First Impressions of my Courses

Dear readers,

As I have now had one full week of classes, I can now give you an insight in what it is that I will be studying this semester. This also includes what I might be able to use in my teaching as an English teacher.

Okay, let us start in the order which they appear in in my schedule:

20th century American Literature

Also called “American/Asian Literature” because after all, that is our focus. So, the teacher, who is Chinese American and a professor, has chosen some books which we will read throughout the semester. Right now we are reading “Dragonwings” by Laurence Yep. It was written in 1977 and tells the story of a Chinese boy who comes to the U.S in 1903, to live with his father who is a worker. The story is told from the child’s perspective, and gives the reader witty, detailed, and well written descriptions of what he faces when he comes to the States. Everything from Chinese traditions, to cultural differences as well as relationships that are proven to be very important for his building of a character.

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My teacher is wonderful. She is obviously intelligent but also has a way of binding us together with this story. We discuss the it from so many different perspectives, and she often includes historical facts which are important for us to know in order to understand the situation for the Chinese workers in the beginning of 1900’s in The U.S. I think it is so important to be aware of the two different cultures (which she is) and to be able to discuss and problematize the questions that appear. Also, there are a lot of secrets in the book which are unclear to the reader, unless you have someone who can provide you with the right key to understand.

The class is my favorite one out of all my courses. Simply because they are somewhat social and actually participate in the discussion brought on by the teacher. I have had lunch with one of them and I have interesting discussions with another.

The other books we will read during this semester are:

  • The Woman Warrior – Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
  • Hotel On The Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Jamie Ford

I know for a fact that I will be using Dragonwings when I teach English in Secondary Education. It has a great language, suitable level and a fantastic amount of information which would be perfect to use for several points from the syllabus.

20th Century & Contemporary Literature in English

That is one savvy title for a course, eh? It does also, let me tell you, live up to its name. I just adore this course. I had to buy the most bulky book ever made for this class, but it does provide me with a lot of great text from The Middle Ages up until The 20th Century and “after”. This week we were told to read Alice Munro’s short story “Walker Brothers Cowboy” (highly recommend!) and last week we read a poem called “Musée des Beaux Arts” by W.H Auden. My teacher chose to discuss this poem with us by involving art, history of European wars and by talking about language use and what that does with a poem. It was just so great.

He also showed that by talking about a poem which happens to take place in an arts museum, without being aware of it, gave me so much inspiration as to how I can incorporate my other subject I will be teaching, Arts, into my English teaching (and vice versa). By discussing how discrete mentioning’s in a poem can open up to a world of art and important paintings, he basically gave me tools to work with. A very “learning by doing”-epiphany for me.

This teacher is also American and has been teaching at this university for over a decade. By discussing the texts with us the way he does, I have already put so much trust in his teaching that I truly believe I will be greatly influenced by how he uses literature in the classroom and what he can say in order for students to start thinking in ways they never had before.

This class is very quiet. They rarely answer to questions. Some do. About three of us. Me, my classmate from the other class, and maybe one more in the class (not always the same person though).

 

The Renaissance

Alright, we are almost half way now. This course is exciting because we are only going to work with two different plays this semester (with literature that evolve around them). One comedy and one tragedy. Our final examination will be us acting out 30 minutes of one of the plays in groups (oh my!) which is so much fun to have as an examination form.

Our teacher is young and fun and very very well-read. She always gives references to so many things while we are discussing our current play. By the way, it has such a provocative name; ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. Yes. I know. It happens to be about incest as well.

We have only come so far in the play, so I cannot really talk much about it, except that it is fun to work with plays as literary pieces, and not just look at the theatrical part of it.

One of our assignments were to take a speech from the play and paraphrase it to modern language (as this dates back to around 1630). Again, a great way to work with literature in the EFL classroom. Even though I would go for an easier text than this one, it would be a very interesting task to have pupils learn more about how to connotate texts.

This class is probably the one I am struggling with the most. I feel like I am some sort of alien that needs to be ignored within the four walls of the classroom. I always sit alone (there was even an incident where I sat down next to some other students by their table, and they actually moved straight away, so if you were wondering, yes I have tried) and no one speaks unless forced. Maybe it’s shyness. Maybe it’s about the old English language we are exploring in the room. Either way, my relationship to this context gives me a bit of a stomach ache. Hopefully it will get better.

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Romanticism

Ah, great great content in this course. And the teacher is charismatic and fun to listen to. He gave us a compendium of all sorts of texts (mostly poems) which we will be working with throughout the semester.

He is from South Africa and has a thick accent which is nice to listen to. It is like listening to parts of the world come together in one voice, sort of. Very cool.

Right now, we are working with William Wordsworth and his Lucy-poems. They are lovely to read about, and the teacher is very good at describing the reasons as to why some poets came to be, whilst some did not. He also has a good feature where he is very aware of the students in the class, and apparently has made an effort to get to know them, which gives him the privilege of giving the right questions to the right students.

I only have this course once a week, therefore I cannot really discuss it more than saying that my first impression was so good, and I will most likely thrive by taking this course.

During the (only one yet) class we had last week, he showed a BBC documentary on Romanticism which gave at least me a better understanding of context, and also raised many questions for me that I was able to use in further discussions. So good.

We will also read a novel in this class: The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole. It is considered the first gothic novel.

This class is also a shy one. Maybe not in the same way as the previously mentioned one. You may have figured out that the classroom environment might differ a lot by how the Swedish one is. I will discuss this further down.

Creative Writing

This is the last course I am taking, and probably is the most creative (haha) one! I am looking forward to this course taking off more (I only have it once a week) and to learn more about my writing technique, as well as work with a specific project during the whole semester!

The teacher of this course is my go-to-person since he is the one in contact with the English faculty at Malmö University. Lucky for me, I was required to take this course. We are going to choose a project that we will work on throughout the semester, and if we want, we can have as a goal to publish it! I am still pondering on what I want to do, but right now I am thinking in children literature-terms.

The teacher had a really cool exercise where we all sat in a large circle and everyone had to tell the others about the last dream they can remember. Going from anonymous creatures (for me anyway) to listening to something as personal as dreams, was for me a very cool experience. I think I will steal this idea for my own teaching, actually!

I will keep updating on this subject. More is to come!

Love,

Izabella

 

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