A fresh start

by I.A. Isherwood

Yesterday as I was walking my terrier on campus I felt a bit relieved. Around me were scores of undergraduates moving into their dorms with frustrated parents in tow (do you really need all this stuff?) after a month of holiday break.

It is amazing what a difference their presence makes. Campus has been in low power mode these last three weeks. After the frenzy of finals, the peaceful lull comes on so suddenly and so completely that it seems at times as if one has walked through the looking glass to a far less energetic and silenter landscape. But now there’re back and the place feels vibrant again.

This week is syllabus week, or great expectations week, when we distribute and go over our course goals, assignments, writing expectations, and then begin to get into the material. I am teaching two classes this semester.

  • Aftermath: the Experience of War and ‘Modern’ Memory. This is an upper level class that compares the experience of the American Civil War and First World War and introduces students to issues of historical memory. Students write three short essays and one long research essay (4000 words) based on a primary source(s).
  • The Great War. This is a intermediate level history class that covers the First World War era. Students write two research papers and have mid term and final exams.

I hope to write on both classes as they go along and to use this blog both for course prep (so students can know my thoughts before class) but also for reflection, so that we can continue good (or bad!) conversations afterwards. This will depend upon time, of course, a precious commodity.

Something new: I am asking students in both classes to interact with the blog if they want to. I hope that for students uncomfortable speaking in class that this might be an opportunity to engage with the material in a way that might be less intimidating. Class doesn’t end with the non-existent bell, so if students have thoughts they want to discuss, they should see this space as one to carry on the conversation. We’ll see how this goes.