Wednesday, 05 April 2006

The First Day of Class & Last Day of "Vacation" I pre-season this post with an unnecessary—given the new sidebar item top-right—admission that "My Morning" didn't win a Koufax Award. To be frank: I like the image of the probable kvitcherer I created better than any shot of the smooth Koufaxian delivery of Evelyn Lichtenstein's menscheleh. (On purpose, people, on purpose. C'mon! I ain't that lapsed. What? You! In the peanut gallery. Yeah you. That's right. I did hear. Now shut it! Don't make me take off this belt.) I open by acknowledging that this quarter will be the last I ever teach literary journalism. I won't be hired to teach it . . . and UC requires I stop teaching after I teach, um, as many quarters as I've taught at UCI. This saddens me. I'd like to keep teaching this course indefinitely. Jonathan once accused all teachers of deluding themselves into thinking they're both well-liked and tough graders. He's surely correct. Only not so much in my case. In the past three weeks I've learned that four of my former students will be attending the prestigious Columbia School of Journalism. Another two will enter the equally elite Northwestern School of Journalism. I know what you're saying: "Scott, if you've been teaching literary journalism so long that you're placing your kids in graduate programs, it's time to move on." And it is. But that doesn't mean I have to be happy about it. On a different note entirely, I'd hoped the "Best Introduction To" post would've gone viral already. Alas! It seems to affect only Americanists, Medievalists and Theory buffs. I solicited some links for it yesterday and that seems to be doing the trick. (Check out this conversation for instance.) I think there's something to what Craig and Matt and Laura argue in the comments; but I also think there's something to be said for an introductory text which allows someone with little more than interest to acquire something resembling knowledge. I would love someone to pick up the baton and run with it. In particular, I'm still sorely lacking in all things pre-Revolutionary American but not Medieval. This includes all things Analytic and Philosophical . . . some Existential stuff . . . and a whole slew of traditions based on the outlandish idea that it's acceptable to write in languages other than English. As if.
Best Introduction To . . . Part II Because the sight of the unbroken "Best Introduction To" list inspires vertigo, I've decided to chop it up into smaller disciplinary units and repost an updated version of it. I also want to request that if you think this project worthy, please post a link to this post and a brief explanation of my rationale on your site. (I want to thank John, Richard, Sharon, Lance, Ralph and the New Kid for doing so already.) Or if you're an academic and your departmental listserv isn't too particular about the nature of the emails shot across it, maybe drop your colleagues a line and see if they have any suggestions. Because at this point I've probably exhausted the patience and expertise of my regular 500 readers. I want to reiterate my desire to expand the number and types of categories I have here. For example, I have a numerous medieval categories, but they're almost exclusively English. What's the best book out there on the Provençal troubadours or Andalucían Spain? What about Asia? Or the Indian subcontinent? What about genre? Now for a quick rearticulation of the project: Within every discipline and sub-discipline there is a Book X which most professors recommends to students seeking an intelligent introduction to Subject Y. These are not necessarily books designed to be introductions—The Oxford Companion to Metagrobolism or Introductory Essays on Scandanavian Goregrind and Circumadjacent Genres: A Festschrift in Honor of Bjarni Herjólfsson III—but books recognized by those of requisite expertise as the most comprehensive peek at a particular field. Yes "comprehensive peek" is oxymoronic. That's the point. These books allow any student or autodidact who wishes to acquire functional working knowledge of a field and they come credentialed by scholars in a non-blurby fashion. A beginner who scans book jackets quickly learns that every book "is not merely a genealogy and a critical reassessment of the legacy of everything, but a provocation to our sense of our history and our selves and God and the definitive explanation on why every snowflake is unique and special." If this beginner thumbs through a scholarly bibliography instead, she may as well be preparing for qualifying exams for all the good that obsessive scholarly comprehensiveness will do her. Too little information and she'll miss the point; too much and she'll be overwhelmed. A solid introductory text of the sort faculty members already assign on a regular basis seems to me a happy medium. So without further ado, I present the new and improved "Best Introduction To" list: __________________________________________ Classics & Church Fathers: Homeric: The Best of the Achaeans, Gregory Nagy Presocratic: Aristotelian: Platonic: Images of Excellence , Christopher Janaway Horatian: Augustinian: Patristic: Medieval England: Anglo-Saxon: Early Medieval: Twelfth Century Renaissance: The Envy of Angels: Cathedral Schools and Social Ideals in Medieval Europe, 950-1200 , C. Stephen Jaeger Medieval: The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature , David Wallace, ed. Late Medieval: Hochon's Arrow , Paul Strohm Early Modern England: Early Modern: English Renaissance: Renaissance Self-Fashioning : From More...

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