Licorice houses

In Fall 2015 I tried out a new course:

IFS 2085 To Work, Learn, or Play? The Role of the Child in British Fiction 1830-1914
This one is an E-series course, meaning it’s a liberal studies course aimed at first-year students. The E in the designation does not mean electronic; it’s an in-person course for early-career students taught by experienced professors and focused on “exploration, experimentation, elaboration,” and many other e-words listed by the liberal studies committee when they introduced this curricular category. It was my first lecture course, despite many years teaching! We’re reading a lot of classic Victorian children’s literature as well as some Dickens, Eliot, etc.

Here’s one version of the syllabus:

Kennedy Hanson E-series Vic Children REVISED3.

You can check out the Twitter feed for the class here, thanks to my TA, Michael Wagoner.

(Below you can see Dodgson’s Alice, from his original Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, viewable at bl.uk).

Carroll illus Alice

I taught it again in 2016 as a lecture and will probably try it out in seminar format in the future. I really enjoy watching the students bridge past and current norms of childhood in this course, although as first-years they can sometimes struggle with the reading. That’s something I’m trying to get inventive about for the next time I take it out of the box.


In Spring 2016, after a couple of years building and designing an entirely new venture for me, I debuted LIT 3438 Literature and Medicine: Diseases and Debates.

This is not only the first course that the English department has formally offered in literature and medicine but also our first online course. I’m excited about having shepherded this new general course through the university curricular system, not an easy task as we have to coordinate with the whole state course numbering system. Can you believe that there was apparently no “literature and medicine” course registered in the Florida state system? I hope that in the future other faculty and I can use the LIT 3438 designator to teach other versions of “literature and medicine” that focus on different literary eras, on film studies, on disability studies, on medical humanities, on end-of-life literature, on medical memoir from patient or caregiver perspectives …. The possibilities are rich.

Jeyes Disinfectants

I’m so pleased that this course was awarded two teaching awards, one for teaching and one (with “distinction”) for design. I tweak the syllabus every year, but here’s the current description for the 2018 version, which draws on my grounding in the history of medicine:

Courses in Literature and Medicine often study how literary texts address questions in medical ethics and public health. In Literature and Medicine: Diseases and Debates, students will read a selection of brief essays, fiction, poetry, and other texts from the 19th century to examine a series of spirited debates from that time. These controversies helped shape the landscape of medical ethics. We will compare, for example, how questions around anesthesia or patient privacy play out “then and now.” This course builds skills in critical reading and writing, cultural practice, and ethics.

We’ll examine illness as metaphor; the art and science of medicine; the rise of medical realism, objectivity and authority; the roles of the physician, nurse, and patient; the meaning of patient privacy and consent; medical professionalism and alternative medicine; epidemiology, sanitary reform, and personal vs. public health; food adulteration, nutrition; disability rights; prosthetics and the integrity of the body; pain, anesthetics, and drug use; and the “good death.”

We will focus on literary analysis (how does this metaphor work?); cultural analysis (how do persons’ alignments to class or gender identities change how we read texts or treat bodies?); and ethical analysis (to whom is the author responsible? how do we balance the right to knowledge with the right to privacy? what is the role of the patient’s narrative?). Students will complete critical and historical research for one analytic and one personal (creative) essay response to the debates we study.

This course fulfills the Ethics and Humanities/Cultural Practice requirements in the Liberal Studies Curriculum and the “W” (State-Mandated Writing) credit. It will also help students prepare for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skill section of the MCAT.