Saturday, September 06, 2008

Early Modern Show and Tell

My upper-level undergraduate Renaissance Poetry course is the most fun I've had teaching- EVER. And why? Because one of our rare books librarians decided she wanted to collaborate with me on the course. I said "yeah, sure, why not?"- I already bring my students up to rare books several times a semester. It might be nice to bring the rare books to them for starters. So long as she let me lead the discussion. And it's working really well.

Every day she brings a different old book to class, sometimes 2. Her choices always tie in to our discussion and reading.

Last week we read "Astrophil and Stella," and for our second day with the sonnet sequence, for a discussion on Sidney's "school-boy writer" persona, she brought along a 1591 edition of the poems, plus a 1627 book of grammar-school rules. When I suggested we read a few of the sonnets aloud, we passed around the early modern book, and the students got a chance to struggle with reading from a 16th century text. Which generated quite a few giggles, but also brought the experience down to earth. Pretty soon, they were volunteering to read, which is rare at a place like this (maybe rare everywhere? Except for the peppering of theatre majors in most upper-level English classes).

Anyway, teaching's fun this year. Every day, actually. I highly recommend that everyone try this out- if you haven't already. I'd be interested to read in the comments section about some of your own experiences with collaborative teaching. Did it work? Did it backfire? (I'm still a bit worried that the students will remember the old books but not Sidney).


alicepawley said...

We co-teach many of our classes, but the result is that we get 1/#co-teachers * the amount of credit. So if you're teaching a 3 credit course with someone, you only get 1.5 credits and the department can load you up with another co-taught course at 1.5 credits. 'Cause, you know, co-teaching is less work than teaching it all by yourself. Hah. But glad it's working for you!!

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I would settle for them remembering the old books! But then, I'm old and cynical.

Pamphilia said...

alice, that's terrible! So you have to teach 1.5 times as many classes if you co-teach anything? We don't get teaching credits so I'm not clear how it works (I thought only students got credits!). Does it mean you're paid less? Or simply that if you've got a 2/2 load and you co-teach one of your 2 courses that you then have to teach 2 more? I'm bewildered by that. I have a colleague in the Pacific NW whose institution only offers co-taught year-long courses.

Pamphilia said...

PS I'm not actually co-teaching this course- the librarian (bless her) is just coming along for the ride. Every single day. With rare books.

Yes, 32 is turning out to be a good year so far.

Bardiac said...

Wow, that sounds GREAT! Our Special Collections is pretty slim on English lit, and incredibly slim on anything pre... okay, anything.

But I use EEBO to get things going, and that works, and I also use facsimiles and a 1711 text I own.

But the real thing. Dang, that would just be so cool!

Pamphilia said...

Oh, ours is pretty slim too- especially since they stopped buying early modern books 25 years ago. But they do have some great stuff from the old collection of the Tobacco Baron who helped make the school what it is today, including the Nuremberg Chronicle and 1st editions of Donne, Milton, Spenser, Sidney, and Ralegh's History of the World (which I have to say I now LOVE).

So what's there is great for MA and undergrad students, but one couldn't do research there. (It's not the same as rare books at QSU, where I once co-curated an exhibit on early modern collections that took up all eight cases and we still had a hard time cutting it down).