Saturday, March 22, 2008

Book Choices

This week's intense 3-day campus visit from our SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) reaccreditation team produced a happy outcome: only several minor recommendations in response to our massive self-study and our so-called Quality Enhancement Plan for improving instruction in the future. Because this process takes place only every ten years, I won't have to go through it again.

Now I can focus my attention on selecting textbooks for the fall. This process is made more interesting and complex because of the lineup of writers we'll bring in for the November Fiction and Poetry Festival: Tom Perotta, Ethan Canin, Valerie Martin, Sara Gran, Robert Wrigley, and Dorianne Laux. That's 4 novelists, 2 poets. I'm trying to decide which books by which authors I want to use for my 2 freshman composition courses. Some of my colleagues are planning to use Perotta's Election, tying it to the fall election season, although the book concerns a high school and not a national election. Maybe I'll order Ethan Canin's stories, The Emperor of the Air--or maybe something by Valerie Martin. She's written a biography of St. Francis that I may use for my literary nonfiction class. I've ordered it and will give it a look. Currently, I'm rereading Canin's stories, which are superb; I just can't decide how freshmen would respond to them.
I usually avoid political proselytizing on this blog, but today I can't resist exclaiming about Barack Obama's incredible speech on racism delivered March 18 in Philadelphia, largely in response to recent negative publicity about inflammatory and highly controversial statements made recently by his minister, Jeremiah Wright (from whom Obama borrowed the title of his book, The Audacity of Hope). This one is bound to be remembered as one of the greatest campaign speeches ever. Film and text of the speech are available here.
Are English Departments Dying?

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