Volume 12, Issue 1     Editorial (2)
Teaching the Novel and Short Fiction is the subject of no fewer than seven articles in this issue of Academic Exchange Quarterly. These articles examine a variety of approaches to literature in varying contexts, from high school classrooms through introductory surveys and advanced literature courses at the community college and university level. Yet even as these articles explore such a wide range of topics and situations, they also allow for meaningful overlaps or points of connection. In particularly, a number of these essays address issues specific to literary surveys and other general education courses in which instructors face the challenge of selecting representative works and establishing meaningful but not limiting connections between the selected texts. Robert T. Tally Jr.’s “The Whale in the World” examines literature as a means of making sense of the world through the extended example of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick and explores the potential place of that novel, which “specifically invites thinking about the role of knowledge and education in our lives,” in introductory community college and university courses, whether in literature or in general education. Two further essays discuss the place of a particular novel at the end of a literary survey course. Randy Laist and Jerry Phillips demonstrate that Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo allows an instructor “the possibility of teaching the canon and challenging it at the same time,” just as Sue Sorensen argues for the place of Ian McEwan’s Saturday as the final text in a survey course in modernism and postmodernism. The editor’s choice in this issue, Kimberly K. Bell’s “Teaching Homer’s Iliad through the Movie 300,” successfully argues for building on students’ preexisting knowledge base by using “a familiar pop-cultural movie as a starting point” for reading a classical text, teaching literary forms and terminology, and perceiving “the close connections between present and past cultures.” The other essays in this cluster on Teaching the Novel and Short Fiction similarly overlap in their focus on bridging the seemingly ever widening gap between written texts and contemporary students’ lives. In “Teaching the Novel in Context,” Pam Whitfield presents group projects and guest speakers as a way to establish the relevance of literary works to students’ lives and to “put a human face on historical events or social issues.” In “Analyzing Fiction with Character Analysis Poems,” G. Douglas Meyers begins with the observation that “many students’ strongest interaction with fiction is fundamentally character-based” and goes on to develop student exercises on the assigned readings that integrate creative writing into the high-school literature classroom. Finally, in “Mapping Class on Coketown: Two Views of Hard Times,” Brian C. Cooney demonstrates how a familiar tool – a graphic, spatial map built through a reader’s close attention to Charles Dickens’ detailed descriptions – can expose the social disparity in the fictional city: “Indeed, any attempt to ‘map’ Coketown,” Cooney writes, “results in not one but two maps: one for the wealthy and another for the poor. In this way, the literary gaps between the classes come to stand in for the growing metaphorical gaps between them created by England’s burgeoning industrialism.” Taken as a whole, these articles demonstrate a continuing commitment among teachers at different levels to develop innovative strategies for the classroom and to present literary works not as things written and read in isolation but rather as texts necessarily connected to other texts and, perhaps even more importantly, to the readers themselves. James B. Kelley, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of English, Mississippi State University – MeridianCFP for the next NOVEL issue Teaching the Novel and Short Fiction Spring 2009.
See all published NOVEL articles.