Teaching the Novel across the Curriculum: A Handbook for Educators

Teaching the Novel across the Curriculum: A Handbook for Educators

Teaching the Novel across the Curriculum: A Handbook for Educators

Teaching the Novel across the Curriculum: A Handbook for Educators

Synopsis

Instructors at all levels are being encouraged to teach writing in their courses, even in subjects other than English. Because the novel reflects a broad set of human experiences and history, it is the ideal vehicle for learning about a wide range of issues. This book helps educators learn how to incorporate novels in courses in English, the humanities, social and behavioral sciences, and professional studies. The chapters focus on using the novel to explore ethical concerns, multiculturalism, history, social theory, psychology, social work, and education. The book looks at major canonical works as well as graphic novels and popular literature.

Language arts are at the forefront of education these days. Instructors at all levels are being encouraged to teach writing in their courses, even if those courses cover subjects other than English. Literature instructors have long used fiction to teach composition. But because the novel reflects a broad range of human experiences and historical events, it is the ideal medium for learning about contemporary social issues. This book helps educators learn how to use the novel in courses in English, the humanities, social and behavioral sciences, and professional studies.

The book is divided into broad sections on general education classes; multiculturalism; literature classes; humanities courses; classes in social, behavioral, and political sciences; and professional studies, such as social work and teacher training. Each section includes chapters written by gifted teachers and provides a wealth of theoretical and practical information. While the book examines major canonical works such as "Hard Times, " "Billy Budd, " and "Invisible Man, " it also looks at graphic novels, science fiction, and popular contemporary works such as "Finishing School" and "Jarhead." Chapters reflect the personal successes of their authors and cite works for further reading.

Excerpt

Colin C. Irvine

WHY DO WE HAVE TO READ THIS?

After earning my master’s degree in American studies, I changed my name to “Mr.” and returned to my old high school, where I taught courses in literature and history for three years. During this time—following the lead of my favorite college professors whom I increasingly idolized the longer I tried my hand at teaching—I incorporated novels into nearly all of my classes. And though, on occasion, this pedagogical strategy proved to be fruitful and effective, there were, nonetheless, always those occasions in which the choice of text, the set of learning outcomes, the cross-section of students, or my limited familiarity with the novel’s content proved disastrous. Furthermore, there were—even when the unit seemed to be going well—those smart and exasperating students who insisted on asking the question, “Why do we have to read this?”

Although I could not give what seemed to them or me a satisfactory answer, I remained convinced that there were logically sound and academically rigorous reasons for inviting and enabling my students to wrestle with complicated works of literature. In fact, I was so intuitively confident of these as-yet unarticulated arguments that once I returned to graduate school and completed my doctoral work, which focused on how Wallace Stegner’s novels introduce students to ways of thinking about history and about the environment, I found myself constantly searching for compelling and convincing responses to my students’ question.

More recently, while incorporating novels into my courses in English education methods, American literature, environmental literature, and freshman composition, I have found repeatedly through casual conversations with other professors that there are many of us in the academy who are using novels in their respective courses. These teachers express their belief in the innumerable and often ineffable benefits of including novels in their courses. And although they, too, often struggle to explain how or why exactly they “use novels,” they are, nonetheless, ready to defend their choices.

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