Writing the First Syllabus

I’m creating my first ever syllabus from scratch.  Well, not really from scratch.  No syllabus is ever truly created from nothing, though every syllabus carries with it the possibility for transcendence.  Or at least that’s what professors tell themselves.

I’m finding myself torn between EVERYTHING MUST BE REPRESENTED and “Is the Norton really that awesome? I could do better.”  Or something like that.

There are more or less given parameters for what the course should, supposedly, look like.  But I believe that you should teach to your strengths and I am not strong in 20th century literature.  So, we make do with what we can.  Stoppard’s Arcadia made the cut, but Waiting for Godot is so out (it’s about God.  I get it.  But I can’t teach it for a week).  Other possibilities include Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.  But I’m also considering stuff written in the 21st century to round out the second half.  Any good (teachable) postmodern books you recommend?


2 thoughts on “Writing the First Syllabus

  1. Neurotic Workaholic says:

    I've taught a couple 20th century literature courses, which I liked. It is hard choosing which books to teach, since there are so many to choose from. I usually stick to the classics, like House of Mirth and Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man. I haven't really taught any postmodern books, but a good one from the 90s is called Native Speaker, by Chang-Rae Lee. It's about the conflicts between second-generation Korean Americans and their parents, as well as interracial conflicts among Korean Americans, black people, and white people.

  2. Anna says:

    Thanks for the recommendations. I agree that it's helpful to teach to the canon. As I mentioned in my post, I have some anxiety about creating the perfect combination of texts, but at the end of the day, they'll all good books. I'll have to check out Native Speaker; my knowledge in 90s and 00s books that aren't YA is surprisingly limited!

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