick books on tape, songs, and radio.  I think that by shifting our focus from things that we look at to things that we hear will help us develop new ways to understand stories.

dglasser's picture

Here Emerges My Evaluation

This course is like playing a game of Risk, a never-ending board game where strategies, alliances, differences, and connections are all revealed, but you can never see how the game will end. Risk feels like a never-ending game, and this class is a never-ending conversation. In that sense, I am so thankful to be in this class because if the conversation never ends, your opinions are never wrong, and you have more room to rearrange your thoughts and change your mind as you are exposed to new material and differing people. The collaboration in this class has been extremely helpful. I shy away from anything science or math related, but in this class I have been exposed to those who love the fields I fear, and although their love has not inspired me to become a scientist, their passion has inspired me to see that barriers in academia are thinner than I once knew.

On a more analytical note, the class discussions so far that I have found most helpful  were those surrounding mental differences and graphic novels. These two topics walk a fine line for many, and for lack of a better word, they can be seen as “controversial”. Controversy pushes people to think in new ways and talk about issues that can actually unite individuals. I am a big fan of controversy. On the other hand, if I was to pin point one aspect of the class that can be made clearer it is the connection between the topics we have explored so far. Academic writing, mental differences, graphic novels etc. are less than conventional pairings. I appreciate the lack of conventionality and I definitely can see links between the areas we are discussing, but I feel I have to stretch to make the links connect. I don’t pretend to know everything, but I’m sure somewhere there is a graphic novel or psychology book that connects mental difference and graphic novels, or even plagiarism. If there isn’t, that could be a cool idea and even a great topic to discuss…if you were to create a graphic novel what would you want the reading experience to be like, and is it possible to write a graphic novel about plagiarism? I’m sure it is, and then maybe people would take the offense more seriously. Lastly, I feel that the class picked up the most steam when it was just the class, in a room talking. I love hearing outside opinion and having guest speakers but I wish they had been more spread out, allowing for the class to bond and run freer so we could then take the guest speakers along with us, and allow them to feed off of our energy, instead of relying on the guest speaker to inspire conversation. I know that is more of a pragmatic critique that depends on scheduling, but it’s just a thought.

Now, onto the future. For me, the answer to, what should we do next, is easy; Science Fiction. I anticipate others in the class not being too keen on the idea, but I want to stress that science fiction doesn’t mean aliens and laser beams. Science fiction bridges genres, creating breaks in canons and controversy among readers, and as I said before, I love controversy. Slaughter House 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, Time and Again by Jack Finney, Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro are all science fiction novels that deal with real issues of humanity, but blur the barrier between science fiction, fantasy, fiction, and even historical fiction in the case of Time and Again. Science fiction to many is viewed in the same category as romance novels ie: travel trash, but the works and great authors that fall under this genre beg to differ. I suggest we explore a genre that bends our preconceived notions about literature, and tests the limits of our imaginations. I suggest science fiction. 

KT's picture

Emerging Evaluation

Literary Kinds Hits and Misses:


Class discussion, of course!  I like that everyone is respectful of everyone else’s opinions and we can disagree without controversy or hurt feelings.  I think it makes for a welcoming environment for everyone to speak and share openly.

I’m also really glad that the content (graphic novel, especially) has been of the type that I wouldn’t have pursued on my own outside of the class.  We spoke about how our preferred genres have a tendency to direct us in our decisions about what to read, this class has been helpful to breakout of my genre mold and find things to like in another arena.   From our class discussions, it sounds like many other people have felt that way about the graphic novel too.  Sometimes it’s fun to go on a road-trip to places we’re not familiar with versus just going to Disney all the time.

Aspects that I’m less enthusiastic about:

I don’t enjoy the exercises where we need to suddenly write something on the board.  I don’t understand what’s significant about having us get up to document a thought except that you can take a picture of the board afterwards as opposed to a class discussion which doesn’t allow for the same kind of record keeping.  Having written that, I’m also not sure why I prefer discussion versus writing.  Maybe it’s that writing seems more permanent and so I like more time to think before I write?  I don’t know, but we all seem to be fairly shy about it.

I also find that we’re not evenly distributed in our class participation.  I’m always curious about what the people who do not speak as much in class are thinking about.  Many times it’s the people who don’t talk as often who can have the most interesting insights.  However, I don’t know if there’s a way to encourage the less-talkative while still allowing everyone feel comfortable.

