The Means and Ends in Creating PALS

When it comes to course planning each semester, we are faced with some of the same questions: How many new texts can we reasonably and responsibly prepare to teach in one semester? Is there a different novel, play, poetry or fiction collection that better supports the goals we have for a particular course than one we are currently using? How can we get a sense of others’ experiences teaching a text that is new to us or that we’ve had difficulties with before? And, would new pedagogical information about a text support us in making changes to our syllabi or creating entirely new ones?

The contributors to this site have been asking these and similar questions and seeking answers from one another via emails, texting, and regular in-face conversations, for several years now. Because sharing with each other has been so valuable to our teaching, we’ve decided to continue these exchanges online in the form of the PALS blog. This challenges each of us to increase our teaching catalogs by bringing a larger variety of authors and texts into our literature classrooms. While we can pick up anthologies for author biographical information or search the internet about the history of a specific form of poetry, there is a lack of pedagogical resources for American literature that reflect on the actual teaching of the texts. Furthermore, we teach texts within and outside of the literary canon. At times, it is difficult to find scholarly articles on some of our non-canonical choices, which leaves us with even fewer resources for teaching. Pedagogy & American Literary Studies seeks to address this gap.

By bringing our discussions of American literature to an online forum, we want to support other instructors’ work in their classrooms. The sharing of ideas and individual experiences on PALS is meant to encourage others to try out different texts in their courses or to try different approaches to texts with which their students struggle to find an entry point. The blog lets us expand our community of teachers to open up larger discussions and form new connections. We want to create a community where the writers of the posts, other contributors from the site, and readers of the blog are responding and interacting with each other through the site. We are genuinely interested in stimulating conversations about American literature on a wide scale. Our goal is to enable the site to develop as a significant resource–one that adds to and helps advance pedagogy dialogues in American literary studies.

All of our regular contributors have the liberty to choose the content and approach to it for their posts. The uniformity of the posts will be in their reflective nature and eye to pedagogical concerns. Many of the posts will take the form of short narratives/explanations of planned or executed in-class activities or assignments. Additionally, some posts may recommend or review specific teaching resources, while others may more broadly address pedagogical theories, articles, or methods. There also may be times when the posts consider more general teaching thoughts or concerns about teaching as a profession. We aim to create a space where the particular pedagogical needs of those teaching American literature can be discussed as they arise.

Our collective areas of expertise range from Early American literature to contemporary American literature. So, in some sense, we will cover American literature from beginnings to present. We will include different periods, genres, and areas of writing. But it is, of course, impossible to truly cover it all. Instead, we will try to present breadth while focusing on depth because in any teaching environment, we need consider both the long haul and the day-to-day activities.

As mentioned before, many of our posts will be about specific teaching days or teaching topics. We do not, however, have a prescriptive or comprehensive list of authors or texts we feel we need to cover. The catalog of texts covered here will be somewhat dependent upon those we have had a challenging or rewarding experience teaching, content we are currently teaching in the classroom, or texts we are especially passionate about teaching. If there is a topic you have any interest in being covered, feel free to reach out to us via email, in the comments, or on twitter @PedagogyAmLitSt.

Look out for content weekly and join the discussion!

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