Jennifer Greeson / English
My “Dream Idea” is actually two ideas, distributed across my planned work with undergraduates in 2012-13.
1) I will be teaching my 20th-century “Literature of the South” lecture course, ENAM 3880, this fall. The course enrolls 80-85 students. I’d rather teach it in a smaller format, especially because the topics and stories in the works we read strike a personal chord with many of the students—whether they were raised in Virginia or are just trying to figure out what “the South” means to them as they live in Charlottesville for college. Because of the level of interest in the course, though— there is a waiting list every time I teach it—I don’t feel as though I can go smaller than 80 students. This year I am volunteering to teach one of the discussion sections alongside the TAs, simply to build in more regular small-group contact with one subset of the students in the course. My “dream idea” for this course is to, in the penultimate week of class, suspend the regular two-lecture/one-discussion weekly class schedule and replace it with a dinner-and-a movie evening (to be repeated twice). I would break the class into two 40+-student groups, and then meet with each group for a viewing of a film (we do watch several movies over the course of the term, so this will not be a departure fromcourse content), followed by a catered southern-style meal over which we can discuss the movie. Having an actual meal, as opposed to pizza and soda, catered for a group this size seems unimaginably luxurious, and I think would help the students to feel the importance, maturity, and elegance of the intellectual enterprise in which they have been participating all semester. The movie I propose screening and discussing this fall isn’t high art—it’s The Hunger Games! Having read the book myself (to screen it for my 10-yearold),
I am fascinated by the Appalachian/Black Belt themes and imagery woven through this dystopian future-fantasy, and those resonances have only been magnified by the casting and setting choices of the filmmakers. I don’t know what I think about this migration of representations of the embattled depression-era South into a cultural event about a post-apocalyptic American future—but this young-adult book was ubiquitous in the middle- and high school years of our current students and I would love to create the opportunity for the students to, near the end of a semester of studying representations of the South, apply their expertise and insight to their own popular culture milieu. It’s a “real-world application” of literary study.
I would put the budget for this event at $1200. Two dinners for 45 at
$10/person plus delivery charges would cost right around $1000. An additional
$200 would cover two evenings of space rental and projection charges, so that we can screen the movie in one of the nicer facilities on campus rather than on a classroom apparatus.
2) In my capacityas incoming director of undergraduate studies for the English major, I plan to build on an initiative my colleague Anna Brickhouse began last year: a “Why Read?” symposium designed to function as botha rallying point for present majors and an informational session for students interested in what we do in the English department—whether those students be prospective majors in the firstand second years of study, or majors in other departments who retain their love of literary study. Last year, Prof. Brickhouse arranged an evening event at which ten English professors spoke for about five minutes each about what teaching their specialties at UVa means to them. That was it—there were no refreshments or other enticements involved. Well over a hundred students attended, spilling out of the largest room in Bryan Hall into standing room up and down the hall. I think this enormous interest stemmed in part from the fact that we have some of the most celebrated faculty members on campus in our department, and in part from the fact that UVa students, whatever their academic focus, really do love to read!
I want to organize such an event again this year, to be held in the fall after midterm. With the generosity of the Mead Foundation, though, I’d love to offer a modest reception afterward at which the faculty who speak and the students who attend could mingle over beverages and cookies. Here, a budget of $300 should suffice.
Then: to keep the energy of the event going into the spring semester, I’d like to try a new pilot program: a group of “book club” offerings in which a group of 10-12 students would sign up to read the same book—whether a classic or a popular new release—and then meet with one of our faculty members to discuss it. (I participated in a pilot program of this sort in one of the residential colleges at Princeton prior to coming to UVa.) I’d like to offer four of these “book clubs,” each of which would send the books to students over winter break, and then meet in the early weeks of the spring semester. I’d run one club myself (probably on Toni Morrison’s recent novel set in colonial Virginia, A Mercy), and invite three other faculty members to do the same.
We would announce the program at the “Why Read” symposium and invite students to sign up that evening and on-line in the subsequent week. If there is more interest in the program than there are spaces available—and I strongly anticipate that this will be the case—we would use a lottery to fill the groups. Part of the point here would be to bring together English majors with other students from across Grounds who are interested in literature; especially thanks to our management of the
Writing Program, the English department really does serve both groups.
The budget for each book club would be $150 for paperbacks (obtained wholesale) for each student and $100 for a pizza-and-soda dinner. Four book clubs at $250 each would total $1000. My hope would be that we could give the program a trial this year through the generosity of the Mead Foundation, and then, if it proves a success, that the department might consider sponsoring it in future years.
To summarize these funding requests:
$1200 for ENAM 3880 movie/dinner events;
300 for “Why Read” symposium student-faculty reception;
1000 for four “book clubs”