James M. Lang edits WVU Press’s series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and is also coeditor of the latest series book, Teaching the Literature Survey Course. With a new semester and the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association both on the near horizon, Jim agreed to share a version of the book’s introduction.
When I was an undergraduate in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I took the three literature survey courses that were required of all English majors at my university, and that remain a staple feature of English majors today: two surveys of British literature, divided somewhere between the Restoration and Romantic periods, and one survey of American literature. All proceeded as usual throughout the American and early British surveys, but early in the semester some tragedy befell the professor of the second half of the British literature survey, and the university had to scramble to find a replacement for him to allow the course to continue. The faculty member who took over the course was a political scientist. As an undergraduate, I had no glimpse into whatever internal processes led to this outcome, which now strikes me as exceedingly strange, especially given that this was a moderate-sized research university, which likely had plenty of graduate students and adjuncts on the English Department roster already.Read More »