Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Collegiate Level English

Bookish Banter is an original feature at Hungover Fiction Lover in which I speak about various topics I find intriguing and worth discussing in depth.

For awhile now, I have been feeling moved to discuss the overview of my English classes here at school. During Fall Quarter, I didn't take any English courses because English is supposed to be my "easy" general education core requirement category. Instead, I took Classics in Literature, but that was a humanities course. As my first quarter at university came to a conclusion, I signed up for Winter Quarter classes. One of my three classes that quarter was English 101. Moving along to Spring Quarter, I am currently enrolled in English 201 and Intro to Fiction. Each of these three classes has presented their fair share of pros and cons, so sit tight while I elaborate.

English 101 shed light on what I come to identify as perspective. At first, I thought the class was boring. My professor would write a new word on the board every week with the definition. Eventually, she stopped doing that. She moved on to more important lessons. The day we began brainstorming for our first paper, she went through an interesting process involving a few questions that went something like this...

"How many of you have written a persuasive essay?" Most of the class raised their hands.
"Is there anyone who has never used MLA format?" About eight people raised their hands.
"How many of you have written an analysis essay?" I was the only one to raise a hand.

The above questions were easy and breezy, but I found that most of the kids in my class didn't like English. They also hadn't learned much about the subject at hand. It originally surprised me to hear that; it surprised me until I saw the results from my professors questions. I was one of maybe three students that found the English 101 curriculum to be "basic" because apparently, English was to my peers what Math is to me. Something in my mind clicked. I realized that I am extremely lucky to have received the education I did before attending college, and that I'm thankfully "lightning on my feet" when it comes to English.

At the end of it all, I earned a 4.0 in English 101. I learned that not everyone excels at the same subjects nor at the same pace. Also, I came to understand that English was only going to get more difficult. Unfortunately for me, I was right. English 201 sucks. I think my problems stem from the fact that: 1) my professor seems disconnected from her students, 
2) there are discussions in class but nothing to discuss, and 3) our research paper is the only thing we work on in terms of writing.

Hopefully you can see the issue I have with this class. It feels unproductive and when we're told to work on important assignments such as our research paper, we receive unhelpful and inconsistent feedback. It feels like a waste of time.

Now, making a complete 180, there is this wonderful class called Intro to Fiction. It's a pre-major requirement, but let me tell you, for a pre-major requirement, I am having the best time. It is by far my favorite class this quarter as well as my favorite English course I have taken. I enjoy the company of my classmates, the environment for a 2 hour 20 minute class is impeccable, and my professor is a riot. Today, with a grin slapped across her face, she yelled, "I don't care what you say unless you have something to support it!" It shocked me. It was raw, useful even. And I appreciate that.

The material we go over is every bit as awesome. Most of the stories we read and discuss are from The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. I don't necessarily recommend picking it up because it is rather chunky, but I do have some author and short story suggestions for anyone interested in literary fiction/classics/contemporary:
  • "Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe
  • "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner
  • "Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin
  • "Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway
  • "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson 
At the end of the day, I hope sharing my personal experiences helps calm those going off to college next year, or encourages someone to continuously try to do what they love, whether it involves writing/reading/whatever it may be that you like. I may not love all of my English classes, but I'm glad I have the opportunity to learn something from each and every one of them.

Have you ever favored one English class over another? Do you have a teacher that encourages learning through their teaching style and attitude? Do you have any helpful tips or tricks you use in English classes? Please, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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