Looking forward to teaching

by ninashiel

I have been given the fortune of teaching some of the topics that are the closest to my own heart in the first semester. The MA in Comparative Literature modules consist mostly of self-contained two-hour seminars, given by the staff and PhD researchers of the School. The groups are small (c. 10 people) but tend to be very enthusiastic and willing to participate.

I will be taking the seminars on Graphic Novels and on Digital Ekphrasis (my own research topic) in the Literature and the Visual Arts module and a seminar on Myth and rewritings/retellings in the module called Comparative Literature: Approaches and Applications. There is a possibility that I might be doing an additional seminar, but my supervisor is wary of burdening me unduly.

I already gave a seminar on my research topic last year, but I expect that its content will change at least somewhat. I am at a stage where I accumulate new information at a constant speed, so that a paper I wrote a couple of months ago might now appear very different. It will be broader than I’d like, as it is my (or anyone’s) only opportunity to even mention electronic literature or interactive fiction in the MA programme. My focus will, however, have to lie on verbal representations of the virtual, as per my own project. I used Snow Crash as one of my texts last year, as it remains a good example, despite its age. This year I might try something else, or add an extract from Richard Powers’s Plowing the Dark, to which I was introduced by a colleague at the summer’s CLAI conference.

For the seminar on Graphic Novel, I am very conflicted. I am keen to show the quality of modern graphic novels and to point out what a respectable and respected art form it is in non-Anglophone countries (although I still don’t have an explanation for this). It could be argued that I have to do Maus, but I also really want to discuss some of the more recent options. Alison Bechdel’s work is an obvious choice, but it is likely to appear in another module. Joe Sacco and Marjane Satrapi are other likely authors, although I have not as yet read anything by Sacco, myself. Watchmen is a tempting option, but I am wary of perpetuating the ‘all comics are about superheroes one way or another’ fallacy. On a purely personal level I’d love to do Castle Waiting or Bone, but they’ll have to wait until I can dedicate an entire module to this!

Myth is also going to be challenging in the amount of available choice. I struggled a lot with my essay back when I was a student in this module, due to being unable to choose a suitable retelling that clicked with me. I should likely stick with the Classical world, as the Classical stories are most likely to be known to the fairly international group. In my ideal myth module, I would talk about Irish and Norse myths, as well as modern myths, both aged and also those that have recently appeared. I will likely choose something that deals with women, because of my feminist tendencies. Short stories would be the best text option for the students.

Maybe it is a sign of my freshness in these matters, or perhaps sheer innocence, but I am very much looking forward to these seminars and even the associated paperwork. I hope to get the opportunity to do more seminars in the second semester, but we shall see how things go.