Re: RARA-AVIS: College Debate

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 28 Aug 2000

pabergin wrote:

"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?"

Gee, got a grudge against college professors? Isn't this a bit harsh? You accuse Jeff of making assumptions about the expertise of other members on this list, but aren't you making a big one about his?

In the initial post, Jeff claimed he had taught a similar course before, on hardboiled detectives, so he must know something (even if he just learned it while teaching that course). As a matter of fact, weren't we in on the discussion over what books might be included in that earlier course?

And why is there an assumption that just because he is asking for input that he knows nothing? If he had worded the email slightly differently
-- say, "I'm teaching a course on noir fiction and I've got some ideas on what to include, but I'd like some input so I'm sure I haven't forgotten someone important" -- would this request be much different from what most of us ask -- I really liked so and so and I was wondering if anyone could suggest another author I might like. Or how different is it from our periodic debates over which authors deserve to be in the canon, or the cannon, for that matter?

Personally, I'd be more worried about an educator who didn't allow outside input. You know that course Pelecanos always talks about having changed his life, the one in hardboiled fiction at the University of Maryland? Well, I also took that course and I know for a fact that the professor, CC Misch, knew the fiction AND that he asked others, students and other professors, for input on some of the books to be included -- for instance, he had never read the particular McBain he assigned, substituing it for another that was then out of print, as was his MacDonald choice, One Monday We Killed Them All.

On another note, I agree with Doug, why keep this discussion offlist? I'd like to see some of the suggestions, it'd probably start a good discussion along the lines of, "I can't believe you're going to include so-and-so and not so-and-so," as we each promote our own faves.

I have a question about the course, though, since it is tying the books to film, are you looking for books which were adapted into film (Big Clock might suggest this) so you can study the transition or are you just interested in the "great works" (Red Harvest would suggest this, unless, maybe, you're going with Yojimbo).


# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 28 Aug 2000 EDT