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24 – Serious Noticing in the Intro Lit Course


Samuel Jaffee, Department of Spanish & Portuguese Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, UW Seattle


This presentation’s standpoint is that a literary text is an unfinished creative process that students continue. I share my experience planning and teaching an inquiry-based introductory course on identities in Spanish literature to mixed classes of native, heritage, and non-native speakers. I share examples of students’ “creative readings”—their reimagining of the craft of literature with an interdisciplinary methodological approach. I describe how to structure inquiry-based literature courses as a series of low-stakes formative assessments (brainstorming, drafting, visual analysis, acting, peer review) and interactive summative assessments (associative rewriting, photographic portfolios, “finales”) that link literary studies and students’ other interests, and appeal to students with a range of learning needs. I present examples of inquiry-based assignments that rely on methodologies from multiple disciplines and that students teach to their classmates.

In sum, I propose designing assessments that are as communicative and interactive as classroom activities. Such goals can be implemented in introductory or advanced courses, ideally discussion-based and with under 30 students, whether majors or non-majors. I take inspiration from Doris Sommer (Harvard), Ilan Stavans (Amherst), Jesse Matz (Kenyon), and Anthony Crider (Elon University), who promote the creative teaching of literature, and what linguist Claire Kramsch (Berkeley) calls a “pedagogy of dialogue” to interpret cultural phenomena. Students enter into critical engagement with global cultures and increase their capacity to consider humanistic themes. My experience teaching literature at UW as “serious noticing” shows that such courses appeal to a student body with a range of literacy skills, some already conversant with classic literary works or having taken AP literature courses, give students new ways of creative analysis, and may inspire students to major in the discipline. Instructors from any discipline can adapt their teaching to inspire their students to reinvigorate the discipline itself.

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