Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

ecoursepic5This quarter, I’m teaching an entirely online Introduction to Fiction class: and, since it’s still early in the term,  there are still 43 students in a class where I require weekly discussion postings. And, since I’m at a teaching institution, I also have three “live” and smaller composition classes (more on those another day).

One immediate result of my spring schedule  is that  my bloggy presence will be seriously curtailed: spending hours each day prepping “lectures” and facilitating “discussions” leaves little time for playing in the blogosphere.

For the most part, I do enjoy the one entirely online class (as opposed to my hybrid classes) I’ve volunteered to teach:  of all the literature classes I teach, this is the one that I thought could be done successfully online because it is a traditional introduction to the elements of fiction and literary analysis, and we could focus on the short story and novella. There are several textbooks that provide the bulk of the information on plot, character, etc., and as a result, I can spend most of my time creating lectures on the stories themselves, and participating in the discussion board (once students have posted).

 But the first few weeks of the term are shaky, as students struggle to figure out whether they can actually learn in the online format and whether they can keep up with the reading (since they must read everything–no gleaning plot points from class discussion) and writing.  

I must share one posting in the FAQ Discussion Folder from this week:

Hi,          Does all reading have to be so critical in thinking, reading and re-seeing? Can’t reading be fun as well. In order for me to read I first must be able to have fun and enjoy it. And is interpreting in the eyes of the reading and everyone can see things differently?

Now I, naturally, think the readings I’ve chosen are fun (and thankfully many other postings confirm that).

So, what would you say to a student who was hoping for a book club experience rather than a literature class?

7 responses to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

  1. I’ve gotten similar postings in my online sections from time to time. And my response is something along the lines of “It’s an absolutely wonderful experience to read a text joyfully, I agree. That’s why I ask you to read everything twice. With the first read, go ahead and read for fun! Enjoy without any sorts of limits or requirements! The second time, however, your mission is to read critically (which can still be enjoyable but involves a different set of tools or lenses, which help us establish common ground for scholarly discussion, which guides our interpretations).”

  2. I love it: may I borrow your words, Ink? I tried to explain and illustrate (clearly not successfully)some of the joys of literary analysis, but I neglected to mention that the first read can be the fun sort of “read”… fact, I hope it is!

    But another issue: perhaps the dark humor of Atwood’s stories, and Paley’s “Conversation With My Father,” is the opposite of humorous for some readers?

  3. First I had to grapple with this sentence: ” And is interpreting in the eyes of the reading…” which I take to mean is something like “Is beauty in the eyes of the beholder ?” Should be “reader,” n’est-ce pas ? I’m not only being picky (though I enjoy that), but the sentence structure itself reflects such a loose attention to language that one can see why “fun” and “interpretation” fall into different categories. I have used ink’s approach, but I think your student’s response is unfortunately not unique: many students do not read to discover things about the world, or life, or others different from their own/ themselves, but to be affirmed, made happy, or, in the case of humor, naturally, to be entertained. I’ll avoid the trite idea that entertainment is all they want, because it isn’t. But they seem to want to fill a void, and not to explore it, if that makes sense. And, by hoping someone will agree that all interpretation is subjective (“in the eyes of the reading”), the student clearly hopes that this will get him/her out of having to think in the first place. And I also think that there is a common narcissism at work in the (traditional age) college student: the why should I care/ how is this about me / going to improve my life song that probably thrums along in each generation, but whose answers appear (mistakenly) self-evident and rhetorical (it’s not/it won’t). Well, thank you for letting me ramble on here instead of being cranky on my own blog.

  4. I am greatly honored that you have shared your crankiness on my humble blog, Bobba Lynx! And I sooooo agree (though since that sentence is, as you note, barely comprehensible, I focused on her first disturbing complaint). The double whammy is that this is both an “intro” to fiction class and an online class, and the student clearly was hoping for a free-ride class rather than the nearly double the amount of reading it really requires (on top of learning the hows and whys of literary analysis). Sigh. There is some inkling (hi Ink!) of hope, however: other students have replied indirectly in the discussion board by highlighting the humor in the stories so far, and the excitement of seeing a story from different perspectives…..

    Thanks for the crankiness, Bobba! (and no, I have no idea to get rid of daisy bullets: I still haven’t figured out why WordPress messes with my fonts and sizes….).

  5. Yes, feel free to take what is useful, Annie Em!

    And everything you both just discussed: yes. There is a sort of sense of entitlement about being entertained…do you think it’s actually connected to the short attention spans cultivated by MTV and video games, as has been theorized? Or is it something else?

  6. One of my colleagues is working on an article about the sense of entitlement evident not just in terms of generation Y or Z or wherever we’re at now, but as a society-wide concern (think of Acadamnit’s posting about older students whose sense of entitlement was as strong as any younger student’s).

    I’m not so sure that’s what this is: I’m thinking it’s more a sudden realization that an online class has lots of reading, and a fiction class doesn’t mean beach reading and chatting about it. I’m sure she’s not alone, alas, but there are enough others in the class who are right now having a fascinating discussion about “The Yellow Wallpaper” online who will definitely make up for those like that girl who wants to have fun;-0)

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