But it was a nice break nonetheless, and tbh, I tend to maintain a generally higher personal morale during the constantly moving and demanding semester; add that to the fact that I seem to have a mild form of reverse seasonal affective disorder (otherwise known as Summer-SAD), and I'd say I'm doing pretty okay, besides feeling the regular senses of apprehension and nervousness about the impending term.
This semester, I'm teaching a transhistorical course on Dreaming in Literature, which is actually the first Literature Proper course I have ever taught (after having taught five different Composition--or mandatory first-year writing--courses, ubiquitous in the American higher education system though perhaps some Canadian institutions have them as well?). My syllabus took a very long time to generate since I was building it entirely from scratch, and although I'm writing my dissertation on medieval dream visions and I'm excited about the broader temporal context this class will give me, I spent a lot of time seeking out dreamy things in other eras in a way that would offer the course both coherence and variety. Turns out there are a lot of texts that deal with dreams in some capacity! In this post, I'd like to A) sample a few points from my syllabus in order to share ideas and solicit feedback from more experienced professors; B) discuss a couple problems with the course that I can already anticipate; and C) crowd-source for more texts on dreaming, should you worthy readers have suggestions. While my reading list is pretty much set, I'm planning to build an additional Google Drive doc of other possible texts that students can sample from for their final papers and supplementary presentations. So if you can think of something major I've missed, toss it in the comments!
A) My course is split into broad (in one case very broad...) chronological units, and its main texts are:
- Medieval Dreaming: "Caedmon's Hymn," "Dream of the Rood," Chaucer's The Nun's Priest's Tale, and the Anonymous Pearl poem
- Romantic Dreaming (Renaissance to nineteenth-century): Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Christabel, selections from John Keats and William Blake
- Modernist Dreaming: Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, Virginia Woolf's The Waves, Hitchcock's Spellbound (film), and selections from Freud and Jung
- Postmodern/Contemporary Dreaming: Jack Kerouac's Book of Dreams, Luis Buñuel's The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), selections from Rosalind Krauss's Optical Unconscious
B) A couple problems/concerns:
- One: you may have noticed, oh feminists. I only have two female authors: Virginia Woolf and contemporary psychoanalytical theorist Rosalind Krauss. I'm basically as bad as David Gilmour! (though, who knows, maybe Pearl was written by a woman...??) I think a lot of this is the nature of the material, the male-driven canon of course but also the question of who is licensed to have access and agency over their own dreams (oh, Freud...), and I plan to make this problem a recurrent talking-point. But nevertheless I could have found more women authors, especially in the modern/contemporary periods, so I am ESPECIALLY eager for some suggestions in that arena in the comments below (women of color or LGBT writers esp. welcome). I have a little bit of leeway with juggling things around near the end of the term.
- Two: An introductory writing exercise yesterday during my first class has led me to believe that most of my students chose this course because they want to learn to interpret their own dreams. While I there is a creative/personal component to the syllabus, and self-exploration is one of the themes of the course, I need to figure out how to cultivate such eager, engaged attitudes while keeping the focus of the class on literature, sometimes literature that won't initially seem very exciting or, cough, relatable.
- Three: I'm worried I haven't assigned enough reading. So many people cautioned me that I need to assign less than I deem possible that I may have overcompensated...hence, tomorrow, we're examining a mere 15 pages of texts. We'll see how things go, I guess. I really have no idea!
Any suggestions or grains of wisdom from your own syllabi, readers? How are you approaching your syllabi this term?