New Genre Suggestion:

So I’d like to again explore something that is new to many of us, I like that aspect of our journey.  I’m wondering how much non-fiction we read.  I mentioned in class an article indicating that non-fiction is becoming less popular now that the internet can provide so much of that type of information.  I think this assertion could make for an interesting tie between digital humanities and the new face of non-fiction.  How are the two emerging (or maybe non-fiction is receding) together?  Does non-fiction have to get more creative (ex. a graphic novel) to be interesting and popular?  What does non-fiction gain by changing its format?  (Note, I realize that “non-fiction” is a huge category and perhaps I should be more specific, but I want to start with the general and if this is an idea that others like, then maybe we can decide on appropriate specifics together.)


kobieta's picture

I’m enjoying this class far

I’m enjoying this class far more than I expected. Although what I expected the class to be about isn’t necessarily what we actually do in class, I find the topics we discuss and the things we do very engaging and though-provoking. I mentioned in a blog post earlier this week that I often find myself more confused and with a lot more questions after class than before class—something that is not necessarily a bad thing. I think that by being confused and by having so many questions, it only enables me to expand the conversation to the bigger community of Bryn Mawr, instead of confining the topics within the walls of our Dalton classroom.  I also enjoy the structure of class; although I am not used to it, or didn’t think I would like it, I like having the freedom to talk whenever I feel like it. I still don’t like that Anne is always part of our discussion, instead of her lecturing, per se, but having the ability to talk without raising my hand is AWESOME. It reminds me so much of Harkness discussions I had in my AP English classes in high school.

One thing I don’t like is the lack of continuity in our blog posts. I don’t have the time to look at everyone’s posts every week, nor do I feel like reading everyone’s posts, so I don’t always get to participate or comment or even just know what everyone is talking about. Thus, when things are brought up in class regarding the blog posts, I sometimes find myself lost. The weekly blog posts just seem a little too broken—bits and pieces of side conversations—that are hard to keep up with and almost distracting.

This past weekend, I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of the Posse Plus Retreat. Until this weekend, I didn’t know which topic I would like to explore some more in the later half of the semester. However, after this weekend, I know. The theme for the Posse Plus Retreat this past weekend was gender and sexuality.  I have always been aware of this emerging genre, but I had failed to realize exactly how immense it has become, and the different ways that people identify themselves these days. As the daughter of a devout Catholic woman, the emerging genre of gender and sexuality was never really discussed in my household, and my move to Bryn Mawr was the first time I was really exposed to the many kinds of gender expressions and sexualities. I wish I knew enough about this subject and its many issues and controversies to suggest readings and texts or even an objective I want to accomplish with it, but the truth is, I really don’t know myself. I guess what I am asking is that we explore this emerging genre, because it is an important part of our campus and the Bryn Mawr community. We have explored the many ways that genre is emerging—from the academic essay to education to graphic novels—and it’s time, I feel, that we connect the topic of emerging genres back to the individual. I knew the acronym LGBTQ, but I wasn’t aware that two more letters—i and a—have now been added to the acronym. I think it’s quite important to realize that we have covered a vast majority of people by making this acronym, but obviously, it’s still emerging. As we people change, the way we classify ourselves keep changing with us. Gender and sexuality is a great example of this.

leamirella's picture

Mid-Course Evaluation

What I like about the course so far:

I really like that we're looking at evolving "genres" and what their characteristics are rather than spending time (and I can't believe that I'm going to say this because I asked for a stronger definition of "genres") attempting to explain and find definitions. Additionally, I find that I've engaged with the material well - not only is it interesting but also, especially in the case of Persepolis, enjoyable too. Furthermore, I'm happy to note that many of the topics that we address are pertinent outside of this class - I find myself mulling over ideas that were brought up in class outside the classroom.

What I do not like about the course:

Although I know that Anne has tried to build bridges and links between the different sections of the course (and I do see them!), I do feel as though the first section about digital media ended much too abruptly. I found myself struggling a little bit to read Scott McCloud's book straight after all of the digital humanities stuff just because it felt a little jarring to me to begin with a completely different text. I also wish that we spent a little more time in class on Margaret Price's "Mad At School" because I think that it could also bring more insight into the ways in which we are approaching this idea of "genre".

Suggestions for the remainder of the course:

Though I know the course is all about evolving genres, I'd also like to make a comparative link to more traditional "genre-fied" (I'm making up words here, sorry) and perhaps explore the differences and similarities in the ways in which we think of "genre". I'm not quite sure that I know exactly which book I want to read, "The Last Time I Saw Mother" by Arlene J. Chai (a Filipina writer) comes to mind because it deals with similar issues that Persepolis does but takes on a more "traditional" form.

 I also, through our exploration of graphic novels as a "genre", kept thinking of "Mythologies" by Roland Barthes. Though I will admit that I haven't quite delved into his body of work, I'm thinking of the piece that he wrote about how we read clothing. I feel like this might help in looking at texts that include pictures such as the graphic novel and films because it would open up our ideas about reading symbols within images.

I also think it might be interesting to look at "Learning From Youtube" which is a "video-book" - another emerging genre as a result of digital media. It might be great as a compliment to Re:Humanities in March where the author herself, Alex Juhasz will be speaking. When I thought about this a bit more, I also remembered the work of Michael Suen, a conference participant last year who produced numerous videos that challenge the ways in which movies or films convey information. (Or so I think).