Spring 2008     ISSN 1096-1453     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 – Meridian
CFP for the next NOVEL issue Teaching the Novel and Short Fiction Spring 2009.
See all published NOVEL articles.