RARA-AVIS: College Debate

From: Mbdlevin@aol.com
Date: 28 Aug 2000

Evans and Bergin:

<< I'm putting together an undergraduate course in the spring to be titled
>NOIR: FICTION AND FILM. I had done a version in the past that
>concentrated on hardboiled detectives but want to expand the options a
>bit. I would appreciate any suggestions that anyone might have offlist.
>So far, RED HARVEST and BIG CLOCK are the only titles I think are sure.
>I'm also considering the second Library of America
>volume, on the '50's, with Thompson, Willeford, Himes et al.
>Jeff Evans
 Oh, Jesus, another academic who doesn't know what he's doing setting out to
 infect the minds of those who may, without such interference, develop a
 rational facility. Give it up!
 If you don't KNOW the literature you propose to TEACH, what good are you?
 If you have to ask us (how many of us do you know personally? are we
 experts, dilettantes, or merely 12-year olds with some time to kill?) to
 suggest course reading, how equipped are you to teach ANY course?

My response drifts off topic a bit. First, even if responses to the Evans' query might not produce a good course, readers of the list might be interested in what list participants suggest--thus no reason to stifle responses. Second, on teaching what you don't know: it is true that teachers at all levels teach material they don't know very well. Nevertheless, the class isn't until the Spring, which gives some time to prepare. In addition, it could be that the instructor has some other area of expertise--rise of urbanism, new deal politics, or some such. The course might just be a freshman thematic class where expertise is not even necessarily wanted. Students and teachers sometimes have a good experience when the teacher is in the middle of a learning process too. I know one professor at one of the nation's distinguished colleges who almost always teaches one book that he has not read--and only reads it as the students read. Education is not just the dissemination of expertise.

Not in the teaching business, Doug

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