I've got my fall course together, more or less. There's a few additional handouts I need to put together, and I need to get material on reserve, but the heavy work, including the course Web site, is done.
As I said earlier, it's an Introduction to Literary Studies course and I use The English Studies Book to provide a much more intensive introduction to the practices and methods of literary study than most people do. While the course looks, and is, theory heavy, I've found that students enjoy it. The English Studies Book provides a good introduction not just to theory but to "common topics" and the book has a strong emphasis on praxis. I often hear that undergraduates, especially non-majors in a lower-division core course, can't handle the theory, but my experiences prove otherwise. Most aren't going to write papers as sophisticated as seniors and graduate students, but I don't expect them to. We do begin with the close reading strategies of Practical/New Criticism and Formalism/Functionalism and we then use those strategies to explore literature as something which engages and shapes culture, both the culture which created it and our culture today.
I realized I needed to drop a text and I dropped Beowulf even though it's the text I know best and have taught the most. Actually, that may be the reason I dropped it. I probably should have dropped Early in Orcadia, which I've only read once and never taught, but the bookstore had to go to some effort to order it, and, quite honestly, I want to see what the students think of it. I think it's a wonderful exploration of primary orality and I plan to use it in literature based orality and literacy classes, so I want to start figuring out how to teach it.
In all, we'll read poetry by Byron, Millay, and Yeats; "Farmer Giles of Ham" and "Leaf by Niggle" by Tolkien; Early in Orcadia by Mitchison; Hogfather and "Troll Bridge" by Pratchett; and A Midsummer Night's Dream. We'll also read a diverse poems and short story, play, and novel excerpts The English Studies Book, such as Wyatt's "They flee from me," Meng's "I spik Ingglish," Fanthorpe's "Knowing about Sonnets," some Seminole chants, Pratchett and Gaiman's Good Omens, Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, and "Noah's Flood" from the Chester Mystery Cycle to name a few.